February 24, 2019

February D.C. Update

Washington Roundup – February 2019

By: Lowell Randel 

Agreement Reached on FY 2019 Appropriations

On February 15th, President Trump signed a consolidated appropriations bill to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2019.  The action ended a long and controversial process that included a 35-day government shutdown as Trump and Congressional Democrats sparred over border security policy.  The spending package includes funds for the Department of Agriculture and agricultural research accounts.  Increases were achieved for several key research programs including the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), capacity programs and the Agricultural Research Service.

A summary of key provisions is included below:

ACCOUNT                                FY 2018                       FY 2019 – FINAL

ARS Salaries and Expenses     $1.202 billion              $1.303 billion

ARS Buildings and Facilities    $140.6 million             $381 million

Hatch                                      $243 million               $259 million

AFRI                                        $400 million                $415 million

Sec. 1433                                 $4 million                    $4 million

Smith Lever                             $300 million                $315 million

Integrated Activities               $37 million                  $38 million


The section on the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) includes provisions related to the transition of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) from the Department of Homeland Security to USDA.  The bill provides $10.6 million to transfer programs from Plum Island to NBAF, as well as $42 million to stand up programs at NBAF.  $5 million is also included to support additional research on foreign animal diseases.

Animal welfare at USDA research facilities continues to be an issue of concern for Congress.  The conference report criticizes ARS for not reporting violations and other issues found during APHIS animal welfare inspections.  The language directs ARS to submit a report detailing all violations found by APHIS and what corrective actions have been taken.

Congress also used the appropriations bill to express concerns about USDA’s plans to relocate the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) outside the National Capital Region.  Language is included directing USDA to provide Congress with detailed cost analysis on moving the agencies as well as any impacts on research programs.  Conferees also indicated support for an indefinite delay of restructuring ERS under the Office of the Chief Economist.

REE Deputy Under Secretary Holds Listening Sessions

On February 15th, REE Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins held a series of listening sessions to hear from agricultural research stakeholders.  Hutchins was appointed Deputy Under Secretary in January but is still awaiting confirmation as Under Secretary.  The listening sessions served as an opportunity for Hutchins to hear from the research community about key research policies and priorities.  ASAS Washington Representative, Lowell Randel, participated in the sessions and spoke on behalf of ASAS.  Randel discussed the importance of animal science as a part of a balanced research portfolio and how funding for animal science has not been proportional to the economic contributions of animal agriculture.  He highlighted the ASAS Grand Challenges as key research areas for future advancements in animal science.  Randel also mentioned key provisions from the recent Farm Bill that represent strong opportunities to advance animal science and help animal agriculture.

ASAS and ASN to Hold Briefing on Open Access

On February 25th, the American Society of Animal Science and the American Society of Nutrition will be holding a joint Congressional briefing on policies related to open access.  The briefing will address the implications of implementing “Plan S”, an initiative starting in 2020 that requires that scientific publications resulting from research funded by European funding agencies public grants must be published in Plan S-compliant open access journals or platforms. Teresa Davis and Jim Sartin will lead the briefing and discuss how scientific societies and their scholarly publications would be impacted if Plan S or a similar open access policy were initiated in the U.S. The briefing will take place on Monday, February 25th from 12-1pm in the House Science Committee, 2325 Rayburn House Office Building.