PRESIDENT Barack Obama officially closed out the farm bill's long journey to passage when he signed the bill at an event on the Michigan State University campus Feb. 7.
In a speech before signing the bill, the President said it's more than just a farm bill: "It's a jobs bill, it's an innovation bill, it's a research bill, it's a conservation bill. ... It's like a Swiss army knife; it multitasks."
Obama emphasized that the bill creates more good jobs and gives more Americans a shot at opportunity. It helps communities in rural America grow, it gives farmers some certainty and it puts in place important reforms, he told the nearly 500 attendees at the event.
Dr. Ron DeHaven, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Assn., added that the farm bill is good for animals, too, and those who work to protect animal health and welfare.
The bill contains several key veterinary research and food safety programs that are vitally important for animal health and welfare. These include:
* The National Animal Health Laboratory Network. The bill authorizes up to $15 million annually for this vital early-warning disease surveillance program that gives veterinarians and scientists the ability to test for economically devastating diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, foot and mouth disease, avian and swine influenza and classical swine fever, many of which could affect public health.
* The Competitive Veterinary Services Grant Program. The bill authorizes $10 million annually to establish the grant program, which will complement the existing Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. The new grant program is aimed at relieving veterinary shortage situations and supporting private veterinary practices that are engaged in public health activities in rural and underserved areas of the country.
* Animal Health & Disease Research. The bill expands the Animal Health & Disease Research/1433 Formula Funds, which have traditionally focused on animal health and disease research and will now include a competitive grant program that will focus on three areas: food security, One Health and stewardship.
The program aims to improve food security in a variety of ways, such as enhancing livestock feed efficiency and reproduction, researching biological phenomena related to animal production and improving pre- and post-harvest food safety systems.
In the area of One Health, the program will explore topics such as vaccine development, control of zoonotic diseases and the quality and nutritional value of food products.
* Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research. Legislators established this new foundation, which will provide $200 million in funding for new research projects aimed at addressing key problems of national and international significance, including knowledge gaps in animal and plant health, food production and products, food safety and nutrition and health, to name a few.
* The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank. Scientists received reauthorization of up to $2.5 million annually for the databank, which gives them the tools they need to provide vital information to veterinarians and livestock producers to ensure that milk, meat and eggs are free of drug and chemical residues before entering the food supply.
* The Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI, which provides grants for research, education and extension work into sustaining all components of U.S. agriculture, was reauthorized at up to $700 million.
AFRI has added new priority areas for research, including: the study and development of surveillance methods; vaccines, vaccination delivery systems and diagnostics for pests and diseases, including epizootic diseases in domestic livestock; zoonotic diseases in domestic livestock or wildlife reservoirs that present potential public health concerns; identification of animal drug needs, and the generation and dissemination of data for the safe and effective therapeutic uses of animal drugs for minor species as well as minor uses in major species.