December 5, 2011
On November 16th, the House and Senate both voted to approve an appropriations “mini-bus” bill that includes the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill, as well as the bills that provide funding for Departments including Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Justice and State. The bill also includes a continuing resolution for the remaining government agencies through December 16th. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law before the current continuing resolution expires on November 18th.
As previously reported in Dair-e-news, there were large differences between the House and Senate passed versions of the agriculture appropriations bills, with the House numbers being significantly lower than the Senate. There is good news for agriculture research in the approved conference report, as many of the accounts are funded at or near the Senate levels. Total funding for agriculture research is $2.5 billion, which is approximately $53 million less than last year, but still much higher than the amount proposed in the House passed version. For the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is funded at $264 million. The funding for the Hatch Act is $236 million, with $294 million going to Smith Lever 3(b) and (c) programs. The Agriculture Research Service will receive 1.094 billion under the conference report.
A full copy of the conference report can be found by clicking here.
Just ahead of the Super Committee’s November 23rd deadline, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees released their recommendations regarding the 2012 Farm Bill. The recommendations included changes to farm subsidy programs that would result in approximately $23 billion in savings. Roughly $15 billion of those savings would come from commodity programs, with the remainder coming from conservation and nutrition programs. The recommendations did include mandatory funding in the Research Title for the Specialty Crops Research Initiative, Organic Research Initiative and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. The recommendations also created a reporting and planning requirement for USDA to provide more detailed information regarding expected research expenditures when submitting its annual budget request to Congress. This provision was included in large part to address concerns raised about funding priorities for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. It appears that the remainder of the Research Title would largely have been unchanged.
The process and timeline used to develop the recommendations for the super committee had come under fire from both Members of Congress and outside groups who were advocating for the farm bill drafting process to be more transparent. With the failure of the Super Committee to reach an agreement on how to trim $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit, it appears that the joint committee recommendations will be laid aside and the farm bill process will return to its normal process of committee hearings and mark-ups. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has indicated that Farm Bill hearings are likely to resume next January or February.
On November 30th, a group of ASAS member scientists met with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss the impacts of feed management on manure composition, with particular attention to distiller’s dried grains (DDGs). The meeting was coordinated by FASS Washington Representative Walt Smith and led by Dr. Jim Pettigrew, Chair of the FASS Science Policy Committee and immediate past chair of the ASAS Public Policy Committee. Dr. Scott Radcliff from Purdue University feed management issues related to swine and poultry, while Dr. Mike Brown from West Texas A&M University covered beef and dairy cattle. Incoming ASAS President Dr. James Sartin also participated in the meeting. Personnel from the EPA Offices of Water and Compliance and Enforcement participated in the meeting and the presentations sparked a lively discussion regarding the use of feed management strategies can optimize manure composition and the impacts feeding DDGs can have on manure. This meeting is the second in a series of science based programs being offered to EPA personnel. The first program, presented in the summer of 2011, dealt with the evolution of the animal agriculture industry and the challenges of meeting global food security. Additional programs are expected in the future.
On October 11th, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a Federal Register notice entitled: Request for Information: Building a 21st Century Bioeconomy. According to OSTP, the purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit input from all interested parties regarding recommendations for harnessing biological research innovations to meet national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment while creating high-wage, high-skill jobs. The FASS Science Policy Committee has appointed a subcommittee which is examining the RFI and considering a potential FASS response. More information on the RFI and OSTP’s initiative on the bioeconomy can be found here. The comment period closes on December 6th.
On November 16th, FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel spoke to the Washington, DC area chapter of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists. This marked the third year in a row where Lowell has met with the group to discuss policy issues impacting the animal sciences and the FASS Science Policy Program.