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Congress Moves FY 2018 Spending Bills Ahead of August Recess

The House and Senate have worked in recent weeks to advance as many of the fiscal year (FY) 2018 annual appropriations bills as possible before heading out of town for the typical month-long August recess. Details have been emerging on lawmakers’ funding plans for agencies and programs important to the COSSA community.

The House Appropriations Committee approved two bills this month that provide the bulk of funding support for the social sciences. The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill, which funds the National Science Foundation, Department of Justice, and Census Bureau, was approved on July 13. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which funds the National Institutes of Health and other HHS agencies, Department of Education, and Bureau of Labor Statistics, was approved on July 19. The next step for both bills is consideration by the full House; however, that is not likely to happen until after the August recess when Congress returns following Labor Day. Instead, the House will work this week toward passing a so-called “security mini-bus” that will include the Defense, Energy-Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-VA appropriations bills; the package is likely to also contain $1.6 billion for the construction of President Trump’s southern border wall, which as one could expect leaves the fate of the FY 2018 appropriations process on touchy ground.

Over on the Senate side, the Appropriations Subcommittees are just starting their work on their versions of the FY 2018 spending bills. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies appropriations bill on July 20; the House Appropriations Committee advanced its bill on July 12. In addition, the Senate CJS bill will be marked up in subcommittee on July 25 and by the full Appropriations Committee on July 27. But even if the Senate were able to complete work on the CJS bill before leaving for recess (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to delay the Senate’s recess until mid-August to allow time to finish work on the Obamacare repeal), the differences in top-line funding between the House and Senate leave final negotiations on all of the appropriations bills still a tall order.

Adding in plans by House and Senate leaders to strike a larger budget deal to lift the annual spending caps (which would require the appropriations bills to be rewritten, including those already approved by committee) and the need to raise the federal debt ceiling by early October, policy makers will return to Washington this fall with a lot on their plate before the current fiscal year expires on September 30.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 25), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Agriculture Research Board Seeking Representatives from Social Science Associations

The National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board is seeking nominations to fill nine vacancies, including a slot reserved for a representative from a national social science association. The NAREEE Advisory Board is comprised of 25 members, each representing a core stakeholder group for agricultural research, extension, education, and economics, and advises the Secretary of Agriculture on policies and priorities related to those domains. In addition to seeking to fill a vacancy for the National Social Science Association category, the Board is seeking nominations for the National Food Science Organization, National Nutritional Science Society, and 1862 Land-Grant Colleges and Universities categories, among others. Nominations should be submitted by July 31, 2017. More information is available in the Federal Register notice.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 27), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

NIFA Introduces New Behavioral Science Grants Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced a new grant program, Behavioral and Experimental Economic Applications for Agri-Environmental Policy Design, within the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities program. The new program is jointly funded with the USDA’s Economic Research Service. For its first round, the new program plans to offer two grants, totaling $500,000 to help “pinpoint motivators that drive farmers to adopt conservation practices and identify the roadblocks that may get in the way.”

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 7), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

National Academies to Launch Study on the Future of Food and Agriculture Research; Nominations Sought for Executive Committee

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced a new study, Science Breakthroughs 2030: A Strategy for Food and Agriculture Research. The year-long study hopes to “identify ambitious scientific directions in food and agriculture made possible by incorporating knowledge and tools from across the science and engineering spectrum.” The study is sponsored by the Supporters of Agriculture Research (SoAR) Foundation, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Nominations are currently being sought for the study’s executive committee, which will author the project’s final consensus report, after seeking input from the broader community in the form of workshops, calls white papers, and online questionnaires. Candidates are being sought from all fields of science and engineering who are “big thinkers with the ability to envision the kind of breakthroughs made possible by interdisciplinary collaboration.” Nominations are due by March 22 and may be submitted here.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 7), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Nominations Open for New National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (a public-private venture created by the 2014 Farm Bill) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have endowed a $100,000 National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences. The annual prize will recognize an “extraordinary contribution to agriculture or to the understanding of the biology of a species fundamentally important to agriculture or food production.” Potential recipients may represent any of the following fields: plant and animal sciences, microbiology, nutrition and food science, soil science, entomology, veterinary medicine, and agricultural economics. Nominations are being accepted through October 3, 2016. More information is available on the Foundation website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 26), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

House and Senate Get Moving on 2017 Spending Bills

More than a dozen markups and hearings are scheduled this week for House and Senate Appropriations committees and subcommittees. Appropriators are moving ahead with writing their respective fiscal year (FY) 2017 appropriations bills, despite no agreement on top-line funding levels by way of a budget resolution.

