August 8, 2018
The Farm Bill – Where Are We?
The Farm Bill is still moving forward, but there is still much to do. Here is a quick look at where we stand:
House: Members of the House have left town for their August recess, but before leaving they did approve going to conference and named 47 members to serve on the Conference Committee:
General Conferees – Agriculture Committee
- Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX)
- Glenn Thompson (R-PA)
- Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
- Frank Lucas (R-OK)
- Mike Rogers (R-AL)
- Austin Scott (R-GA)
- Rick Crawford (R-AR)
- Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
- Rodney Davis (R-IL)
- Ted Yoho (R-FL)
- David Rouzer (R-NC)
- Roger Marshall (R-KS)
- Jodey Arrington (R-TX)
- Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN)
- David Scott (D-GA)
- Jim Costa (D-CA)
- Tim Walz (D-MN)
- Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
- Jim McGovern (D-MA)
- Filemon Vela (D-TX)
- Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM)
- Ann Kuster (D-NH)
- Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ)
House Education and the Workforce Committee
- Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
- Rick Allen (R-GA)
- Alma Adams (D-NC)
House Energy and Commerce Committee
- John Shimkus (R-IL)
- Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
- Paul Tonko (D-NY)
House Financial Services Committee
- Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
- Sean Duffy (R-WI)
- Maxine Waters (D-CA)
House Foreign Affairs Committee
- Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)
- Steve Chabot (R-OH)
- Eliot Engel (D-NY)
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
- Mark Walker (R-NC)
- James Comer (R-KY)
- Stacey Plaskett (D-VI)
House Natural Resources Committee
- Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT)
- Bruce Westerman (R-AR)
- Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee
- Ralph Abraham (R-LA)
- Neal Dunn (R-FL)
- Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
- Jeff Denham (R-CA)
- Bob Gibbs (R-OH)
- Cheri Bustos (D-IL)
Many members will be holding town halls and participating in other events during their break. These events provide an opportunity to speak personally to your member of Congress about the Farm Bill, the importance of research and research funding, as well as other issues you care about. Even if your member of Congress is not on the Conference Committee, they will debate and vote on the Farm Bill, so it is useful to talk with them.
Senate: Unlike the House, the Senate will be in session for much of August. Late on July 31, they took action to move to conference the Farm Bill via a voice vote. Next up for them will be the announcement of Senate conferees who will join the 47 House members already named to the committee. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said that nine lawmakers will serve on the panel, broken down into five Republicans and four Democrats. They should be named shortly. Reconciling competing approaches to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) promises to be the toughest task facing conference negotiators. Differences between the bills on conservation programs and subsidies will also need to be worked out. Looking at the research title, it is largely reauthorization of current programs in both bills. Two places where the Senate version differs from the House are as follows:
- It authorizes the Genome to Phenome Initiative and includes both animal and plants. The House Bill was limited to plants.
- It reauthorizes the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which the House version did not and it
- provides $200 million in mandatory funds until expended, for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research;
- requires additional stakeholder notice;
- requires a strategic plan to be submitted to Congress
The Chairs and Ranking Members of both the House and Senate committees have met to lay the groundwork for the Conference Committee. They have expressed optimism that they will have a bill ready for action prior to the expiration of the current law on September 30.
Nominees for USDA Leadership Positions
On July 31, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved two nominees, James Hubbard for USDA undersecretary for natural resources, and Dan Berkovitz to join the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Both nominees cleared by unanimous voice vote. Many positions remain unfilled.
Earlier this month, the Administration nominated Dr. Scott Hutchins as chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education and economics (REE) at the US Department of Agriculture. Hutchins currently works in industry at Corteva Agriscience as the global leader of integrated field sciences, the agriculture division of DowDuPont that was created after the corporation merged. Dr. Hutchins also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska. He is an entomologist and received his doctorate from Iowa State University. He served as past president of the Entomological Society of America.
USDA undersecretary for REE requires Senate confirmation. A date has not yet been announced for the Hutchins’ hearing. His bio is available at https://entomology.unl.edu/faculty/hutchins.
Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030
A new report from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
The United States has been the world’s leading agricultural producer for many years. Today, the US food and agriculture system faces formidable challenges and will be tested as world food production must double to meet the needs of a global population expected to reach 8.6 billion by 2030. In addition, natural systems in many regions are stressed by water scarcity, increased weather variability, floods, and droughts.
This report concludes that stresses on the U.S. food and agricultural enterprise will not be resolved if business as usual prevails. Innovation is needed to make the U.S. food and agricultural system more efficient, resilient, and sustainable. Using input from the broad scientific community, the report identifies five scientific breakthrough areas that could have the greatest positive impact on food and agriculture:
- Transdisciplinary Research and Systems Approach
- Sensing Technologies
- Data Science and Agri-Food Informatics
- Genomics and Precision Breeding
The report also recommends investing in physical and cyber infrastructures, engaging non-agricultural professionals, and recruiting talented individuals into food and agriculture research.
(More information and a link to the report are available here.)
FASS Inc. Science Policy Coordination Activities – July
Beyond monitoring the Farm Bill and other events in Washington, DC, we have participated in a webinar to introduce the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report “Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030”; participated, via conference call, in a meeting of the Animal Ag Coalition to discuss next steps on the Farm Bill; and participated in a Congressional Town Hall to advocate for the Farm Bill. The NAS report is highlighted above; it will be valuable in advocating for research priorities and funding in the coming weeks and months. In the AAC meeting, members shared perspectives on where things stand on the bill and planned next steps. The AAC has advocated strongly for animal health programs to minimize the risk of foreign animal diseases to the domestic population. It is addressed in both versions of the bill, so it is expected to make the final bill. There are differences in funding for the program between the bills that will need to be worked out. Plans were made to continue to push this in meetings with representatives and events where they are present. Relative to the Town Hall, I live in a suburban district but had the opportunity to lift up the importance of the Farm Bill to my member of Congress and my neighbors.
