January 17, 2018
During December, Congress focused on the tax package that was finally passed. It included significant cuts to some tax rates that could add over $1 trillion to the federal deficit. It is still uncertain what the full impact will be or what further action Congress may take to address the increasing debt. After a holiday break, Congress will return to try to address a long-term budget. A continuing resolution deferred needing action until January 19, 2018, and waives statutory PAYGO rules with respect to the tax legislation. Another extension may be in the offing as they seek a solution. Other issues like the Farm Bill, immigration reform, disaster relief, and the upcoming mid-term elections complicate things. Here are some recent developments of interest.
FASS Joins Coalition Letter
FASS joined 71 other organizations from the food, agriculture, scientific, academic, veterinary, and consumer communities in coalition letters to Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi (with cc to Reps. McCarthy, Scalise, and Hoyer); Senators McConnell and Schumer (with cc to Sens. Cornyn and Durbin); House Appropriations and Ag Appropriations Chairs and Ranking Members; Senate Appropriations and Ag Appropriations Chairs and Ranking Members, urging them to substantially increase the discretionary budget cap for domestic programs and provide an allocation for the FY 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill of 5% of the total domestic discretionary budget cap increase. A copy of the letter is on the FASS website.
Rural Prosperity Report
The report from the President’s Task Force on Rural Prosperity was made public just prior to President Trump’s speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The stated purpose and function of the task force, chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, has been to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life in rural America. As such it can be expected to play a role in Farm Bill discussions. It recommended goals such as achieving e-connectivity for rural America, improving quality of life, supporting a rural workforce, harnessing technological innovation, and developing the rural economy. One recommendation called for another newly created commission to ensure that various government agencies work together. The report also suggests creating an advisory council with more local expertise and appointing someone to oversee both groups. The primary place where research is addressed to some extent is in the call for harnessing technological innovation. The report discusses the need to “promote public confidence in the oversight of the products of biotechnology through clear and transparent public and diplomatic engagement.”
Perdue turned in the report to the White House on October 21, meeting the 180-day statute created by executive order. As noted the report went public just in time for President Trump’s speech to the Farm Bureau.
Ag Research Caucus Established
Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D; CA-20) and Congressman Rodney Davis (R; IL-13) have joined to establish the bipartisan Congressional Agriculture Research Caucus. Panetta’s office announced the effort in a press release:
“The caucus is dedicated to topics related to agriculture research, innovation, and mechanization efforts. As co-chairs, Reps. Panetta and Davis hope to educate and engage with their fellow Members of Congress on these issues. As Congress prepares for the 2018 Farm Bill, the Caucus will provide a platform for Reps. Panetta and Davis to elevate challenges facing agricultural producers across the country.”
“As a representative of the Salad Bowl of the World, I believe it is of the utmost importance to equip our growers, shippers, and farmworkers with the most effective tools possible,” said Congressman Panetta. “Strategic investments in research for plant breeding, crop protections, and mechanization will support the future success of the agriculture industry while also helping to address major concerns relating to resource conservation and labor shortages. I look forward to working with Congressman Davis and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to further support our nation’s agriculture industry.”
“By investing in agricultural research today, we will ensure U.S. agriculture remains competitive globally and continues to lead the way in food and agriculture innovation,” said Congressman Davis. “I joined Congressman Panetta to create the Agriculture Research Caucus so members of Congress have a place to highlight the importance of agricultural research in their districts across the country and come together to make it a national priority. My district is home to several major universities that are at the forefront of agricultural research critical to our state and national economies. Additionally, the potential for public–private partnership between industry and academia allows us to expand our horizon and reach new goals. I look forward to joining my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make agriculture research a priority.”
The caucus currently includes 16 Democrat and 14 Republican members of the House:
Rodney Davis* (IL)
Jimmy Panetta* (CA)
Dan Newhouse (WA)
Kurt Schrader (OR)
Ted Yoho (FL)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM)
Tom Rooney (FL)
Dave Loebsack (IA)
Rod Blum (IA)
Chellie Pingree (MA)
Jody Hice (GA)
Salud Carbajal (CA)
Trent Kelly (MS)
Rick Nolan (MN)
Roger Marshall (KS)
Sean Patrick Maloney (NY)
Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA)
Mark Takano (CA)
Frank Lucas (OK)
Pramila Jayapal (WA)
Rick Allen (GA)
Carol Shea-Porter (NH)
Steve Stivers (OH)
John Garamendi (CA)
James Comer (KY)
Alma Adams (NC)
Steve King (IA)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI)
The year-end meeting of the National Coalition for Agricultural Research (NC-FAR)—one of the coalitions of which FASS is a part—was held in Washington, DC, on December 11, 2017, with about 80 participants representing a similar number of groups. Presentations that focused on Farm Bill priorities were given by
The importance of advocating for agricultural research in the Farm Bill and the budget was stressed by all speakers and groups present. The House Ag Committee staff expressed optimism that Farm Bill language would be introduced in the first quarter of the year; alt Senate staff provided no timeline for action. Part of the NC-FAR effort will include the Lunch~N~Learn Hill Seminars that will be held with a focus on sharing information with congressional staff. Several topics were approved and additional ones will be considered. Plans are also underway for a Future of Ag Summit, “Crafting a Strategic Vision for the Future,” to be held March 21–22 in Washington, DC, followed by a March 22 Hill lunch briefing. This will be a coalition building summit designed to plan for agriculture, food, health, and natural resource research, economics, education, extension, and outreach activities for the future.
