Washington Roundup – August 2019
By: Lowell Randel
APHIS Announces Farm Bill Implementation Plans
On August 12th, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its initial plans to implement new animal health programs included in the 2018 Farm Bill. Section 12101 of the 2018 Farm Bill established a three-part program to comprehensively support animal disease prevention and management. The bill included funding to create two new programs: the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank (vaccine bank) and the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP). It also expands funding opportunities for the existing National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). ASAS actively supported the creation and expansion of these programs during consideration of the Farm Bill.
For 2019, APHIS will make available up to $10 million in funding to be divided between NADPRP and NAHLN. The overall investment will be based on the quality of proposed projects. Funding under the NADPRP will enable APHIS to enter into cooperative agreements with States, universities, livestock producer organizations, and other eligible entities for targeted projects aimed at preventing animal pests and diseases from entering the United States and reducing the spread and impact of potential disease incursions. In 2019, APHIS funding will build upon and enhance current disease prevention and emergency response efforts by supporting an initial round of training and exercise projects. APHIS will announce the application period and dates of webinars to assist potential applicants through the process in a future message to stakeholders. APHIS will continue to develop a more formalized annual NADPRP stakeholder consultation and annual priority-setting process to be used for implementation in 2020 and beyond. APHIS Farm Bill funding for NAHLN in 2019 will support targeted projects to expand diagnostic capacity and our ability to rapidly respond to adverse animal health events.
APHIS has also stated that it will issue a “sources sought” notice to gather updated information from vaccine manufacturers interested in supplying the vaccine bank. The information will be used to develop a vaccine acquisition strategy leading to one or more requests for proposals for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine to address a potential outbreak.
More information on APHIS programs in the Farm Bill can be found by clicking here.
NIFA and ERS Relocation Continues
During the month of August 2019, efforts continued to advance the relocation NIFA and ERS to Kansas City. Negotiations between the ERS union and USDA reached an agreement on relocation benefits to be afforded those ERS employees who decide to move to Kansas City.
Under the agreement, ERS employees whose positions are being moved will be able to telework at least through the end of 2019, instead of the hard deadline of September 30th. In addition, some employees relocating to Kansas City will receive a month salary bonus, to compensate for the lower income they will receive by moving from Washington, D.C. USDA will also provide temporary housing for up to 120 days for those who accept reassignment.
While some accommodations have been made to help employees with relocation, those choosing not to move will receive a smaller payment than originally planned. Earlier in the process, USDA has indicated that employees choosing not to relocate would be eligible for a $25,000 buyout. However, due to the high number of employees seeking this assistance, USDA announced in August that the incentive payment will only be $10,000.
Adding to the drama surrounding the relocation was the August release of the Inspector General’s report. The report affirmed USDA’s authority to relocate the two agencies. However, the Inspector General found that USDA may not have followed the correct procedures for notifying Congress of the move. The report states that USDA missed a 60 day notice requirement where USDA must notify Congress regarding the use of fiscal year 2018 funds for relocation. While the report raises additional questions, it does not appear that it will stop the relocation process.