May, 2016

    June 3, 2016


    USDA Seeks Stakeholder Input on Research Priorities

    The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) have recently developed an online mechanism to solicit input on animal science research priorities.  ARS and NIFA are seeking input on how Federal investments can best address current needs and challenges facing animal production.  The ideas you provide will help form the framework for developing the next ARS National Program Action Plan and defining priorities for NIFA’s animal production research, education and extension.

    If you are interested in providing your insight by suggesting, refining, and prioritizing ideas around any of the topics listed below, send an email with your name, affiliation, email address, and topic of interest (in the format provided below) to by June 6th. You will receive instructions on how to join.  The system will be open throughout the month of June 2016 and operate much like a Wikipedia site.  Space is limited, so those interested in participating are encourage to register as soon as possible.

    Topic 1:  Animal Genetics, Genomics and BioinformaticsTopic 2:  Applications of Biotechnology to Animal ProductionTopic 3.  Animal Well-Being, Stress and ProductionTopic 4:  Animal Reproductive BiologyTopic 5:  Quality, Nutritional Value and Healthfulness of Animal ProductsTopic 6: Lactation Biology and Nutritional Efficiency of AnimalsTopic 7: Animal Growth Biology and Alternatives to Antimicrobials for Growth PromotionTopic 8: Forages and Forage Utilization for Animal ProductionTopic 9: Reducing Environmental Impacts of Animal ProductionTopic 10: General Priorities for Animal ProductionFirst NameLast NameAffiliationEmailAddressTopic(s) of Interest

    (Please list the topics by your preference: Example Topic 6, Topic 4, and Topic 9)

    USDA Dedicates $6 Million to Research on Antimicrobial Resistance

    On May 2nd, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will be making $6 million available through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to support research related to antimicrobial resistance.  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated that, "Through our Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan, USDA is leading the way to better understand how antibiotic resistance develops, find alternatives to antibiotics, and educate people on practices that reduce the need for antibiotics,".  Research supported under this announcement will help advance efforts to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics and protect public health.

    Applications are due August 3, 2016 and must address one or more of the following areas:

    • Develop novel systems approaches to investigate the ecology of microbial resistance microbes and gene reservoirs in the environment in animals, in crops, in food products, or in farm-raised aquaculture products.
    • Develop, evaluate, and implement effective and sustainable resources and strategies, to include alternative practices, techniques, technologies or tools that mitigate emergence, spread or persistence of antimicrobial resistant pathogens within the agricultural ecosystem, in animals, in crops, and in food.
    • Identify critical control points for mitigating antimicrobial resistance in the pre- and post-harvest food production environment.
    • Design innovative training, education, and outreach resources (including web-based resources) that can be adapted by users across the food chain, including policy makers, producers, processors, retailers and consumers.

    More details about the program and the Request for Applications can be found here.

    Legislation Introduced to Restrict Livestock Ownership by Meatpackers

    On May 10th, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced legislation that would prohibit meatpackers from owning livestock intended for slaughter.  Recent moves by Tyson Foods to acquire Hillshire Brands and JBS USA to purchase and Cargill’s pork operations prompted Grassley to introduce the legislation.  Grassley has offered similar bills in the past as he has worked to prevent further consolidation in the meat industry.  The bill, S. 2911, has been criticized by the meatpacking industry.  Industry representatives have stated that adoption of the legislation would be detrimental to producers, packers and consumers.

    USDA Announces Availability of $130 Million in AFRI Funds

    On May 16th, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced that $130 million would be available in fiscal year 2016 for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Foundational Program.   The AFRI Foundational Program funds projects that continue building a foundation of knowledge in fundamental and applied food and agricultural sciences. The Foundational Program addresses six priority areas of the 2014 Farm Bill, with various amounts of funding allocated to each priority area. Funding for 2016 is allocated as follows plant health and production and plant products, $33 million; animal health and production and animal products, $31 million; food safety, nutrition and health, $19 million; bioenergy, natural resources and environment, $14 million; agriculture systems and technology, $11 million; and agriculture economics and rural communities, $17 million.  The $31 million available for animal health and production and animal products is up from approximately $28 million in FY 2015 and continues the recent trend in increases to this component of the Foundational Program.

