December 28, 2023
There has been minimal progress on either the FY24 Budget or the Farm Bill since the last report, but a few things have happened. Here is a review of where things now stand:
A second, relatively clean Continuing Resolution (CR) passed and was signed by President Biden prior to expiration of the first on November 17. This did not solve the funding problem, but it did prevent a government shutdown and gave Congress added time to work toward a solution. Since that time the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed both houses and has been sent to the President for his signature. The final version passed had most conservative social policy actions removed, allowing it to pass with many more Democratic votes than GOP votes. It is unclear what this will mean moving forward because the money authorized by the bill will still need to be appropriated and there are still 12 appropriations bills that must be passed by both Houses and signed by the President. The current CR has two deadlines: January 19, 2024, for USDA and three other agencies, February 2 for the other eight.
It appears unlikely that there will be any further action until after the holidays. Although the Senate remains in session, the House began their holiday break on December 14. Both Houses are slated to return to session the week of January 8, meaning there is very limited time to reach the needed agreements. It seems likely that additional CRs will be needed if the government is to remain open.
The current CR did extend the Farm Bill for a year, providing added time to work on this. Committee leaders express hope that it can be completed by the end of the first quarter or shortly after. However, no draft language has been released, and it does not appear the Speaker has entered into negotiations with the Senate. This means it is likely to be an extended process. Passing a final bill will require support from both sides. This has taken place with both the CRs and NDAA, but it has angered a portion of the speaker’s caucus and perhaps puts his position at risk because a single member can move to vacate the speakership and force some action by the House. We continue to watch and press for positive action as highlighted in the following article.
FASS Contacts Congress
While Congress has made little progress to date, we know that eventually budgets for FY24 and 25 as well as a Farm Bill will be completed. With this in mind, we continue to urge Congress to complete them and provide needed funds for agricultural research. This has been done by the FASS SPC and in collaboration with other organizations with similar goals.
Relative to the FY24 Budget, the FASS Science Policy Committee wrote the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate subcommittees on Agriculture of the respective Appropriations Committees encouraging prompt passage of the FY24 spending packages and inclusion of increased funding for research in the final bill. Other groups we work with have taken similar action.
Relative to the next Farm Bill, FASS joined with 64 other science-based organizations in urging Congress to support transformative research at USDA by including the bipartisan, bicameral Advancing Cutting Edge (ACE) Agriculture Act (S.834, H.R.2385) in the next Farm Bill. The ACE Ag Act would reauthorize the Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AgARDA) at USDA, add an additional focus on resilience and mitigation research, and grow its authorization level to more adequately reflect the mission of advanced research programs.
Although we do not yet have a FY24 Budget for USDA, work is beginning to develop the FY25 Budget. This begins with a proposed budget from the administration. FASS joined 44 other organizations in a coalition letter to the Administration urging the President to put forward a budget that reflects the significant challenges facing the food and agricultural system and providing at least a five percent (5%) increase to the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area. We have been working with members of Congress through the year to raise this issue. It is worth noting that at about the same time as our coalition letter was sent, a Senate Dear Colleague letter signed by 14 Democratic Senators with a similar request was sent to OMB and USDA. The letter asked administration support for food and agricultural research by providing an increase of at least five percent, plus inflation, above the FY 2024 levels proposed by the Senate for USDA research activities for FY 2025. Senator Durbin (IL) was the lead sponsor of the letter.
These and past letters are on the FASS website. We invite you to share the information with your members of Congress.
National Climate Change Roadmap Released
Climate change is one of the hot button issues for the public and a priority issue for USDA. A new resource, National Climate Change Roadmap--A Research Framework for Agriculture, Forestry and Working Lands, funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and led by researchers from Colorado State University and Meridian Institute, was released recently.
The science roadmap includes an assessment of the state of climate adaptation research in agriculture, forestry, and working lands, along with key needs and gaps. For each gap, the authors identified research questions to address the impacts of climate change on agriculture, food systems, forests, and natural resources, which are aligned with seven themes. Learn more about the Climate Change Roadmap.
AFRI--Foundational and Applied Science Program
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)--Foundational and Applied Science (FAS) Program provides funding for fundamental and applied research, education, and Extension. It supports grants in six AFRI priority areas:
- Plant health and production and plant products;
- Animal health and production and animal products;
- Food safety, nutrition, and health;
- Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment;
- Agriculture systems and technology; and
- Agriculture economics and rural communities.
AFRI-FAS invests in agricultural production research, education, and Extension projects for a more sustainable, productive, and economically viable plant and animal production system. Applications that address climate change, nutrition security, expanding markets for producers, indigenous traditional ecological knowledge, and equity for underserved producers are encouraged. The application deadline is December 31, 2024. For more information, read the full AFRI-FAS funding opportunity.
FASS Science Policy Committee
The FASS Science Policy Committee (SPC) is looking for members who want to help share the news of the importance of ag research for our country and the world. We invite you to join us in 2024. The SPC consists of scientists and educators with expertise in multiple species and disciplines. It serves as a leading authority on food animal science research and application and as a respected source of rigorous, peer-reviewed science for policymakers worldwide. We advocate for science-based policymaking and increased funding for animal agriculture research and promote the value and importance of animal science research and education in climate-resilient, equitable agriculture in a number of ways:
- Work with relevant animal and agriculture science related coalitions to provide input on legislation, regulations, and priority setting.
- Identify opportunities to work with producer and science-based groups that support animal agriculture.
- Participate in and encourage other scientists to join in conversations with policymakers and consumers to ensure a voice for animal science in society and government.
- Provide educational programs and materials for scientists, students, consumers, policymakers, regulators, and agricultural businesses with science-based information on key issues.
Committee terms are for three years with an opportunity to renew for an additional term. The committee meets via Zoom.
On our last call Jim Quigley completed his second term on the committee and so stepped down as chair. John McNamara was elected chair for the coming year. The committee continues to make progress on reviewing and updating existing FASS Science Policy Statements. At this meeting revised statements on “Ensuring Food Security through Research, Extension and Education” and another on “Climate Change” were approved and sent to the FASS Board for their consideration. We also continue to work on identifying and developing additional policy statements as needed, join coalition efforts, and plan activities to advance animal agriculture research funding while encouraging the use of sound science in decision making.
Please contact me if you are interested in serving on the committee or 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