[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 223 (Wednesday, November 19, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 68846-68853]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-27423]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

National Institute of Food and Agriculture


Solicitation of Veterinary Shortage Situation Nominations for the 
Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP)

AGENCY: National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States 
Department of Agriculture (USDA).

ACTION: Notice and solicitation for nominations.

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SUMMARY: The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is 
soliciting nominations of veterinary service shortage situations for 
the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) for fiscal year 
(FY) 2015, as authorized under the National Veterinary Medical Services 
Act (NVMSA), 7 U.S.C. 3151a. This notice initiates a 60-day nomination 
period and prescribes the procedures and criteria to be used by State, 
Insular Area, DC and Federal Lands to nominate veterinary shortage 
situations. Each year all eligible nominating entities may submit 
nominations, up to the maximum indicated for each entity in this 
notice. NIFA is conducting this solicitation of veterinary shortage 
situation nominations under a previously approved information 
collection (OMB Control Number 0524-0046).

DATES: Shortage situation nominations, both new and carry over, must be 
submitted on or before January 20, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Submissions must be made by email at vmlrp@nifa.usda.gov to 
the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program; National Institute of 
Food and Agriculture; U.S. Department of Agriculture.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Sherman; National Program Leader, 
Veterinary Science; National Institute of Food and Agriculture; U.S. 
Department of Agriculture; STOP 2220; 1400 Independence Avenue SW., 
Washington, DC 20250-2220; Voice: 202-401-4952; Fax: 202-401-6156; 
Email: vmlrp@nifa.usda.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background and Purpose

    A series of three peer-reviewed studies published in 2007 in the 
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), and 
sponsored by the Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Coalition 
(www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/Pages/about-fsvm-coalition.aspx), 
drew considerable attention to an existing and apparent growing 
shortage of food supply veterinarians, the causes of shortages in this 
sector, and the consequences to the U.S. food safety infrastructure and 
to the general public if this trend continues to worsen. Subsequently 
the Government Accountability Office released a report entitled 
``Veterinary Workforce: Actions Are Needed to Ensure Sufficient 
Capacity for Protecting Public and Animal Health'' (GAO-09-178: Feb 18, 
2009). This report was followed by a National Academies of Science 
report in 2013 entitled ``Workforce needs in Veterinary Medicine''. 
While the 2013 report concluded that some sectors of the veterinary 
workforce are not in shortage, the authors affirmed that ``livestock 
farmers who live far from populated areas have difficulty obtaining 
veterinary care.'' Furthermore, regarding the largest subgroup of 
veterinarians serving the food animal industries, the reported stated, 
``. . . new graduates are not entering this type of practice anymore, 
[and therefore] food-animal-predominant veterinarians, as a group, are 
now composed of rapidly-aging members.''
    Food supply veterinary medicine embraces a broad array of 
veterinary professional activities, specialties and responsibilities, 
and is defined as the full range of veterinary medical practices 
contributing to the production of a safe and wholesome food supply and 
to animal, human, and environmental health. The privately

[[Page 68847]]

practicing food animal veterinary practitioner population within the 
U.S. is, numerically, the largest, and arguably the most important 
single component of the food supply veterinary medical sector. Private 
practice food animal veterinarians, working closely with livestock 
producers and State and Federal officials, constitute the first line of 
defense against spread of endemic and zoonotic diseases, introduction 
of high consequence foreign animal diseases, and other threats to the 
health and wellbeing of both animals and humans who consume animal 
products.
    Among the most alarming findings of the Coalition-sponsored studies 
was that insufficient numbers of veterinary students are selecting food 
supply veterinary medical careers. This development has led both to 
current workforce imbalances and to projections for worsening localized 
shortages over the next 10 years. Burdensome educational debt was the 
leading concern students listed for opting not to choose a career in 
food animal practice or other food supply veterinary sectors. According 
to a survey of veterinary medical graduates conducted by the American 
Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2014, the average educational 
debt for students graduating from veterinary school is approximately 
$162,000. Such debt loads incentivize students to select other 
veterinary careers, such as companion animal medicine, which tend to be 
more financially lucrative and, therefore, enable students to more 
quickly repay their outstanding educational loans. Furthermore, when 
this issue was studied in the Coalition report from the perspective of 
identifying solutions to this workforce imbalance, panelists were asked 
to rate 18 different strategies for addressing shortages. Responses 
from the panelists overwhelmingly showed that student debt repayment 
and scholarship programs were the most important strategies in 
addressing future shortages (JAVMA 229:57-69). When the VMLRP was first 
authorized in 2005, the average graduating educational debt of 
veterinarians was approximately $75,000. Since that time average 
educational debt burden has more than doubled thereby greatly 
exacerbating the leading factor promoting the workforce imbalance this 
program seeks to mitigate.
    The VMLRP is aligned with the USDA Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 
2014-2018, particularly with the following strategic goals and 
objectives: Goal 1--Assist Rural Communities to Create Prosperity so 
They Are Self-Sustaining, Repopulating, and Economically Thriving, Goal 
3--Help America Promote Agricultural Production and Biotechnology 
Exports as America Works to Increase Food Security, Objective 4.3--
Protect Public Health by Ensuring Food is Safe, and Objective 4.4--
Protect Agricultural Health by Minimizing Major Diseases and Pests to 
Ensure Access to Safe, Plentiful, and Nutritious Food. A copy of the 
USDA Strategic Plan is available at www.ocfo.usda.gov/usdasp/sp2014/usda-strategic-plan-fy-2014-2018.pdf.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
regulations (5 CFR part 1320) that implement the Paperwork Reduction 
Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35), the information collection and 
recordkeeping requirements imposed by the implementation of these 
guidelines have been approved by OMB Control Number 0524-0046.