    Application submission deadlines vary by program.  Below are some deadlines relevant to the animal sciences:

    July 14, 2016

    • Animal Reproduction
    • Animal Nutrition, Growth and Lactation
    • Animal Well-Being
    • Animal Health and Disease
    • Tools and Resources - Immune Reagents for Agricultural Animals

    August 3, 2016

    • Tools and Resources - Animal Breeding, Genetics and Genomics

    The full Request for Applications can be found on the NIFA website by click here.

    NAS Publishes Report on Genetically Engineered Crops

    On May 17th, the National Academies of Science published a study entitled Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects.  The study looked at available data to examine the effects that genetically engineered crops have on human health and the environment.  The study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops.  The committee also did not find any conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from GE crops.  However, the report does flag evolved resistance to current GE characteristics in crops as a significant issue.  The committee recommends that it is the end product of genetic engineering that should be the subject of potential regulation, and not the technology applied.

    In addition to looking at safety issues, the study finds that the distinction between conventional breeding and genetic engineering is becoming less obvious.  New technologies in gene editing are blurring the lines between conventional breeding techniques and genetic engineering.

    The National Academy of Sciences has developed a website with additional information about the report that can be found by clicking here.  The study was sponsored by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the New Venture Fund, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional support from the National Academy of Sciences.

    Senate Committee Approves FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations Bill

    On May 19th, the Senate Appropriations Committee met to consider its version of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations Bill.  The bill was approved unanimously and includes $21.25 billion in discretionary funding, $250 million below the FY2016 enacted level. Mandatory funding in the bill totals $126.5 billion, for a total of $147.7 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding. The overall funding level is $21.7 billion below the President’s budget request and $7.1 billion above the FY2016 enacted level.

    Within the research accounts, the Agricultural Research Service would receive $1.178 billion, an $35 million increase over FY 2016.  Included in this increase is an additional $2 million for poultry production and health research and $1 million for workforce development related to the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.  The committee bill also includes $64.3 million for ARS Buildings and Facilities to continue funding projects prioritized in the ARS Capital Investment Strategy.  For the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), most accounts were funded at the same level as last year, the major exception being the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which received a $25 million increase from $350 million to $375 million.  A summary of selected key accounts is listed below:


    Selected Agriculture Appropriations Accounts

    FY 2016 – FINAL
    FY 2017 – President’s Budget
    FY 2017 - House
    FY 2017 - Senate
    Agricultural Research Service
    $1.143 billion
    $1.161 billion
    $1.151 billion
    $1.178 billion
    ARS Buildings and Facilities
    $212 million
    $94.5 million
    $99.6 million
    $64.3 million
    NIFA Research and Education
    $819.6 million
    $836.9 million
    $832.8 million
    $851.5 million
    $244 million
    $244 million
    $244 million
    $244 million
    $350 million
    $375 million (discretionary) $325 million (mandatory)
    $375 million (discretionary) $0(mandatory)
    $375 million (discretionary) $0(mandatory)
    ExpandedSection 1433
    $4 million
    $4 million
    $4 million
    NIFA Extension Activities
    $475.8 million
    $501.8 million
    $477.3 million
    $476.2 million
    Smith Lever
    $300 million
    $300 million
    $300 million
    $300 million
    NIFA Integrated Activities
    $30.9 million
    $35.2 million
    $30.9 million
    $36 million

    Floor action for the Senate and House version of the bill has not been scheduled at this time.  Given that this is an election year it is uncertain at this time whether either of the bills will reach the floor for consideration.      More details on the Senate committee bill and report can be found at the following links:     Bill Text       Committee Report