June, 2020

    July 20, 2020


    Meet the FASS Science Policy Committee
    The FASS Science Policy Committee (SPC) recently added three new members, who bring a wealth of experience to the committee:

    • Alberto Torres: Dr. Torres is veterinarian international export manager for Cobb-Vantress Inc. He is a veterinarian with a PhD in poultry health from the University of Arkansas. He has experience working with regulatory and policymaking groups at the federal and state levels.
    • David Casper: Dr. Casper is a dairy nutritionist with a PhD in dairy cattle nutrition from South Dakota State University. He has worked in industry and academia and with the United States Department of Agriculture.
    • Joseph McFadden: Dr. McFadden is an associate professor of dairy cattle biology in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University. He has a PhD in dairy science from Virginia Tech and did a post doc in the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

    We look forward to their input on the committee. Continuing members of the committee are chair Jim Quigley (2020; first 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); and H. Russell Cross (2021; second three-year term).

    The SPC was part of the FASS booth at the recent ADSA Virtual Annual Meeting, providing information for attendees about the SPC and our activities. In other activities, we are preparing responses to the USDA’s request for input on the Ag Innovation agenda and the Food and Drug Administration’s "Food Standards; General Principles and Food Standards Modernization." FASS recently joined other members of the Animal Agriculture Coalition in a letter to congressional leaders urging Congress to provide $300 million for the 2018 Farm Bill Animal Disease Prevention and Management fund. We continue to work through coalitions to support agricultural research.

    FY2021 Ag Budget
    The House Appropriations committee recently passed its FY21 Agriculture Appropriations report, with strong bipartisan support. This moves it forward for action by the full House. After action there, it must be conferenced with the Senate and finally signed by President Trump. It is uncertain when that may happen but it provides a strong starting point for moving forward. The report funds the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) at $435 million, a $10 million increase over FY20. Although the AFRI coalition’s request was $480 million, this is a significant increase. The report includes language in support of the Agriculture Advance Research Development Authority (AGARDA) that was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. Several items of special interest in the subcommittee report in explanation of the accompanying bill include the following:

    AFRI report language
    "The Committee strongly supports the AFRI program. The Committee notes that projects that characterize protein functionality from crops to assess their sustainability for use as alternatives to conventional animal products are eligible for competitive awards in the AFRI program. In addition, the Committee supports the sustainable agricultural systems and foundational and applied science programs in AFRI and notes that projects that focus on research in food science and technology in pursuit of food innovation are also eligible for competitive awards. The Committee supports the continued research goals of the AFRI program."

    AGARDA report language
    "The Committee notes that Section 7132 of the 2018 Farm Bill directed the Office of the Chief Scientist to complete a strategic plan for AGARDA that demonstrates USDA’s vision for AGARDA. The Committee directs USDA to complete this strategic plan not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act. The plan should include a discussion of how AGARDA can work in collaboration with ongoing research programs operating in ARS and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)."

    Economic Research Service/National Institute for Food and Agriculture Move report language
    "It has been almost exactly two years since the Secretary announced the decision to relocate ERS and NIFA outside of the greater Washington, D.C. area. Despite objections from the Committee, members of the House and Senate, numerous current and former staff of both agencies, and stakeholders who depend on the information and support provided by each agency, the Department relocated both agencies, starting in the summer of 2019. The Committee reiterates its frustration at the repeated difficulties it experiences in getting basic information about the move from the Department. One of the stated reasons for the move was to improve the Department’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff. At the time of the relocation announcement, both ERS and NIFA each had close to 300 employees. Today, the total number of employees for each agency is below 150. ERS and NIFA are shells of their former selves and the loss of institutional knowledge each agency has suffered will take years to overcome. The Committee requests the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct symposia to elucidate the effects of the relocation of each agency. The symposium on ERS shall include an examination of the policy-oriented work conducted by ERS both before and after the relocation and identify any gaps in output that might adversely affect the quality and quantity of data and analysis available to the agency’s stakeholders. The symposium on NIFA shall include a discussion of the grants management, time to completion of grants processing and issuance of letters of funding, and panel review processes and associated costs of the agency both before and after the relocation and documentation of delays that have occurred post-relocation. The Committee expects the symposia to clarify the consequences of relocation on the capacity of the agencies to deliver their programs and to explore remedial actions that could be taken to address any deficiencies that arise from the relocation and from attendant disruptions to agency functions and personnel."

    Genome to Phenome report language
    "The Committee recognizes the value of leading public and land-grant universities with unique high throughput phenotyping and greenhouse facilities and expertise for plant science innovation, root and rhizome innovation, and food for health. The Committee directs NIFA to use a competitive process to issue awards in the Genome to Phenome program and urges additional focus on rootstocks that increase carbon capture and can support grain crop covers."

    Implementation of 2018 Farm Bill Program
    FASS and other coalition partners supported inclusion of a three-part program in the 2018 Farm Bill to comprehensively support animal disease prevention and management.

    The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is announcing the initial purchase of vaccine for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank (NAVVCB). APHIS will invest $27.1 million in foot-and-mouth disease vaccine, which the agency would use in the event of an outbreak to protect animals and help stop the spread of disease.

    The NAVVCB is one component of a three-part program established by the 2018 Farm Bill to comprehensively support animal disease prevention and management. The new US-only vaccine bank—a concept APHIS officials have long discussed with stakeholders and industry—makes a much larger number of vaccine doses available than we currently have through the North American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank. APHIS will continue to participate in the North American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank, and this new program adds to the nation’s level of protection against this devastating disease. In the event of an outbreak, animal health officials would decide when, where, and how to use the available vaccine, based on the circumstances of the outbreak. More information about these programs is available at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/farmbill.

    Economic Impacts of COVID-19
    On June 29, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) hosted a webinar titled "Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Food and Agricultural Markets" that featured task force authors Jayson Lusk, John Anderson, Alison Davis, and Timothy Richards. The CAST paper on the topic was created in partnership with the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) and hosted by the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research (NCFAR).

    If you were not able to participate at the time or want to revisit the presentation, CAST is providing a link to the video, the commentary, Ag quickCAST (one page summary), and student study guide (a tool for online learning). In addition, they are posting responses to questions that were not answered on the webinar on their website.

    Moving Forward
    The FASS SPC meets regularly via conference call. Please contact me if you have questions, ideas, or suggestions on any of these issues for the SPC. 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