Washington Roundup – May 2020
By: Lowell Randel
Science Provisions Included in House Coronavirus Relief Package
The House Democratic leadership passed H.R. 6800, the HEROES Act, on May 15th. The bill was approved largely on partisan lines by the slim margin of 208-199. The package would provide $3 trillion in a wide variety of provisions across government. Included in the package are several investments in research including those listed below:
· National Science Foundation (NSF) Research and Related Activities – $125 million to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.
· National Institutes of Health – $4.745 billion to expand COVID-19-related research on the NIH campus and at academic institutions across the country and to support the shutdown and startup costs of biomedical research laboratories nationwide.
· Fish and Wildlife Service – $71 million to support activities related to wildlife-borne disease prevention, with $50 million for grants through the State and Tribal Wildlife grant program.
· United States Geological Survey – $40 million for bio surveillance and research related to wildlife-borne disease
· Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response – $4.575 billion to respond to coronavirus, including:
o $3.5billion for Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for therapeutics and vaccines
o $500 million for BARDA to support U.S.-based next generation manufacturing facilities
o $500 million for BARDA to promote innovation in antibacterial research and
o $75 million for the Office of Inspector General.
ASAS joined with a coalition of agricultural organizations to urge for the inclusion of funds for USDA to support coronavirus related research. Unfortunately, no funds are included in the House passed bill to support NIFA or ARS. The Senate has yet to release a proposed relief package, but Republican leadership has expressed concerns with the House bill. It appears that any action in the Senate would be taken after the upcoming Memorial Day recess.
Trump Invokes Defense Production Act for Meat and Poultry Plants
On April 28, 2020, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order 13917, Delegating Authority Under the Defense Production Act with Respect to the Food Supply Chain Resources. The Executive Order was prompted by the high-profile closures meat and poultry processing facilities and the euthanasia of animals that resulted from the disruption of the supply chain. In addition to the invocation of the Defense Production Act, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor put out guidance for plants to implement to help ensure employee safety to reopen plants or to continue to operate those still open. Under the Executive Order and the authority of the Defense Production Act, USDA is working with meat processors to affirm that they will operate in accordance with the CDC and OSHA guidance, and then work with state and local officials to ensure that these plants are allowed to operate to produce the meat protein that Americans need. In the days after the order was signed, an increasing number of facilities have reopened, and production capacity is returning.
USDA and FDA have also signed an Memorandum of Understanding that creates a process for the two agencies to make determinations about potential expansion of the DPA to other parts of the food supply chain, should they encounter similar challenges with continuing operations. While FDA will continue to work with state and local regulators in a collaborative manner, there will be a process in place should further action under the DPA be needed.
USDA Announces Details of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA has developed the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to provide financial assistance to farmers and ranchers. Beginning May 26, the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses. CFAP provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.
Farmers and ranchers will receive direct support, drawn from two possible funding sources. The first source of funding is $9.5 billion in appropriated funding provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act to compensate farmers for losses due to price declines that occurred between mid-January 2020, and mid-April 2020 and provides support for specialty crops for product that had been shipped from the farm between the same time period but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channels. The second funding source uses the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to compensate producers for $6.5 billion in losses due to on-going market disruptions. Provisions specific to animal agriculture producers include:
Livestock eligible for CFAP include cattle, lambs, yearlings and hogs. The total payment will be calculated using the sum of the producer’s number of livestock sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020, multiplied by the payment rates per head, and the highest inventory number of livestock between April 16 and May 14, 2020, multiplied by the payment rate per head.
For dairy, the total payment will be calculated based on a producer’s certification of milk production for the first quarter of calendar year 2020 multiplied by a national price decline during the same quarter. The second part of the payment is based a national adjustment to each producer’s production in the first quarter.
Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020.
EU Releases Farm to Fork Strategy
On May 20th, the European Commission published its Farm to Fork Strategy for the future of food production in Europe. The agriculture plank of the European Green Deal is billed as a plan for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system. The strategy is critical of animal agriculture and aims to stop stimulating the production or consumption of meat. The document asserts that “moving to a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat and with more fruits and vegetables will reduce not only risks of life-threatening diseases, but also the environmental impact of the food system.” While the strategy calls on reducing meat consumption, environmental groups have criticized the document for not going far enough and should include specific targets for reduction.
Agriculture Secretary Perdue Added to White House Coronavirus Task Force
On May 15th, Vice President Pence announced the addition of five new members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The announcement comes as the Task Force enters a new phase, which is focused on getting Americans back to work and allowing businesses to re-open. One of the newly added members is Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. This is a positive signal about the importance of food and agriculture to the government’s recovery efforts. The full list of new members is:
Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture
Gene Scalia, Secretary of Labor
Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health
Dr. Peter Marks, FDA Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research
Thomas Engels, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration