April 3, 2017
On March 27, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released a new report that measured the effectiveness of NIFA’s investments in capacity programs. The report entitled, “National Evaluation of Capacity Programs,” was prepared by TEConomy Partners. The report found that capacity funding remains a relevant program that offers multiple benefits. Investments respond to the specific needs of local, regional, and state agricultural producers. Capacity funds offer an essential funding stream for research and extension programs of relevance to producers that are unlikely to receive national-scale attention. Each dollar of capacity funding leverages $1.85 in additional investments from state, local, and private sector sources.
NIFA commissioned the study to determine whether funding based on 100-year-old legislation is still a suitable model to support 21st century university needs. The results of the study will be helpful in defending the federal investment in capacity programs such as Hatch and Smith Lever as budget constraints lead to discussions about potential cuts to the USDA budget.
On March 21, the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture held a public hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: Livestock Producer Perspectives.” The subcommittee heard testimony from four witnesses representing the beef, turkey, sheep, and pork industries.
- Mr. Craig Uden, President, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Johnson Lake, NE
- Mr. Carl Wittenburg, Chairman, National Turkey Federation, Alexandria, MN
- Mr. Bob Buchholz, Region V Executive Board Representative, American Sheep Industry Association, Eldorado, TX
- Mr. David Herring, Vice President, National Pork Producers Council, Newton Grove, NC
Each of the witnesses mentioned the importance of agricultural research to their industry. Below are selected quotes from their respective testimonies:
Mr. Uden stated support for increased funding for research on production practices, genetics, animal diseases, economics, nutrition, food safety, and environmental impacts. He went on to say that the research components of USDA and our land-grant universities continue to provide critical knowledge to our industry, allowing us to be the most efficient and effective producers possible.
Mr. Wittenburg’s testimony included a request for mandatory funding to support a four-part package of programs to target animal disease prevention and mitigation. The package includes mandatory funding for a new Animal Pest and Disease Disaster Prevention Program, a vaccine bank, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), and research under NIFA.
Mr. Buchholz addressed the importance of minor use drug research and the Agricultural Research Service’s U.S. Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) and Animal Disease Research Unit (ADRU). He also stated support for the creation and maintenance of an FMD vaccine bank and continued research.
Mr. Herring expressed NPPC’s support for expanding federal funding for research, education and extension programs by improving the quantity and quality of USDA research through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Basic, competitive agricultural research allows America’s farmers to remain globally competitive in the face of a growing world population, improves public health and strengthens national security. NPPC supports increasing the funding for agricultural research to ensure that the U.S. livestock industry maintains its competitiveness in the global marketplace.
The importance placed on agricultural research by the four witnesses is a key step in building the foundation for increased support for research in the next Farm Bill. More information on the hearing can be found here.
On March 16, President Trump released his budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018. The blueprint provides proposed funding levels across the government, but in most cases does not get into many programmatic details. The Department of Defense would receive an increase of $54 billion, while most other departments would face significant cuts.
Under the blueprint, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be cut by 21% from the current FY 2017 Continuing Resolution level. The blueprint does not provide many details on how these cuts would impact agricultural research. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive $350 million under the blueprint, which represents the same level received in FY 2016 and the current FY 2017 Continuing Resolution. However, this is $25 million less than the House and Senate Appropriations Committee versions of the FY 2017 agriculture appropriations bill. Funding levels for capacity programs such as Hatch and Smith Lever are not mentioned.
The blueprint states that in-house research funding within the Agricultural Research Service would be focused on the highest priority agriculture and food issues such as increasing farming productivity, sustaining natural resources, including those within rural communities, and addressing food safety and nutrition priorities. Without providing specifics, it appears that the Economic Research Service and the National Agricultural Statistics Service would be cut significantly, although the Census of Agriculture would be supported.
It is important to note that this is one of the first steps in the development of the FY 2018 budget. Major cuts like those proposed in the Budget Blueprint would have to be approved by Congress through the annual appropriations process. A copy of the Budget Blueprint can be found here.
On March 16, the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research held a public hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: Agricultural Research.” The subcommittee heard testimony from three witnesses:
Dr. Jay Akridge – Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN; on behalf of APLU Link to Testimony
Mr. Richard Wilkins – Chairman, American Soybean Association, Greenwood, DE; on behalf of NCFAR Link to Testimony
Dr. James Carrington – President, Danforth Center, St. Louis, MO; on behalf of the Danforth Center Link to Testimony
Each of the witnesses talked about the importance of research to the future success of agriculture and the farm economy. Dr. Akridge, testifying on behalf of the land grant universities, spoke about the need to support competitive and capacity programs, as well as infrastructure. Mr. Wilkins, representing the National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research (of which FASS is a member), gave the perspective of stakeholders who use and benefit from agriculture research to support their businesses. Dr. Carrington focused his testimony on the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), its operations, and the need for increased support.
This was the first research-focused hearing conducted in preparation for the next Farm Bill. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are expected to hold numerous additional hearings as they work to develop the next Farm Bill.
The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) has recently announced the initiation of Science Breakthroughs 2030, a new study to develop a 10-year plan for food and agriculture research. The goal of the project is to involve the scientific community in describing scientific opportunities with high potential to create breakthroughs for the food and agricultural enterprise. Input will be sought through a call for white papers, participation in community science meetings, and via online discussions of key questions.
NAS recently completed the process for seeking nominations for individuals to serve on a senior-level executive committee that will oversee the study. Nominees (who can be from any field of science or engineering) should be known as big thinkers with the ability to envision the kind of breakthroughs made possible by interdisciplinary collaboration. The executive committee will organize efforts to receive input from scientists, particularly those not previously engaged in food and agricultural issues, and ultimately articulate strategic research directions that are both grounded by an understanding of food and agricultural challenges and elevated by the breakthrough potential of insights and tools from converging fields of science.
To learn more about the study, click here.
To our members and friends, hello! Thank you for allowing me to be the new chair of the FASS Science Policy Committee (SPC) and please join me in thanking outgoing chair Brandon Nelson, who served excellently as FASS underwent major changes in management and focus.
Now, the FASS SPC is back up and running and we hope to provide you with regular reports through our monthly updates and website. Please be sure to check out the FASS SPC website. If there is anything you think we should cover or address related to food animal agricultural science, please let me know. Thanks for supporting animal agriculture production of high quality food!
The FASS SPC thanks you for your support of science in agricultural animal production. As the FASS SPC is charged with providing evidence based policy statements, we direct your attention to our Science Policy website. The SPC has already researched and provided information on a number of science areas: Free and Open Communication, Climate Change and Co-Promotion of Environmental Stewardship and Production Efficiency. A very brief summary is provided here and the full texts can be found at https://www.fass.org/Science-Policy.
We have added the following statement to our website:
The Science Policy Committee of FASS provides science-based information to public policy makers and regulators on issues pertaining to humane, sustainable, safe, and bountiful food animal production. To ensure that sound, peer-reviewed science is available when setting governmental policy and making regulations, it is imperative that the voice of science, be it verbal or written, is not restricted in any way.
As a background, the committee provides this information: The Science Policy Committee of the Food Animal Science Societies represents animal agricultural researchers and educators in many capacities. We provide science-based information on animal agricultural production and supply of high quality food to anyone. As such we work with colleagues in the USDA, NIFA (National Institute of Food and Agriculture); the ARS (Agricultural Research Service); the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, other federal and state government departments, and many private companies and organizations on a routine basis to obtain and disseminate research published by scientists at the USDA scientists; ARS and all government agencies. We also work with Universities and private research companies and organizations all over the United States, as well as with colleagues all over the world.
It is thus imperative that we have access to free and open communication on all aspects of agricultural research, teaching and application. We want to let all our membership and the public know that we support free and open communication of all science discussions and decisions; research, procedures and results from research conducted with taxpayer dollars at our public research departments and universities.
We hope that all professionals involved in agricultural science in private and public entities share our view that with excellent research and education we can continue to best feed our people in the most science based, effective and efficient ways possible, using resources wisely and sustaining our planet for future generations. We support and encourage everyone to continue free and open communication in all scientific endeavors in animal agriculture.
Rationale: Scientific evidence strongly suggests that climate change is occurring and has the potential to affect global food security. Animal agriculture can contribute to climate change through emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, and animal production is in turn impacted by climate change and variability. Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved through various techniques including dietary manipulation, improved productivity, and manure management.
Policy Statement: FASS supports use of technology to maximize feed efficiency as well as increased public funding for research, extension, and education related to quantification and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, and adapting animal production to a changing climate to ensure a safe and abundant food supply.
- FASS supports a multi-faceted approach to climate change solutions compatible with other environmental, societal, and economic concerns relating to food systems.
- FASS supports opportunities for the animal production industry to adopt production systems and technologies that reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions by improving the efficiency of feed utilization.
- FASS supports increased public funding
- for research to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture to allow improved accuracy of greenhouse gas emission inventories;
- for research to discover greenhouse gas mitigation strategies for animal agriculture;
- for research to find effective solutions to adapt animal production systems to a changing and variable climate; and
- for extension programs to support implementation of these strategies and solutions.
Rationale: Preservation of the ability of future generations to meet their needs while adequately serving the present population (sustainability) requires control of greenhouse gas (GHG) production and avoiding damage to air, water and soil. Simultaneously, growing populations and rising purchasing power in developing countries will strain the earth’s finite capacity to produce enough high-quality protein and nutritionally rich foods, demanding efficient production of food. Fortunately, a growing body of evidence related to production of foods of animal origin suggests that production efficiency leads to environmental stewardship.
Policy Statement: FASS supports minimization of greenhouse gas production and proper management of manure nutrients to avoid environmental damage from the necessary production of food of animal origin.
- FASS opposes restriction on animal production technology when these restrictions may reduce efficiency and therefore increase environmental degradation.
- FASS supports increased funding for research, extension and education directed to improving environmental quality by increasing the efficiency of feed use by animals.
We hope that this information is useful to you; if you need any help or support in discussing these topics with interested audiences, please let us know!