Advocacy in action
Swine vets go to Washington

The AASV’s executive committee held their eighth annual meeting with regulators, legislators, and researchers in Washington, DC. Drs Michelle Sprague, Ron Brodersen, George Charbonneau, Matt Anderson, Tom Burkgren, and Harry Snelson, along with the leadership from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP), were hosted May 5 and 6 by the Governmental Relations Division of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This annual meeting is an excellent opportunity to offer continued stakeholder input on issues of importance to swine veterinarians.

Participants met with representatives from the following USDA agencies: Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (by phone), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In addition, we spent some time with research leaders from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA). We also had a chance to hear what issues were driving the allied producer groups, including the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the National Milk Producers Federation. The NPPC also scheduled time for our group to visit with the offices of their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. Following are some highlights of those discussions.

Dr Gary Sherman from NIFA described the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program now in its fifth year. The inaugural group just completed their 3-year program. They are eligible to reapply if they have at least $20,000 in debt remaining. Annually, there have been approximately 180 to 200 under-served or shortage areas identified by the state animal-health officials. The program is able to fill approximately 45 of those shortages annually. Over the 5 years of the program, approximately 250 veterinarians have been accepted into the program.

Dr Peter Johnson, also from NIFA, described a new initiative for research funding involving public-private partnerships targeting innovation institutes. Each of the institutes is eligible for up to $25 million to fund initiatives. This may be an additional funding opportunity for food-animal researchers interested in exploring such topics as antimicrobial resistance.

The main topic of interest with representatives from FSIS and FDA was the issue of violative drug residues. The majority of residues continue to be associated with cull dairy cows and bob veal calves. Market swine continue to have an exceptionally low rate of residues. However, the incidence of penicillin G residues in cull sows remains somewhat elevated since 2012, when FSIS validated a testing protocol allowing for the identification of penicillin G residues. In order to gain a better understanding of the significance of these findings, we asked FSIS to provide us a quarterly report outlining penicillin violations in sows. Additional discussions with FDA and FSIS are ongoing to determine any possible resolution to this issue.

In addition to the residue issue, we also discussed with FDA the issues of proposed changes to the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), compounding for food animals, and pain mitigation. Drs Bernadette Dunham, Bill Flynn, and Craig Lewis reported that the agency was reviewing comments received regarding the VFD proposed rule. The goal was to publish a final rule, most likely in early 2015. The agency is aware of the challenges associated with the lack of approved products for use in pain mitigation for food-producing animals. They did reaffirm that the extra-label use of approved drugs for pain mitigation would be appropriate as long as all extra-label drug-use criteria could be met. They also reported that basically all manufacturers of feed-grade antimicrobials had indicated their intention to comply with directives to remove growth promotion claims from their products within the timeframe outlined in the FDA’s guidance documents.

Dr John Clifford, Chief Veterinary Officer for the United States, joined the group by phone to discuss the proposed mandatory reporting plan and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in general. He assured the group that it was not the intent of USDA to impose movement restrictions on producers who complied with a herd management plan developed in collaboration with either their herd veterinarian or a state or federal area veterinarian.

Lastly, we met with Dr Julie Brewer from the DHS. She updated the group on the status of the proposed National Bio and Agro Defense Facility. The 580,200-square-foot facility is to be built in Manhattan, Kansas, and will replace the aging facility on Plum Island. The cost estimate for the facility is now estimated at $1.2 billion ($900 million federal funds and $300 million from Kansas). They propose that their 2015 budget request will complete the necessary congressional funding, and the project is slated for completion by 2022. Upon its completion, the USDA will be responsible for research, training, and diagnostic activities at the facility, while DHS will work to advance vaccine development and maintain the facility.

In addition, the group also met with swine researchers from the ARS and NIFA to discuss the priorities and direction for swine health, production, and welfare research in the face of continued declines in research funding. Dr Joan Lunney provided an update on the on-going research into viral and host genetics associated with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.

Finally, the AASV leadership also had an opportunity to meet with their individual legislators on Capitol Hill to discuss legislation and funding concerns associated with swine health and production. The key issues discussed included funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and discussions regarding the impact PEDV has had on producers and practitioners.

This annual meeting affords our leadership an opportunity to interact with the leadership from AABP and the AVMA’s Government Relations Division on a broad range of topics that potentially have a significant impact on the practice of food-animal veterinary medicine. Although it requires a time commitment away from practice responsibilities, I think all would agree that it is time well spent, and the association benefits from their participation.

Harry Snelson, DVM
Director of Communications