October/November, 2022

    January 10, 2022


    The September Science Policy report listed several of the major pieces of legislation passed in the 117th Congress. Action in October and November tended to largely focus on the campaigns and election. Now, a month after the mid-term election, we finally know the makeup of the upcoming 118th Congress, but many questions remain as to how it may function.

    The GOP holds a slim majority in the House. They will chair and have the majority on all House Committees. Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) won the nomination for Speaker of the House, which the full House of Representatives will vote on in January. Several Republicans are threatening to not vote for McCarthy, which could potentially deny him the speakership. The final result, and negotiations involved, may impact the movement of legislation over the next two years. Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) won election to serve as Majority Leader. On the Democratic side, Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team are remaining in Congress but stepping down from their leadership roles. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) was elected as House Minority Leader, and Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) will serve as Minority Whip.

    On the Senate side, the runoff election in Georgia gave the Democrats a 51-49 majority; however, this became less straightforward when Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced that she was changing her registration to independent. She indicated that this will not change the way she votes, so any impacts are uncertain. It should be noted that this is not unique, as Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine are also Independents who caucus with the Democrats. The Democrats will chair and have the majority of members on all Senate Committees.

    In the Senate, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will remain as Majority Leader, and Dick Durbin (D-IL) will serve as Majority Whip. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) won re-election as Republican Leader, and John Thune (R-SD) will continue serving as Minority Whip. Leaders on both Ag Committees are expected to be the same, but the roles in the House will change to reflect the change in control. Time will tell what impact this will have on the Farm Bill, as well as coming budgets. Both are critical to research.

    As noted above, we will have a divided Congress to work with in the 118th Congress that begins on January 3, 2023. Hopefully the Farm Bill and other important items will be able to move forward in a bipartisan manner. Prior to seating the new Congress, several items need to be addressed in the lame-duck session of the 117th Congress. Agencies are currently funded by a continuing resolution that expires on December 16. Action will be needed to either pass the FY23 budgets or extend the CR to avoid a government shutdown. FASS and others we work with have urged swift passage of the agency budgets. Both the House and Senate have budget proposals that are very good for research, but the outcome of the election may make it more difficult to move them forward in the future. Several pieces of legislation passed earlier this year, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS Act, do include substantial research components. If fully funded, they may offer research funding opportunities outside of the traditional channels that will be explored.

    Farm Bill Updates
    Even with the coming changes in the makeup of Congress, groundwork continues for developing the 2023 Farm Bill. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member, held a hearing titled "Farm Bill 2023: Research Programs" on December 6. A video recording of the hearing, as well as transcripts of the comments, are available on the Committee website. In opening comments, both the Chair and the Ranking Member noted that world population has recently passed eight billion, and there is critical need for research to feed the growing population. Both expressed support for the Land Grant system. Senator Stabenow said, "Thanks to the progress achieved through research, we can boost the profitability and resiliency of our farms while adapting to and mitigating the climate crisis. It's our incredible extension and education systems that deliver valuable research findings into the hands of farmers, consumers, and communities."

    During the hearing, USDA Chief Scientist Jacobs-Young indicated that there was an AgARDA strategic implementation plan under review that will be released to Congress and the public in Q1 2023. This will be very useful in our FY24 appropriations advocacy. She also said that USDA has partnered with FFAR to hold a series of convening events so that stakeholders and experts can come together to provide input on what kinds of projects AgARDA will fund. This will be another good opportunity for stakeholders to weigh in and help shape the AgARDA research portfolio. Finally, she stressed several times the limitations of getting the program off the ground and funding the types of projects an ARDA program should support, without more robust, long-term funding.

    As additional background for the Farm Bill, on December 16, NCFAR is hosting a virtual Lunch-N-Learn webinar, "The Role of USDA Research in U.S. Agricultural Trade and Competitiveness." On December 6, the Farm Foundation hosted a webinar, "What to Expect From the 2023 Farm Bill." It provided an introduction to their Issue Report, Could Climate Change Produce a Revolutionary 2023 Farm Bill? They noted that Farm Bill will need to be climate friendly and address nutrition needs. Funding will be a challenge. Urban and rural interests will need to find ways to work together.

    FASS SPC Provides Comments for NIFA Listening Session
    The FASS SPC provided written comments for the recent USDA NIFA Listening Session. They supported the broad goals included in the USDA Strategic Plan for 2022 to 2026; the White House Strategic Plan on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, and the NASEM Recommendations on Enhancing Coordination and Collaboration across the Land Grant System, noting that these efforts will help identify any knowledge gaps that need to be addressed. They indicated support for significant increases in funding across the entire scope of activities listed above but noted that animal research appears to have been a lower priority and will be addressed moving forward. They also urged that that graduate students and young scientists be fully integrated into the planning and conduct of projects. They noted that outreach to the public will be even more important for the future as we rebuild trust in science.

    Click here for this and past letters.

    White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health - Update
    USDA Launches New Virtual Nutrition Center of Excellence
    On December 5, the USDA announced its new Agricultural Science Center of Excellence for Nutrition and Diet for Better Health (ASCEND for Better Health) in support of President Biden's Cancer Moonshot effort to end cancer as we know it.

    This new virtual center will accelerate research on diet-related chronic diseases, including cancer. A long-term goal of the center is to translate research into impactful solutions that improve public health and well-being, particularly in underserved communities.

    FASS Science Policy Committee
    The FASS Science Policy Committee meets via Zoom call. The group continues to make progress on updating the FASS Science Policy Statements, plan activities to advance animal agriculture research funding, and encourage the use of sound science in decision-making. With the election results now in, we will resume work with NCFAR on message development for the Farm Bill that reflects our priorities and the results of the election. The underlying message will remain the need to enhance funding for and use of research.

    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 on that or with any questions on items in the report.

    Ken Olson, PhD, PAS
    FASS Science Policy Coordinator