July 29, 2018

D.C. Update

Washington Roundup – July 2018

By: Lowell Randel

House and Senate Prepare for Farm Bill Conference

On July 18th, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to go to conference with the Senate to resolve differences between the two versions of the bill.  In addition to the vote for conference, the House also approved a motion to instruct conferees to provide 10 years of mandatory funding for the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, including support for a U.S. vaccine bank and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.  While non-binding, the motion to instruct sends a powerful message to the conference committee that there is strong support for these programs.  ASAS has signed multiple letters supporting the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program and it is a top priority of the Animal Agriculture Coalition.

The House also named 47 conferees to the committee.  The majority of conferees, 29, come from the House Agriculture Committee, while other committees such as the Education and the Workforce, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources picked up a few seats apiece on the panel.  A full list of conferees can be found here

The Senate is expected to name a much smaller number of conferees, primarily from the Senate Agriculture Committee.  The four primary leaders from the House and Senate committees met during the week of July 23rd to begin charting the path forward.  House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway has indicated that he intends to move swiftly to complete work before the September 30th deadline when current authorities expire.

Breakthroughs 2030 Report Released

On July 18th, the National Academies of Sciences released its Breakthroughs 2030 report on ag research was released today.  The report was cosponsored by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation.  The report highlights the needs and opportunities for future advancements in agricultural science.  The report identifies three major goals for food and agricultural research including: (1) improving the efficiency of food and agricultural systems; (2) increasing the sustainability of agriculture; and (3) increasing the resiliency of agricultural systems to adapt to rapid changes and extreme conditions.

In addition, the report suggests the following breakthrough opportunities:

  1. Transdisciplinary science and systems approaches should be prioritized to solve agriculture’s most vexing problems.
  2. Create an initiative to more effectively employ existing sensing technologies and to develop new sensing technologies across all areas of food and agriculture.
  3. Establish initiatives to nurture the emerging area of agri-food informatics and to facilitate the adoption and development of information technology, data science, and artificial intelligence in food and agricultural research.
  4. Establish an initiative to exploit the use of genomics and precision breeding to genetically improven traits of agriculturally important organisms.
  5. Establish an initiative to increase the understanding of the animal, soil, and plant microbiomes and their broader applications across the food system.

The animal sciences are generally included in a balanced manner throughout the report and there is recognition of the important role that animal science can play in achieving future breakthroughs.  More information on the report can be found here.

Trump Administration Nominates Hutchins for REE Under Secretary

On July 17th, President Trump nominated Scott Hutchins to be the Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics at USDA.  Hutchins currently serves as the global leader of integrated field sciences for Corteva Agriscience and as an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska.  Previously, he served as president of the Entomological Society of America.  Dr. Hutchins earned his B.S. in entomology from Auburn University, M.A. from Mississippi State University, and Ph.D. from Iowa State University. 

USDA Secretary Purdue applauded the nomination and stated: “I am very excited by the selection of Dr. Hutchins for this leadership role at USDA. His extensive background in research and commitment to sound science and data make him exceptionally qualified for this post, and I am eager to have Dr. Hutchins join the team.”  Confirmation hearings have yet to be scheduled for Hutchins’ nomination.