List of Subjects in Guidelines for Veterinary Shortage Situation 
Nominations

I. Preface and Authority
II. Nomination of Veterinary Shortage Situations
    A. General
    1. Eligible Shortage Situations
    2. Authorized Respondents and Use of Consultation
    3. Rationale for Capping Nominations and State Allocation Method
    4. State Allocation of Nominations
    5. FY 2015 Shortage Situation Nomination Process
    6. Submission and Due Date
    7. Period Covered
    8. Definitions
    B. Nomination Form and Description of Fields
    1. Access to Nomination Form
    2. Physical Location of Shortage Area or Position
    3. Overall Priority of Shortage
    4. Type I Shortage
    5. Type II Shortage
    6. Type III Shortage
    7. Written Response Sections
    C. NIFA Review of Shortage Situation Nominations
    1. Review Panel Composition and Process
    2. Review Criteria

Guidelines for Veterinary Shortage Situation Nominations

I. Preface and Authority

    In January 2003, the National Veterinary Medical Service Act 
(NVMSA) was passed into law adding section 1415A to the National 
Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1997 
(NARETPA). This law established a new Veterinary Medicine Loan 
Repayment Program (7 U.S.C. 3151a) authorizing the Secretary of 
Agriculture to carry out a program of entering into agreements with 
veterinarians under which they agree to provide veterinary services in 
veterinarian shortage situations.
    In FY 2010, NIFA announced the first funding opportunity for the 
VMLRP. From FY 2010 through FY 2014, NIFA received 858 applications 
from which 291 VMLRP awards totaling $25,292,341 were issued. Funding 
for FY 2015 and future years are based on annual appropriations and 
balances, if any, carried forward from prior years, and may vary from 
year to year.
    Section 7105 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, 
Public Law 110-246 (FCEA), amended section 1415A to revise the 
determination of veterinarian shortage situations to consider (1) 
geographical areas that the Secretary determines have a shortage of 
veterinarians; and (2) areas of veterinary practice that the Secretary 
determines have a shortage of veterinarians, such as food animal 
medicine, public health, epidemiology, and food safety. This section 
also added that priority should be given to agreements with 
veterinarians for the practice of food animal medicine in veterinarian 
shortage situations.
    NARETPA section 1415A requires the Secretary, when determining the 
amount of repayment for a year of service by a veterinarian to consider 
the ability of USDA to maximize the number of agreements from the 
amounts appropriated and to provide an incentive to serve in veterinary 
service shortage areas with the greatest need.
    The Secretary delegated the authority to carry out this program to 
NIFA pursuant to 7 CFR 2.66(a)(141).
    Pursuant to the requirements enacted in the NVMSA of 2004 (as 
revised), and the implementing regulation for this Act, Part 3431 
Subpart A of the VMLRP Final Rule [75 FR 20239-20248], NIFA hereby 
implements guidelines for authorized State Animal Health Officials 
(SAHO) to nominate veterinary shortage situations for the FY 2015 
program cycle:

II. Nomination of Veterinary Shortage Situations

A. General

1. Eligible Shortage Situations
    Section 1415A of NARETPA, as amended and revised by Section 7105 of 
FCEA directs determination of veterinarian shortage situations to 
consider (1) geographical areas that the Secretary determines have a 
shortage of veterinarians; and (2) areas of veterinary practice that 
the Secretary determines have a shortage of veterinarians, such as

[[Page 68848]]

