By Wes Nelson

Farm Service Agency

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WILLMAR - Veterinarians are critical to America’s food safety and food security, plus the overall health and well-being of both animals and humans. Major studies indicate significant and growing shortages of food supply veterinarians, and veterinarians serving in certain other high-priority specialty areas.

An identified leading cause for the veterinarian shortages is the cost of completing four years of professional veterinary medical training, which according to the latest American Veterinary Medical Association survey can average more than $150,000.

To address both the shortage of veterinarians in identified areas and the increased cost for schooling and training, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has implemented the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program.

Authorized by the National Veterinary Medical Science Act of 2003 and administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the program provides student loan repayment benefits to annually selected program applicants from areas of the country with identified veterinarian shortages or special needs.

In return for committing three years of veterinary services in a designated veterinary shortage or specialty area, successful program applicants may receive up to $25,000 of student loan debt repayment per year.

Benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for attending an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited college of veterinary medicine, resulting in a degree of doctor of veterinary medicine or equivalent.

Since loan repayments are considered taxable income, included in the award is a federal tax payment equal to 39 percent of the loan payment. This amount is made directly to the award recipient’s IRS tax account to offset the increase in income tax liability.

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program has updated online information regarding the nominations awarded for the 2013 funding cycle.

Minnesota submitted six veterinarian shortage nominations for 2013, five of which were approved by USDA. Furthermore, three of the five approved nominations were awarded to program applicants.

Two of the awards were for full-time food animal veterinarians in central and southwestern Minnesota. The third award was for a veterinary pathology shortage at the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The process for the 2014 funding cycle will begin in late December with the request for nominations from state veterinarians in each state. In January, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health will begin drafting new nominations.

If you believe your area has a shortage of food animal veterinarians, or there are recent veterinary graduates practicing in the area that would benefit from USDA’s loan repayment program, please contact Linda Glaser from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health at 651-201-6828.

For more information regarding USDA’s Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, visit

USDA announces 7.2 percent reduction in FSA payments due to sequester

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that farmers who participate in the Farm Service Agency’s programs should plan accordingly for an automatic spending reduction, known as sequester, during the 2014 fiscal year.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandates that federal agencies implement automatic, annual reductions to discretionary and mandatory spending limits. For mandatory programs, the sequestration rate for the 2014 fiscal year is 7.2 percent.

The Farm Service Agency will be implementing sequestration for the following programs: Marketing Assistance Loans, including the Sugar Loan Program; Loan Deficiency Payments; Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program; 2013 Counter-cyclical Payment Program; 2013 Average Crop Revenue Election Payment Program; 2012 Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program and the Dairy Indemnity Payment Program.

Conservation Reserve Program payments are specifically exempt by statute from sequestration. Therefore, CRP payments will not be reduced.

The announced sequestration percentage reflects current law estimates. However, with continuing budget uncertainty, Congress still may adjust the exact percentage reduction. The Farm Service Agency will provide notification as early as practicable on the specific payment reductions.

Minn. confirms second case of epizootic hemorrhagic disease

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease was reported for the first time in Minnesota in 2012 when it was found in one cow in Brown County. This year, a second case was reported in October in a cow in Murray County.

The herd veterinarian examined the cow, collected a blood sample that tested positive for the strain of epizootic hemorrhagic disease that continues to be found in cattle and deer in South Dakota.

The disease is a viral infection of ruminant animals that is most commonly seen in white-tailed deer and transmitted by insect vectors. However, sickness and death in cattle is seen infrequently.

Reported clinical signs in cattle include dehydration, lethargy, a “crusty muzzle” and drooling.

Affected animals often have extensive muzzle and mouth sores which are likely painful and the reason why they avoid drinking or eating. Some animals may have lesions on their teats.

Because of its reappearance this year, Minnesota Board of Animal Health officials announced that Minnesota may see occurrences of the disease more frequently in the future.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.