Advocacy in action
AASV leadership meets in DC

The AASV Executive Committee traveled to Washington, DC, June 13 to 15, 2010, to meet with animal-agriculture-related agencies. Participants included Past-President Butch Baker, President Paul Ruen, Vice President Tara Donovan, Executive Director Tom Burkgren, and Communications Director Harry Snelson. The AASV leadership joined their counterparts from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP).

The trip has become an annual event hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Government Relations Division in DC. The AASV and AABP leadership met with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), American Farm Bureau, USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services (VS) and Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discuss issues of importance to swine and bovine veterinarians.

Dr Doug Meckes, DHS, described the role of DHS during emergencies as facilitating access to resources in support of other agencies, including USDA and Health and Human Services. He indicated that earlier challenges regarding which agency took the lead during a crisis have been reviewed and addressed. He also provided an update on construction of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas. Cost estimates for the facility have ballooned to $750 billion and the completion date has been pushed back to at least 2015. The participants expressed concern that the current facility in operation on Plum Island, New York, be adequately funded in the interim to facilitate infrastructure improvements, expansion of research emphasis, and access to enhanced diagnostic and prevention tools.

Dr John Clifford, USDA-APHIS-VS, discussed a number of issues including Veterinary Services’ vision for 2015 and the focus on animal traceability. Vision 2015 describes USDA’s direction for the future and includes a move toward comprehensive surveillance systems rather than the current surveillance program design which is based on established program diseases. The current surveillance design stovepipes the resources and minimizes the flexibility of the surveillance system to recognize emerging, zoonotic, or endemic diseases. The 2015 vision also strives to recognize USDA’s VS as the federal animal-health authority.

Regarding animal traceability, Dr Clifford reinforced USDA’s current emphasis to move forward with a traceability program designed to identify and monitor animals moving interstate. He indicated that the program will be state- and tribal-based and designed to address the needs of individual species rather than a “one size fits all” type of program. He noted that USDA recognizes that an effective formalized traceability program is necessary for the control and surveillance of animal diseases and will maintain access of US livestock to international markets. He recognized that the swine industry has been very progressive in implementing the Swine ID Plan and assured the AASV leadership that group-lot movements would continue to be an approved method for animal movement.

Dr Bill Flynn, FDA, was asked to define the FDA’s thoughts regarding enhanced veterinary oversight of feed-grade antimicrobials. He reinforced that FDA leadership is uncomfortable with the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion and described discussions FDA has had with drug manufacturers regarding a process by which they might retain dosage levels if an appropriate indication could be identified for addition to the current label. He discussed FDA’s interest in considering the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) as a model for providing additional veterinary involvement in the usage of products currently marketed over the counter. The FDA is currently seeking public input on the VFD process and possible modifications necessary to make it more user-friendly.

Dr Flynn also addressed the issue of unapproved drugs currently on the market. He acknowledged that thousands of products are currently being sold over the counter without FDA approval. It is impossible for anyone purchasing these products to look at the package and determine if the product has been approved or not. All FDA-approved products are issued NADA numbers, but it is not required that the number appear on the product label. The agency is currently considering changing label requirements to require placement of the NADA number on the label. Currently, the only way to ensure that a product is approved is to look it up on the FDA’s approved drug database available online at

The AASV and AABP leadership also met with representatives from USDA’s FSIS to discuss residue avoidance and microbial sampling in the processing facility. Participants discussed the value of ante mortem and postmortem inspection records detailing slaughter dispositions and reasons for condemnation. Veterinarians working with farmers producing the animals presented for processing would benefit from a report of the FSIS findings during in-plant inspections.

In addition, the AASV participants visited with research program leaders from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). During this meeting, the group discussed on-going swine health and production research programs and the challenges to maintaining and increasing federal funding for basic and applied swine research. Upon the formation of NIFA, formerly Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service, five priority topic areas (global food security, childhood obesity, climate change, food safety, and sustainable bio-energy) were identified to direct the emphasis of research projects funded by the agency. All future research projects must fit into at least one of the five priorities, some of which have proven challenging for swine research efforts. Ultimately, it is hoped that this change in emphasis will result in increased funding for agriculture in general, but the impact on swine health and production remains unclear.

The AASV leadership also had the opportunity to meet with the AVMA’s Government Relations Division to discuss legislative issues of importance to veterinary medicine. The Executive Committee members spent time visiting their Congressional representatives and staff members to educate them regarding issues such as the Veterinary Loan Repayment program, the Veterinary Services Investment Act, and the Preservation of Antimicrobials for Medical Treatment Act.

-- Harry Snelson, DVM