May, 2018

    June 6, 2018


    FASS Provides Input on the Farm Bill
    The FASS Science Policy Committee (SPC) continues to work in support of animal agriculture interests in the Farm Bill. This includes individual and coalition letters to congressional leaders. The following are recent actions in this area:

    • FASS joined 115 other organizations from the food, agriculture, scientific, academic, and veterinary communities in an Animal Ag Coalition letter, to the staffs of all 100 senators as they continue work on the Senate Farm Bill, outlining recommendations for the bill. It called on Congress to establish and fully fund a permanent three-pronged program to deliver the sufficient development and timely deployment of all measures necessary to prevent, identify, and rapidly respond to the potential catastrophic impacts that an animal disease outbreak would have on our country’s food security, export markets, and overall economic stability.
    • The FASS SPC wrote to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Ag Committee, encouraging the committee to include reauthorization of the important work being done through the Agricultural Genome Initiative in the Research Title of the 2018 Farm Bill and that both animals and plants be included in the initiative. The House version that was defeated included a genome initiative but it was limited to work on crops.

    Copies of both letters, as well as past ones, are available under the ”Coalition Letters” tab in the “Science Policy” section of the FASS website. Click here to find them.

    Farm Bill Update
    The 2018 Farm Bill proposal from the House Ag Committee was defeated in the full House on Friday, May 18, with a final tally of 198 yeas and 213 nays. In the end, all Democrats and a mix of moderate and conservative Republicans voted against the bill. The two major issues appeared to be changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and immigration issues. The path forward in the House remains uncertain. So far, no changes to the bill have been proposed, meaning it will likely rely entirely on GOP votes to pass, something that has not been done before. The House has until June 22 to reconsider the bill in its present form. Meanwhile, in the Senate, work continues behind the scenes. Reports are that the Ag Committee proposal may be out by the first week in June, but that remains uncertain. Their bill is certain to look much different that the House bill. The committee is crafting a bipartisan bill as this will be needed to obtain the 60 votes required for passage in the Senate.

    USDA-ERS Report on Agricultural Research Investment
    USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) recently released a research report titled “Agricultural Research Investment and Policy Reform in High-Income Countries.” They found that investment in research is a primary driver of productivity growth in agriculture. However, in high-income countries, as agriculture’s contribution to national economies declines, many public agricultural research systems face stagnant or falling financial support while research costs continue to rise. Public spending on agricultural research and development in high-income member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as a whole has fallen in real (inflation-adjusted) terms since at least 2009. At the same time, research costs have risen faster than general inflation, and accounting for rising research costs suggests that there has been no real growth in public agricultural R&D spending by high-income countries since at least 1992. At the same time, research by the private sector has assumed a larger role in food and agriculture innovation and, worldwide, the dominant share of public agricultural research has shifted from high-income to developing countries. Concurrent with this, society’s expectations of food and agricultural systems have evolved to include a broader set of issues. These forces have induced pressure to reform agricultural research policies. Lessons from research policy reforms include accommodating a larger role for private firms in conducting agricultural research, diversifying funding sources to broaden the public research agenda, and providing stronger incentives for producer-levy funding of research.
    The full report is available at

    USDA Positions Filled
    We are well into the second year of this administration but many agency positions remain to be filled. A few spots at the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC, were filled on Wednesday, May 23. The secretary will swear in Richard Fordyce as Farm Service Agency (FSA) administrator, Carmen Rottenberg as Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) administrator, and Bruce Summers as Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administrator. There is still no word on who may be nominated to serve as chief scientist. Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS administrator, is currently serving as the acting chief scientist in addition to her other roles.

    FASS Inc. Science Policy Coordination Activities – May

    The FASS Science Policy Coordinator is a member of the stakeholder advisory committee for the US Dairy Forage Research Center (a USDA ARS facility) and participated in a webinar meeting of the group. The center has a small staff, but it has been impacted by the ARS hiring freeze. The partial lifting of the freeze will allow the center to fill six currently vacant spots, but five others remain open. Budget issues are a concern; $2 million is currently needed for repairs and upgrades. The center is a leader in the USDA-ARS Dairy Grand Challenge Project. Global objectives of the project include the following:

    1. Develop sustainable dairy food production systems that improve human health and well-being.
    2. Understand the GEM(S) iterative relationships among soils, forages, cows, and dairy products.
    3. Improve the productivity, efficiency, and sustainability of dairy systems on a landscape scale.
    4. Identify system inefficiencies (leaks) and develop multi-disciplinary research based strategies to address them.
    5. Determine how public health related to dairy is influenced by integrated dairy production systems.

    The project is in its initial stages.

    Final plans are underway for the ADSA Annual Meeting. Stop by to see us and visit about policy and policy issues at the FASS booth in the exhibit hall.

    For additional details, contact
    Ken Olson, PhD, PAS, FASS Science Policy Coordinator

    John P. McNamara, PhD, Chair FASS SPC