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Erin Brown / Grand Vale Creative

Rural vets are in high demand. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program should help.

Thank you for your article on Nov. 13 (In places without enough rural veterinary care, these vets have found solutions, Nov. 13, 2017) calling attention to the importance of veterinarians practicing in rural America. Veterinarians play vital roles in preventing and controlling the spread of dangerous animal diseases and meeting the needs of ranchers and farmers.

Veterinarians practicing in rural areas face unique challenges, which may result in communities lacking adequate access to every veterinary service they may need or want for their animals. This has led about 20 states and the federal government to establish loan repayment programs to help veterinarians choose to practice in rural areas.

The federal government's Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) helps alleviate veterinary shortages. VMLRP participants receive up to $75,000 over a three-year contract to provide needed food animal and public practice services in a U.S. Department of Agriculture-designated veterinary shortage area.

Congress can maximize the limited funding available for federal and state programs by passing the VMLRP Enhancement Act, which would remove a 39 percent withholding tax applied to each award. This would free up funding for additional awards and get more veterinarians into rural areas where they're needed.

The VMLRP Enhancement Act will bolster local, statewide and federal efforts. The legislation offers a tremendous opportunity to increase access to rural veterinary care for ranchers and farmers. Congress should pass this legislation to support America's livestock industry and rural communities.

Editor’s note: Gina Luke is the Assistant Director of Government Relations for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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