Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., is urging her colleagues to address the shortage of rural veterinarians in the upcoming farm bill. During a Dec. 8 Senate Agriculture Committee meeting, she called for better incentives that would motivate more veterinaries to serve in rural areas.
“Our nation’s food security and economic security are put at risk without sufficient veterinary oversight to ensure the health of animals in the food supply chain, and the proper federal inspection of meat, poultry, and catfish processing,” she said.
During a discussion with Chavonda Jacobs-Young, undersecretary for research, education and economics, the senator noted that some counties in her state no longer have a large animal veterinarian. She added that veterinarian shortages in Mississippi and across the nation threaten the long-term viability of the livestock industry.
According to Hyde-Smith, more vets could possibly serve in rural areas if their tax burden was reduced. The USDA sponsors a Veterinary Medicine Laon Repayment program. However, recipients are still responsible for federal taxes on the monetary awards that are intended to help recruit more of them to rural areas. She has sponsored a bill called the Veterinary Medicine Laon Repayment Program Enhancement Act to address this.
“Without this tax, we could better address these shortage issues by helping more veterinarians practice where it is desperately needed,” she said.
Jacobs-Young agreed on the need for more large animal veterinarians in rural areas. She added that additional incentives could also help diversify the group of students going into the field of large animal medicine. After a recent tour Alcorn State University, she found that there were many who might benefit from such a program
“The students are interested in animal science and veterinary science,” Jacobs-Young said. “How do we encourage them and bridge a way for them to go into vet programs?”