Update on USDA's Kansas City Move
According to a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) spokeswoman, as of the end of March, "ERS had 223 employees and 106 vacancies. NIFA had 218 employees and 126 vacancies. The current blank spaces in organizational charts raise questions about Kansas City's long-term future as the home for the two agencies under the Biden Administration." Most employees in the DC and Kansas City offices have been working from home, and it is likely that there will be a push to provide flexibility in office and work locations for new and current employees as pandemic restrictions are eased.
Biden's 2022 Budget
The president's full 2022 budget proposal has not yet been released. The discretionary request, that signals current administration intentions, includes $27.8 billion for USDA, a $3.8 billion or 16% increase over the 2021 enacted level. The request includes $4 billion for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, which comprises the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Economic Research Service, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service. This is an unprecedented $647 million increase above the FY2021 enacted level for USDA's research, education, and outreach programs. The request states that "investments in agricultural research would advance innovation and the application of science-based and data-driven tools to put American technologies into the hands of farmers."
The president is requesting a $161 million investment to support a new multi-agency initiative to "integrate science-based tools into conservation planning in order to measure, monitor, report, and verify carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas reduction, wildlife stewardship, and other environmental services at the farm level and on federal lands."
FASS has joined with several coalitions in requesting funding for agricultural research funding. Here's a partial overview of requests:
- At least $600 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)
- A recommendation by the Friends of ARS Coalition of $1.720 billion in top-line funding for ARS in FY2022, a 5% increase or $76.35 million over the FY2021 enacted level for the four national program areas includes flat funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility of $102.6 million and $15 million directed to the new Big Data Initiative
- That Congress and the Biden Administration support an agricultural research infrastructure investment of $11.5 billion at US colleges of agriculture in any federal infrastructure initiatives.
A comprehensive request across the REE Mission Area is being finalized for submission.
The America Grows Act of 2021
A letter was recently sent to the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Appropriations Committees, and Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees in support of the America Grows Act of 2021 (S. 1371). This bill is similar to the version introduced in 2019. It was introduced on Monday, April 26, 2021, with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), as co-sponsors. In light of the administration's commitment to research, there are slight changes to this version:
- Instead of increasing USDA research by 5% per year (plus inflation) for 5 years, this updated version increases funding by 5% per year (plus inflation) for 10 years.
- After year 10, the research dollars stay flat, adjusted for inflation.
- This is a permanent appropriation; that is, it is not authorizing the appropriation, it is funding it directly from the Treasury.
- The appropriated funds are available until expended (if the research agency does not obligate the appropriated funds before the end of the respective fiscal year, the funds do not return to the Treasury).
- It is excluded from the PAYGO scorecard.
Here are links to the Joint press release
and the Full bill text
Status of USDA Appointees
After approximately 100 days in office for the Biden Administration, a significant number of positions at USDA, which require Senate confirmation, remain to be filled. Below is an overview of the current situation.
One position has been confirmed: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Four positions are awaiting confirmation by the Senate:
- Deputy Secretary: Jewel H. Bronaugh
- General Counsel: Janie Simms Hipp
- Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation: Robert Bonnie
- Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs: Jennifer Moffitt
One position is a holdover, Inspector General Phyllis K. Fong, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002. Nine positions remain open, with no nominee yet named.
FASS Joins Letters in Support of Research
Work on the FY2022 federal budget is progressing in various congressional committees. FASS has joined in several coalition letters advocating for research funding. A recent letter highlighting research infrastructure needs that originated with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and two that originated with the Animal Agriculture Coalition (AAC) that stress the importance of research and animal health programs are highlighted below. Additional letters are planned as the budget process moves forward. Copies of these and past letters are available in the Coalition Letters section of the Science Policy area of www.fass.org.
FASS joined over 350 national, regional and local stakeholder groups in a letter to House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders requesting at least $11.5 billion for research infrastructure at U.S. colleges of agriculture over a period of five years. The letter argues that such an "investment is necessary to advance the critical work being done at institutions across the country to support American jobs, recruit a diversity of talent for the agricultural science pipeline, address our climate challenges, and ensure ongoing U.S. leadership in food and agricultural innovation." (May 3, 2021)
FASS joined with other members of the AAC in a letter to leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations committees and the Homeland Security Subcommittees urging full funding of the CBP Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection (AQI) program within the 2022 Homeland Security spending bill (April 29, 2021). This would allow hiring and training the specialists and technicians needed to provide protection at the border for the nation's livestock.
FASS joined with other members of the AAC in a letter to leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations committees urging support across the USDA Research and Animal Health Enterprises. (April 29, 2021)
FASS Science Policy Committee
The FASS Science Policy Committee meets monthly via Zoom. The group continues to make progress on updating the FASS Science Policy Statements. During the April call, the change in format (from hybrid to virtual) for the ADSA Annual Meeting was discussed. We decided to move our planned seminar from the in-person meeting to a fall webinar. Details are currently being worked out. The group's Hill Seminar proposal to NC-FAR on "Animal protein: From pen/feedlot/barn or from a petri-dish/lab?" has been accepted for presentation in October or November: details to follow.
Please contact me if you have questions, ideas, or suggestions on any of these or other policy 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 serving on the Science Policy Committee or 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