March 6, 2015
In response to recent concerns raised about the care of farm animals in research at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (US MARC), the Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on February 19, 2015. In this letter, FASS expressed its support for the use of resources, such as the FASS “Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Research and Teaching” (FASS Ag Guide), in promoting proper farm animal care in research using the latest scientific information. As leading experts in animal science, FASS and the members of its founding societies take seriously the responsibility to provide assistance at the top levels of government regarding animal research.
With the recently voiced public concerns over animal safety and welfare, some have called for legislative changes to expand the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to include farm animals used in agricultural research at USDA and possibly other sites. Because the FASS Ag Guide provides current, science-based guidelines specifically relevant to farm animal care in research, it is the most applicable resource for scientists conducting research with farm animals. FASS does not believe an expansion of the AWA would improve animal care. FASS encourages the use of the Ag Guide, in tandem with peer review, to ensure responsible treatment of animals at research facilities.
Since 1988, FASS (then the Federation of American Societies of Food Animal Sciences, FASFAS, the predecessor to FASS) has published the FASS Ag Guide; in the years since, it has become the primary document used for governing farm animal research in the United States and abroad. The FASS Ag Guide is used by many institutions, including USDA inspectors and the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, because of its detailed, science-based, and species-specific recommendations.
Since its inception, the stated mission of FASS has been to “strengthen the common interests and collective good of member societies through a unified science-based voice that supports animal agriculture, animal products, and food systems globally through effective and efficient management services.” To achieve this, FASS has consistently sought to foster the shared goals of its founding societies and assist policy makers in areas of animal science. With this in mind, FASS and its members stand ready to provide support to USDA and other government agencies regarding the best way forward for safety and welfare in animal research.
On February 20th, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of more than $160 million in funding for research, education, and extension projects that address key challenges affecting U.S. agriculture production. NIFA will fund the awards through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).
NIFA released six separate requests for applications (RFA) through the AFRI program. Five RFAs will support AFRI's challenge areas: food security ($16 million), water ($9 million), childhood obesity prevention ($6 million), food safety ($6 million), and climate ($5 million). An additional RFA for the AFRI Foundational program, totaling $116 million, will address the six Farm Bill priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) bioenergy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.
Application deadlines vary by program area. Additional information about the AFRI program can be found on the NIFA website by clicking here.
On February 2nd, President Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2016, including proposed funding for agriculture research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
FY 2016 – Proposed
Agricultural Research Service – Research Programs
ARS – Buildings and Facilities
$ 206 million
NIFA Total (discretionary programs)
Competitive Capacity Awards Program
The largest increase for USDA research programs comes in the form of a request for $450 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). This is $125 million above the FY 2015 level of $325 million and includes $ 33 million for antimicrobial resistance. The AFRI Foundational Research program would also receive a significant boost within the $125 million increase requested.
In keeping with recent Presidential budget proposals, there is no funding requested for Section 1433. This account received $4 million in FY 2015 and strong efforts are expected this year to try and increase funding for the program. This section was expanded in the 2014 Farm Bill to create a new competitive grants program focused on animal science research. The expanded program will address the priority focal areas of food security, one health and stewardship that were identified through the FAIR 2012 process.
Within the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) budget, there is a $7 million increase requested for Livestock Production research, raising that program from $87 million to $94 million. The President's budget request also includes $206 million for buildings and facilities, which would enable ARS to complete construction of the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory as well as address needs at four other facilities that have been identified as high priority through the agency's Capital Investment Strategy. Several of these facilities also include important animal research activities.
More details on the proposed 2016 budget for USDA can be found here.
On February 2nd, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) held a briefing for stakeholders regarding the federal government's efforts to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Representatives from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) provided the briefing. The briefing started with a review of the 2012 workshop hosted by USDA to examine issues related to AMR. The workshop looked at antimicrobial use, resistance and management practices and identified a series of gaps that needed to be addressed. Gaps included the need more and better data, improved communication, development of metrics and resources to support these efforts.
The workshop concluded that work in the following areas would help address many of the gaps:
- Holistic approach to understanding the microbiome
- Enhanced utilization of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS)
- Enhanced utilization of the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS)
- Long-term research
- Outreach and education
USDA has since developed an AMR Action Plan. The plan has identified goals of obtaining and disseminating science-based drug use and resistance information and addressing knowledge gaps and developing mitigation strategies. The objectives of the Action Plan include:
- Determining patterns, purposes and impacts of antimicrobial usage.
- Monitoring drug susceptibility.
- Identifying management practices and alternatives to reduce AMR.
Presenters discussed the critical importance of surveillance and the need to expand and enhance surveys, longitudinal studies and measuring usage and related production practices. USDA acknowledged the need for confidentiality protections to ensure producer confidence with participation. They stressed that information collected by the NAHMS is protected by the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA). However, FSIS regulations still apply for slaughter sampling for residues.
For research, USDA highlighted the following priority needs:
- Alternatives to antimicrobials
- Feed, nutrition and genetic resistance
- Management practices
- Use of multi-institutional/multi-disciplinary approaches
It was also noted that enhanced efforts are needed for education and outreach. A copy of USDA's Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance can be found here.
USDA officials ended the briefing by discussing initiatives driven by the White House related to AMR. In September 2014, President Obama issued an executive order to combat antimicrobial resistance bacteria. The President directed agencies to develop a national strategy, which is schedule to be released in February. The order identified the following national goals:
- Slow the emergence and prevent the spread of resistant bacteria.
- Strengthen surveillance.
- Advance rapid diagnostic tests.
- Accelerate research.
- Improve international collaboration.
The President's fiscal year 2016 budget includes $1.2 billion to support efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance. Across six USDA agencies, $77 million would be dedicated to AMR activities in the President's Budget. More information on the President's AMR budget initiatives can be found here.