January, 2014

    February 4, 2014

     

    House Passes Farm Bill Conference Report

    On January 29th the House of Representatives passed the conference report for the Farm Bill (H.R. 2642, the Agricultural Act of 2014), setting up the end of an over two year process to reauthorize farm and nutrition programs. The conference report is estimated to cost $956 billion over the next ten years, with $756 billion going to nutrition programs. This reflects approximately $16.6 billion in savings over the life of the bill. The legislation passed by a vote of 251 – 169 with bipartisan support. The Senate is expected to pass the bill during the week of February 3rd.

    While the bill has bipartisan support in Congress and broad support from much of the agriculture industry, livestock groups are in strong opposition to the Farm Bill conference report because of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and Grain Inspections, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) regulations. The livestock industry pushed for changes to mandatory COOL citing WTO concerns and challenges from Mexico and Canada. The industry also hoped the conference report would include House provisions intended to reign in GIPSA. The conference report did not address either of these issues, resulting in opposition from the livestock industry.

    In the research title, the animal science initiative that was part of the Senate version of the Farm Bill is included in the final package in an amended form. While the Senate bill had the initiative as a new stand-alone program, the compromise language resulted in an expansion of Section 1433, which traditionally has been a formula fund for animal health and disease research. Under the new language, Section 1433 is expanded to include a competitive grants program with a broader scope to include the three focal areas of Food Security, One Health and Stewardship, as identified by the FAIR 2012 report and the Senate language. The new program is authorized for $25 million in appropriations. The Statement of Managers references the FAIR 2012 process and directs USDA to use the priorities identified in FAIR 2012 as they administer the new program.

    The research title also establishes the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). FFAR is modeled after the NIH Foundation as a mechanism to attract private funds to support agriculture research. FFAR would be a non-governmental entity governed by a board of directors. The Farm Bill also provides $200 million in seed money to help the foundation get started.

    A copy of the conference report can be found by clicking here.

    Congress Finalizes FY 2014 Appropriations

    On January 13th, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees released an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2014. The bill was passed by the House on January 15th, and the Senate followed suit on the 16th. There is some good news for agricultural research in the bill, as most of the research related items were funded at, or near, the Senate proposed levels (which in some cases were significantly higher than the House proposed levels). For example, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is funded at $316, 409,000 in the omnibus. That was the level proposed by the Senate and represents a $26 million increase over FY 2013.

    Below is a summary of how some of the major USDA research related accounts fare in the omnibus:

     
    FY 2013 Enacted
    FY 2014 Senate
    FY 2014 House
    FY 2014 Omnibus
    NIFA Research and Education Activities
    $718,636,000
    $772,794,000
    $718,714,000
    $772,559,000
    AFRI
    $290,468,000
    $316,409,000
    $290,657,000
    $316,409,000
    NIFA Extension Activities
    $463,896,000
    $469,399,000
    $459,011,000
    $469,191,000
    NIFA Integrated Activities
    $20,942,000
    $35,317,000
    $31,137,000
    $35,317,000
    Agricultural Research Service
    $1,072,015,000
    $1,123,150,000
    $1,074,163,000
    $1,122,482,000

    Looking ahead to fiscal year 2015, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has indicated that the President’s Budget Request for FY 2015 will be released on March 5th. This is approximately a month later than the traditional timeline for Presidential budget submissions.

    National Academies of Science Study on Animal Science Moving Forward

    FASS Washington Representatives continue to work closely with the USDA and the National Academies of Science (NAS) on a consensus study entitled “Considerations for the Future of Animal Science Research”. The consensus study will build on the results of FAIR 2012 and work done by the USDA to identify the resources and strategies needed to meet growing food security demands in a sustainable manner. NAS recently reported that full funding for the animal science study has been received, allowing the study to proceed. The study is supported by 8 entities, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, National Pork Board, Tyson Foods, Inc., Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. NAS is expected to post the draft committee list in February for public comment. The first committee meeting will likely be in March with the goal of completing the study before the end of 2014.