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Veterinarians willing to serve in rural Va. can have school debt paid

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AFP PHOTO / ABDELHAK SENNA (Photo credit should read ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. – Qualified veterinarians with student loan debt, and who are willing to temporarily relocate to a rural location, could have their debt paid off through a federal partnership.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) today announced that the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for loan repayment grants for veterinarians willing to serve in parts of Virginia with moderate to critical shortages of food animal vets.

Several rural counties in Virginia lack adequate access to veterinary services for food supply animals such as beef cattle and sheep.

The critical shortage is in Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott and Wise counties. There is moderate shortages in three areas: Bland, Smyth and Tazewell counties; Patrick county; and Alleghany, Bath and Highland counties.

If a qualified veterinarian commits to providing at least three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will repay selected candidates up to $25,000 of their student loan debt per year.

“Many people don’t realize that veterinarians are critical to America’s food safety and food security,” said Dr. Richard Wilkes, VDACS’ State Veterinarian. “Many farmers face a critical shortage of veterinarians, and this loan award program is designed to give assistance to veterinarians so they can help improve the health of livestock and ensure a safe food supply in shortage areas.”

Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for attendance at an accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or equivalent. The application period is now open and will close on May 20, 2016. More information is available at https://nifa.usda.gov/program/veterinary-medicine-loan-repayment-program.

As a condition of the award, the veterinarian must serve beef cattle and small ruminant producers – sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas and other camelids. He or she may also serve dairy cattle, swine and poultry.

Awardees filling Type 2 shortages must dedicate at least 30 percent of their time or 12 hours per week to provision of food animal veterinary services. Recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated shortage area.