"There's a tremendous demand" for veterinarians, particularly to serve livestock growers in rural areas, said Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The government is also short of veterinarians needed to inspect slaughterhouses and undertake other food safety measures, he said. The Labor Department projects that the number of veterinary jobs will grow by 35 percent by 2016, DeHaven said [Christopher S. Rugaber, "Even in a Recession, Some Companies Are Hiring," AP via Yahoo News, 2009.03.10].
Now you'd think a big agriculture state like South Dakota, where the veterinarian shortage is particularly acute, would have the foresight to ride this job market wave and create programs that would help fill that demand.
Alas, our State Legislature is apparently as short of foresight as rural South Dakota will remain of animal doctors. HB 1248, which would have authorized the construction of a veterinary school at SDSU, died in committee (even Representative Larry Tidemann of Brookings voted against it). HB 1181 didn't go nearly as far to address the veterinarian shortage: it simply proposed a loan repayment program for up to three veterinarians a year. It received a pretty strong affirmation from the House, only to be shot down 7–1 by Senate State Affairs (District 8's Russell Olson voted the wrong way here... as did Abdallah, Gray, Heidepriem, Knudson, Turbak Berry, and Dempster).
HB 1248 proposed to spend $30 million over the next seven years. I can understand legislators' squeamishness over approving a big-ticket item like that during a budget crunch, but investing in a new veterinary school would have produced a slam-dunk return for Brookings and the whole state. The expense of HB 1181 was minuscule and would have served small communities well.
On both bills, our Legislature demonstrated a lack of vision. We have missed a chance to strengthen South Dakota agriculture and cash in on a high-demand job area.