December 28, 2020

December D.C. Update

Washington Roundup – December 2020

By: Lowell Randel

Congress Approves FY 2021 Omnibus Package

On December 21st, Congress reached agreement on an omnibus package of appropriations bills for fiscal year 2021, including the Agriculture Appropriations Bill.  The bill provides more than $3.3 billion for agricultural research programs. This includes $1.527 billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and $1.57 billion for National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The bill also fully funds the President’s budget request to support the continued establishment of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.  

For NIFA, most accounts would receive the same level of funding as provided in FY 2020.  The one major program that would receive an increase is the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) which receives $435 million, up $10 million from last year. Other major accounts such as Hatch and Smith-Lever capacity programs are funded at FY 2020 levels. The bill continues animal science priority programs of Sec. 1433 and the Agricultural Genome to Phenome Initiative at FY 2020 levels.

The agreement also includes language recognizing the complex problems affecting the health of humans, animals, and the environment.  Within 120 days of enactment, the Secretary shall submit a report to the Committees detailing existing collaborative efforts between FDA, USDA, and other agencies to prevent and respond to zoonotic disease outbreaks in animals and humans. The report may include, but is not limited to, competitive research grant programs; training and support for scientists, first responders, or medical personnel; engagement of nongovernmental entities; and participation in international collaboration and research to assist in establishing a One Health program.

Below is a summary of key research accounts:

ACCOUNT                               FY 2020 FINAL            FY2021 FINAL

ARS Salaries and Expenses     $1.414 billion              $1.491 billion 

ARS Buildings and Facilities    $192.7 million             $35.7 million

Hatch                                      $259 million                $259 million

AFRI                                         $425 million                $435 million

Sec. 1433                                $4 million                    $4 million

Smith Lever                             $315 million                $315 million

Genome to Phenome             $1 million                    $1 million       

 

 

Proposal Released to Transfer Agricultural Animal Biotechnology Regulatory Framework to USDA

On December 21st, Agriculture Secretary Perdue announced a proposal to modernize regulations of agricultural animals modified or produced by genetic engineering. USDA will be moving forward with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit public input and feedback on a contemplated regulatory framework that would modernize the regulatory system. This initiative follows President Trump’s Executive Order on agricultural biotechnology that called upon federal agencies to make regulatory improvements to rectify some of the long-standing barriers to innovation for U.S. agriculture. 

While USDA would continue to consult with experts from FDA, the regulatory authority would be transferred from FDA to USDA.  Under the regulatory framework being contemplated, USDA would provide regulatory oversight from pre-market reviews through post-market food safety monitoring for certain farm animals developed using genetic engineering.  According to USDA, the goal is to establish a flexible, forward-looking, risk-proportionate and science-based regulatory framework that provides a predictable pathway to commercialization and keeps pace with advances in science and technology for certain farm animals (cattle, sheep, goats, swine, horses, mules, or other equines, catfish, and poultry) developed using genetic engineering intended for agricultural purposes. 

 

NSF Announces Enabling Discovery through GEnomics (EDGE) Program Solicitation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently announced a new solicitation for the Enabling Discovery through Genomics (EDGE) program.  NSF has made several revisions to the program that could be beneficial for increased participation from animal scientists.  NSF partnered with NIH/NHGRI to demonstrate multi-agency interest and support in comparative and functional genomics research.  They added a deadline to facilitate the NIH partnership, the next of which is March 16, 2021.  The “Complex Multi-genic Traits” track has been refined and the requirement for parallel studies in novel systems has been removed.  Researchers need only present a compelling case for why their hypothesis would be more broadly generalizable.  Additional detail has been added to the “Solicitation specific Review Criteria” to make these changes more transparent.

More information about the program can be found at the following links: 

·      Enabling Discovery through GEnomics | NSF - National Science Foundation (https://nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505480)

·      Solicitation: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2021/nsf21546/nsf21546.pdf

·      Informational webinar: https://iosblog.nsfbio.com/2020/12/21/informational-edge-webinar-january-15-2021-200pm-et/