October 5, 2011
Members of the FASS Science Policy Committee met in Washington, DC on September 12-13. The committee met to further develop its work plan for this year, including plans for additional science policy statements and webinars. In the area of policy statements, the committee agreed to review the content and format of existing policy statements, as well as develop new ones in the areas of:
- Modernization/Future of Animal Production in the US
- Food Safety
- Climate Change
- Next Generation of Animal/Dairy/Poultry Scientists
- Genetically modified organisms
The committee also set the goal of having at least four webinars each year, and identified a number of topics for upcoming webinars including the impact of budget challenges at USDA on the animal sciences, potential funding opportunities at NIH and NSF and food security.
In addition to having internal discussions to develop the work plan, committee members also met with key Congressional staff and representatives from the NIH. Meetings took place with staff of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to discuss the current situation with reauthorization of the Farm Bill and potential hot issues related to the Research Title. It appears that the activities of the "Super Committee" will accelerate the committees’ work on the Farm Bill and significant movement is expected in the coming weeks.
At NIH, committee members met with agency representatives to discuss how FASS can better engage with NIH and identify opportunities for animal scientists to be involved with NIH.
As was reported in the August Monthly Report, FASS representatives met with an ad hoc group of science and industry groups at the end of August to discuss the need for support of agricultural research. The meeting resulted in the development of a letter that will be sent to the "Super Committee" urging them to not reduce the investment in the agricultural sciences as a part of their deficit reduction activities. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel played an active role in the drafting of the letter and FASS and each of the founding societies have indicated support for the letter, which will be sent in October.
FASS and the founding societies also signed on to letters sent by the AFRI Coalition to leaders of the House and Senate urging support for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program as final funding decisions are made for fiscal year 2012. The letters urge 2012 funding to be at the Senate proposed level of $266 million rather than the $229 million provided in the House passed version. FY 2012 appropriations are currently operating under a short term continuing resolution as Congress attempts to complete it appropriations work for the fiscal year.
On September 1, 2011 the FASS Science Policy Committee held a webinar entitled "Animal Biotechnology Today". The webinar features presentations from FASS scientists, and representatives from FDA and industry. An archived copy of the webinar is available on the FASS website at: http://www.fass.org/policy_webinar.asp
On September 28th, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released an announcement of three new requests for applications (RFAs) for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The RFAs relate to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change and Sustainable Bioenergy challenge areas as well as the NIFA Fellowships Grant program. The RFAs are being released prior to the passage of fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations, but NIFA has included language stating that, "Enactment of Continuing Resolutions or an Appropriations Act may affect the overall level of funding for the AFRI program. Therefore, NIFA reserves the right to amend, delete, or alter any programs outlined in this RFA."
While it is not clear what the final investment in AFRI will be for FY 2012, NIFA is anticipating that that approximately $264 million will be available to support the AFRI program. Of this amount, they are expecting to invest the following amounts in the RFAs recently released:
Agricultural and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change - $12 million
Food Security - $19 million
Sustainable Bioenergy - $11 million
NIFA Fellowships Grant Program - $12 million
These RFAs represent a number of funding opportunities for the animal sciences. For example, the Food Security RFA specifically includes an area called Improving Animal Health and Production, which will fund projects in: Translational Genomics for Disease Resistance in Animals, Extension-driven Disease Prevention and Control in Animals, and Translational Genomics for Improved Fertility of Animals. The RFA related to climate change states that emphasis will be given to areas/systems that did not receive funding from the FY 2010 AFRI Climate Change Challenge Area RFA, which includes animal production systems, including ruminant, swine, and poultry production. Unfortunately, in the Sustainable Bioenergy RFA, NIFA acknowledged that animal waste had been suggested by stakeholders as a potential bioenergy feedstock, but the agency declined to include animal waste in the list of feedstocks for purposes of this RFA. Therefore, it does not appear that there will be opportunities for animal scientists to receive support through this RFA.
More information about the AFRI program and the RFAs can be found on the NIFA website at: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/rfas/afri.html NIFA is expected to release three more AFRI RFAs during the next several months, including the Childhood Obesity Prevention and Food Safety challenge areas and the AFRI Foundational Program. NIFA has also indicated that it will provide a series of webinars focused on the individual RFAs to provide an overview of the program areas.
FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel attended the fall FASS Board Meeting held at the FASS headquarters. Lowell presented an update on hot issues being addressed by Congress and the Administration, as well as the activities of the FASS Science Policy effort in Washington.