food animal medicine, public health, epidemiology, and food safety. 
This section also added that priority should be given to agreements 
with veterinarians for the practice of food animal medicine in 
veterinarian shortage situations.
    While the NVMSA (as amended) specifies priority be given to food 
animal medicine shortage situations, and that consideration also be 
given to specialty areas such as public health, epidemiology and food 
safety, the Act does not identify any areas of veterinary practice as 
ineligible. Accordingly, all nominated veterinary shortage situations 
will be considered eligible for submission. However, assessment of 
submitted nominations by the external review panel convened by NIFA 
will reflect the intent of Congress that priority be given to certain 
types of veterinary service shortage situations. NIFA therefore 
anticipates that the stronger nominations will be those directly 
addressing food supply veterinary medicine shortage situations.
    NIFA has adopted definitions of the practice of veterinary medicine 
and the practice of food supply medicine that are broadly inclusive of 
the critical roles veterinarians serve in both public practice and 
private practice situations. Nominations describing either public or 
private practice veterinary shortage situations will therefore be 
eligible for submission.
2. State Respondents and Use of Consultation
    The only authorized respondent on behalf of each State is the chief 
State Animal Health Official (SAHO), as duly authorized by the Governor 
or the Governor's designee in each State. The chief SAHO must submit 
nominations to vmlrp@nifa.usda.gov using the Veterinarian Shortage 
Situation Nomination Form (OMB Control Number 0524-0046), which is 
available in the State Animal Health Officials section on the VMLRP Web 
site at www.nifa.usda.gov/vmlrp. One form must be submitted for each 
nominated shortage situation. NIFA strongly encourages the SAHO to 
involve leading health animal experts in the State in the 
identification and prioritization of shortage situation nominations.
3. Rationale for Capping Nominations and State Allocation Method
    In its consideration of fair, transparent and objective approaches 
to solicitation of shortage area nominations, NIFA evaluated three 
alternative strategies before deciding on the appropriate strategy. The 
first option considered was to impose no limits on the number of 
nominations submitted. The second was to allow each state the same 
number of nominations. The third (eventually selected) was to 
differentially cap the number of nominations per state based on 
defensible and intuitive criteria.
    The first option, providing no limits to the number of nominations 
per state, is fair to the extent that each state and insular area has 
equal opportunity to nominate as many situations as desired. However, 
funding for the VMLRP is limited (relative to anticipated demand), so 
allowing potentially high and disproportionate submission rates of 
nominations could both unnecessarily burden the nominators and the 
reviewers with a potential avalanche of nominations and dilute highest 
need situations with lower need situations. Moreover, NIFA believes 
that the distribution of opportunity under this program (i.e., 
distribution of mapped shortage situations resulting from the 
nomination solicitation and review process) should roughly reflect the 
national distribution of food supply veterinary service demand. By not 
capping nominations based on some objective criteria, it is likely 
there would be no correlation between the mapped pattern and density of 
certified shortage situations and the actual pattern and density of 
need. This in turn could undermine confidence in the program with 
Congress, the public, and other stakeholders.
    The second option, limiting all states and insular areas to the 
same number of nominations suffers from some of the same disadvantages 
as option one. It has the benefit of limiting administrative burden on 
both the SAHO and the nomination review process. However, like option 
one, there would be no correlation between the mapped pattern of 
certified shortage situations and the actual pattern of need. For 
example, Guam and Rhode Island would be allowed to submit the same 
number of nominations as Texas and Nebraska, despite the large 
difference in the sizes of their respective animal agriculture 
industries and rural land areas requiring veterinary service coverage.
    The third option, to cap the number of nominations in relation to 
major parameters correlating with veterinary service demand, achieves 
the goals both of practical control over the administrative burden to 
the states and NIFA, and of achieving a mapped pattern of certified 
nominations that approximates the theoretical actual shortage 
distribution. In addition, this method limits dilution of highest need 
areas with lower need areas. The disadvantage of this strategy is that 
there is no validated, unbiased, direct measure of veterinary shortage, 
and so it is necessary to employ parameters that correlate with the 
hypothetical cumulative relative need for each state in comparison to 
other states.
    In the absence of a validated unbiased direct measure of relative 
veterinary service need or risk for each state and insular area, the 
National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) provided NIFA with 
reliable and public data that correlate with demand for food supply 
veterinary service. NIFA consulted with NASS and determined that the 
NASS variables most strongly correlated with state-level food supply 
veterinary service need are ``Livestock and Livestock Products Total 
Sales ($)'' and ``Land Area'' (acres). The ``Livestock and Livestock 
Products Total Sales ($)'' variable broadly predicts veterinary service 
need in a State because this is a normalized (to cash value) estimate 
of the extent of (live) animal agriculture in the state. The State 
``land area'' variable predicts veterinary service need because there 
is positive correlation between state land area, percent of state area 
classified as rural and the percent of land devoted to actual or 
potential livestock production. Importantly, land area is also directly 
correlated with the number of veterinarians needed to provide 
veterinary services in a state because of the practical limitations 
relating to the maximum radius of a standard veterinary service area. 
Due to fuel and other cost factors, the maximum radius a veterinarian 
operating a mobile veterinary service can cover is approximately 60 
miles, which roughly corresponds to two or three contiguous counties of 
average size.
    Although these two NASS variables are not perfect predictors of 
veterinary service demand, NIFA believes they account for a significant 
proportion of several of the most relevant factors influencing 
veterinary service need and risk for the purpose of fairly and 
transparently estimating veterinary service demand. To further ensure 
fairness and equitability, NIFA is employing these variables in a 
straightforward and transparent manner that ensures every state and 
insular area is eligible for at least one nomination and that all 
States receive an apportionment of nominations, relative to their 
geographic size and size of agricultural animal industries.
    Following this rationale, the Secretary is specifying the maximum 
number of nominations per state in order to (1) assure distribution of 
designated shortage areas in a manner generally reflective of the 
differential overall demand for food supply veterinary

