October 2023


    December 28, 2023

    Washington Update
    The past month has seen activity, but little progress, on passing needed legislation in Congress. After two weeks without a speaker and the nomination of several candidates, on October 25 Republicans elected Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana as Speaker of the House. This allowed the House to again take up legislation. FY23 budgets for most government agencies expired on September 30. As a stopgap measure, 12 agencies including Agriculture, Defense, and 10 others are currently funded through a Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires on November 17. To avoid a government shutdown, action is needed by that time to either pass FY24 budgets for the agencies or enact another CR to extend current funding for a period of time. To be enacted, budgets or the CR must be passed by both Houses and signed by the President. This has proven difficult, especially when there is a divided government, as we have now.

    The House has taken up and passed their version of 7 of the 12 needed FY24 budgets. All were passed on party line votes with no Democratic support. They include significant funding cuts for many programs and add social policies that the Senate has said are unacceptable, so there is virtually no way they will move forward. The Senate has passed a so-called “minibus” to fund three fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills including the Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration bill as well as the military construction and Veterans Administration bill and the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill. It had broad support, passing on a final vote of 82 to 15.

    According to The Hill, “Senate leaders and appropriators are carefully considering a proposal to combine the remaining nine unpassed Senate appropriations bills into one large ‘maxibus’ to be brought to the floor to avoid a government shutdown or long-term stopgap measure.” If you want to check where things stand, you can track the status of appropriations bills on the Congressional Research Service (CRS) page.

    Relative to the Farm Bill, all action is behind the scenes. Leaders on both sides and in both Houses say they would like to have a bill by the end of the year, but this seems unlikely as no proposed bills have reached the floor in either House. Passing a Farm Bill this year is a top priority for agriculture, but an extension must be enacted at a minimum if a new bill is not finished. Among the many effects, the Dairy Margin Coverage safety net lapses December 31 if it is not reauthorized or extended. Furthermore, no action by New Year’s Day would trigger the “dairy cliff,” whereby 1940s-era permanent law would kick in and trigger very high price support levels for numerous commodities, including dairy.

    President Biden Announces Over $5 Billion to Support Rural Communities
    President Biden recently announced over $5 billion in new investments from his Investing in America agenda designed to advance rural prosperity, economic development, competition, and sustainability. Funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act that were passed last year. Major investment areas include the following:

    • $1.7 billion in investments in climate-smart agriculture,
    • $1.1 billion in investments in rural american infrastructure,
    • $2 billion in investments to partner with rural communities to create jobs and support rural-led economic development,
    • $274 million to expand critical rural high-speed internet infrastructure, and
    • $145 million to expand access to renewable energy and lower energy costs for rural Americans.

    To learn more about these investments in rural America, visit the Fact Sheet.

    NIFA Funding Opportunities for Climate Change Research
    Climate change projects are funded through many programs across NIFA’s 70+ program portfolio—not just those housed in the Division of Global Climate Change. NIFA is offering an opportunity to learn about those “unusual suspects” programs that contribute to the work being funded on climate change resilience, adaptation, and mitigation. This is one example of research funding opportunities that are found outside the normal Farm Bill–related funding. Several major pieces of legislation (the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, Inflations Reduction Act, CHIPS and Science Act) passed by the last Congress included significant funding for ag research that is now becoming available.

    Those interested in climate change–focused work may already be familiar with the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program area or even program area priorities like A1712 Rapid Response to Extreme Weather Events in AFRI’s Foundational and Applied Science RFA. But, did you know that NIFA also funds climate change research in their sustainable agriculture or education and workforce development programs?

    In the webinar that will be held Thursday, November 30, at 3:00 pm EST, program leaders from across NIFA will provide quick descriptions about their programs and showcase successful climate change–focused proposals in research, education, and Extension. Time will be reserved for Q&A. Click here for more information and registration.

    Farm Foundation Forum: Innovation in Gene Editing and Plant Breeding
    The Farm Foundation® recently hosted a forum, “Innovation in Gene Editing and Plant Breeding: A Look at Scientific Advancement and Consumer Perspectives in Food and Agriculture.” The session provided an excellent introduction to gene editing, looked at some of the scientific advancements happening in plant and animal breeding along with gene editing in food and agriculture, as well as the effects on agricultural productivity and ways the technology can help address societal concerns. Beyond the science, speakers shared updates on the regulatory environment both domestically and internationally for plants and animals as well as insights into consumer perceptions, preferences, and demand. Speakers for the forum included the following:

    Fan-Li Chou, PhD
    Senior Vice President, Scientific Affairs and Policy,
    American Seed Trade Association

    Richard Lawrence, PhD
    Head of Genome Editing, Yield, Disease, and Quality Research,
    Bayer Crop Science

    Allen Van Deynze, PhD
    Director, Seed Biotechnology Center and Associate Director, Plant Breeding Center,
    University of California, Davis

    Alison Van Eenennaam, PhD
    Professor of Cooperative Extension in Animal Biotechnology and Genomics 
    University of California, Davis

    A recording of the forum and presentation slides can be found by clicking here.

    FASS Science Policy Committee
    Members of the FASS Science Policy Committee (SPC) are looking for 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. They continue to make progress on reviewing and updating existing FASS Science Policy Statements, identifying and developing additional policy statements as needed, and 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