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Bill to address rural veterinary shortages

Bill to address rural veterinary shortages

Sens. Mike Crapo (R., Ida.) and Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) reintroduced bipartisan legislation April 12 to address the veterinarian shortage in rural areas. If passed, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (S. 1163) will play a critical role in addressing regional shortages of food animal and public health veterinarians in rural and agricultural communities.

The bill would help meet the growing demand for veterinarians nationwide by eliminating taxes on programs that encourage veterinarians to practice in underserved areas.

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA) designated 190 regions in 44 states as suffering from shortages of food animal or public health veterinarians -- the most in the program’s history.

The American Veterinary Medical Assn. (AVMA) said student debt is, unfortunately, a key driver of these shortages: In 2018, average student debt for veterinarians who graduated with loans topped $180,000. At the same time, food animal veterinary careers typically pay less than companion animal veterinary careers. “This income disparity can make it financially challenging for new veterinarians to pursue opportunities in food animal medicine,” AVMA said.

Veterinarians are a critical part of ensuring access to a safe and high-quality food supply. However, nearly every state has a rural community that suffers from a shortage in essential veterinary services.

To help address this concern, Congress established the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) in 2003. The program assists selected food animal and public health veterinarians with student loan repayment in exchange for a three-year commitment to practice in areas of the country facing a veterinarian shortage. The program helps veterinarians with daunting student loan debt make a living in a community where starting a practice may be otherwise financially impossible.

While VMLRP has been tremendously successful in closing access gaps since its inception in 2010, shortage areas persist, and the program consistently receives more applications than funding allows, AVMA added.

“Veterinary shortages are one of the many significant challenges facing farmers and ranchers today,” AVMA president Dr. John de Jong said. “If we don’t take steps to address these shortages, we’re likely going to see an increase in animal disease incidents that impact our economy and even public health.” 

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act will end a withholding tax applied to program awards, thus freeing up additional funding for rural veterinary care so the program can serve more rural communities without expanding its budget.

“Access to quality animal care remains critical to the needs of Idaho’s agricultural economy,” Crapo said. “Far too often, ranchers and farmers cannot access adequate care for their livestock due to a lack of veterinarians in rural areas. Our legislation will facilitate an increase of veterinary doctors serving in rural areas where they are needed most, helping to strengthen rural economies and protecting the safety of our food supply.”

“Veterinarians are vital to animal welfare and our agricultural economy in Michigan and across the country,” Stabenow said. “This bill creates opportunities for veterinarians to practice in underserved areas to ensure our small towns and rural communities can access quality veterinary care to protect livestock health and ensure a safe food supply.” 

VMLRP is subject to a significant 39% federal withholding tax on the assistance provided to qualifying veterinarians. This overly burdensome tax limits the reach of the program and its benefits. S. 1163 would address this limitation by providing an exemption from the federal income withholding tax for payments received under VMLRP and similar state programs, allowing more veterinarians to have the opportunity to practice in small, rural communities where their services are in critical need.

Additional co-sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.), Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), Angus King (I., Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and Jim Risch (R., Ida.).

Bernhardt confirmed as interior secretary

Department of the Interior David Bernhardt.jpg

David Bernhardt currently serves as acting secretary and deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Senate confirmed him as interior secretary on a vote of 56-41.

He has served in various leadership roles at DOI for nearly a decade. The Senate has previously confirmed Bernhardt twice to serve at DOI – in 2017 as deputy secretary and in 2006 as solicitor.

President Donald Trump nominated Bernhardt for the position of deputy secretary in April 2017, and the Senate confirmed him in July 2017. He was sworn in by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Aug. 1, 2017.

As secretary of the interior, Bernhardt leads an agency with more than 70,000 employees who are stewards for 20% of the nation’s lands, including national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and other public lands. The department oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters, is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 western states and upholds trust responsibilities to the 573 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska natives.

American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall welcomed the Senate’s confirmation of Bernhardt as interior secretary. “This is a tribute to the expertise and sound leadership he brings to the office,” Duvall said in a statement.

Duvall added, “As deputy and acting secretary for the Interior Department, Secretary Bernhardt reinvigorated multiple-use management of America’s public lands. This included regulatory efforts to reform implementation of the Endangered Species Act, streamlining the National Environmental Policy Act, promoting outcome-based grazing across our nation’s rangelands and implementing policies to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in the West. We look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Bernhardt and his staff on issues critical to farmers and ranchers.”

