April 12, 2018
The Impact and Role of Public Funding in Agriculture and the US Economy
The FASS Science Policy Committee webinar "The Impact and Role of Public Funding in Agriculture and the US Economy" was held on Wednesday, March 28. The webinar provided a broad overview of US agriculture, the status of research funding, its importance for the future, and the need to advocate for it now and in the future. A recording of the webinar is now posted on the FASS website at https://www.fass.org/Science-Policy, making it available to those who were unable to participate in the live broadcast or who want to see all or parts of it again. Please share the link with others who have an interest in science policy. If you have questions or are interested in advocating for science, please contact John McNamara, FASS SPC Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org , or Ken Olson, FASS Science Policy Coordinator, email@example.com
USDA and the Budget
The "Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018," that was signed into law last month, provided over $300 billion in additional funding over the next two years. This is divided between defense, which received the largest portion, and domestic discretionary funding, which includes agriculture. The additional funds facilitated passage of the omnibus budget bill, the "AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2018" that provides funding through September 30, 2018. The bill was relatively friendly for agriculture research. Funding for USDA agencies with a research mission was significantly higher than the administration proposal and actually higher than the FY17 levels in most cases, as shown in the following table:
FASS Joins Others in Support of Ag Research
The FY18 federal budget was passed but we were six months into the fiscal year by the time that it became law. As the FY18 budget was slowly moving through Congress, work has been underway on the FY19 budget. FASS recently joined other science-based organizations in several coalition letters to support funding for agricultural research priorities. They include support for Section 1433 Continuing Animal Health and Disease, Food Security, and Stewardship Research, Education and Extension Programs, providing $1.35 billion in discretionary funding for the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in FY19, along with rejection of the administration's proposed funding cuts that would result in the elimination of 20 ARS facilities across the country, and supporting increased funding for AFRI. Copies of all the letters, as well as previous letters, are available under the "Coalition Letters" tab in the "Science Policy" section of the FASS website. Click here to find them.
Farm Bill News
The current Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2018, meaning some type of action is needed soon, either a new bill or an extension of the current law. House and Senate committees have been working behind the scenes, but now appear to be at an impasse with no language ready for release from either house. Research is not an issue, but nutrition programs are a major area of difference. Right now, it is uncertain when action will be taken in either house. Immigration; NAFTA and other trade issues; SNAP and feeding programs, as well as ongoing concerns over the state of the farm economy are affecting Farm Bill discussions. The upcoming mid-term elections limit the time that Congress has to consider legislation and their willingness to take action on any controversial aspect of the bill.
FASS Inc. Science Policy Coordination Activities – February
The recent passage of the FY18 budget was positive for agricultural research but it is relatively short term as the fiscal year ends on September 30, 2018. This means it is important for FASS to be working with coalitions to push funding priorities for FY19 that include a strong commitment to research. The Farm Bill is currently at an impasse, but it requires regular monitoring as some type of action will be needed and could occur with relatively little notice. Intrigue over ongoing investigations and other major issues like trade and immigration continue to draw the attention of Congress and the public. The FASS Science Policy Coordinator continues to be in regular communication with other science and industry groups relative to progress on the Farm Bill and FY19 budget. Additional coalition letters will be forthcoming related to both issues. The recent FASS Science Policy Committee webinar was well received. We are working to increase awareness of the information it provided and encourage its use as a tool for telling the story of agriculture and advocating for research. We are also in communication with NCFAR on plans for their Annual Board Meeting and a Summit to Plan for Agriculture, Food, Health, and Natural Resource Research, Economics, Education, Extension, and Outreach. Its objective is to provide a vision for the next generation of research and education investments in agricultural and related fields. The exact date is still being determined.