Skip to Main Content
HomeAbout UsGrantsFormsNewsroomHelpContact Us
Search NIFA
Advanced Search
Browse by Subject
Agricultural Systems
Animals & Animal Products
Biotechnology & Genomics
Economics & Commerce
Environment & Natural Resources
Families, Youth & Communities
Food, Nutrition & Health
Pest Management
Plants & Plant Products
Technology & Engineering



USDA Loan Repayment Awards Help Deliver Veterinarian Services to Underserved Rural Communities

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin, (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2012–The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today 80 awards to American veterinarians to help repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in return for serving areas lacking sufficient veterinary resources. The awards, totaling more than $7.7 million, were made by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) and will benefit 34 states, Puerto Rico, and other federal lands.  

“With the assistance awarded today, USDA is helping to overcome two major challenges in rural veterinarian medicine,” said Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, acting NIFA director. “First, many rural areas already face a critical shortage of access to veterinary services. And second, many veterinarians, when faced with student debt, choose to work in locations that offer higher pay than rural America, denying their talents to those most in need. When taken together, this is a distressing trend. But these awards will help. With this assistance, veterinarians will be able to return to rural America—to their hometowns or regions—where they can provide needed services to our rural communities, improve the health of livestock, and help ensure a safe food supply.”

Veterinarians are critical to America’s food safety and food security, and to the health and well-being of both animals and humans. Major studies indicate significant and growing shortages of food supply veterinarians and veterinarians serving in certain other high-priority specialty areas.  A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training, which can average between $100,000 and $140,000.

Recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area. Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for attendance at an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or the equivalent. Loan repayments made by the VMLRP are taxable income to participants. Also included in the award is a federal tax payment equal to 39 percent of the loan payment made directly to the award recipient’s IRS tax account to offset the increase in income tax liability.

In fiscal year 2011, NIFA received 159 applications, a success rate of 50.3 percent. Below is a breakdown of the fiscal year 2011 awards:

  • 80 awards totaling $7,707,840 (includes loan and tax payments)
  • Average award: $96,348 (includes loan and tax payments)
  • Average eligible debt for repayment: $106,742
  • 74 percent of recipients received the maximum payment of $25,000 per year (plus taxes)
  • 63 percent of awards went to those who obtained their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine within the last three years
  • 34 states, Puerto Rico, and other federal lands will fill at least one shortage area through VMLRP
    • Montana will fill six shortage areas
    • Nebraska and Texas will fill five shortage areas
    • Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico and New York will fill four shortage areas
  • Shortage type breakdown
    • Type 1 (at least 80 percent private practice): 18 awards
    • Type 2 (at least 30 percent private practice): 51 awards
    • Type 3: (at least 49 percent public practice): 11 awards

Participants are required to serve in one of three types of shortage situations. Type 1 shortage areas are private practices dedicated to food animal medicine at least 80 percent of the award recipient’s time. Type 2 shortages are private practices in rural areas dedicated to food animal medicine up to 30 percent of the time. Type 3 shortage areas are dedicated to public practice up to 49 percent of the time.

The National Institutes of Health Division of Loan Repayment provided their expertise in service to NIFA during the applicant review process by reviewing loan documents submitted by the applicants.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272(voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).