Democrats had objected to Bernhardt’s nomination due to his previous role as an oil and gas lobbyist. Questions also focused on policy changes he helped direct that benefited his past clients.

MORNING Midwest Digest, April 15, 2019

The Chicago area got 5 inches of snow yesterday, and 100s of flights were cancelled.

More flight cancellations are expected from the Boeing 737 Max problems.

The American Farm Bureau is calling the new waters of the U.S. proposal a breath of fresh air.

There's been a melon recall in 16 states.

A Minnesota woman had more than 100 animals in her house, and 65 were dead cats.

The mayor of South Bend, Ind., announced his 2020 presidential run.

A Wisconsin woman and her son wreaked havoc on a local Walmart. 


Photo: RuudMorijn/Getty Images

Farm Progress America, April 15, 2019

Max Armstrong shares some history of Census of Agriculture; the most recent report from 2017 was released recently. Max shares the history of the program which goes back as far as George Washington, who even requested information from farmers in 1791. Surveys have continued since that time.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Image: USDA

Grazing management and soil health

By Jason Johnson

Row crop farmers are beginning to focus more on improving soil health on their land for long-term sustainability. But according to USDA soil health and grassland specialists, livestock producers can also implement soil health practices to improve their pastures.

Many Midwest farmers are using soil conservation practices like no-till farming, cover crops and extended crop rotations to improve soil health on cropland. Similarly, livestock producers can adopt practices traditionally meant for forage improvement to feed microorganisms and add organic matter to the soil. Practices like rotational grazing, interseeding and forage harvest management help improve both forages and soil health.

Jeff Matthias, state grassland specialist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa, says soil health and pasture health are interdependent. “Pasture health depends on the function of the soil and plant communities,” he says. “The way producers manage pastures will affect the soil’s ability to help produce desired pasture plants.”

Matthias says, for example, that a properly managed pasture with rotational grazing and adequate rest periods will lessen soil compaction compared to continuously grazed pasture. Reduced compaction will help increase water infiltration rates and the respiration of plant roots and soil organisms.

Drought-resistant pastures

A major benefit of improving soil health on pastures is building up drought resistance. Farmers should ensure their land is healthy enough to resist droughts and weed infestations, says Doug Peterson, regional soil health specialist for NRCS. “Managing pastures with soil health in mind will improve aggregate structure, which will improve infiltration,” he notes. “Increased organic matter improves the soil’s ability to store water.”

Bill Totemeier, who rotates about 180-head of mostly South Poll cattle throughout 470 acres near New London in southeast Iowa, uses mob grazing and a grass legume mixture to protect his soil and grass from extreme weather and produce healthier, more productive animals.

Mob grazing involves moving cattle (or other livestock) multiple times per week or even daily when forages are growing exponentially. Paddocks are sized based on the amount of available forage and the amount that livestock will need during the occupancy of each paddock. Portable electric fence is used to confine the cattle.

Pasture management pays off

Totemeier’s goal is for every plant in the grazing cell to be eaten or walked on and trampled during the short occupancy of the paddock. He then rests each paddock for 60 to 120 days or more. “Mob grazing is almost like drought insurance because a long resting period means a longer plant recovery and a deeper root in the plant,” he says.

Good pasture management leads to healthy soils. Besides building drought resistance, the following are ways Matthias says improvements in soil health occur from good pasture management:

  • increased soil organic matter increases water available for plant growth
  • improved water infiltration
  • more nutrients available for plant growth
  • better soil conditions for germination, seedling establishment, vegetative reproduction and root growth
  • ability of the soil to act as a filter, protecting water and air quality
  • increased plant production and reproduction
  • reduced soil erosion from water
  • carbon sequestration from air

Avoid overgrazing

Overgrazing can lead to significant long-term degradation and an overall reduction in pasture condition and yields. Peterson says overgrazing is often the reason for diminished soil properties, which allows undesirable and invader species to gain a foothold. “As forage production decreases, soil conditions continue to spiral downward, while forage requirements stay the same or even increase,” he says.

Producers sometimes allow livestock to overgraze pastures to leave no “wasted” grass, but Matthias says potential yields are never realized. “Graziers assume they are at potential when they may only be harvesting 30% of the potential yield,” he says. “I compare it to a row crop farmer who does a fantastic job harvesting corn, but only yields 75 bushels per acre due to mismanagement during the growing season when the yield potential is 240 bushels per acre using ideal management.

“If we had yield monitors on our cows, it would show we are not harvesting the potential forage from our overgrazed pastures.”

