February, 2010

    March 2, 2010

     

    February marks the beginning of the annual budget process with the President submitting his proposal to Congress. This usually occurs on the first Monday of February, and this year was not an exception. President Obama submitted his official budget request for fiscal year 2011 on Monday, February 1st.

    President Obama’s budget proposal requests a total of $1.5 billion for the new National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA). This is about $12 million more than the amount appropriated to NIFA in fiscal year 2010. As is the case with almost every administration, Obama’s budget removes funding for all Congressionally directed earmarks and redirects that funding into other programs. Because it is not likely that Congress will forego their prerogative for earmarks, the President’s numbers are somewhat skewed.

    Included in the president’s request is a significant increase in funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI received $262.482 million in FY 2010 and the president has proposed $428.845 for FY 2011. This represents the largest amount ever requested for USDA’s premier competitive grants program (either the NRI or AFRI). The proposed increase is good news for agricultural research in general; however, it will be important to the animal sciences that any increases in AFRI maintain a balance for grants in animal science.

    FASS Washington Representatives have been actively working on FY 2011 budget issues in a number of areas. As previously reported, Lowell Randel is serving on a writing team for the American Association for the Advancement of Science to produce chapters on the USDA budget for FY 2011, as well as an interdisciplinary chapter looking at agriculture related sciences across the federal government. The report is scheduled for completion in March 2010. FASS Washington Representatives have also been working with the AFRI Coalition and the Animal Agriculture Coalition to support increases in agricultural research.

    USDA announced in February that it was going to discontinue its National Animal Identification System and transition to a new framework for animal disease traceability. According to USDA, the new system will:

    • Only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce;
    • Be administered by the States and Tribal Nations to provide more flexibility;
    • Encourage the use of lower-cost technology; and
    • Be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rulemaking process.

    USDA’s announcement drew mixed reviews, with some key members of Congress, such as House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro expressing doubts that a state run system is the best solution. USDA is planning to move forward with rulemaking on the new program this spring.

    February also saw a number of major media stories that were critical of current animal agriculture practices. CBS news ran a story criticizing the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animal production. The Animal Agriculture Coalition sent a letter to CBS calling into question the validity of some of the statements made in the story. In addition, ABC news broadcast a story about the practice of tail docking in dairies. These stories highlight two major issues that will continue to be at the forefront of animal agriculture policy: antibiotics and animal welfare. FASS is actively working to develop policy statements on a number of topics, including antibiotics and animal welfare.

    FASS Washington Representatives participated in Congressional briefings in February designed to provide more balanced information to staff on the issue of antibiotic use. The briefings were coordinated by several of the animal agriculture industry groups in Washington and were co-hosted by a bipartisan group of Members of Congress.

    In the area of animal welfare, FASS partnered with the American Humane Association to highlight the contributions of Dr. Temple Grandin to animal welfare. FASS and AHA issued a press release praising the HBO movie Temple Grandin, which originally aired on HBO on February 6th.

    Also in February, FASS Washington Representatives worked with the American Society of Animal Science to develop materials in support of the inaugural internship program supported by the Zimbleman and Hafs Appreciation Clubs. Resources made available by these clubs will go to support an intern in Washington, likely in the summer of 2011. FASS Washington Representatives will assist in the placement of the intern and help them through their time in Washington. The new internship program should be a great complement to the successful AAAS Fellows program in which FASS has participated in the past.

    Finally, FASS Washington Representatives continue to work closely with coalitions and like-minded organizations in Washington to promote animal science and agricultural research in general. Working with the FASS Science Policy Committee, FASS Washington Representatives identified potential candidates to serve on the soon to be formed Animal Health Institute Scientific Advisory Committee. At the time of this report, at least one of the candidates has been selected to serve. Lowell Randel also spoke to the DC Chapter of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS), highlighting the FASS Science Policy efforts and discussing some of the hot issues facing animal agriculture.