January 5, 2015
After intense debates about funding levels and policy riders, the House and Senate have come to agreement and passed a spending measure that will fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2015. While the bill garnered bipartisan support, it also had bipartisan opposition, leading to close votes in both chambers.
Agriculture research was largely level funded in the bill, with the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative being the only program receiving a significant increase from $316 million to $325 million. The newly expanded Section 1433 program, which, thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, now includes a competitive grants mechanism, received $4 million. That is the same amount as last year, and insufficient to kick-in the new competitive program which begins once the program receives more than $5 million.
The Agriculture Research Service received a small increase of $10 million, but that increase may be a bit deceiving. Funding for rents and leases used to be provided through a central account. The FY 2015 budget decentralizes the process and these expenses are now incorporated into individual agency budgets. This is true of other USDA agencies, as well.
A copy of the agriculture portion of the omnibus can be found here. Below is a table summarizing the final numbers for selected USDA research related accounts:
FY 2014 - Enacted
FY 2015 - President's Budget
FY 2015 - Omnibus
Agricultural Research Service
NIFA Research and Education
Expanded Section 1433
(NEW) Innovation Institutes
NIFA Extension Activities
NIFA Integrated Activities
On December 5th, the Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation (RMF) sponsored an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC to discuss efforts to develop a unified message for agriculture, food and natural resource science. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel, serves as a member of the RMF board of directors and presided over the event. During the event, Wendy Wintersteen, Dean of the College of Agriculture at Iowa State University highlighted the results of a report entitled "Pursuing a Unifying Message: Elevating Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Research as a National Priority".
The report The report documents that the U.S. is in danger of losing its prominence in the scientific research upon which our food, agriculture, and natural resources systems depend and presents a case for many organizations working together toward a common goal at a time when global challenges require additional investment in agricultural research. Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman moderated a response panel that further discussed key issues impacting support for agricultural science. There was strong consensus around the need to build a broad based coalition and develop and market a unified message to increase the investment in agriculture research. More information on the effort and a copy of the report can be found here.
The FASS Science Policy Committee is working to develop a workshop focused on the value and importance of interagency collaboration. FASS Science Policy Committee members will be traveling to Washington, DC in early January to further develop details for the workshop and meet with key agency officials. Members will be meeting with representatives of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and others.
The National Academies of Science (NAS) study entitled "Sustainability Considerations for the Future of Animal Agriculture Science Research" is scheduled for release in early January. FASS worked closely with USDA and NAS throughout the development of the study concept. FASS representatives also participated in NAS study committee meetings, including a formal presentation to the committee on the results of FAIR 2012. FASS is excited for the release of the report and looks forward to utilizing it to communicate the importance of investments in animal science.
In mid-December, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee met to consider recommendations for components of a healthy diet. The committee discussed the inclusion of lean meat as a part of its recommendations, but ultimately omitted it from the list of foods recommended for a healthy diet. This is a diversion from the 2010 guidelines, which recognized the value of lean meat to a healthy diet and has drawn sharp criticism from the meat and animal industries. The updated guidelines are scheduled to be finalized in 2015. More information on the dietary guidelines process can be found here.