March 10, 2016
On February 9th, President Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, the last of his presidency. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel participated in budget briefings with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and REE Under Secretary Cathy Woteki as they rolled out the President's budget. Included in the $4.15 trillion in proposed spending is funding for agriculture research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The total amount requested for USDA discretionary spending on research, education and economics activities is $2.9 billion.
The largest increase for USDA research programs comes in the form of a request for $700 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). This would double the current funding available for AFRI and bring the program to its fully authorized level. The President’s budget requests $375 million in discretionary funding and $325 million in mandatory funding. Bringing mandatory funding to AFRI would be a new approach, and may face some resistance within Congress.
Nonetheless, it is very encouraging that the President’s budget request recognizes the critical importance of agriculture research and proposes to fully fund AFRI. Funding for most other major NIFA programs, including capacity funds, would remain at FY 2016 levels.
In keeping with recent Presidential budget proposals, there is no funding requested for Section 1433. This account received $4 million in FY 2016 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.
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) would receive $1.286 billion under the President's proposal. Within this request there is a $13 million increase requested for Livestock Protection research, raising that program from $93 million to $106 million. The President’s budget request would also increase Livestock Production research from $87 million to $89 million. Also included is $94.5 million for buildings and facilities, which would enable ARS to continue addressing needs at facilities that have been identified as high priority through the agency’s Capital Investment Strategy.
Below is a table reflecting the final fiscal year 2016 appropriations and the President's fiscal year 2017 request for selected agriculture appropriations accounts. More details on the proposed 2017 budget for USDA can be found here.
FY 2016 – Final
FY 2017 – President’s Request
Agricultural Research Service
ARS Buildings and Facilities
NIFA Total – Discretionary Programs
$700 million ($375 million discretionary / $325 million mandatory)
Expanded Section 1433
With the release of the President’s FY 2017 Budget, coalitions have begun the process of developing their appropriations requests for Congressional support. FASS is an active participant in a number of coalitions working to support agricultural research and animal agriculture more broadly. Below are examples of coalitions in which FASS is participating:
On February 23rd, the AFRI Coalition sent a letter to leaders of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in support of funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program. The letter requests that Congress provide $700 million for the AFRI program in fiscal year 2017. This would bring the AFRI program to its fully authorized level and meet the President’s FY 2017 budget request for the program. Funding the AFRI program at $700 million would enable the support of high priority agricultural research including important areas within the animal sciences such as foreign animal disease and antibiotic resistance. The American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) and FASS were among 31 organizations that signed the coalition letter. A copy of the letter can be found here.
Animal Agriculture Coalition
FASS joined over 50 animal agriculture related organizations in signing the Animal Agriculture Coalition’s letters to the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committees. The letters, which can be found here (House, Senate), urge support for key USDA research programs, as well as important animal programs within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Friends of the Agricultural Research Service Coalition
ADSA and FASS also signed letters to the House and Senate sponsored by the Friends of the Agricultural Research Service (FARS) Coalition in support of the ARS budget. The letters highlight a number of key ARS budget initiatives including efforts to address foreign animal diseases and avian influenza. A copy of the FARS Coalition letters can be found here (House, Senate).
On February 24th, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf as the new Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Califf served as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco from February 2015 until his appointment as commissioner in February 2016. Prior to joining FDA, he was professor of medicine and vice chancellor for clinical and translational research at Duke University. Carliff also served as director of the Duke Translational Medicine Institute and founding director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute. He takes over FDA at a time with the agency is working on a number of high profile issues important to the food and agriculture sector including implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, antibiotic resistance and GMO labeling.
Also in February, Dr. Bernadette Dunham announced that she would be leaving the role of Director for the Center of Veterinary Medicine. She has served as Director since 2008 and provided strong leadership to the agency during her tenure. Dr. Dunham will leave in April to participate in a One Health collaborative effort between the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University and the FDA. An FDA release on her transition can be found here.
On March 1st, the Senate Agriculture Committee met to consider legislation regarding labeling of products with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The legislation, sponsored by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, would establish a national standard for GMO labeling and prevent states from creating their own patchwork of labeling requirements. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 14-6, which reflected unanimous support from Republicans plus three of the committee’s Democrats. More information on the Senate bill can be found here. Committee passage paves the way for full Senate consideration. The House passed similar legislation last year.
On February 11th, the House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the preparedness of the United States in the event of the introduction of foot and mouth disease (FMD) into the United States. Witnesses included scientists from veterinary schools, practicing veterinarians and industry members. Testimony and questioning centered around what steps have been taken and what still needs to be done to achieve the objective of establishing a vaccine stockpile deployable within 24 hours of an outbreak. More information on the hearing can be found here.
On February 23rd, the House Homeland Security Committee’s Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the risk to the nation from a terrorist attack or natural disruption to our agricultural or food systems. Witnesses included representatives from industry, academia and state government. The witnesses discussed public and private sector prevention, planning, and preparedness activities aimed at reducing vulnerabilities of the food and agricultural sector to an intentional attack or natural disruption. More information about the hearing can be found here.