October 13, 2020
DC Update – Budget and COVID-19
Although they might be called into special session, Congress is scheduled to be out from early October until mid-November. Legislative action has been largely stalled, although one recent congressional accomplishment was passage of a continuing resolution (CR), officially known as H.R. 8319, Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act of 2020. It provides funding for agencies through December 11. It passed both houses with strong bipartisan support and was signed by the president on October 1. The CR provides government agencies with funding at FY20 levels for the period covered. It includes funding for farm programs, disaster payments, and feeding programs. It is worth noting, given some news stories, that it also includes funding for the presidential transition, if that occurs. Further action will be required before December 11 - either passage of another CR or passage of the 12 budgets that are still pending - to avoid a shutdown. It is likely that final action will be delayed until after the first of the year when the new Congress will be in place.
Negotiations on another COVID relief package have also been stalled for months. On October 1, the House acted on a pared-down version of the bill they originally passed in May. This version has a cost of $2.2 trillion compared with the original that was over $3 trillion. The Senate is unlikely to consider the new version. As of this writing, it appears that negotiations between House leadership and the White House have also ended, but that always seems to be subject to change. FASS and ADSA have joined other science-based organizations in urging inclusion of university research in future COVID relief packages. The higher education community has requested $120 billion to cover reopening costs, address substantial losses and expenses of institutions, and provide support to students.
The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agriculture Quarantine Inspection (AQI) program, which works to prevent the entry of serious animal and plant diseases into our county, is funded by fees from international travel and cargo shipments. Because of reduced travel, it is now underfunded by $630 million. ADSA and FASS joined other animal agriculture groups in urging Congress to address this funding shortfall.
The announcement on October 1 that President Trump tested positive for COVID-19 adds more uncertainty to the political scene; however, it is certain that the election will go forward. As always, it is important to get to know the candidates seeking to represent us and to vote for those who will support and use the results of research in policy making. This is important in the upcoming and future elections.
One of the impacts of COVID-19 was a forced change in the format of the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research (NC-FAR) Lunch and Learn Hill Seminars. The seminars are an effective way to highlight, for members of Congress and their staff, the need for and value of agricultural research funding. After an initial pause, the seminars moved forward, with six being held as virtual events. The good news on the virtual seminars was that total attendance was up, with 1,700 people from around the country participating. The bad news was that for the first five seminars, the reach to our primary audience of congressional staff was quite limited. The sixth seminar, titled “Introducing the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF): Preparing and Protecting Animal Agriculture from Disease Outbreaks,” had good participation by both congressional staff and the public, so perhaps staff members are adjusting to this new way of receiving information. Four additional seminars had been approved, but because members of Congress are now away from the Capitol and focused on their campaigns, it was decided to hold them for future dates. The NC-FAR board of directors will meet on October 29 to look at future directions for NC-FAR, including the Hill Seminars.
FDA Schedules Public Meetings on Additional Traceability for Certain Foods
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced three virtual public meetings to discuss the proposed rule titled “Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods,” which was issued under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). These public meetings are intended to facilitate and support the public’s evaluation and commenting process on the proposed rule. FDA is proposing to establish additional traceability recordkeeping requirements for persons that manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods that FDA has designated for inclusion on the Food Traceability List that is part of the proposed rule. It would require these entities to establish and maintain records containing information on critical tracking events in the supply chain for these designated foods, such as growing, shipping, receiving, creating, and transforming the foods.
The proposed requirements are intended to help FDA rapidly and effectively identify recipients of foods to prevent or mitigate foodborne illness outbreaks and address credible threats of serious adverse health consequences or death resulting from foods being adulterated or misbranded.
Dates and times of virtual public meetings:
Registration is required to attend the virtual meetings. Space is limited so you are encouraged to register early and attend only one meeting. The public meetings will be held virtually on the following dates (all times eastern standard)
- November 6, 2020, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST
- November 18, 2020, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST
- December 2, 2020, from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST
To register for one of the meetings, click here.
For additional information, see the Federal Register Notice announcing the meetings.
Deputy Secretary Censky to Return to the American Soybean Association as CEO
In a somewhat unusual move, US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky will be departing November 8, 2020. He is returning to the American Soybean Association as CEO, a position in which he previously served for 21 years. He will begin that role on November 9, 2020. He has served in his current role at USDA for three years. Click here for the UDSA release.
FASS Science Policy Committee Meets
The FASS Science Policy Committee met via Zoom call on October 5. The committee discussed plans for the proposed Science Policy symposium at the 2021 ADSA Annual Meeting, with hopes that it might be held on the “overlap day” with the American Society of Animal Science meeting. The status of the NC-FAR Hill Seminars was also reviewed, as was progress on the Science Policy statements. The committee will next meet in mid-November.
Ken Olson, PhD, PAS
FASS Science Policy Coordinator