4 keys to improved grazing

To avoid overgrazing, Peterson recommends graziers follow four basic rules:

1. Balance stocking rate with forage availability. Determining initial stocking rate requires collecting information on overall pasture production and balancing the animal numbers with available forage.

2. Increase management control by increasing the number of paddocks. Lengths of grazing and rest periods are key factors in allowing plants adequate recovery time. Grazing periods that are too long and recovery periods that are too short are a major reason why pasture conditions deteriorate.

3. Improve utilization rate. Increasing the control over the livestock allows better utilization of all forage plants, not just the most palatable plants the livestock prefer. Peterson recommends the old standby of “take half, leave half,” referring to how heavily an area is grazed. Grazing more than 50% stops all above- and belowground plant growth.

4. Lengthen plant rest and recovery time. Depending on season of use, pastures should rest for at least 30 to 90 days after grazing. This allows for recovery of a diverse mixture of plants.

Matthias says good pasture management helps improve profits, too.  “As soil improves, forage production will increase, and fertility needs will decrease,” he says. “A producer’s bottom line is connected to pasture and soil health.”

For more information about developing and using a pasture management plan for your grazing operation, visit your local NRCS office or go to

Johnson is public affairs specialist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Des Moines, Iowa.

Source: NRCS, is responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and its subsidiaries aren’t responsible for any of the content in this information asset.


2019 National Beef Advocacy Team gets to work

National Beef Advocacy Program National Beef Advocacy Program

As lab meats and plant-based proteins enter the marketplace, promoting traditional beef with our consumers is more important now than ever before.

Our great-tasting and beloved product can stand the competition; however, it’s always a good idea to remind our customers why beef is the perfect protein choice for everything from busy weeknight meals to big milestone celebrations.

Our industry is in good hands with the 2019 National Beef Advocacy Team. Similar to the National Beef Ambassador Program which I was part of in 2007, these collegiate advocates are on a mission to share their passion for beef across the country.

Announced in January during the 2019 Cattle Industry Convention, the NBA team has three members: Ryan Beany, a junior animal science student at the University of Florida; Tyler Schuster, a junior ag services and development student at Tarleton State University; and Valeriana Urricelqui, a senior agriculture science and education student at California State University, Chico.

The team is overseen by Sierra Jepsen, who serves in the role of program coordinator. Jepson was on the 2014 National Beef Ambassador team and currently works at the University of Wyoming as an assistant lecturer, meat judging coach and program coordinator for the Cowboy Branded Meats program.

So far in 2019, the team has been busy traveling across the country promoting beef and learning from industry leaders.

In March, the team kicked things off with a Western Beef Industry Tour. Staring in Colorado, the team visited CattleFax, where they learned about market forecasting for the beef industry and how these industry experts provide timely information to assist the nation’s beef producers.

From there, they headed to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) office, where they fine-tuned their beef advocacy skills.

Next, the team met with the Red Angus Association and the United States Meat Export Federation.

Then Sarah Bohnenkamp, a millennial coach and former project manager for the program, offered coaching tips for goal setting, utilizing their strengths and being effective leaders in the industry.

Finally, the team toured JBS and Five Rivers Feedyard. They wrapped up the three-day tour with Greeley Hat Works.

“Greeley Hat Works is a continued supporter of young agriculturalists and has graciously donated a custom-made cowboy hat to each member of the 2019 Beef Advocacy Team,” says Jepsen.

I was disappointed when the National Beef Ambassador Program lost its funding a few years after I served in that role. The investment in young people who have a passion for the beef industry should not be overlooked. I believe by scouting young talent and nurturing that talent through leadership and mentorship opportunities that the industry is rewarded 10-fold by what these ambassadors will go on to do.

When I think of some of the outstanding young professionals who are making their mark on the beef industry, it’s rewarding to know that many of them previously served as National Beef Ambassadors.

That’s why I’m so pleased to see the program revamped and rebooted for the next generation of young people to participate in. I hope the 2019 team has an enriching and rewarding experience. I know they will serve us well as they travel the country promoting beef, and in turn, I hope they find new and exciting opportunities for themselves to explore along the way.

The National Collegiate Beef Advocacy Program is supported by the American National Cattlewomen, Inc. For more information about the program, visit or email Jepsen at [email protected]

Follow “Collegiate Beef Advocates” on Facebook to keep updated on the team’s advocacy efforts.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

This Week in Agribusiness, April 13, 2019

Part 1

Note: The video automatically plays through all show parts once you start.

