Bipartisan Legislation Written to Address Shortage of Veterinarians in Rural America

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is among a bipartisan group of Senators who have reintroduced legislation to address the growing shortage of veterinarians in rural communities.

The Rural Veterinary Workforce Act (S.2829) would end the current 39 percent federal withholding tax on loan repayment awards given to veterinarians who agree to serve for three years in USDA-designated rural veterinary shortage areas.

“The shortage of veterinarians, especially those focusing on large animal care, poses an increasingly critical challenge in rural areas.  The Rural Veterinary Workforce Act needs to be enacted to fix that problem and to give taxpayers more bang for their buck from the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program,” said Hyde-Smith, co-chair of the Senate Veterinary Medicine Caucus.

Congress established the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program in 2003 to address the veterinary shortage by assisting qualifying veterinarians with student loan repayment in exchange for practicing in underserved communities.  However, the federal withholding tax on those repayments means almost 40 percent of what Congress appropriates for the programs goes back to the U.S. Treasury without actually supporting new veterinarians.

If enacted, S.2829 would reflect similar exemptions provided to medical doctors and other human health practitioners.

“Increasing veterinary services in high-priority rural areas through the Rural Veterinary Workforce Act would help keep the nation’s livestock healthy and our food supply safe and secure, and protect public health,” said American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) President Dr. Rena Carlson.  “The AVMA has been a long-time champion of the proposed legislation.  After the legislation received a historic level of support in the previous Congress, we look forward to working with the congressional champions to enact this bill and help rural communities across the country access the many essential services veterinarians provide.”

The Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association are among the more than 100 national and state organizations supporting S.2829.  Read a statement of support here.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) reintroduced the legislation with Hyde-Smith and U.S. Senators Angus King (D-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and James Risch (R-Idaho) as original cosponsors.