In 2003, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program was established to aid rural communities and livestock operators in those areas. It does so by helping to payoff young veterinarians’ student debt. In return, the veterinarians agree to spending at least three years in one of these “veterinary deserts.”
For many young veterinarians interested in large animal veterinary practice, hefty student loans require them to look to different fields of work. As Paul Biagiotti wrote in a column for Hoard’s in 2016, “Due to soaring student loan burdens, many newly graduated veterinarians, despite having an interest in food animal practice, tend to choose comparatively better paying jobs in companion animal or corporate practice instead.”
Since his article in 2016, the need for veterinarians in these areas has only grown. In 2019, a record 190 regions in 44 states were designated by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, who administers the program, as areas suffering from shortages of food animal or public health veterinarians.
Many dairies in rural areas can easily attest to the need for experienced and talented large animal veterinarians. Unfortunately, funding for the program can’t get close to covering the need.
Finding more funding
Because of this, Senator Mike Crapo from Idaho and Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan reintroduced legislation earlier in April for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act. The purpose of this bill would be to eliminate taxes on programs that encourage veterinarians to practice in underserved areas.
Specifically, it would end withholding taxes that are applied to program awards and would free up more funding without expanding the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program’s budget. Currently, that program has a 39 percent withholding tax on assistance for qualifying veterinarians.