One of the things we sought to do at the ADSA Annual Meeting was to begin to develop a list of members with an interest in advocating for science policy in the future. If you are interested in being a FASS Science Policy Advocate, please e-mail the following information to Ken Olson at email@example.com:
We need to speak—and speak with one voice
Dear science colleagues in all endeavors:
I have had the opportunity over the last several months to participate in a number of agricultural, science, and communication events in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. Some events have been a function of the FASS SPC and some have been from my involvement with ADSA, ASAS, and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). All of these conferences and workshops related directly to support for scientific endeavors, including agricultural science and teaching, communicating scientific issues, especially complex ones like global warming, and GMOs; and science teacher training, including agricultural/career and technical education (CTE) sciences. I have also had the opportunity to participate in a number of related events, including listening to the Senate hearing for the nomination of Sonny Perdue to Secretary of Agriculture, and webinars on the above topics. The FASS Science Policy Committee gave a webinar on the effect of agricultural funding on the overall economy.
The list includes, in chronological order, the Senate nomination hearing for the Secretary of Agriculture; ADSA and ASAS annual meetings in 2017; meetings of the National Animal Nutrition Program, with the charge of helping support the NRC Nutrient Requirements book and support data access and sharing in animal nutrition; the Big Data Beef Cattle Genomics workshop; a visit with the leadership of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA); the Science of Science Communication Colloquium from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM); several webinars on the Ag Data Library; and on the Science Breakthrough 2030 program from NASEM and National Coalition of Food and Agricultural Research (NCFAR) and others; our webinar on agriculture research funding impact; the NSTA “Summit on Crafting a Strategic Vision for an Advanced Future”; NSTA Annual Meetings in Atlanta; the ADSA and ASAS annual meetings in 2018; the National Congress on Science Education; and last, a planning meeting for the NSTA Annual Teacher Conferences in 2019. In addition I had the honor of being the guest editor of the 100th anniversary papers in the December 2017 issue of the Journal of Dairy Science, with contributions by 83 leading dairy scientists, summarizing a century (plus) of scientific progress in publicly funded research and teaching that has led to sustainability and profitability of many agricultural endeavors.
In all of these meetings and events, concerns were voiced repeatedly and in many ways—concerns with how the present administration is attacking scientific endeavors on almost all fronts; how scientific progress leading to protection of our environment is being attacked and dismantled in specific agencies such as the Department of Energy and the Environment Protection Agency; the attack on public education by the Secretary of Education, repudiating the positive 150-year history of public education and research for the common good; the original nonsensical agriculture budget sent out by the president; the extremely damaging tariffs, especially on our positive balance of trade in agriculture; and the overall disregard for and outright attacks on science, scientific facts, and application.
Certainly, there have been positive stories along the way: Congress has rejected the budget proposals on education and agriculture from the Trump Administration; and constant pressure in the voting booth, public dialogue, and courts is restricting much of the administration’s attack on scientific progress. In addition, the Secretary of Agriculture is very supportive of increased activity in research, especially in rural data infrastructure and, to a certain extent, in data sciences research and support.
But we must not be satisfied that some budgets have increased, that the worst damage has not (yet) come to pass, or that the courts and legislatures have, for the most part, rejected attempts to destroy a century of progress. In addition, we must now, more than ever, “all hang together.” In our little world, that means we must communicate with our elected representatives, with our appropriate cabinet departments, and through all of our scientific, business, and support societies with one voice: “More support for agricultural, science-based research, teaching, training, and application on all fronts.” We cannot accept complacency when the country is counting on us for more and better ways to grow food and eat in a healthy and secure fashion. We must put aside our minor differences and work together through all of our societies to make the legislative and administrative bodies understand that funding and supporting science-based agricultural research, teaching, and application brings strength, security, economic gain, employment, prosperity, and a future for the next generations.
Ken Olson has provided us with legislative contacts—please use them. You might not be able to use university resources to do this, but you have the right and responsibility as an informed citizen and member of the scientific and agricultural communities to solicit support from your legislators. Legislators want to hear positive, personal stories—as well as economic data—that resonate. For example, “we increased employment in our graduates by a strong CTE program”; “we placed 90% of our graduates in ag science/STEM/application careers”; “we kept small farmers in business by applying science-based agricultural knowledge”; “we expanded export markets by building personal relationships with customers in other countries”; “our farmers use [or need] the best technologies in plant and animal genetics, nutrition, management, and data access to stay in business.”
Each topic above has been the subject of large efforts, workshops, courses, webinars, summits, and conferences. But we must combine them into one clear consistent message: More support of all types for all agriculture, science-based research and training. I look forward to working with you all in the coming months to keep this message going.
If you have ideas or want to help, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact any of the other committee members to offer, or ask for, help.
FASS Science Policy Advocates
I am interested in contacting members of Congress via (choose one)
As a reminder, you can check out the FASS SPC Webinar “The Impact and Role of Public Funding in Agriculture and the US Economy” by going to https://www.fass.org/Science-Policy and scrolling to and clicking on “March–Webinar.” We encourage you to share the link with others who may have an interest in research.
For additional details, contact
Ken Olson, PhD, PAS; FASS Science Policy Coordinator
John P McNamara, PhD; Chair FASS SPC