February 2, 2010
January is generally a quiet month from a legislative perspective. While there was little Congressional activity in Washington, there was a significant change in the make-up of the U.S. Senate. Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts surged from behind and captured the Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy for the last 47 years. Senator Brown will be the 41st Republican in the Senate, meaning that the Democrats will no longer have a “filibuster proof” majority. This could potentially shake-up the legislative agenda impacting the fate of major legislative initiatives such as health care and climate change.
FASS Washington Representatives had a busy month, meeting with a variety of coalitions and groups in Washington on policy issues impacting the animal sciences. On January 5th, FASS Washington Representatives participated in a meeting of the Animal Agriculture Coalition with senior Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials to discuss the future of antibiotics policy. Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein led the FDA delegation and sent a clear message to the AAC about his position on antibiotics use in food animal production. Dr. Sharfstein stated that the use of antibiotics for growth promotion was “not judicious” and that the industry should take voluntary steps to move away from the practice. He also indicated that the agency would be exploring regulatory options to govern antibiotic use. This comes at the same time that Congress is considering legislation that would severely restrict antibiotic use in animal agriculture. FASS Washington Representatives also attended the January 22nd meeting of the AAC and gave a presentation on FASS Science Policy efforts.
Also in January, FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel assumed the FASS position on the Board of Directors for the National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research (NCFAR). He participated in his first meeting as a board member on January 4th. Lowell also joined the AFRI Coalition for a meeting with the Office of Science and Technology Policy on January 29th, to discuss the importance of the USDA AFRI competitive grants program.
After undergoing a review by FASS Scientific Advisory Committees and the FASS Science Policy Committee, FASS issued a press release regarding the Pew Commission’s report on Industrial Farm Animal Production. The FASS release outlined concerns with the Pew report process and content, echoing issues raised by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The release was covered by a number of agriculture publications including Drovers and Feedstuffs. Lowell Randel and Janice Swanson were also interviewed for a podcast aimed at the livestock industry.
FASS also sent a letter to President Obama this month in response to a Humane Society of the United States effort to urge the Obama Administration to create an animal protection liaison in the White House. The FASS letter stated that there are currently effective mechanisms in place within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address animal welfare issues, and that there is not a need to create a new position in the White House.
On January 26th, Lowell Randel participated in a call with animal science department heads to outline FASS Science Policy activities and current issues impact animal agriculture.
Lowell also continued his work as a part of the writing team for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) report on Research and Development for fiscal year 2011, including a meeting with USDA officials to discuss budget issues. Lowell is assisting in the formation of the chapter on USDA, as well as the first ever interdisciplinary chapter on food, nutrition, agriculture and natural resources.
Finally, FASS Science Policy Committee members continued to make progress on developing draft policy statements. Drafts are currently being prepared in policy areas including the environment, antibiotics, animal welfare and nutrition and health of animal products.