[[Page 68849]]

services in different states, (2) assure the number of shortage 
situation nominations submitted fosters emphasis on selection by 
nominators and applicants of the highest priority need areas, and (3) 
provide practical and proportional limitations of the administrative 
burden borne by SAHOs preparing nominations, and by panelists serving 
on the NIFA nominations review panel.
    Furthermore, instituting a limit on the number of nominations is 
consistent with language in the Final Rule stating, ``The solicitation 
may specify the maximum number of nominations that may be submitted by 
each State animal health official.''
4. State Allocation of Nominations
    The number of designated shortage situations per state will be 
limited by NIFA, and this has an impact on the number of new 
nominations a state may submit each time NIFA solicits shortage 
nominations. In the 2015 cycle, NIFA is again accepting the number of 
nominations equivalent to the allowable number of designated shortage 
areas for each state. All eligible submitting entities will, for the 
2015 cycle, have an opportunity to do the following: (1) Retain 
designated status for any shortage situation successfully designated in 
2014 (if there is no change to any information, the nomination will be 
approved for 2015 without the need for re-review by the merit panel), 
(2) rescind any nomination officially designated in 2014, and (3) 
submit new nominations. The total of the number of new nominations plus 
designated nominations retained (carried over) may not exceed the 
maximum number of nominations each entity is permitted. Any amendment 
to an existing shortage nomination is presumed to constitute a 
significant change. Therefore, an amended nomination must be rescinded 
and resubmitted to NIFA as a new nomination and it will be evaluated by 
the 2015 review panel.
    The maximum number of nominations (and potential designations) will 
remain the same in 2015 as they were for the previous five years. Thus, 
all states have the opportunity to re-establish the maximum number of 
designated shortage situations. Awards from previous years have no 
bearing on a state's maximum number of allowable shortage nomination 
submissions or number of designations for subsequent years. NIFA 
reserves the right in the future to proportionally adjust the maximum 
number of designated shortage situations per state to ensure a balance 
between available funds and the requirement to ensure priority is given 
to mitigating veterinary shortages corresponding to situations of 
greatest need. Nomination Allocation tables for FY 2015 are available 
under the State Animal Health Officials section of the VMLRP Web site 
at www.nifa.usda.gov/vmlrp.
    Table I lists ``Special Consideration Areas'' which include any 
State or Insular Area not reporting data, and/or reporting less than 
$1,000,000 in annual Livestock and Livestock Products Total Sales ($), 
and/or possessing less than 500,000 acres, as reported by NASS. One 
nomination is allocated to any State or Insular Area classified as a 
Special Consideration Area.
    Table II shows how NIFA determined nomination allocation based on 
quartile ranks of States for two variables broadly correlated with 
demand for food supply veterinary services: ``Livestock and Livestock 
Products Total Sales ($)'' (LPTS) and ``Land Area (acres)'' (LA). The 
total number of NIFA-designated shortage situations per state in any 
given program year is based on the quartile ranking of each state in 
terms of LPTS and LA. States for which NASS has both LPTS and LA 
values, and which have at least $1,000,000 LPTS and at least 500,000 
acres LA (typically all states plus Puerto Rico), were independently 
ranked from least to greatest value for each of these two composite 
variables. The two ranked lists were then divided into quartiles with 
quartile 1 containing the lowest variable values and quartile 4 
containing the highest variable values. Each state then received the 
number of designated shortage situations corresponding to the number of 
the quartile in which the state falls. Thus a state that falls in the 
second quartile for LA and the third quartile for LPTS may submit a 
maximum of five shortage situation nominations (2 + 3). This 
transparent computation was made for each state thereby giving a range 
of 2 to 8 shortage situation nominations, contingent upon each state's 
quartile ranking for the two variables.
    The maximum number of designated shortage situations for each State 
in 2015 is shown in Table III.
    While Federal Lands are widely dispersed within States and Insular 
Areas across the country, they constitute a composite total land area 
over twice the size of Alaska. If the 200-mile limit U.S. coastal 
waters and associated fishery areas are included, Federal Land total 
acreage would exceed 1 billion. Both State and Federal Animal Health 
officials have responsibilities for matters relating to terrestrial and 
aquatic food animal health on Federal Lands. Interaction between 
wildlife and domestic livestock, such as sheep and cattle, is 
particularly common in the plains states where significant portions of 
Federal lands are leased for grazing. Therefore, both SAHOs and the 
Chief Federal Animal Health Officer (Deputy Administrator, Animal and 
Plant Health Inspection Service or designee) may submit nominations to 
address shortage situations on or related to Federal Lands.
    NIFA emphasizes that shortage nomination allocation is set to 
broadly balance the number of designated shortage situations across 
states prior to the application and award phases of the VMLRP. Awards 
will be made based strictly on the peer review panels' assessment of 
the quality of the match between the knowledge, skills and abilities of 
the applicant and the attributes of the specific shortage situation 
applied for, thus no state will be given a preference for placement of 
awardees. Additionally, unless otherwise specified in the shortage 
nomination form, each designated shortage situation will be limited to 
one award.
5. FY 2015 Shortage Situation Nomination Process
    As described in Section 4 above, all SAHOs will, for the FY 2015 
cycle, have an opportunity to do the following: (1) Retain (carry over) 
designated status for any shortage situation successfully designated in 
2014 and not revised, without need for reevaluation by merit review 
panel, (2) rescind any nomination officially designated in 2014, and 
(3) submit new nominations. The total number of new nominations and 
designated nominations retained (carried over) may not exceed the 
maximum number of shortages each state is allocated. An amendment to an 
existing shortage nomination constitutes a significant change and 
therefore must be rescinded and resubmitted to NIFA as a new 
nomination, to be evaluated by the 2015 review panel. The maximum 
number of nominations (and potential designations) for each state is 
the same in 2015 as it was in previous years.
    The following process is the mechanism by which a SAHO should 
retain or rescind a designated nomination: NIFA will initiate the 
process by sending an email to each SAHO with a PDF copy of the 
nomination form of each designated area that went unfilled in FY 2014. 
If the SAHO wishes to retain (carry over) one or more designated 
nomination(s), the SAHO shall copy and paste the prior year information 
(unrevised) into the current year's nomination form. The

