February 2024


    March 11, 2024

    Progress on the Budget
    On March 1 President Biden signed a government funding bill (Continuing Resolution) that moved the threat of a partial or full government shutdown later into the month and bought lawmakers additional time to work out deals on needed appropriations bills.

    The deadline for the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Justice, Commerce, and other offices was moved to March 8. Lawmakers now have until March 22 to wrap up the fiscal year 2024 funding for the Pentagon, the legislative branch, and foreign operations, as well as the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, State, and Homeland Security. Senators voted 77-13 on February 28 to approve the government funding measure just hours after the House voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill 320-99. It appears that neither side wants a shutdown.

    While not yet finalized it appears that the delay has allowed negotiations to move forward. On Sunday, March 3, House and Senate appropriators released a 1,050-page, $459 billion spending package for six of the bills. It is expected that the House will attempt passage under suspension of the rules on Wednesday, setting up Senate passage before the Friday midnight deadline. As with any compromise you will hear dualling interpretations of the results.

    While research was not a top priority for the bill, it is included in talking points for both sides and we do find that it includes $1.788 billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Although less than requested by the administration, this is $43 million above the FY23 enacted level. The National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is included at $1.678 billion, $22 million below the FY23 level.

    FDA Guidance on Food from Genome-Edited Plants
    On February 22, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a guidance for industry that describes how firms can voluntarily engage with the FDA before marketing food from genome-edited plants. The guidance reaffirms that the risk-based approach the FDA has taken for foods derived from new plant varieties also applies to foods from genome-edited plants. In addition, this guidance describes two processes through which developers may voluntarily inform the FDA of the steps they have taken to ensure the safety of foods from their genome-edited plant varieties: voluntary premarket consultations and voluntary premarket meetings. These processes can help ease the pathway to market for foods from genome-edited plants, while keeping FDA safeguards in place.

    The voluntary premarket meeting pathway is recommended for developers to inform the agency of their foods when a voluntary premarket consultation is not warranted based on the food's risk-based characteristics. The agency expects this voluntary premarket meeting pathway to take less time than a voluntary premarket consultation because the meeting pathway is recommended for foods that are less likely to raise safety questions. The FDA continues to suggest voluntary premarket consultations for foods that have certain risk-based characteristics, as described in the guidance.

    To Submit Comments
    Electronic or written comments about this guidance may be submitted at any time. Submit electronic comments to https://www.regulations.gov/. Submit written comments to the Dockets Management Staff (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be identified with the docket number FDA-2019-D-4658 and with the title of the guidance.

    Rollout of "Applications, Benefits, and Challenges of Genome Edited Crops"
    On Wednesday, March 20, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) will roll out the issue paper "Applications, Benefits, and Challenges of Genome Edited Crops." It is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

    The paper provides an overview of the current status and future prospects of genome editing in agriculture. It explains how genome editing tools, which were first introduced over a decade ago, are now being used to accelerate crop improvement and address challenges in agriculture.

    The paper reviews recent advances in genome editing tools, discusses select applications in various crops, and considers the benefits and challenges of the technology. It also offers recommendations to ensure that genome editing in agriculture benefits society.

    Overall, the paper highlights the potential of genome editing as an important tool in creating a competitive bioeconomy, addressing major challenges in agriculture, and benefiting consumers.

    The paper will be available on the CAST Website.

    USDA Releases Report Tracking Number of Farms in the United States
    Source: USDA news release https://www.agrimarketing.com/ss.php?id=148578

    The number of farms in the United States has fallen below two million for the first time since before the Civil War, according to the recently released 2022 Census of Agriculture. In 2022, there were 1,900,487 farms in the country, a 7 percent decline from the level reported in the 2017 Census.

    A farm is defined as an establishment that produced and sold, or would have sold in normal conditions, at least $1,000 in agricultural production in a year. The Census of Agriculture, conducted every five years by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), includes producer responses to questions about their farming operations.

    The latest Census also reported that the total US land in farms declined 2.2 percent to 880 million acres in 2022. This decline, when combined with the higher proportional decline in the number of farms, meant that the average farm size increased by 5 percent to 463 acres per farm.

    For more details from the 2022 Census of Agriculture, see the NASS Census of Agriculture website. For more information on farm structure and its relationship with agriculture, as well as other statistics on the financial performance of farms and ranches, see the USDA Economic Research Service's recent report America's Farms and Ranches at a Glance: 2023 Edition, published in December 2023, which draws on data from the NASS Agricultural Resources Management Survey of farm operations in 2022.

    FDA Update on Post-Market Assessment of Chemicals in the Food Supply
    On March 4, the US FDA updated its list of select chemicals currently under the agency's review to provide more insight on the status of the FDA's post-market assessments of chemicals in the food supply. The agency first published a list in July 2023.

    This updated list includes select food ingredients (including food and color additives), food contact substances, and contaminants under FDA review. The list now includes information about the status of our post-market assessments, including where we are in the risk assessment and management process. The list also provides links to public information about our post-market actions. The FDA anticipates updating this list regularly.

    While these post-market assessments take time, one of the key reasons for the proposed Human Foods Program transformation is to enhance our review of food chemical safety. The proposed Human Foods Program would include the Office of Food Chemical Safety, Dietary Supplements and Innovation where we intend to develop a systematic and more nimble process for evaluating chemicals in the food supply. The FDA's assessment of chemicals in the food supply is part of our commitment to food safety.

    For More Information

    2024 Dairy Margin Coverage Enrollment Open
    Dairy producers are now able to enroll for 2024 Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC), an important safety net program offered through the USDA that provides producers with price support to help offset milk and feed price differences. This year's DMC signup began February 28, 2024, and ends April 29, 2024. For those who sign up for 2024 DMC coverage, payments may begin as soon as March 4, 2024, for any payments that triggered in January 2024.

    USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) has revised the regulations for DMC to allow eligible dairy operations to make a one-time adjustment to established production history. This adjustment will be accomplished by combining previously established supplemental production history with DMC production history for those dairy operations that participated in Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage during a prior coverage year. DMC has also been authorized through calendar year 2024. Congress passed a 2018 Farm Bill extension requiring these regulatory changes to the program.

    For more information CLICK HERE

    Science Policy Committee
    Want to affect science policy? The Science Policy Committee (SPC) is looking for additional members to help share the news of the importance of agricultural research for our country and the world with Congress and the public. We invite you to join our efforts in 2024 as we advocate for the increased funding and people needed to do the work.

    The SPC consists of scientists and educators from academia and industry 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, increased funding for animal agriculture research, and promote the value and importance of animal science research and education in climate-resilient, equitable agriculture in multiple ways.

    Committee terms are for three years with an opportunity to renew for an additional term. The committee meets via Zoom.

    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