Max Armstrong kicks of the show from the National Agri-Marketing Association meeting in Kansas City with an update on how this winter’s flooding has affected Midwest ranchers from Marvin Kokes of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Curt Blades of the Association of Equipment Manufactures tells Max about the challenges a late start to planting brings to the dealer business. Arlan Suderman of INTL FCStone talks with Max about the latest on trade with China.

Part 2

Arlan Suderman of INTL FCStone rejoins Max to talk about the wet spring’s impact on the markets and farmers. Chad Colby in the Colby Ag Tech segment is taking a look at high-speed tillage. 

Part 3

Max Armstrong continues reporting from Kansas City where he hears how youth are learning about agribusiness at NAMA.  Chad Colby is back talking technology with Jack Degelman of Degelman Industries about their varied equipment.

Part 4

Max Armstrong chats with Tom Brand, National Association of Farm Broadcasting, about the group’s 75th anniversary. The BASF Plan Smart, Grow Smart series is next with Max Armstrong and Andrew Fansler of St. Paul, Minnesota. Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje give us the agriculture weather forecast for the week ahead.

Part 5

Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje returns to take a look at the long-range weather picture.

Part 6

In Max’s Tractor Shed, Max introduces a 1939 Ford 9N owned by Jerry Davis of Perryville, Missouri. Max profiles Gouverneur FFA from Gouverneur, New York where they have their own maple syrup business. Member Hannah Hight touts the amount of community support the chapter gets.  

Part 7

Max Armstrong introduces a report form Delaney Howell who talks with Iowa Supreme Court Justice Susan Christensen whose rural roots have shaped her approach to the law.



MORNING Midwest Digest, April 12, 2019

The bomb cyclone wreaked havoc across the Upper Midwest with hundreds of crashes, downed powerlines in Minnesota and close to two feet of snow in South Dakota. Ag facilities were also closed.

The U.S. agriculture census is out and there is lots of data from farm numbers to acreage to income.


Photo: travenian/Getty Images

Farm Progress America, April 12, 2019

Max Armstrong shares more information about his upcoming trip to cover the impact of the floods that overran Nebraska and Iowa recently. One area he’s interested in checking out is the impact of the floods on the irrigation pivot, including being safe about those repairs.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: Tyler Harris, Nebraska Farmer

7 ag stories you might have missed this week - April 12, 2019

NolanBerg11/flySnow/SteveOehlenschlager/ThinkstockPhotos 7AgStoriesNEW051517-1540x800

Need a quick catch-up on the news? Here are 7 ag news stories you might have missed.

1. The latest Census of Agriculture finds farms are getting larger, on average, as the total number of farmers decrease. There are now 2.04 million U.S. farms and ranches, down 3.2% from 2012 with the average farm size increasing 1.6% to 441 acres during that time. – Farm Futures

2. There was a moment, about 20 years ago, when farmers thought they’d defeated weeds forever. It was then that Roundup came into broad usage. Now, resistant weeds are a growing problem.- MPR News

3. The National Pork Producers Council cancelled World Pork Expo 2019 in an effort to keep African swine fever was spreading. There is no vaccine against the disease. – National Hog Farmer

4. Innovations in agriculture and promoting nutrition in food systems are priorities for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. -  UN News

5. The Iowa Farm Bureau said the state may have more than $2 billion in damages from flooding in the state. Their figure is nearly $400 million more than the estimate from the governor’s office. –

6. In Iowa, farmers are buying nearly 8 of every 10 farms offered for sale. In a sampling of recent sales, a 105-acre parcel in Lyon County sold for $11,000 per acre. The farm has power poles running through the middle of the property. In Floyd County, 78 acres sold for $4,500 per acre. – Wallaces Farmer

7. Maple Leaf Foods and its wholly owned subsidiary, Greenleaf Foods SPC, plan to construct a $310 million plant-based protein food processing facility in Shelbyville, Indiana. It will be the largest facility of its kind in North America. The plant-based protein market is rapidly expanding, the company says. – Feedstuffs

And your bonus.

Tom and Harold Brosius invested $5 million to install seven acres of solar panels at their Pennsylvania farm, Marlboro Mushrooms, which dates to 1901. The solar panels have reduced their electricity bill by 80% a month and they estimate it has reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by more than 11,100 tons. That’s the equivalent of planting 2,300 trees or not driving 23 million miles, the Brosiuses say. –