On February 27th the AFRI Coalition sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees in support of the President’s request of $325 million for the AFRI program. A total of 51 organizations signed the letter, including FASS, ADSA, ASAS and PSA. The letter recognizes current budget constraints, but makes the case that for every federal dollar invested in agricultural research, there is at least a $20 contribution to the nation’s economy. FASS and the founding societies will continue working with like minded partners to support the federal investment in agricultural research.
The Farm Animal Integrated Research (FAIR) 2012 Forum was held March 4-6, 2012, in Arlington, Virginia, to establish research, education and outreach priorities for animal agriculture. More than 160 animal scientists, veterinarians and university, government and industry representatives met to discuss issues of food security, animal and human health, and responsible environmental stewardship. This was the third national forum, which are held nearly every five years to coincide with the U.S. Farm Bill deliberations. The priorities developed at the forum are designed to provide input to the $3.2 billion federal agricultural research, education and economic programs.
The underlying theme of FAIR 2012 was the challenge of meeting future food requirements of a global population expected to reach 9 million by mid-century while preserving the ecosystems we all rely on. Experts presented economic, ecological and societal analyses, followed by discussion to identify key research, education and outreach priorities that will be essential in achieving these goals.
The recommendations of the FAIR 2012 forum are planned for release within 60 days of the conference. The end product will serve as the basis for communications to policy makers, the White House, the USDA and other federal funding agencies, universities, industry and other stakeholders. For more information on the FAIR 2012 program, please visit http://fair2012.fass.org.
On March 6th, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology held a meeting in Washington, DC. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel attended the meeting and presented oral comments on behalf of FASS. Lowell’s comments centered around the recent FAIR 2012 meeting and efforts to identify critical priorities for animal science research. PCAST is currently undertaking a study on agriculture research and PCAST indicated a strong interest in receiving copies of the FAIR 2012 results, once they are completed.
On March 9th, President Obama announced his intention to appoint Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy as Director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Ramaswamy currently serves as the Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University and Director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. He has also served as an Associate Dean at Purdue University and as Head of the Department of Entomology at Kansas State University. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and holds a Ph.D. in Entomology from Rutgers University. Dr. Ramaswamy will by the second Director of NIFA, following Dr. Roger Beachy who left the post in 2011. The NIFA Director is a presidential appointee with a term of six years. The USDA press release announcing the appointment can be found by clicking here.
In follow-up to oral comments presented by Washington Representative Walt Smith at the February 22nd AFRI listening session, FASS submitted written comments addressing issues related to the AFRI program’s operation. The FASS written comments addressed a number of issues impacting the animal sciences including:
- The need for a stronger investment in food security related research
- The lack of opportunities for animal scientists to participate in many of the challenge area programs and the disproportionately low overall investment in animal science related projects
- The need for more lead time in preparing for RFAs and longer page limits for larger grants
On March 29th, Senator Pat Roberts and Senator Debbie Stabenow introduced legislation that would establish a foundation that will enable private donations to support research on challenges facing U.S. agriculture. The bill is entitled “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR)”, authorizes the establishment of a 501(c) 3, a non-profit organization, and includes provisions outlining the duties and structure of the foundation, including an appointed Board of Directors representing the diverse sectors of agriculture. Similar foundations have been used to successfully support research in other areas such as human health. The new foundation can be a useful tool to foster new public-private partnerships among the agricultural research community, including USDA research agencies, academia, private corporations, and non-profit organizations.
FASS continues to work with the newly formed Ad Hoc Coalition to support agricultural research. The coalition has identified the creation of a new foundation to support agricultural research as a priority and the group drafted a letter in support of the legislation. FASS and the founding societies joined over 90 agriculture related organizations in signing the letter. It is likely that the bill authorizing the foundation would be attached to the 2012 Farm Bill, rather than moving as a separate piece of legislation. The Senate Agriculture Committee is continuing to hold Farm Bill hearings with the goal of having a bill drafted before Memorial Day.
On March 30th, FASS Washington Representatives participated in the FASS spring board meeting. Lowell and Walt updated the Board on recent developments in Congress and the Administration and the activities of the FASS Washington effort.