October 2, 2014
On September 18th, President Obama signed an Executive Order entitled: Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. The administration has been increasing it focus on antimicrobial resistance and ways to address the issue. The order directs key federal agencies to take action to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and establishes a Task Force for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (Task Force), which will be co-chaired by the Secretaries of Defense, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services.
The Executive Order articulates a number of actions for the Task Force including the development procedures for creating and integrating surveillance systems and laboratory networks to provide timely, high-quality data in healthcare and agricultural settings, including detailed genomic data to adequately track resistant bacteria across diverse settings. The Task Force will also describe steps that departments and agencies should take to encourage the development of new and next-generation antibiotics, diagnostics, and alternatives to traditional antibiotics. Of particular note for animal agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration is directed to continue taking steps to eliminate agricultural use of medically important antibiotics for growth-promotion purposes.
The Task Force is also charged with developing an action plan to implement the order as well as the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria which was also released on September 18th. The National Strategy outlines the following five goals:
- Slow the emergence and prevent the spread of resistant bacteria.
- Strengthen National efforts to identify and report cases of antibiotic resistance.
- Advance the development and use of rapid diagnostic tests for the identification and characterization of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Accelerate basic and applied research and development for new antibiotics as well as other therapeutics and vaccines.
- Improve international collaboration, capacities for antibiotic-resistance prevention, surveillance, control, and antibiotic research and development.
In addition, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recently released a related report on Combating Antibiotic Resistance which can be found by click here. The PCAST report focuses on the following three areas of addressing the rise in antibiotic resistance:
- Improved surveillance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to enable effective response, stop outbreaks, and limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms.
- Increased longevity of current and new antibiotics, by promoting appropriate use, preventing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and scaling up proven interventions to decrease the rate at which microbes develop resistance.
- Increased rates of discovery and development of new antibiotics.
By February 15, 2015, the Task Force will submit a 5-year National Action Plan to the President that outlines specific actions to be taken to implement the Strategy. The Task Force is also required to submit an update to the President within 180 days of the signing of the Executive Order describing the progress towards implementing the action plan and strategy.
On September 9th, the National Academies of Science (NAS) released a study entitled "Spurring Innovation in Food and Agriculture: A Review of the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Program". The study was commissioned by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and is designed to perform an independent assessment of the AFRI program, including the quality and value of research funded by the program and the prospects for its success in meeting established goals and outcomes. To conduct the study, NAS appointed a 16 person committee chaired by Vic Lechtenberg of Purdue University.
The committee reached the following conclusions and made corresponding recommendations:
CONCLUSION 1:AFRI plays a critical and unique role in the nation's overall R&D portfolio because its mandated scope, mission, and responsibilities are focused on the most important national and international challenges facing food and agriculture. But it has not been adequately given the resources needed to meet contemporary and likely future challenges.
RECOMMENDATION 1:The United States should strengthen its public investment in competitive agricultural R&D to ensure that it continues its role of a global leader in the innovations and technologies that are needed to promote health and well-being and to feed growing worldwide populations sustainably.
CONCLUSION 2:AFRI is unnecessarily complex, difficult to depict clearly, and characterized by overlapping components that do not clearly align with priorities identified in authorizing legislation.
RECOMMENDATION 2:NIFA should simplify the AFRI program structure by realigning it to more clearly address its specific mission and mandates as defined in authorizing legislation.
CONCLUSION 3:AFRI does not have clearly articulated plans to guide its priority-setting, management processes, and interagency collaboration.
RECOMMENDATION 3:AFRI should develop a strategic plan that identifies priorities for its overall program goals for meeting them and a framework for assessing the program's progress.
CONCLUSION 4:AFRI's complex and diffuse management structure has made it difficult to efficiently and effectively manage the program.
RECOMMENDATION 4:To enhance program accountability and management, AFRI should have a dedicated leader who manages the program on a daily basis.
In addition to the primary conclusions and recommendations listed above, the report includes additional secondary conclusions and recommendations that go into greater detail about AFRI program administration. A full copy of the report can be found by clicking here.
On Wednesday, September 17th, the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution (CR) funding the government through December 11th. The Senate passed the resolution on September 18th and the President signed it the following day. This paved the way for Congress to leave Washington and hit the campaign trail ahead of the November elections. The CR provides $1 trillion to keep the government running. In addition to continued funding for USDA and other federal agencies, the spending bill includes $88 million to combat the Ebola epidemic, $64 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs and authorizes the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels. Congress will have to return after the elections and take action before the December 11th deadline to avoid a shutdown.
FASS and the founding societies joined forces with the AFRI Coalition to send a letter expressing support for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Both the House and Senate versions of the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill include $325 million for the AFRI program. This is also the same level requested in the President's budget.
Similarly, FASS and the founding societies signed on to an Animal Agriculture Coalition letter requesting Congressional support for the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL). Construction of a new SEPRL has been identified by USDA as the highest facility priority within the Agriculture Research Service. The House version of the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill includes $155 million for SEPRL, while no funding is included in the Senate version. The President's budget request references the need for the SEPRL in its Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative.