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Kent Peterson (Supplied photo)

SD Legislature advances plan to address veterinarian shortage

Well, believe it or not, we have already near the end of the 2019 South Dakota Legislative Session.

In the last week of February, the senators and representatives worked hard to get most of the bills out of committee and through their respective floors and this upcoming week will be the final days for getting all the bills through the second chamber.

Before the session ends on March 13, the budget will be finalized and any differences in bills that could not be resolved between the two houses will be sent to a conference committee.

I had to opportunity to carry Senate Bill 43 on the floor last Tuesday. South Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Science have proposed a collaborative program in rural veterinary medical education, sometimes described as the 2+2 option. Students in this program would complete the first two years of courses at SDSU and the final two years at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

This new program will replace the agreement that is currently in place with Iowa State University. We currently have six slots in the Iowa State vet program. This new program with the University of Minnesota will allow 20 students per year. Of the 20 new students, 14 will have scholarships that reduce their tuition rate down to the peer in-state tuition average.

Currently non-resident tuition is $55,000 per year at the University of Minnesota. In-state tuition is $28,600 per year. This scholarship will save the student $105,600 over four years. Six of the 20 students with the highest ratings will have their tuition reduced to the current Iowa State resident tuition rate, which is $23,000 per year. These students will save $128,000 over their four years of school.

This program will impact rural South Dakota in many ways. It will help address the shortage of rural large animal veterinarians, help create new opportunities for South Dakota students to pursue careers in veterinary medicine, support a growing agricultural industry in our state, and address the concerns related to costs of vet school.

This program is paid for in part from the $600,000 a year endo/ecto parasiticide tax, with the remainder of the cost covered internally by SDSU. This bill passed almost unanimously and will head to the governor's desk for approval.

Another hot topic in this year's legislative session is industrial hemp. More to come on that topic next month.