On June 3-4, members of the FASS Science Policy Committee met in Washington, DC. The main purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibility of conducting a workshop in 2015 highlighting the importance of interagency collaboration. Committee members met with representatives from the Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National Science Foundation to discuss the workshop concept and learn more about current efforts to support interagency collaboration. The cosponsored NIFA/NIH research program on Dual Use/Dual Benefit emerged as a model for demonstrating a successful mechanism for agencies to jointly support animal related research. The committee also met with industry representatives regarding the workshop as well as other FASS related activities. The concept was well received by agency and industry representatives and the Science Policy Committee is developing next steps for planning a 2015 event.
After swift approvals of the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the respective versions of the bill have stalled in both chambers of Congress. The House began consideration the Agriculture Appropriations Bill in mid-June, but set the measure aside after the primary defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The House leadership shake-up has postponed further consideration until at least after the Fourth of July break.
In the Senate, the Agriculture Appropriations Bill has been combined with the Transportation-HUD and Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bills to form a "minibus" appropriations package. Senate action on the legislation also began in mid-June, only to have the package pulled from the Senate floor after a dispute over which amendments would be allowed for consideration. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pushed a vote on his amendment to block the Environmental Protection Agency's plans to restrict carbon emissions from existing power plants. Senator McConnell wanted the amendment to be brought up under the current rule that germane amendments require 51 votes for passage. Senate Majority Leader Reid has stated that he will only allow the amendment under a 60 vote requirement for passage. This has placed the leaders at an impasse and it is not clear when the package will be brought back to the floor for further consideration.
On July 11th, FASS and the three founding societies were among 32 members of the Animal Agriculture Coalition to sign a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees thanking them for their support of programs related to agriculture research and animal agriculture. The letter highlights funding provided in the bill for key programs within the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
On June 19th, FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel met with members of the National Animal Nutrition Program Coordinating Committee during their annual meeting in Washington. Lowell spoke to the committee about FASS science policy activities as well as current issues including appropriations, farm bill implementation and the National Academies of Science study on animal science. The group also heard from representatives of the National Academies of Science, Food and Drug Administration and the International Life Sciences Institute.