September 18, 2023
Congress is back in session after the August recess and has much work that needs to be done. Some type of action is needed by September 30 on the FY24 budget and hopefully on the 2023 Farm Bill as well. The budget is the most critical item, as without action, many functions of the government will shut down. The FY24 budget involves 12 individual appropriations bills required to fund the various agencies. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved each of the needed bills in a bipartisan manner, the Agricultural budget was passed out of committee on a 28-0 vote. On the other side, the House has been trying, with limited success, to pass bills with only GOP support that in most cases have funding levels significantly below those agreed to in the debt ceiling negotiations and also are seeking to include provisions intended to address social issues. Current reports are that these internal disputes will prevent the Ag budget from being brought to a vote on the House floor.
In an effort to move the budget process forward, the Senate is acting on a "minibus" appropriations measure that would fund the departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. All proposals are within the budget caps established by the Fiscal Responsibility Act that President Biden negotiated with House Republicans in exchange for raising the debt ceiling earlier this year. Leaders in the Senate suggested a strong bipartisan vote on the "minibus" would demonstrate theirs was the path to follow to ensure normal funding for agencies when current spending expires after September 30. The three bills included in the package would slightly increase spending at the covered agencies.
It seems almost certain that one or more Continuing Resolutions (CR) will be required for government agencies to continue to operate, but they are uncertain too. A CR while in effect would basically maintain funding at the level included in the last budget. Speaker McCarthy previously agreed to pursue a short-term spending bill in September; however, members of the House Freedom Caucus have put forward a series of requests on conservative policy issues, saying they would vote against any CR that does not meet them. Without some type of bipartisan agreement, this would likely prevent passage of any CR and result in a government shutdown.
Relative to the Farm Bill, Congress will have to extend temporarily the lifespan of the 2018 Farm Bill, because it will miss the September 30 deadline for enacting its successor, according to House Agriculture Chairman Glenn Thompson. This was the first direct acknowledgment by one of the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees that the 2023 farm bill would be late.
Neither committee has released a first-round version of their proposed legislation. When asked about the prospects for the 2023 bill a Senate Agriculture Committee spokesman said "The Chairwoman (Debbie Stabenow) is continuing to work toward a bipartisan bill that can be signed into law by the end of the year." Several farm-state lawmakers have used similar language, framing the goal as presidential enactment this year, rather than by September 30, when provisions of the 2018 law begin to expire. Dairy would be the first commodity to be affected, on January 1, when some provisions of the 2018 bill expire.
Supporting Ag Research
As Congress returned from its August recess and in anticipation of a Farm Bill, ADSA and FASS joined with 128 other agricultural, academic, and industry organizations in a coalition letter to leaders of the House and Senate Ag Committees, requesting an investment of $750 million in mandatory funding for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture (FFAR) in the 2023 Farm Bill. This would help to permanently support the research efforts of the Foundation. FFAR was authorized in the Agriculture Act of 2014 to address the tremendous need for food and agriculture research by leveraging public and private investments to maximize impact. Click here to learn more about FFAR and the impact that it is making. You can find this letter and past ones in the "Coalition Letters" section in the "Science Policy" area of the FASS.org website.
NIFA Listens FY 2023-FY 2024 Report
NIFA Listens is a biennial stakeholder listening opportunity to collect input to understand key challenges, promising opportunities and recommended top priorities related to advancing agricultural research, education, and extension. You can read more about it on the NIFA Listens webpage.
Over 700 registered participants joined two 2.5-hour virtual Zoom sessions, where 49 preregistered speakers offered oral statements in five-minute slots. Written input from 59 stakeholders was also received via email. A total of 108 stakeholders from 87 distinct organizations, located in 36 US states and Washington, DC, provided input during NIFA Listens FY 2023-FY 2024. The FASS SPC was among those providing input.
The final report captures findings from this year's session. NIFA implemented text analytics workflows leveraging the USDA EDAPT Data Science Workbench. New natural language processing (NLP) algorithms supported sentiment analysis and unbiased identification of top topics clusters and semantic relationships. New Tableau dashboards were designed to support further insight discovery. As reference, this report includes a qualitative analysis RRDC Stakeholder report, including a qualitative analysis comparing priorities identified. Click here to find the full report.
Using PubAg to Share USDA-funded Work
Join NIFA and the National Agricultural Library on Tuesday, October 17, at 1 p.m. CDT, for an informational webinar on Departmental Regulation (DR) 1020-006, involving public access to scholarly publication and digital scientific research data assets. This webinar will provide details on how to meet the requirement to submit final, peer-reviewed, accepted manuscripts to PubAg, the USDA public access archive system. Learn more and register.
World Supply and Demand
The USDA released its US and world agricultural supply and demand outlook and estimates for 2023/24. The report provides estimates of production and price for major agricultural commodities wheat, rice, feed grains, oilseeds, cotton, sugar, meat animals, poultry, and dairy. The World Agricultural Outlook Board reviews and approves the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report for publication.
Request for Information: Potential Changes to the Policies for Oversight of Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC)
Life sciences research is vital for improving health outcomes and protecting the nation from infectious disease threats, but a small subset of this research could potentially pose risk of accidents or misuse that could harm human health. It is important to regularly evaluate and update biosafety and biosecurity oversight policies to keep pace with new technological developments and the evolving risk landscape. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) invites comments on potential changes to the Policies for Federal and Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC) and Recommended Policy Guidance for Departmental Development of Review Mechanisms for Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight (P3CO). Click here for more information.
Responses are due by 11:59 p.m. EDT on October 16, 2023. Submissions received after the deadline may not be taken into consideration.
FASS Science Policy Committee
Members of the FASS Science Policy Committee are reviewing feedback from the ADSA and ASAS Annual Meetings and are looking at ways to enhance scientist input in policy discussions as we plan activities for the coming year. We are looking for research advocates to join the committee. The committee meets via Zoom. The group continues to make progress on reviewing and updating existing FASS Science Policy Statements, identifying and developing additional policy statements as needed, joining coalition efforts and planning activities to advance animal agriculture research funding, while encouraging the use of sound science in decision making.
Committee terms are for three years with an opportunity to renew for an additional term. We are also looking for individual science policy advocates who know or will get to know and communicate occasionally with their members of Congress on issues related to animal agriculture.
Please contact me if you have questions, ideas, or suggestions on any of these or other policy issues. We will provide additional information on these and other emerging issues as it becomes available. We need to work together to maintain a strong and effective national research effort.
Ken Olson, PhD, PAS
FASS Science Policy Coordinator