June 29, 2020

June D.C. Update

Washington Roundup – June 2020

By: Lowell Randel

USDA/FDA Release Statement on Safety of Food Exports

On June 24th, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., issued the following statement regarding food export restrictions pertaining to COVID-19:

“The United States understands the concerns of consumers here domestically and around the world who want to know that producers, processors and regulators are taking every necessary precaution to prioritize food safety especially during these challenging times. However, efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission.”

“There is no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or from food packaging. The U.S. food safety system, overseen by our agencies, is the global leader in ensuring the safety of our food products, including product for export.” 

The statement was released in response to recent actions by China targeting the potential role of food imports in contributing to COVID-19 cases at a Beijing food market.  China has begun testing some food products such as seafood, meat and poultry, for potential contamination with COVID-19.  Thus far, it appears that all of those tests have come back negative.  Nevertheless, China has taken measures to block imports from some facilities that have experienced high levels of positives, including a Tyson facility in the United States.

House Appropriations Committee Schedule for FY2021 Spending Bills

The House Appropriations Committee has outlined its schedule for considering appropriations bills for fiscal year 2021.  Markups are scheduled for the week of July 6th.  It is anticipated that bill texts will be available about 24 hours ahead of subcommittee markups.

Below is a schedule for selected subcommittees with responsibility for major science programs:

July 6

6:00 p.m. — Agriculture-FDA

July 7

11:00 a.m. — Interior-Environment

3:00 p.m. — Energy-Water

5:00 p.m. — Labor-HHS-Education

July 8

9:00 a.m. — Commerce- Justice-Science

The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to consider the bills beginning on July 9th, with the Agriculture bill likely being among the first to be addressed.  Consideration by the full House is planned for late July.

The Senate had planned to begin its work on appropriations in late June, but action has been postponed until after July 4th.

ASAS Joins Coalition in Support of RISE act

On June 24th, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the Research Investment to Secure the Economy (RISE) Act.  The RISE Act would authorize approximately $26 billion in emergency relief for federal science agencies – such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation and others – to award to research universities, independent institutions, and national laboratories to continue working on federally-funded research projects.  The bill would provide $380 million to support the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  ASAS joined with partners across academia and science in support of the bill.  A list of supporting organizations can be found here.

Animal Agriculture Coalition Calls for Increased Funds for Animal Health Programs

On June 19th, ASAS joined with the Animal Agriculture Coalition urging Congress to provide $300 million for the 2018 Farm Bill animal disease prevention and management fund to support improved animal health surveillance and laboratory capacity in the current public health emergency and to ensure preparedness for future infectious disease outbreaks through the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP), and the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Vaccine Bank.  The AAC letter encourages the adoption of a one health approach to prepare and respond to zoonotic disease outbreaks. Recognizing that animal, human, and environmental health are inextricably linked, animal health surveillance plays a critical role in protecting our nation’s food supply and public health from infectious disease outbreaks that originate in animals. The USDA animal health infrastructure, authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, includes the NAHLN, NADPRP, and the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Vaccine Bank is the nation’s defense against emerging and re-emerging food animal diseases that threaten economic stability and human lives.  ASAS and the animal science community worked closely with the AAC and other partners to support the inclusion of these programs in the 2018 Farm Bill.  ASAS continues to work with partners towards strengthening these programs for the future.

NCFAR Holds Annual meeting, ASAS Representative Elected Vice Chair

On May 26th, the National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research held its annual meeting. Participants heard from Congressional staff as well as leaders from USDA regarding the current status of programs and funding for agricultural research.  Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins and representatives from the four USDA-REE agencies spoke about their respective agencies as well as the Secretary’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda.  During the business portion of the meeting, ASAS Washington Representative, Lowell Randel was elected to serve as Vice Chair of the NCFAR Board for the upcoming year.  This is a good opportunity for the animal sciences to show leadership with peer organizations in the advancement of agricultural research policy.