[[Page 68850]]

SAHO will then email the carry over nomination(s), along with any new 
nominations, to vmlrp@nifa.usda.gov by the published deadline.
    Both new and retained nominations must be submitted on the 
Veterinary Shortage Situation Nomination form provided in the State 
Animal Health Officials section at www.nifa.usda.gov/vmlrp.
6. Submission and Due Date
    Shortage situation nominations, both new and carry over, must be 
submitted on or before January 20, 2015, by email at 
vmlrp@nifa.usda.gov to the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program; 
National Institute of Food and Agriculture; U.S. Department of 
Agriculture. NIFA will examine in the future the feasibility of moving 
this nomination process from paper-based to an electronic process.
7. Period Covered
    Each shortage situation is approved for one program year cycle 
only. However, any previously approved shortage situation not filled in 
a given program year may be resubmitted with no changes as a ``carry-
over'' shortage in response to the solicitation for shortage 
nominations the following program year. Content of carry-over shortage 
nominations must not be changed in any respect, except for providing a 
revised date of submission and/or the name of a new submitting chief 
SAHO in the event the person holding that post has changed. Carry-over 
shortage nominations will not be required to undergo panel merit review 
and shall therefore be automatically approved. However, by resubmitting 
a nomination in a following program cycle, the SAHO is affirming that 
it is his or her professional judgment that the original case made for 
shortage status, and the original description of needs, are still 
accurate.
8. Definitions
    For the purpose of implementing the solicitation for veterinary 
shortage situations, the definitions provided in 7 CFR part 3431 are 
applicable.

