April 4, 2011
On March 15, 2011, the Federation of Animal Science Societies, along with the Farm Foundation, Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation, Institute of Food Technologists and the Agronomy, Crop and Soil Science Societies held the Agriculture, Food, Nutrition and Natural Resources R&D Round Table at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. The event was well attended, reaching a standing room only audience in Washington, as well as many participants who logged in for the webcast.
Participants of the Roundtable heard from a combination of federal policy officials and scientists with the goal of highlighting the importance of collaboration in the area of agricultural research and development. Shere Abbott, Associate Director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy delivered the keynote address and asserted that science and technology were central to winning the future. Dr. Cathy Woteki, Under Secretary for the Research, Education and Economics Mission Area at the U.S. Department of Agriculture discussed the importance of partnerships and that USDA is striving to increase collaborations across government and with universities and the private sector to drive innovation. Eight case studies were presented showcasing collaborative research on issues ranging from the bovine genome to nutrition and the environment. The webcast for the event has been archived and is available free of charge (registration required). Those interested in watching the webcast should visit the following website:
FASS was very active in the planning and implementation of the event. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel served as a Co-Chair of the Program Committee and also moderated one of the Roundtable sessions. Representatives from over ten federal agencies, numerous scientific societies, land grant universities and other organizations related to agricultural science assisted in the development of the Roundtable program and helped ensure the event’s success.
Congress continues to debate funding levels for fiscal year 2011 appropriations, including how much will be invested in agricultural research. The House and Senate have yet to agree on a long term resolution to FY 2011 funding levels, leading to some discussions about a potential government shutdown. The House has passed a bill that would reduce overall government spending for FY 2011 by about $61 billion compared to FY 2010 levels. Under the House plan, agriculture research would be cut by significantly, with reductions of $217 million to NIFA and $185 million to ARS. The Senate Appropriations Committee has proposed more modest decreases in overall government spending (approximately $10 billion), allowing for the preservation of much of the investment in agricultural research and even providing a modest increase to the AFRI program.
FASS along with ADSA, ASAS and PSA, signed letters led by the AFRI Coalition and the National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research to Congress expressing the importance of agricultural research and the need to maintain the federal investment. Both letters expressed concern for the House passed version and that the Senate alternative better meets the critical need for investment in agricultural research. On March 9th, the full Senate considered both the House passed version and the Senate Appropriations Committee version of the FY 2011 continuing resolution, but neither received enough support for passage. FASS will continue to work with like-minded organizations to support the investment in agricultural research as Congress works to resolve funding for FY 2011.
National Program Staff for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Agriculture Research Service convened a group of stakeholders on March 29-30 2011 to gain input on pressing research needs in the area of food animal production. NIFA and ARS held a similar workshop in 2006, and this program was designed to assist the agencies plan for future programs. The program included multiple breakout sessions and provided a good opportunity for information exchange between stakeholders and agency officials. Results of the meeting will be compiled and displayed on the ARS and NIFA websites.
FASS Washington Representative Walt Smith participated in the spring 2011 FASS Board meeting in Champaign, IL. Walt provided an update to the board on current FASS Science Policy activities, as well as hot issues being debated in Washington.
During fall 2010, leaders from ASAS came to Washington and met with a number of different federal agencies, including EPA. As follow-up to these meetings, Washington Representative Walt Smith has reached out to EPA regarding the possibility of conducting educational programs for EPA officials on issues related to the animal sciences. Planning is underway for additional meetings with EPA, likely starting with issues related to food animal production and water quality.
For fiscal year 2011, the American Association for the Advancement of Science added a new chapter to its annual research and development budget report that highlighted cross cutting federal investments in agriculture related sciences. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel served on the writing team for FY 2011 and has continued his participation with the writing team for FY 2012. The writing team completed its draft during March 2011 and is expected to be published May 2011.
Planning is underway by the FASS Science Policy Committee to conduct a webinar in late April 2011 regarding biotechnology policy. The webinar will provide a forum to highlight the recently adopted FASS Science Policy Statement on Biotechnology as well as to hear from a prominent FASS scientist and a representative from the Food and Drug Administration.