You will recall that a bipartisan budget deal was struck back in October, which provided for an extra $30 billion (of a $1.1 trillion total federal budget) in discretionary spending—split evenly between defense and nondefense—in FY 2017. However, the most conservative wing of the GOP in the House are digging in their heels, demanding that total funding next year not exceed the caps set in the 2011 budget agreement. Specifically, they want $30 billion cut from the October deal, taking all of it from the nondefense side where funding for federal research agencies lives. With no end in sight for the debate around top-line spending, House Appropriations Subcommittees have begun pressing forward, writing and marking up their bills consistent with the higher levels agreed to in the fall.

Any effort to enact a budget resolution in the Senate has been all but abandoned. In fact, the Senate is bringing its first FY 2017 appropriations bill, Energy and Water, to the floor this week, setting a record for the earliest Senate floor vote. The House traditionally moves before the Senate on spending bills, but, this year, the House does not intend to get its first bill to the floor for at least another month.

The full House Appropriation Committee will mark up the Agriculture Appropriations Bill on April 19 (see related article), which includes funding for research and statistical agencies of interest to the COSSA community. In addition, the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill, which funds the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Justice, Census Bureau, and other relevant agencies, will be marked up by the Senate CJS Subcommittee on April 19 and the full Appropriations Committee on April 21; stay tuned for COSSA’s full analysis.

It remains to be seen whether promises to move all 12 appropriations bills through the House Appropriations Committee by the end of June will stick or what the Senate’s quick start means for some of the more controversial bills later in the queue. Election year politics always throw a wrench or two into what is already a challenging environment for deal-making.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 19), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

House Agriculture Appropriations Bill Passes Appropriations Committee

The House Appropriations Committee has released its draft bill and Committee Report for the fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding for the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies. The bill passed the Subcommittee by on April 13 and the full Commtitee on April 19. A list of amendments adopted during the full committee markup is available here (none affect the research and science agencies funded by the bill). Details on the bill’s proposed funding for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies important to the social and behavioral sciences follow.

Overall, the bill provides flat funding or very modest increases to USDA research and science agencies. The Economic Research Service (ERS), one of the Department of Agriculture’s two statistical agencies, would receive $86 million, or 0.7 percent above FY 2016 but 5.8 percent below the Administration’s request. The entirety of the $627,000 increase is directed for cooperative agreements on groundwater modeling and drought resilience. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) would receive flat funding at $168.4 million, $8.2 million below the amount requested by the President. The Census of Agriculture, which NASS will conduct in 2017, would see a cut of $306,000.

The bill would provide the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) with a $14.7 million increase over FY 2017, bringing it to a total of $1.3 billion, though the amount is $32.9 million below the Administration’s requested level. Expectedly, appropriators chose to reject the President’s proposal to double funding for USDA’s premiere competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), using a combination of discretionary and mandatory funds. However, the bill would give AFRI a $25 million increase above FY 2016—bringing it to $375 million—which is level with the discretionary amount proposed in the budget request. Funding for research at State Agricultural Experiment Stations under the Hatch Act would remain flat.

The Committee report includes the following language related to AFRI-funded research on childhood obesity:

“Within the funds made available for AFRI, the Committee encourages NIFA to support innovative efforts to address the unique challenges faced in addressing childhood obesity through a combination of family education and clinical studies focused on early life influences on obesity risk; the development of eating behavior during infancy and early childhood; the role of sleep in the development of childhood obesity; and obesity prevention strategies for low-income children in childcare and educational settings.”

The report also instructs NIFA to develop a plan for ensuring AFRI research meets the needs of the U.S. organic agriculture sector and is not duplicative of other efforts; to support research, development, education, and training related to the deployment of unmanned aircraft systems (i.e. drones) for improved agriculture and environmental stewardship; and to ensure it is adequately addressing the research needs of urban agriculture producers.

house ag fy 2017

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 19), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Sam Farr, Ranking Member on House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Announces Retirement

Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) announced his retirement from Congress at the end of his term after 22 years in the House. Farr is the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. As Ranking Member, Farr has been a vocal advocate for agricultural science and statistics, memorably speaking out on the House floor against a proposed amendment to cut funding for the Economic Research Service (ERS) in 2014. It remains to be seen who will fill Farr’s spot. Currently, only three other Democrats serve on the Subcommittee.

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Posted in Issue 21 (November 17), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

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