October 1, 2012
Farm groups made a hard push in September urging leaders in the House of Representatives to bring the House Agriculture Committee passed version of the Farm Bill to the floor for consideration. Hundreds of farmers and representatives from agricultural organizations held a Farm Bill Now rally on Capitol Hill highlighting the need for Congress to act on a comprehensive Farm Bill before current authorities expire on September 30th. At the same time, a bipartisan group of farm state legislators mounted their own campaign to persuade House Leadership to move Farm Bill legislation prior to Congress leaving town.
Despite these efforts, House Majority Leader John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader were both quoted on September 20th as saying that further consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill will not occur until after the November election. That means that current Farm Bill authorities will be allowed to lapse, at least for a number of weeks. Most agriculture programs will not be impacted immediately, as crop commodity programs operate on crop years, not fiscal years. The first major issue for crops would be dealing with the winter wheat crop.
While crop farmers will be faced with uncertainty as they begin planning for next spring, there would still be time for Congress to act before crops are planted. However, in the dairy industry, the expiration of the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program is causing more immediate concern. The MILC program provides subsidies for dairy farmers when the price of milk drops below $16.94 per hundredweight.
The prospects for Farm Bill action in the lame duck session are not entirely clear. While leaders of both the House and Senate acknowledge that the Farm Bill will be on the agenda, Speaker Boehner has been vague about whether he believes a new comprehensive 5 year Farm Bill is likely to be completed before the end of the year. This leaves the option of an extension of current farm programs on the table. The Congressional agenda for the lame duck will be crowded with other high profile issues including tax policies and the approaching “fiscal cliff”, so timing will be tight to finish work on a new 5 year Farm Bill.
Shortly before leaving Washington, DC to go home to campaign, the House and Senate voted to approve a six month continuing resolution that will fund the government through March 27, 2013. The measure passed with bipartisan support, as members of both parties wanted to avoid dealing with appropriations in the lame duck session after the election. The bill provides $1.047 trillion to fund the federal government, which includes an across-the-board spending increase of 0.6 percent over current funding levels. The bill also maintains the current pay freeze for federal employees, which has been in effect for two years.
On September 17th, FASS released the results of the Farm Animal Integrated Research (FAIR) 2012 process. The FAIR 2012 forum was held March 4–6, 2012, in Arlington, Virginia, bringing together over 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. The results of FAIR highlight three key research, education and outreach priority areas for animal agriculture: food security, one health, and stewardship. The FAIR summary document, along with a longer outcomes document can be found on the FASS website. FASS Washington Representatives Lowell Randel and Walt Smith actively participated in the FAIR planning process and Lowell also served as a member of the FAIR Writing Committee. Lowell and Walt are distributing the FAIR documents to key Congressional, agency and industry stakeholders in Washington, DC.
Building on the results of FAIR, ASAS has developed a series of documents outlining the grand challenges facing the animal sciences. The grand challenges identify key issues in animal health, climate change, food safety, global food security and animal well being. These documents were released on September 17th and FASS Washington Representatives Lowell Randel and Walt Smith are distributing these documents to Congress, agencies and industry in Washington, DC.
FASS Washington Representatives Lowell Randel and Walt Smith have been working with representatives from USDA to develop the concept for a National Academies of Science (NAS) consensus study entitled “Considerations for the Future of Animal Science Research.” Discussions began this summer with Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, Ann Bartuska regarding the need to build momentum for investments in the animal sciences. Lowell and Walt met on a number of occasions with Dr. Bartuska and representatives from ARS and NIFA to develop a proposal for NAS to conduct a study that builds on the results of FAIR 2012 as well as USDA sponsored workshops that examined priorities for animal science.
Key questions identified for the study include:
- Assessing global demand for products of animal origin in 2050 within the framework of ensuring global food security;
- Evaluating how climate change and limited natural resources may impact the ability to meet future global demand for animal products in sustainable production systems, including typical conventional, alternative and evolving animal production systems;
- Identifying factors that may impact domestic ability to meet demand for animal products, including the need for trained human capital, product safety and quality, and adoption of new knowledge and technologies;
- Identifying resources needed to develop and disseminate this knowledge and technology; and
- Describing the evolution of sustainable animal production systems relevant to production and production efficiency metrics.
The consensus study is estimated to take approximately 6-9 months, which is shorter than the normal NAS process. USDA has identified some funds to support the study, but investments from foundations, the private sector and other sources will be sought to fully fund the study. It is hoped that this study can be used as a mechanism to build on FAIR 2012 and increase momentum for future investments in the animal sciences. A summary of the proposed study is attached to this report. FASS Washington Representatives are working closely with USDA and NAS as this process moves forward.
FASS Washington Representative Walt Smith attended the annual Midwest Swine Nutrition Conference on September 13th in Indianapolis. Walt provided the group an update on policy issues impacting animal agriculture and agricultural research, as well as the activities of the FASS Science Policy Committee.