B. Nomination Form and Description of Fields

1. Access to Nomination Form
    The veterinary shortage situation nomination form is available in 
the State Animal Health Officials section at www.nifa.usda.gov/vmlrp. 
The completed form must be emailed to vmlrp@nifa.usda.gov.
2. Physical Location of Shortage Area or Position
    Following conclusion of the nomination and designation process, 
NIFA will prepare lists and/or maps that include all designated 
shortage situations for the current program year. This effort requires 
a physical location that represents the center of the service area for 
a geographic shortage or the location of the main office or work 
address for a public practice and/or specialty practice shortage. For 
example, if the state seeks to certify a tri-county area as a food 
animal veterinary service (i.e., Type I) shortage situation, a road 
intersection approximating the center of the tri-county area would 
constitute a satisfactory physical location for NIFA's listing and 
mapping purposes. By contrast, if the state is identifying ``veterinary 
diagnostician'', a Type III nomination, as a shortage situation, then 
the nominator would complete this field by filling in the address of 
the location where the diagnostician would work (e.g., State animal 
disease diagnostic laboratory).
3. Overall Priority of Shortage
    Congressional intent is for this program to incentivize applicants 
to ``serve in veterinary service shortage areas with the greatest 
need.'' There is therefore the presumption that all areas nominated as 
shortage situations should be classified as at least ``moderate 
priority'' shortages. To assist nomination merit review panelists and 
award phase peer panelists in scoring shortage nominations and ranking 
applications from VMLRP applicants, SAHOs are asked to characterize 
each shortage situation nomination as ``Moderate Priority'', ``High 
Priority'', or ``Critical Priority'' shortages.
    Moderate Priority: This shortage prioritization corresponds to an 
area lacking in some aspect of food supply veterinary services, 
commensurate with the service percent full-time-equivalency (FTE) 
specified. Absence of, or insufficient, trained ``eyes and ears'' of a 
veterinarian serving a food animal production area is sufficient to 
constitute moderate priority shortage status. This is because access to 
veterinary services is necessary for basic animal health, animal well-
being, production profitability, and for food safety, and because high 
consequence disease outbreaks in agricultural animals or natural 
catastrophes can occur spontaneously anywhere. In such cases, early 
detection of disease and/or treatment of animals are essential. These 
activities are the authorized purview of a licensed veterinarian. In 
addition to the above examples, the SAHO is invited to make a unique 
case based on other situation-specific risk criteria, for classifying a 
nominated area as a Moderate Priority shortage.
    High Priority: This shortage prioritization corresponds to an area 
lacking sufficient access to food supply veterinary services, 
commensurate with the service percent FTE specified. High Priority 
status is justified by meeting the criteria for Moderate Priority 
status plus any of a variety of additional concerns relating to food 
supply veterinary medicine and/or public health. For example, the area 
may exhibit an especially large census of food animals in comparison to 
available veterinary services. Special animal or public health threats 
unique to the area, such as a recent history of outbreaks of high 
consequence, reportable, endemic animal and zoonotic diseases (e.g., 
Brucellosis, TB, etc.) could also constitute a high priority threat. In 
addition to the above examples, the SAHO is invited to make a unique 
case based on other situation-specific risk criteria, for classifying a 
nominated area as a High Priority shortage.
    Critical Priority: This shortage prioritization corresponds to an 
area severely lacking in some aspect of food supply or public health-
related veterinary services, commensurate with the service percent FTE 
specified. Critical priority status is justified by meeting the 
criteria for moderate and/or high priority status plus any of a variety 
of additional serious concerns relating to the roles food supply 
veterinarians play in protecting animal and public health. For example, 
an area may exhibit an especially high potential for natural disasters 
or for incursion of catastrophic foreign animal disease such as Highly 
Pathogenic Avian Influenza, Mad Cow Disease, or Foot and Mouth Disease. 
High risk areas could include high through-put international animal 
importation sites and areas where wild life and domestic food animals 
cross national borders carrying infectious disease agents (e.g., the 
US-Mexico border). In addition to the above examples, the submitting 
SAHO is invited to make a unique case based on other situation-specific 
risk criteria for classifying a nominated area as a Critical Priority 
shortage.
4. Type I Shortage--80 Percent or Greater Private Practice Food Supply 
Veterinary Medicine
    SAHOs identifying this shortage type must check one or more boxes 
indicating which specie(s) constitute the veterinary shortage 
situation. Indicate

[[Page 68851]]

