August 6, 2012
On July 11, 2012, the House Agriculture Committee approved its version of the 2012 Farm Bill entitled the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM). FARRM was submitted as a bipartisan proposal by both Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson. FARRM would save over $35 billion dollars compared with the $24.7 billion in savings included in the Senate passed version. FARRM eliminates direct payments, and reforms commodity policy creating savings of more than $14 billion. The proposal also reforms the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) providing over $16 billion in savings, which has drawn sharp criticism from many Democrats. The remainder of savings comes from the consolidation of 23 conservation programs into 13.
The FARRM Research Title reauthorizes all major USDA research and extension programs including the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). FARRM includes budget submission requirements for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), similar to provisions included in the Senate bill. FARRM does not include provisions that would authorize a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), as was included in the Senate.
While the House Agriculture Committee has acted, it is uncertain when the bill will be considered on the House floor. Given that farm bill programs expire on September 30th and the small number of legislative days until the November elections, legislators are facing a tough timeline. There was much debate about extending the current farm bill for one year and attaching it to provisions that would provide drought assistance. However, House leaders have decided not to pursue a one year extension at this time and move the drought bill separately.
Leaders from the House and Senate have recently reached an agreement to fund the federal government under a six month continuing resolution. With few legislative days remaining until September 30th and the looming elections it was unlikely that any of the appropriations bills would be passed individually. The continuing resolution will fund the government at fiscal year 2012 levels, including agriculture programs. This means that funding for core NIFA programs such as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and the ARS will remain at last year’s level.
FASS Washington Representatives Lowell Randel participated in the recent annual meetings of the Poultry Science Association (PSA) in Athens, Georgia. Lowell gave a presentation at the opening session and updated society members about the FASS Science Policy Program and current issues impacting the animal sciences in Washington, DC. Lowell also participated in several other events during the meeting and had the opportunity to network with members.
FASS Washington Representatives Walt Smith and Lowell Randel participated in the Joint Annual Meeting of the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) and the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) in Phoenix, Arizona. Lowell and Walt gave presentations to both the ADSA and ASAS board regarding the FASS Science Policy Program. They also presented at a separate FASS Science Policy session open to all members and worked the FASS booth on numerous occasions. While in Phoenix, Lowell and Walt also met with the ASAS Public Policy Committee to develop a workplan for the coming year.
Sonny Ramaswamy, the new Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at USDA attended the recent Joint Annual Meeting. Dr. Ramaswamy conducted an open forum which was very well attended by ADSA and ASAS members. Dr. Ramaswamy shared his perspectives on issues ranging from competitive grants program administration to research budgets and the farm bill. The open forum yielded a lively discussion about policy issues and Dr. Ramaswamy solicited input and suggestions from the group about USDA research programs. He also met with society leaders and representatives from the FASS Science Policy Committee. He capped off his activities at JAM by delivering a presentation at the Global Networking Reception. FASS, ADSA and ASAS greatly appreciate Dr. Ramaswamy’s participation in JAM.
A new coalition called Supporters of Agricultural Research (SOAR) has recently been formed to promote the importance of public investments in agricultural research, particularly through the use of competitive grants programs such as AFRI. Spearheaded by former NIFA Director Roger Beachy, the group hosted a webinar on July 25th to discuss the current status of funding for agricultural research. Much of the discussion centered on the need to better communicate the value of agricultural research to policy makers. The group plans to host future webinars to further the discussion and identify ways to elevate the discussion about investments in agricultural research. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel participated in the webinar.