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Program looks to boost rural veterinarians

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken the first step toward implementing a plan to address veterinary shortages throughout rural America by repaying the student loans of qualified veterinarians in return for their services in areas suffering from a lack of veterinarians.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), which was established in the National Veterinary Medical Services Act of 2003. NIFA issued an interim rule for the program July 9, 2009. Implementation of the program began Jan. 22, 2010 when NIFA released a “Federal Register” notice asking for comments and nominations for shortage situations from the chief animal health official from each state and insular area and appropriate federal animal health officials.

NIFA expects to begin accepting applications from veterinarians wishing to participate in the program April 30, 2010. In return for a commitment of three years of veterinary services in a designated veterinary shortage area, NIFA may repay up to $25,000 of student loan debt per year. Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for the attendance at an accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or the equivalent. NIFA projects applications will be due June 30, and that offers will be made by Sept. 30.

For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.

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