either ``Must Cover'' or ``May Cover'' to stipulate which species a 
future awardee must be prepared, willing, and committed to provide 
services for, versus which species an awardee could treat using a minor 
percentage of their time obligated under a VMLRP contract. The Type I 
shortage situation must entail at least an 80 percent time commitment 
to private practice food supply veterinary medicine. The nominator will 
specify the minimum percent time (between 80 and 100 percent of a 
standard 40 hour week) a veterinarian must commit in order to 
satisfactorily fill the specific nominated situation. The shortage 
situation may be located anywhere (rural or non-rural) so long as the 
veterinary service shortages to be mitigated are consistent with the 
definition of ``practice of food supply veterinary medicine.'' The 
minimum 80 percent time commitment is, in part, recognition of the fact 
that occasionally food animal veterinary practitioners are expected to 
meet the needs of other veterinary service sectors such as clientele 
owning companion and exotic animals. Type I nominations are intended to 
address those shortage situations where the nominator believes a 
veterinarian can operate profitably committing between 80 and 100 
percent time to food animal medicine activities in the designated 
shortage area, given the client base and other socio-economic factors 
impacting viability of veterinary practices in the area. This generally 
corresponds to a shortage area where clients can reasonably be expected 
to pay for professional veterinary services and where food animal 
populations are sufficiently dense to support a (or another) 
veterinarian. The personal residence of the veterinarian (VMLRP award 
recipient) and the address of veterinary practice employing the 
veterinarian may or may not fall within the geographic bounds of the 
designated shortage area.
5. Type II Shortage--30 Percent or Greater Private Practice Food Supply 
Veterinary Medicine in a Rural Area (as defined)
    SAHOs identifying this shortage type must check one or more boxes 
indicating which specie(s) constitute the veterinary shortage 
situation. Indicate either ``Must Cover'' or ``May Cover'' to stipulate 
which species a future awardee must be prepared, willing, and committed 
to provide services for, versus which species an awardee could treat 
using a minor percentage of their time obligated under a VMLRP 
contract. The shortage situation must be in an area satisfying the 
definition of ``rural.'' The minimum 30 percent-time (12 hours/week) 
commitment of an awardee to serve in a rural shortage situation is in 
recognition of the fact that there may be some remote or economically 
depressed rural areas in need of food animal veterinary services that 
are unable to support a practitioner predominately serving the food 
animal sector, yet the need for food animal veterinary services for an 
existing, relatively small, proportion of available food animal 
business is nevertheless great. The Type II nomination is therefore 
intended to address those rural shortage situations where the nominator 
believes there is a shortage of food supply veterinary services, and 
that a veterinarian can operate profitably committing 30 to 79 percent 
to food animal medicine in the designated rural shortage area. The 
nominator will specify the minimum percent time (between 30 and 79 
percent) a veterinarian must commit in order to satisfactorily fill the 
specific nominated situation. Under the Type II nomination category, 
the expectation is that the veterinarian may provide veterinary 
services to other veterinary sectors (e.g., companion animal clientele) 
as a means of achieving financial viability. As with Type I 
nominations, the residence of the veterinarian (VMLRP award recipient) 
and/or the address of veterinary practice employing the veterinarian 
may or may not fall within the geographic bounds of the designated 
shortage area. However, the awardee is required to verify the specified 
minimum percent time commitment (30 percent to 79 percent, based on a 
standard 40 hour work week) to service within the specified geographic 
shortage area.
6. Type III Shortage--Public Practice Shortage (49 Percent or Greater 
Public Practice)
    SAHOs identifying this shortage type must, in the spaces provided, 
identify the ``Employer'' and the presumptive ``Position Title'', and 
check one or more of the appropriate boxes identifying the specialty/
disciplinary area(s) being nominated as a shortage situation. This is a 
broad nomination category comprising many types of specialized 
veterinary training and employment areas relating to food supply 
veterinary workforce capacity and capability. These positions are 
typically located in city, county, State and Federal Government, and 
institutions of higher education. Examples of positions within the 
public practice sector include university faculty and staff, veterinary 
laboratory diagnostician, County Public Health Officer, State 
Veterinarian, State Public Health Veterinarian, State Epidemiologist, 
FSIS meat inspector, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) 
Area Veterinarian in Charge (AVIC), and Federal Veterinary Medical 
Officer (VMO).
    Veterinary shortage situations such as those listed above are 
eligible for consideration under Type III nomination. However, 
nominators should be aware that Congress has stipulated that the VMLRP 
must emphasize private food animal practice shortage situations. 
Accordingly, NIFA anticipates that loan repayments for the Public 
Practice sector will be limited to approximately 10 percent of total 
nominations and available funds.
    The minimum time commitment serving under a Type III shortage 
nomination is 49 percent. The nominator will specify the minimum 
percent time (between 49 percent and 100 percent) a veterinarian must 
commit in order to satisfactorily fill the specific nominated 
situation. NIFA understands that some public practice employment 
opportunities that are shortage situations may be part-time positions. 
For example, a veterinarian pursuing an advanced degree (in a shortage 
discipline area) on a part-time basis may also be employed by the 
university for the balance of the veterinarian's time to provide part-
time professional veterinary service(s) such as teaching, clinical 
service, or laboratory animal care that may or may not also qualify as 
veterinary shortage situations. The 49 percent minimum therefore 
provides flexibility to nominators wishing to certify public practice 
shortage situations that would be ineligible under more stringent 
minimum percent time requirements.
7. Written Response Sections
    a. Importance and Objectives of a Veterinarian Meeting This 
Shortage Situation
    Within the allowed word limit the nominator should clearly state 
overarching objectives the State hopes to achieve by placing a 
veterinarian in the nominated situation. Include the minimum percent 
time commitment (within the range of the shortage type selected) the 
awardee is expected to devote to filling the specific food supply 
veterinary shortage situation.
b. Activities of a Veterinarian Meeting This Shortage Situation
    Within the allowed word limit the nominator should clearly state 
the principal day-to-day professional activities that would have to be 
conducted in order to achieve the objectives described in a) above.

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c. Past Efforts to Recruit and Retain a Veterinarian in the Shortage 
Situation
    Within the allowed word limit the nominator should explain any 
prior efforts to mitigate this veterinary service shortage and 
prospects for recruiting veterinarian(s) in the future.
d. Risk of This Veterinarian Position not Being Secured or Retained
    Within the allowed word limit the nominator should explain the 
consequences of not addressing this veterinary shortage situation.
e. Specifying a Different Service Time Requirement (Optional)
    Minimum percent FTE service obligated under the VMLRP is specified 
for each of the three shortage types. However, the nominator may 
indicate, in the box provided on page 2 of the nomination form, a 
greater percent FTE than the specified minimum, according to the 
following guidelines. For a Type I shortage, the minimum FTE obligation 
is 80 percent, but the nominator may specify up to 100 percent (100 
percent FTE corresponds to 40 hours/week). The minimum FTE obligation 
is 30 percent for Type II shortage situation, but the nominator may 
specify up to 79 percent. Higher percentages should be submitted as 
Type I shortages. The minimum FTE obligation is 49 percent for Type III 
(public practice) shortage situations, but the nominator may specify up 
to 100 percent. An entry should be made in the box for specification of 
percent FTE if the percentage specified is other than the default 
minimum. Otherwise the box should be left blank. In assigning a 
percentage FTE, SAHOs should be cognizant of the impact this has on an 
eventual awardee. If the percentage is too high for an awardee to 
achieve, he or she could fall into breach status under the program and 
owe substantial financial penalties. NIFA requires formal quarterly 
certification that minimum service time was worked before each 
quarterly loan repayment is paid to the awardee's lender(s). 
Accordingly, NIFA advises that a nomination be submitted only if the 
SAHO is confident that an awardee can meet the default, or optionally 
specified, minimum FTE percentage each and every one of the 12 quarters 
(i.e, twelve 3-month periods) constituting the 3-year duration of 
service under the program.
f. Affirmation Checkboxes
    SAHOs submitting shortage nominations should check both 
``affirmation'' boxes on the last page of the nomination form. These 
two affirmations provide assurance that submitting SAHOs understand the 
shortage nomination process and the importance of the SAHO having 
reasonable confidence that the nomination submitted describes a bona 
fide shortage area. The second assurance is particularly important to 
help avoid the placement of a VMLRP awardee where veterinary coverage 
already exists, and where undue competition could lead to insufficient 
clientele demand to support either the awardee or the veterinary 
practice originally serving the area.

