March 3, 2011
On Friday, January 07, 2011, FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel presented oral comments to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) regarding the importance of research in the animal sciences. PCAST is comprised of prominent scientists and engineers and meets a number of times each year regarding issues related to science and technology policy.
Agriculture research was a featured topic at the January 7th meeting, where PCAST heard from Under Secretary Woteki about her vision for USDA’s science programs. The meeting also included a time for public comments, where Lowell Randel spoke to the group about the need for increased investments in agriculture research. Randel cited growing global food security demands as a key issue in the need for more federal investment, and that the animal sciences can play an important role in developing technologies that will meet the needs of a growing world population. He also noted that the animal sciences have the capacity to contribute to other priority areas such as economic growth, human and animal health, climate change, and environmental sustainability. Randel also expressed appreciation for the Obama Administration’s support for increases in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and the need for increased investments in base or “formula funds” and USDA intramural programs. This is one of a continuing series of efforts by FASS in Washington to demonstrate the importance of investment in the animal sciences. More information about PCAST and the January 7th meeting can be found by clicking here. A full version of the PowerPoint presentation provided by Dr. Woteki and Dr. Beachy can be found by clicking PowerPoint Presentation. A video of the full event can be viewed from the PCAST archives by clicking archived.
FASS Washington representative Lowell Randel attended the PSA mid-year meetings and presented an update of the FASS-SPC activities and current events in Washington. Topics ranged from completed policy statements and those under consideration to current “hot topics” such as the election, food safety legislation and the current budget situation.
The FASS Animal Care Committee met in Washington on the January 31, 2011 to address issues of importance including issues related to the adoption of the FASS Ag Guide. FASS Washington Representative Walt Smith attended with issues discussed ranging from webinars and training videos to the certification of training by FASS. Of particular importance was a discussion on adoption of the Ag Guide for use government-wide. In attendance for the discussion were representatives from USDA, NIH, ILAR, BIO, AAALAC, Farm Bureau, Farm Animal Welfare Coalition, the Animal Agriculture Coalition and the Animal Ag Alliance.
On January 7th NIFA announced the AFRI-RFAs for funding opportunity to support research, education and extension in fundamental and applied food and agricultural sciences. This first is for the AFRI Foundational Program. Projects will be funded by this program to address the six AFRI priority areas. The six priority areas include:
- Plant health and production and plant products;
- Animal health and production and animal products;
- Food safety, nutrition and health;
- Renewable energy, natural resources and environment;
- Agriculture systems and technology; and
- Agriculture economics and rural communities.
Over the next several months NIFA anticipates releasing six more RFAs through the AFRI program. Five RFAs will continue to support societal challenge areas where research, education, and extension can achieve significant and measurable outcomes with areas including: childhood obesity prevention, agricultural adaptation to climate variables, sustainable bioenergy, food safety and global food security. After the release of the initial 6 RFAs, an additional one, to fund opportunities for pre- and postdoctoral fellowship grants, will be announced. Click here for more information on the AFRI program.
There is some concern over the future on these RFAs should additional funding not be approved for the FY2011 fiscal year.
On January 19th, FASS Washington Representative Walt Smith attended a stakeholder briefing held by USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture. The meeting provided an opportunity for NIFA Director Roger Beachy to discuss the recent restructuring of NIFA and new and upcoming RFAs. The forum also provided an opportunity for stakeholders to engage Dr. Beachy in dialogue about NIFA policies and the outlook for future programs.
An animal agriculture research priority setting process similar to the FAIR 2002 process has been undertaken by FASS. To lead this effort Dr. Deb Hamernik of the University of Nebraska Lincoln has been named Chair. FASS Washington Representatives Walt Smith and Lowell Randel have worked closely with the Animal Agriculture Coalition to solicit participation and encourage active involvement with the process. The Executive Committee has been formed with individuals representing various areas of animal agriculture assuming positions and has already met twice by teleconference to discuss the scope and process for setting priorities for animal agriculture research.
Deb Hamernik, Chair
William P. Weiss, ADSA
Nancy M. Cox, ASAS
Dave Edwards, Biotechnology Industry Organization
Mark Knorr, National Pork Board
Betsy Booren, American Meat Institute
William Saylor, PSA
Ashley Shelton Morgan, AVMA
Mary E. Delany, FASS Science Policy
James W. Oltjen, FASS Liaison
Steven M Kappes, ARS
Adele M. Turzillo, NIFA
Lowell Randel, FASS Science Policy
Walt Smith, FASS Science Policy
Jamie Ritter, ex officio, FASS Managing Director
A Program Committee is also in the process of being formed that will help direct the planning details for an event that will likely take place in late 2011 or early 2012.
As has been previously reported, FASS is cosponsoring an event with the Farm Foundation, Riley Memorial Foundation, Institute of Food Technologists, and the Agronomy, Crop and Soil Science Societies to highlight exemplary collaborative research in the agricultural sciences. The event will take place on March 15th in Washington, DC. For those not in DC on the 15th who would like to watch the event, you can register for a free webcast. More details and registration information for the webcast can be found here.
The fate of FY 2011 Appropriations for agricultural research is still uncertain, but it appears that cuts to current programs levels are likely to occur. The House of Representatives passed a bill that would reduce overall government spending for FY 2011 by about $61 billion compared to FY 2010 levels. Agriculture research would be cut by approximately $246 million, taking away earmarks, about $34 million from AFRI and reducing the Agriculture Research Service budget, as well. FASS and the founding societies have joined an AFRI Coalition effort to communicate the value of agricultural research and the need to at least preserve current funding levels for AFRI. The House and Senate continue to debate funding levels for FY 2011 and there is some potential for a government shutdown, if the House, Senate and Obama Administration cannot come to an agreement.
President Obama released his FY 2012 budget proposal in February and it contains an overall decrease in agricultural research spending. The NIFA budget is requested at $1.4 billion, which is about $122 million less than 2011 estimates. Many of these cuts come from the elimination of earmarks and zeroing out most of the integrated activities programs. There are a few targeted increases, such as the proposed increase in the AFRI program from $262 million to $324 million. The President’s budget requests $1.2 billion for the Agriculture Research Service, which is a decrease of about $113 million. More details on the President’s budget for USDA can be found here.
On February 10th, the FASS Board of Directors approved a FASS Science Policy Statement on Biotechnology. The statement asserts that policies for acceptance of biotechnology should be based on science that that the adoption of modern biotechnology is critical to meet the growing demands for sustainable food production. A full copy of the policy statement can be found on the FASS website. Plans are underway to develop a webinar on biotechnology during the spring of 2011.
Agriculture, Food, Nutrition and Natural Resources R&D Roundtable in Washington, DC (FASS Cosponsored event)
ARS/NIFA Stakeholder Meeting on Food Animal Production in Baltimore, MD