November 2, 2011
FASS, along with American Dairy Science Association, American Society of Animal Science, and Poultry Science Association recently joined 1200 other organizations and individuals in sending a letter to members of the Congressional Super Committee tasked with finding up to $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. The letter urges the Super Committee to support funding for research for food and agriculture as it develops overall budget proposals for the future. The letter further requests that, at a minimum, funding in the current budget for agricultural research programs be maintained and that further cuts be avoided.
Meanwhile, standing committees of the House and Senate have been working on their own recommendations to the Super Committee. On October 17th, leaders from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees sent a letter to the Super Committee outlining their recommendations. The committees suggested that $23 billion in mandatory spending be cut from programs within the committees' jurisdiction.
The letter states that the committees are currently finalizing the policies that would achieve $23 billion in deficit reduction and that a complete legislative package will be available by early November. Committee leaders also pointed out that $23 billion in savings is more than any sequestration process would achieve, suggesting that such an amount should absolve the Agriculture Committee programs from any further reductions.
The Super Committee has until November 23rd to approve a plan to achieve $1.5 trillion in savings. The plan would then be submitted to both houses of Congress with a December 23rd deadline for approval. Should Congress not reach an agreement, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts would be triggered on January 15, 2012.
On October 24th, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack delivered a speech in Iowa outlining the department’s priorities for the upcoming Farm Bill. Secretary Vilsack talked about the importance of maintaining a viable safety net for producers and stressed the importance of research for the future success of American agriculture. Vilsack stated that, "Public funding for agricultural research has remained basically flat-lined since the 1990s, clearly not keeping pace with other federally-supported research; and a recent USDA study sounded a warning signal to all of us that there is a direct link between increases in agricultural investment on research and agricultural productivity. If we continue to flat-line our commitment to research, our productivity will likely suffer; this at a time when our productivity will have to continue to increase to meet the global demand for food. It is encouraging that the Secretary is elevating the issue of research funding, particularly given current budget constraints and efforts to reduce the deficit. A full transcript of the Secretary’s remarks can be found here: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2011/10/0458.xml&navid=TRANSCRIPT&navtype=RT&parentnav=TRANSCRIPTS_SPEECHES&edeployment_action=retrievecontent
Members of the ASAS Executive Committee and Public Policy Committee met in Washington on October 24th and 25th. The group had the opportunity to meet with a variety of federal agencies, including the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At NIFA, the group met with National Program Leaders to discuss current and upcoming Requests for Applications and ways to increase opportunities for the animal sciences. The group also met with representatives from the NIFA Director’s office to discuss the budget situation for the agency and potential policy changes being considered both by the agency and Congress with the upcoming Farm Bill.
Bernadette Dunham, Director of CVM spoke to the group about policy issues currently being addressed by CVM, including implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and judicious use of antibiotics. At USAID, ASAS representatives learned more about the Feed the Future initiative and potential opportunities for the animal sciences. The meeting at EPA further built on relationships established during meetings last year which have led to ASAS providing educational programs to EPA staff. It is anticipated that another educational session will be scheduled for ASAS experts to address EPA staff in the coming weeks.
On October 31st, the EPA released a proposed rule regarding reporting requirements for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). According to EPA, the rule would require CAFOs to submit basic operational information to EPA so the Agency can more effectively carry out its CAFO permitting programs on a national level and ensure that CAFOs are implementing practices to protect water quality and human health. The proposed rule suggests two different regulatory options regarding which CAFOs would be required to report to EPA. The first option would require every CAFO to report this information to EPA, unless an applicable state NPDES program chooses to provide this information on behalf of the CAFOs in their state. The second option would require CAFOs in focus watersheds that have water quality concerns associated with CAFOs to report information to EPA.
A copy of the rule, along with a fact sheet and Q&A document can be found on the EPA site at: http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/afo/aforule.cfm#reportingrule. For those interested in learning more about the proposed rule, EPA will be conducting webinars on November 9th and 17th. Details about the webinars can be found here: http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/courses.cfm?program_id=0&outreach_id=614&o_type=1
EPA will be accepting public comments on the two proposed options through December 20, 2011. It is anticipated that EPA will take final action by July 2012.
Members of the FASS Science Policy Committee were briefed by staff from Congressman Devin Nunes office regarding legislation entitled the Charitable Agricultural Research Act. The concept is to encourage additional private investments in agricultural research by authorizing the creation of a new type of charitable, tax-exempt organization to allow private monies to fund agricultural research. Each agricultural research organization (ARO) would work in conjunction with agricultural and land-grant colleges and universities to conduct research in the field of agriculture. Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate and efforts are underway to advance the legislation as a part of a larger tax package that may move through Congress in the coming months. A press release from Rep. Nunes office can be viewed here: http://nunes.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=260437 and a copy of the legislation can be found here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.2959.