C. NIFA Review of Shortage Situation Nominations

1. Review Panel Composition and Process
    NIFA will convene a panel of food supply veterinary medicine 
experts from Federal and state agencies, as well as institutions 
receiving Animal Health and Disease Research Program funds under 
section 1433 of NARETPA, who will review the nominations and make 
recommendations to the NIFA Program Manager. NIFA explored the 
possibility of including experts from non-governmental professional 
organizations and sectors for this process, but under NARETPA section 
1409A(e), panelists for the purposes of this process are limited to 
Federal and State agencies and cooperating state institutions (i.e., 
NARETPA section 1433 recipients), and other postsecondary educational 
institutions.
    NIFA will review the panel recommendations and designate the VMLRP 
shortage situations. The list of shortage situations will be made 
available on the VMLRP Web site at www.nifa.usda.gov/vmlrp.
2. Review Criteria
    Criteria used by the shortage situation nomination review panel and 
NIFA for certifying a veterinary shortage situation will be consistent 
with the information requested in the shortage situations nomination 
form. NIFA understands that defining the risk landscape associated with 
shortages of veterinary services throughout a state is a process that 
may require consideration of many qualitative and quantitative factors. 
In addition, each shortage situation will be characterized by a 
different array of subjective and objective supportive information that 
must be developed into a cogent case identifying, characterizing, and 
justifying a given geographic or disciplinary area as deficient in 
certain types of veterinary capacity or service. To accommodate the 
uniqueness of each shortage situation, the nomination form provides 
opportunities to present a case using both supportive metrics and 
narrative explanations to define and explain the proposed need. At the 
same time, the elements of the nomination form provide a common 
structure for the information collection process which will in turn 
facilitate fair comparison of the relative merits of each nomination by 
the evaluation panel.
    While NIFA anticipates some arguments made in support of a given 
shortage situation will be qualitative, respondents are encouraged to 
present verifiable quantitative and qualitative evidentiary information 
wherever possible. Absence of quantitative data such as animal and 
veterinarian census data for the proposed shortage area(s) may lead the 
panel to recommend not approving the shortage nomination.
    The maximum point value review panelists may award for each element 
is as follows:
    20 points: Describe the objectives of a veterinarian meeting this 
shortage situation as well as being located in the community, area, 
state/insular area, or position requested above.
    20 points: Describe the activities of a veterinarian meeting this 
shortage situation and being located in the community, area, state/
insular area, or position requested above.
    5 points: Describe any past efforts to recruit and retain a 
veterinarian in the shortage situation identified above.
    35 points: Describe the risk of this veterinarian position not 
being secured or retained. Include the risk(s) to the production of a 
safe and wholesome food supply and/or to animal, human, and 
environmental health not only in the community but in the region, 
state/insular area, nation, and/or international community.
    An additional 20 points will be used to evaluate overall merit/
quality of the case made for each nomination.
    Prior to the panel being convened, shortage situation nominations 
will be evaluated and scored according to the established scoring 
system by a primary reviewer. When the panel convenes, the primary 
reviewer will present each nomination orally in summary form. After 
each presentation, panelists will have an opportunity, if necessary, to 
discuss the nomination, with the primary reviewer leading the 
discussion and recording comments. After the panel discussion is 
complete, any scoring revisions will be made by and at the discretion 
of the primary reviewer. The panel is then polled to recommend, or not 
recommend, the shortage situation for designation. Nominations scoring 
70 or higher by the primary reviewer (on a scale of 0 to 100), and 
receiving a simple majority

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vote in support of designation as a shortage situation will be 
``recommended for designation as a shortage situation.'' Nominations 
scoring below 70 by the primary reviewer, and failure to achieve a 
simple majority vote in support of designation will be ``not 
recommended for designation as a shortage situation.'' In the event of 
a discrepancy between the primary reviewer's scoring and the panel poll 
results, the VMLRP program manager will be authorized to make the final 
determination on the nomination's designation.

    Done in Washington, DC, this 13th day of November, 2014.
Sonny Ramaswamy,
Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
[FR Doc. 2014-27423 Filed 11-18-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE P