February 4, 2016
On January 27 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $18.9 million in competitive grants to support fellowships and other higher education training projects in food, nutrition, natural resources, and agriculture fields. These fellowships are administered through US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture and will support pre- and postdoctoral fellowships, undergraduate fellowships, and professional development for secondary school teachers and educational professionals. According to USDA, funded fellowships will span the six challenge areas identified by AFRI: childhood obesity prevention, climate change, food safety, food security, sustainable bioenergy, and water. Additional information on the program, eligibility requirements, and deadlines can be found here.
FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel and Walt Smith participated in the annual meeting of the animal, dairy, and poultry science department heads on January 26 to 27 in San Diego. Lowell and Walt led a discussion on the current political forecast in Washington, DC, including issues related to the effect of agriculture research funding and policy issues on the animal sciences. Other issues discussed at the meeting included a recent Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) report on deferred maintenance and regional reviews of multistate projects. The meeting was held in conjunction with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Convention.
On January 20 to 21 the APLU, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), Farm Foundation, and the Economic Research Service held a forum titled “Antimicrobial Stewardship: Policy, Education and Economics.” The forum was attended by approximately 150 representatives from government, academia, industry, and nongovernmental organizations. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel participated in the meeting.
Speakers included high level officials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USDA as well as representatives from universities and the private sector. Much discussion centered around the government’s recent actions to improve antimicrobial stewardship, including the President’s Executive Order on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, the government’s National Action Plan, and FDA’s Veterinary Feed Directive and related guidance.
In addition, the Farm Foundation and APLU/AAVMC discussed their recent activities related to antibiotic resistance. The Farm Foundation recently conducted a series of 12 regional educational workshops to provide livestock producers, feed suppliers, veterinarians, and support service organizations information about recent policy changes. The results of these workshops can be found on the Farm Foundation website.
APLU and AAVMC reported on the results of their joint Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance in Production Agriculture. The task force produced a document outlining recommendations for education, outreach, and research. A copy of the report can be found here. The Farm Foundation, APLU, and AAVMC all indicated plans to continue work to address the complex issue of antimicrobial stewardship. It is anticipated that additional meetings will be held in different regions around the country to increase awareness and identify ways to address the recommendations contained in the reports.
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is busy working to develop new programs and policies. One of the first programs announced is the New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Award. The award is designed to support, through grants of up to $200,000 per year over three years, standout food and agriculture scientists within the first three years of a tenure-track or equivalent career. Awardees will possess innovative ideas with the potential to propel a specific area of food and agriculture science forward. Institutions of higher education are invited to nominate one outstanding individual. Please be prepared to submit via online form the nominee name, department, title, institution, and area of research. More information on the New Innovator program can be found here.
FFAR is also seeking Advisory Council members who will play an important role in advising the FFAR staff and board on future programming decisions and other ways in which the Foundation may fulfill its mission to build unique partnerships to support innovative research addressing today’s agricultural challenges. Knowledge and experience is sought in each of FFAR's seven research target areas. More information on the Advisory Council can be found here. Nominations for both programs were due on January 20, 2016.
In addition to these programs, FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey has announced that one of the next programs initiated by the foundation will address rapid response to emerging issues. While details about how the program will operate are not yet available, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Rapid Response Program is intended to allow for the nimble deployment of research, education, and outreach support from FFAR in the event of a sudden and unanticipated threat to the nation’s food supply or agricultural systems. This rapid funding can serve as a bridge to traditional funding sources that require more time and capacity to obtain.
On December 7 the USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) released the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020. The guidelines had come under fire for controversial provisions being considered that were critical of the meat industry. The guidelines advisory committee had recommended the inclusion of environmental sustainability as a consideration and cited concerns about the environmental impact of animal agriculture. The advisory committee also suggested dropping lean meat from recommendations for a healthy diet.
However, in the final version, USDA and HHS stuck to recommendations related to diet and nutrition and did not include provisions related to environmental sustainability. The new version also maintains the recommendation that lean meat is part of a healthy diet. The guidelines also include recommendations for the inclusion of fat-free or low-fat dairy in the diet. Animal industry groups commended USDA and HHS for sticking to diet and nutrition and acknowledging the science supporting the inclusion of lean meats in a healthy diet.
Highlights of the dietary guidelines can be found below:
- Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
- Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
- Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume in an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
- Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.
- A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
- Saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium
Key Recommendations that are quantitative are provided for several components of the diet that should be limited. These components are of particular public health concern in the United States, and the specified limits can help individuals achieve healthy eating patterns within calorie limits:
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars .
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats .
- Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium .
- If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.
A copy of the guidelines can be found here.