Perdue Announces Top Sites for ERS and NIFA Relocations
On May 3, US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced USDA’s choices as the finalists from the 136 Expressions of Interest received from parties in 35 states vying to become the new homes of the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The top three are as follows:
Purdue University, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, State of Indiana
KS and MO
Greater Kansas City Region
The Kansas City Area Development Council, The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor
Research Triangle Region
NC Research Triangle, Wake County, Durham County, and Research Triangle Park
The full USDA releases may be found here.
While the administration continues to move forward with their plan, significant concerns about the plan exist among the scientific community and in Congress. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) identified some of the concerns in a release on May 3. Through coalition letters and testimony, FASS has continued to raise concerns over the impact of the planned move on the current and future research of the agencies. It should be noted that no money has yet been allocated for the move and USDA has not provided Congress with the requested economic and financial information to justify the proposed move.
USDA Releases Report on Broadband and Precision Agriculture
USDA recently released a new report, A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies. The report finds that deployment of both broadband e-connectivity and next-generation precision agriculture technology on farms and ranches throughout the United States could result in at least $47 billion in national economic benefits every year. “Broadband and next generation precision agriculture are critical components for creating vital access to world-class resources, tools and opportunity for America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters and producers,” Secretary Perdue said. While the report shows potentially significant benefits, “USDA recommends that producers perform their own cost-benefit analysis on whether these emerging technologies would benefit their operations.” They note that “Cost estimates are excluded because of the lack of clear, accurate, and publicly available data sources on where broadband infrastructure currently exists, and which connected equipment and other devices are presently in use at which farms and ranches. Also, peer-reviewed research on the required connection speeds is not yet available to indicate the costs to build out such supporting infrastructure and the monthly Internet service costs that would be affiliated for such precision agriculture technologies.”
FDA Ramps Up GE Animal Oversight
The FDA has hired more employees to oversee scientific reviews of biotech animals, suggesting it has no plans to cede regulatory ground to USDA. Last week, acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless also said the agency is working on additional guidance that may be released later this year. Sharpless, who took the helm last month, said the concept—which includes traditional genetic engineering as well as gene-editing methods—has "great potential" to address animal health issues and other health needs. The comments come as livestock groups led by the National Pork Producers Council have grown exasperated by the regulatory setup. The industry argues that FDA is too slow in its review of animals created via biotechnology, and that USDA is better positioned to take on the issue because of its experience regulating genetically engineered plants. The “Genetic Literacy Project” recently republished an article, “Viewpoint: 300 scientists say FDA’s plan to regulate CRISPR-edited animals as drugs will effectively shut down innovation” by Alison Van Eenennaam, a UC-Davis faculty member and a member of the FASS SPC, that identifies some of the concerns. On May 20, Van Eenennaam will be presenting a “Lunch and Learn” seminar in Washington, DC, on the “Status of Genome Editing in Food Animals” that is targeted to congressional staff.
FASS SPC Committee Meets
The FASS Science Policy Committee met via conference call on April 25. Jim Quigley serves as chair of the committee. The following individuals are members of the committee:
- Shawn Archibeque (2019) (second three-year term)
- Anne Ballou (2019) (first three-year term)
- Mike Brouk (2019) (second three-year term)
- Alison L. Van Eenennaam (2021) (first three-year term)
- Dave McCoy (2021) (first three-year term)
- Raj Murugesan (2021) (first three-year term)
- H. Russell Cross (2021) (second three-year term)
Plans were made to review and update the current FASS SPC Policy Statements and consider additional ones that may be needed. The committee was briefed on Van Eenennaam's upcoming “Lunch and Learn” seminar and the Science Policy Coordinator’s DC meeting schedule. Future outreach efforts were discussed in addition to the ADSA Annual Meeting, where we will have scheduled times at the FASS Booth and promotion in the daily newsletters. The committee will meet again in the coming weeks to do additional planning.
FASS Inc. Science Policy Coordination Activities – April 2019
In addition to the actions noted above, we participated in calls and other communication relative to budget needs, concerns over the administration budget proposal, and potential actions relative to USDA’s reorganization plans. The Science Policy Coordinator will be in Washington in early May. Visits have been scheduled with staff members of the House and Senate Ag committees as well as the House Ag Appropriations and Oversight committee and the House Ag Research Caucus to discuss Ag research issues, the Ag budget, and USDA reorganization. He will also meet with members of the Foundation for Agricultural Research and other coalition partners. Additional coalition letters on the budget and USDA reorganization are expected.
Please contact me if you have questions, ideas, or suggestions on any of these issues. We will provide additional information as it becomes available. We need to work together to maintain a strong and effective national research effort.
If you are interested in communicating occasionally with members of Congress on issues related to animal agriculture, we are looking for FASS science policy advocates. Please contact me for details.
Ken Olson, PhD, PAS
FASS Science Policy Coordinator