The first legislative steps toward putting in place the FY22 Agriculture budget have been cleared. On June 25, the House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA subcommittee advanced its $26.5 billion spending bill for farm, food, and rural programs to the full Appropriations committee, and it was approved on June 30. It is still a long journey to a final budget, but this begins the process. Some Republicans took issue with the $350 million allocated to climate science, as well as with the overall cost of the bill. The draft legislation would provide an approximately 10% increase over current funding levels. In spite of the reservations noted, it did pass in a bipartisan manner. Here are some of the details from the bill report:
- The bill provides $3.391 billion ($321 million above the FY21 enacted level) for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). This funding will support research at all ARS facilities to help mitigate and stop devastating crop diseases, improve food safety and water quality, increase production, and combat antimicrobial resistance. This funding also includes important research investments in US land-grant colleges and universities, including a significant increase for the 1890 institutions, and for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the premier competitive research program at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- The bill includes $4.43 billion for rural development projects, including $907 million for broadband deployment. A total of $3.47 billion in discretionary funding is allocated for the Food and Drug Administration, including an additional $65 million to address foodborne illness outbreaks and heavy metals in baby food.
- The FY22 discretionary spending in this bill totals $26.55 billion, which is $2.85 billion above the FY21 enacted level and $297 million below President Biden's budget request for FY22.
Congress seems unlikely to pass a final appropriations bill before the September 30 deadline. Instead, they are likely to pass a continuing resolution that would maintain fiscal 2021 spending levels for most agencies. It is then likely to roll some version of this into a larger omnibus package for final passage. The positive aspect is that it does advance a strong package for agriculture research.
One issue that Congress will need to deal with in the short run is the debt ceiling. Congress will need to either raise or suspend the federal debt ceiling in the near future. Failure to act before the congressional recess in August could risk a default on the nation's debt and cause a government shutdown. It is unclear when or what action will be taken.
H.R.4252: To provide additional funding for scholarships for students at 1890 institutions
On June 30, House Agriculture committee chair David Scott and eight co-sponsors introduced H.R.4252, legislation making the 1890s Land-Grant African American Colleges and Universities' Student Scholarships program permanent with a $100 million increase. The program was initially started with $80 million for the student scholarship program in the 2018 Farm Bill. If approved, this would put the student scholarship program on an ongoing, permanent basis.
Status of USDA Appointees
Nearly 6 months into the Biden administration, a significant number of positions at the USDA still require Senate confirmation and remain to be filled. Below is an overview of the current situation (at the end of June):
Two positions are confirmed: Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Jewel H. Bronaugh. Five positions are with the Senate:
- General counsel: Janie Simms Hipp
- Undersecretary for farm production and conservation: Robert Bonnie
- Undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs: Jennifer Moffitt
- Undersecretary for natural resources and environment: Homer Wilkes
- Undersecretary for rural development: Xochitl Torres Small
One position is a holdover: Inspector General Phyllis K. Fong. Seven positions have no nominee yet named.
FASS Joins Letters in Support of Research
FASS continues to join in coalition letters to Congress and the Biden administration advocating for research funding. Highlights of recent letters include the following:
- FASS joined over 50 other organizations in a letter to President Biden's Chief of Staff strongly urging that the USDA serve as an equal voice with other US public health agencies in determining US positions on One Health aspects of antimicrobial resistance or use (June 30, 2021)
- FASS joined over 150 other organizations in a letter to Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McConnell, asking that they prioritize significant investments, at least $40 billion, for agricultural climate research, agricultural innovation, and agricultural research infrastructure (June 8, 2021)
- FASS joined over 150 other organizations in a letter to President Biden strongly supporting a robust investment of at least $40 billion for agricultural climate research, agricultural innovation, and agricultural research infrastructure in any comprehensive infrastructure package moving forward (June 8, 2021)
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.
New CAST Report: The Role of Agricultural Science and Technology in Climate 21 Project Implementation
Climate change has been identified as a priority by the Biden administration and is an area where they are seeking significant budget support. Funding opportunities can be expected as we move forward. CAST's recently released publication - The Role of Agricultural Science and Technology in Climate 21 Project Implementation - shows that large government projects and farmer/rancher initiatives can all make a difference. CAST identified the following sample of many projects currently underway to begin to address the issue:
(1) The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research supports the U.S. Dairy's Net Zero Initiative;
(2) North Carolina A&T State provides professional training in solar and wind installation;
(3) Frank Mitloehner (UC Davis and 2019 BCCA) says animal agriculture could lead the way to climate neutrality;
(4) Cornell University is a global leader in sustainability and climate change research;
(5) Alexa Lamm (University of Georgia and 2020 BCCA) and colleagues wrote about environmental communication to promote increased use of evidence-based findings; and
(6) this University of Kentucky program is designed to fight climate change with ag research.
FASS Science Policy Committee
The FASS Science Policy Committee meets monthly via Zoom call. The group continues to make progress on updating the FASS Science Policy Statements. We are currently working on plans for our science policy seminar, "The 2023 Farm Bill - Perspectives and Priorities for Animal Research," as part of the ADSA Annual Meeting fall webinar series.
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