Weekly livestock news: February 5, 2024

AVMA president and lawmakers advocate to remove federal tax from loan repayment program for rural veterinarians

Dr. Rena Carlson, president of the AVMA, and U.S. Representatives Adrian Smith and John Larson make the case for legislators to pass the Rural Veterinary Workforce Act. If passed, the bill would end federal taxation on the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, which repays up to $75,000 in educational debt to veterinarians practicing in USDA-designated veterinary shortage areas. While similar programs for physicians and other human health care providers aren’t subject to federal taxes, this one is. The USDA has to pay 39% to the U.S. Treasury in addition to each loan repayment, which critics say reduces the number of shortage counties that can be addressed. “Allowing more veterinarians to participate in the VMLRP would make a tremendous difference in addressing rural veterinary shortages throughout the country, help remove the financial obstacles blocking veterinarians who want to work in our underserved communities, and increase access to the essential services veterinarians provide nationwide,” according to the commentary in The Hill.

Farmers sue Oregon over new environmental regulations

A group of four dairy farmers is suing the Oregon Department of Agriculture over a new policy that they say will threaten their small businesses, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. Starting April 1, some small dairies will need to register as confined animal feed operations or they could face fines. That process includes creating a plan for wastewater management. In a memo last year, the ODA said some raw milk producers were ignoring the registration requirement. The agency said this has created environmental concerns, and other dairies had complained about unfair competition. Now, some farmers are pushing back. On January 24, they filed a complaint in federal court, arguing that the requirements don’t reflect how small businesses operate. They also accused the state of protecting the corporate milk industry.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sets 2024 policy priorities

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s executive committee approved the organization’s policy priorities at the 2024 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show. This year’s priorities focus on advocating for the reauthorization of the farm bill, protecting cattle producers from federal regulatory overreach and defending the U.S. cattle industry against external attacks. “NCBA will continue pushing for passage of a farm bill that includes key animal health and voluntary conservation provisions, as well as hold the line against all federal policies that could damage the livelihoods of U.S. cattle producers,” said NCBA President-Elect and Wyoming cattle rancher Mark Eisele. “In the past year we have seen radical animal activists ramp up their attacks on our industry and our producer-funded Beef Checkoff that drives consumer demand and funds critical research.”

Farm bill debate could be pushed into the heat of an election year, Purdue professor says

A Purdue University professor warned that ongoing congressional debate over federal spending levels means progress on the farm bill will be pushed into the heat of an election year, when compromise is difficult. The debate over government funding might touch farm bill programs this spring, as it did in SNAP revisions written into the debt limit agreement of 2023, Purdue associate professor Roman Keeney wrote in a quarterly Purdue publication. Without an agreement, “we could almost certainly reach October 2024 with no replacement farm bill and face the same questions we did throughout 2023,” Keeney wrote. Successful Farming reports.

FDA approves importation of Pluset during shortage of Folltropin

In response to a shortage of FDA-approved Folltropin (follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH), the FDA announced that it does not intend to object to the temporary importation of Pluset (porcine pituitary-derived follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone) by Alberta Veterinary Laboratories Ltd./Solvet. Pluset is authorized for marketing in Spain and importation will improve availability of FSH product for U.S. cattle producers who use embryo transfer on their operations, according to Beef Magazine. Folltropin and Pluset are used for the same purpose, but the composition and concentration of the active ingredients are different, as are the doses and dosage regimens. When imported Pluset is distributed in the United States, it will be accompanied by a client information sheet for veterinarians and cattle producers with detailed information explaining how to use Pluset, Beef Magazine reports.

Ship carrying thousands of sheep and cattle stranded off Australia’s coast amid Red Sea threats

A ship carrying around 14,000 sheep and 2,000 cattle was stranded off the coast of Australia in sweltering heat after it was forced to abandon a trip through the Red Sea. The vessel left Australia on January 5 for Israel, where it was to unload, but diverted from its course in mid-January due to the threat of attack by Yemen’s Houthi militia before being ordered home by the Australian government. The animals are now in limbo and could be discharged in Australia, where biosecurity rules would require them to quarantine, or sent back to sea for a month-long journey to Israel around Africa, avoiding the Red Sea, according to industry officials and the government. The stranding underscores the widening impact of militia strikes on ships in the Red Sea, as well as the risk to Australia’s live animal export industry, Reuters reports.

Seagulls moving into urban areas bring risk of bird flu outbreaks, research finds

A recent study found that although short-billed gulls typically live along coastlines and other bodies of water, these gulls had moved to human-made structures like parking lots, garbage dumpsters and industrial gravel pads over a span of months. The gulls appeared to engage in a territory swap with scavenging ravens, the researchers found: Ravens take over in the winter and seagulls move in over the summer. “We find that Short-billed Gulls prefer the synergy of industrial areas near man-made water bodies, impervious surfaces, gravel pits, strip malls, transfer sites (garbage dumps) and some young forest vegetation,” the authors explain in their introduction. This information has potentially serious real-world implications, as the gulls carry with them the threat of infection outbreaks, particularly avian influenza, Salon reports.