Much of Idaho’s Ag-Gag Law Struck Down
Much of Idaho’s “ag-gag” law, which sought to prevent animal activists from coming onto farms to shoot video, has been struck down by a 2-1 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, reports Reuters. The Circuit Court’s decision reversed a lower court ruling upholding the Idaho law, which was enacted in 2014. The Appellate Court decision did uphold a portion of the law that criminalizes making misrepresentations by anyone to obtain records of agricultural facilities or obtaining employment with the intent to cause harm. But the main tenet of the law, prohibiting videotaping on farms, was struck down as being a “classic example of a content-based restriction that cannot survive strict scrutiny,” wrote Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown. She also said the law was largely “targeted at speech and investigative journalists.”
Ten other states have so-called ag-gag laws. It is still unclear what implications the 9th Circuit ruling will have on those laws, but it does suggest that ag-gag laws won’t stand up on constitutional grounds, says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.
Conversing with Partners and Planning Ahead
The FASS Science Policy Coordinator participated in the NC-FAR meeting, a meeting of the Animal Ag Coalition (AAC), and a conference call of the National C-FAR Research Outreach Committee (ROC), and was in regular communication with other science and industry groups relative to progress on the Farm Bill, nominations, and budget issues. As noted above, we did join one coalition letter. The AAC has communicated with Congress relative to the Farm Bill, but another is letter planned to highlight priorities for the Farm Bill. During the month, we participated in the FASS Science Policy Committee meeting with initial planning for a webinar later this spring.
For additional details, contact
Ken Olson, PhD, PAS, FASS Science Policy Coordinator
As the FASS Science Policy Committee continues to move forward, we welcome two new members to replace members rotating off. We first want to extend our thanks to Brandon Nelson and Tameka Phillips, who have served this committee and FASS during a period of major transition, keeping focus on helping other people understand the role of animal agriculture research and food production in the healthy lives of US citizens and citizens of the world. Thank you, Brandon and Tameka. We are happy to welcome new members Jim Quigley and Alison Van Eenennaam.
Jim Quigley is technical and research manager for Provimi North America in Brookville, Ohio. He leads company activities related to calf and heifer nutrition and management, including research, technical support, product development, marketing, sales, regulation, and quality assurance. Quigley is responsible, with the input of other team members, for establishing short- and long-term strategic direction related to the calf and heifer business. Before joining Provimi, Quigley was vice president and director of calf operations for APC Inc. in Ankeny, Iowa. He was responsible for sales, marketing, research, and technical activities for the Calf Operations group. Jim also served as vice president of research for Diamond V Mills and held positions as associate professor of dairy science at the University of Tennessee and dairy nutritionist at Cargill Inc. Quigley received his PhD from Virginia Tech in 1985 and BS and MS degrees from the University of New Hampshire. His research focuses on dairy calf nutrition, health, and management. Quigley has published over 200 refereed journal articles and abstracts related to the nutrition and health of young calves and heifers. He has spoken throughout the world on calf management subjects and has won several awards from scientific societies for his research contributions. Quigley also maintains the website CalfNotes.com, which is recognized internationally as a source of information related to calf management.
Alison L. Van Eenennaam is a cooperative extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis, and runs the Animal Genomics and Biotechnology Laboratory. She has served on national committees such as the USDA National Advisory Committee on Biotechnology in the 21st Century (AC21) and was awarded the 2014 Borlaug CAST Communication Award. Van Eenennaam writes the Biobeef blog. She began her work in animal science as an intern at the Genetic Resources Inc. Bovine Reproduction Facility in San Marcos, Texas, in 1984. From 1991 to 1993, she worked as a livestock and dairy farm advisor for the UC Cooperative Extension in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Counties of California. From 1998 to 2002, following the completion of her PhD degree, Van Eenennaam worked for Calgene (purchased by Monsanto Corporation in 1997) in Davis, California, first as a research scientist, and then as a project leader. She was recently selected to be on the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources Vision 2030, to help remake our approach to feeding the United States and the planet.
Webinar on the Impact of Public–Private Investment in Agricultural Research
The FASS Science Policy Committee and many other agricultural research and industry organizations provide many different forms of educational materials aimed at policy makers in state and federal government positions. These are clearly valuable but we have not focused as much on giving our end clientele—the American citizen and especially those students interested in agriculture, teachers, fellow faculty members, producers, and support people—the information they need to understand the major importance of public funding for agricultural research and the impact of public–private partnerships. It is not just the funding of scientists and student training in agriculture, but the longstanding deep positive effect on the US and world economy, and on the food security and health of the nation and world.
We are preparing a webinar on this topic that we hope to release in February and we are asking all of you to contact us to let us know what you would like to learn. One group we especially would like to hear from are students and student groups in animal sciences and related departments who hope to work in agriculture or to support agricultural endeavors. Please contact the chair directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with issues, information, or concerns you would like addressed. If you are in an academic department, please let your students know that this will be coming up and have them write directly on any issue they would like to learn more about.
One major need that comes up in every meeting and workshop in agriculture is ensuring the “personal capital” and human resources as well as modern infrastructure needed to support agricultural research, teaching, extension, and application.
Ken Olson has detailed recent activity by the USDA on these topics, and it is heartening that Secretary Perdue is very supportive. In the first report on improving rural America, we identified over 100 actions the federal government should consider undertaking to ensure growth in America’s heartland. These solutions are organized around five key indicators: connectivity, quality of life, rural workforce, technological innovation, and economic development. Taken together, these proposals create a road map to reinvigorate rural America’s economy and its most precious resource — its people. Each recommendation intersects with and complements the others, but the task force found one overarching need: improved high-speed internet access. To increase access to broadband in rural areas, we must incentivize private capital investment, including the use of public–private partnerships. We must also invest in making high-speed internet infrastructure more attractive by streamlining arduous review, approval, and permitting processes.