March, 2021

    April 16, 2021

     

    President Biden's Ag Budget Requests 16% Increase
    On April 9, the Biden Administration submitted to Congress the president's priorities for fiscal year 2022 discretionary spending, including $27.8 billion for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), a $3.8 billion (16%) increase over the 2021 enacted level. The request includes most of the rural priorities included in his infrastructure blueprint, including broadband access, reclaiming abandoned mines, and helping rural communities transition to cleaner energy sources. It also would expand funding for USDA research and education programs.

    In a statement, USDA says the funding request advances key agency priorities, including ensuring economic development and growth in rural America, maintaining support for American agriculture, rebuilding scientific expertise in our agencies, aiding in an all-of-government approach to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and supporting a strong safety net to address hunger and nutrition insecurity.

    The discretionary request provides $4 billion (nearly $680 million above the 2021 enacted level) for USDA's research, education, and outreach programs. These investments in agricultural research will advance innovation and the application of science-based and data-driven agricultural decisions and practices. The request also includes an increase of $161 million above the 2021 enacted level to support a multi-agency initiative to integrate science-based tools into conservation planning 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.

    The 2022 discretionary request provides $6.7 billion, more than $1 billion above the 2021 enacted level, for critical nutrition programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), to help vulnerable families put healthy food on the table and address racial disparities in maternal and child health outcomes. These funding levels will support an anticipated increase in participation in WIC and combat rising food insecurity, which has disproportionately harmed families of color. In recent media appearances, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has commonly discussed how only 50% of those eligible for WIC sign up for the program.

    Biden's full budget request, including tax changes and more detailed funding plans, is expected later this spring.

    President Biden's Infrastructure Package
    Details of the administration's $2 trillion infrastructure plan that have been released include several elements targeted at rural America There is the much-touted $100 billion broadband plan, which the White House says aims to "provide 100% broadband coverage in rural America." Several other provisions - including cleaning up abandoned mines - are geared toward winning over rural state support. The National Rural Housing Coalition is supportive, saying it could potentially double the number of home mortgages for low-income families. Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soybean Transportation Coalition, told Farm Progress that investment in repairs for roads and bridges, and further attention to inland waterway systems, are key to increasing competitiveness and productivity of soybean transportation. It's now up to lawmakers to write the legislation and move it through both chambers of Congress, a process that could drag on for months.

    FASS Joins Coalition Letters
    As budget discussions move forward, FASS has joined several coalition letters in support of increased research funding.

    • On March 10, FASS joined other members of the Friends of the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Coalition in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations committees thanking them for their support in FY 2021 and urging increased support for ARS in the FY22 Budget.
    • On March 19, FASS joined 92 other agricultural organizations in a letter to House and Senate Appropriations committee leaders urging an increase the 302(a) allocations for Appropriations committees that would allow a significant increase in discretionary funding for crucial USDA programs.
    • On March 30, FASS joined a coalition letter to House and Senate Appropriations committee leaders urging funding to complete modernization of the US Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) in Madison, Wisconsin. It is the nation's only federal BSL-3 facility exclusively dedicated to scientific investigation and research on wildlife diseases that threaten human, animal, and environmental health.

    You can find copies of these letters and past documents in the Science Policy area of the FASS website. Additional letters will be added as the budget efforts move forward.

    The Climate Stewardship Act
    Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D; VA-7) reintroduced the Climate Stewardship Act on April 12. According to the bill's authors, it would support voluntary climate stewardship practices on more than 100 million acres of farmland; plant billions of trees to revive deforested landscapes and expand urban tree cover; reestablish the Civilian Conservation Corps - one of the most popular programs in President Roosevelt's New Deal; restore over two million acres of coastal wetlands; and invest in renewable energy for farmers and rural small businesses in the spirit of the New Deal's Rural Electrification Act, which provided low-cost loans to help bring electricity to rural America.

    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
    keolson@prodigy.net
    https://www.fass.org/Science-Policy