On May 24th, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee held a mark-up to consider the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill. The bill was approved and sent to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration. The full committee approved the bill on May 31st. As expected, funding for many programs in the bill were decreased, as Congress attempts to reduce federal spending. Funding for research through the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) includes significant decreases from the fiscal year 2011 levels. Funding for NIFA was reduced by approximately $194 million from 2011, including a reduction of approximately $35 million to the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The Agriculture Research Service budget was cut by a total of $140 million from last year’s level. FASS and the founding societies continue to actively engage with coalitions such as the AFRI Coalition and N-CFAR coalition to demonstrate the value of investment in agricultural research. The bill will now be scheduled for floor consideration in the House of Representatives and is expected to be placed on the calendar in mid-June.
The Senate Agriculture Committee held two hearings regarding reauthorization of the Farm Bill in May. On May 26th, the committee held a hearing in Washington, DC where the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and a number of other witnesses discussed farm bill policies. The value of agricultural research was mentioned on numerous occasions by both committee members and witnesses. The importance of research was also discussed in the field hearing held in Michigan. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow was quoted as saying: “one of the things I find important, both from the D.C. hearing and today is the recurring theme of research in terms of the future. I’ve heard it over and over again.” Expect additional hearings in both the House and Senate as Congress begins working on farm bill reauthorization.
The ASAS Zimblemann and Hafs Appreciation Clubs continue to support bringing animal science students to Washington for policy related internships. Ben Williamson, a graduate student in animal science from the University of Arkansas was selected as the intern for 2011. Ben will spend the summer of 2011 in Washington, DC working in both the private sector and Congress. During the first half of his internship, Ben will work for the National Milk Producers Federation. For the second half of his internship, Ben will work in the office of Congressman Steve Austria of Ohio. Ben grew up in Rep. Austria’s District and his family still farms there.
Planning for the upcoming FAIR 2012 process continued in May with the first meeting of the Program Committee. The Committee, comprised of representatives from academia, industry and government, came together on May 20-21 in Arlington, VA to discuss the process and planning for the upcoming FAIR 2012 event. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel participated in the meeting on May 21st.
The FASS Scientific Advisory Committee on Food Safety, Animal Health and Animal Drugs will be holding its annual Spring Symposium on June 6th. The event will be held at the offices of the American Farm Bureau Federation. FASS Washington Representatives continue to assist with the planning and engagement of speakers for the event. Speakers for the symposium include multiple representatives from the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Congressional Staff and representatives from industry and academia. More information on the symposium can be found at: http://www.fass.org/page.asp?pageID=409