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This blog from ASPB's public affairs unit will provide updates on policy developments in Washington and other plant biology news impacting the ASPB community. Please send any news, comments, or suggestions to ASPB's public affairs director, Adam Fagen, at Policy Archives available under Group Pages.


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Analysis of the President’s FY 2017 Budget Request

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Thursday, February 11, 2016


President Obama released the last budget request of his Administration on February 9th. The budget proposal nominally adheres to the top defense and non-defense discretionary spending levels agreed to by Congress in the fall of last year. However, the White House is relying on mandatory spending, which requires Congress to pass legislation to make these expenditures outside of the yearly appropriations process, to fund additional priorities in a flat budget environment. While the new initiatives and policy priorities provide the research and education communities a rallying point for advocacy, this mandatory funding will almost certainly not be embraced, since Congress would have to enact new taxes and designate the revenue specifically for the purposes of funding these programs.

As in prior years, the budget request outlines a consistent agenda for research and education organizations, with initiatives focused on advanced manufacturing, neuroscience, Alzheimer’s research, basic and applied energy, and advanced computing as well as efforts to increase college access (e.g. year-round Pell Grants), completion, and outcomes. These types of focused thrusts would continue to receive the bulk of proposed new investments directed toward federal research and education agencies. At the same time, the request continues prior proposals to identify savings and increased efficiencies such as cuts to indirect medical education in favor of new policies associated with healthcare delivery and cuts in defense basic research accounts in favor of more applied or translational initiatives.

To further his legacy on research, education, and other funding priorities and potentially influence the next White House Administration and Congress, the President has laid out ambitious multi-year agendas for his top priorities, despite this being his last year in the White House. While the Congress may disagree with many of his proposed savings, mandatory funding streams, and new initiatives, several of the recommendations are bipartisan priorities that will receive some traction from both parties. In particular, new investments in exascale computing, a focused cancer initiative (as first discussed during the President’s State of the Union), cybersecurity, and expansion of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education are all expected to receive congressional support. Beyond the budget proposal itself, the White House also recently released a Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan, a Cybersecurity National Action Plan, and a $1.8 billion emergency funding plan to combat the Zika virus, all of which are expected to be met with strong congressional support and interest.

The submission of the President’s budget request officially kicks off what is expected to be a fairly aggressive congressional cycle to consider annual appropriations bills. While the advocacy communities will advance their priorities, with only $3 billion in additional spending from FY 2016 to FY 2017 across the entire federal discretionary budget, FY 2016 enacted funding levels provide a more realistic starting point for FY 2017 budget discussions.

The following table highlights some of the federal science agencies and programs relevant to the plant sciences.

Federal Science Agency Budget Requests (In thousands)

FY 2016 Estimated FY 2017 Request Request vs. FY2016
USDA, Research, Education, Economics 3,141,000 3,438,000 297,000 (9.5%)
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) 1,356,000 1,256,000 -100,000 (7.4%)
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) 1,331,000 1,379,000 48,000 (3.6%)
AFRI 350,000 700,000 350,000 (100%)
Hatch Act 244,000 244,000 --
Higher Education Programs 34,000 33,000 -1,000 (2.9%)
Smith-Lever Act 3(b) and 3(c) 300,000 300,000 --
National Science Foundation 7,463,490 7,964,020 500,530 (6.7%)
Directorate for Biological Sciences 744,170 790,520 46,350 (6.2%)
DOE, Office of Science* 5,347,000 5,572,069 225,069 (4.2%)
Basic Energy Sciences 1,849,000 1,936,730 87,730 (4.7%)
Biological and Environmental Research 609,000 661,920 52,920 (8.7%)
National Institutes of Health 32,311,349 33,136,349 825,000(2.6%)



Tags:  Budget 

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Science Policy Committee Seeks Early Career Participant

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The ASPB Science Policy Committee represents and explains the interests and value of the plant science community to Congress, the Executive Branch and the public. The committee meets twice a year – once at the ASPB annual meeting in the summer, and once in Washington, DC, generally in the spring. The Committee’s spring meeting includes visits with Congressional offices and with federal agencies. The Committee is seeking a graduate student or postdoc who is a member of ASPB and affiliated with a U.S. university to participate in the Committee’s work and its meetings over a 2-year term, as described more fully below. Travel costs are reimbursed by ASPB. If you are interested in participating, please submit a CV, a one-page description of why you are interested and what you would bring to the Committee, and a short statement of endorsement from your current mentor/PI to ASPB director of legislative and public affairs Tyrone Spady at before August 23, 2015. The Committee will name its next early career representative before the end of September.


Activities for Early Career Representative on Science Policy Committee

Term is for two years.


1.       Interview members of science foundations or funding agencies (one per year, suggested by other members of the ASPB Science Policy Committee) for the ASPB News society newsletter

2.       Read and digest items circulated among Science Policy Committee members by other committee members, ASPB staff, and staff at ASPB’s legislative affairs consultants Lewis-Burke Associates. These materials might include policy notices, requests for responses, and items prepared by committee members.  Be prepared to join in the discussions (usually by email) and contribute to the writing and/or editing of these documents as needed

3.       Attend annual Science Policy Committee meeting in the spring

a.       Participate in discussions

b.      Attend presentations from representatives of funding agencies or other government officials; represent early career plant scientists in the ensuing discussions.

c.       Visit your state’s representatives and/or pertinent committees (joined by an ASPB representative).  Discuss support for plant scientists with congressional staff.  Write thank you notes to everyone you visit

4.       Recapitulate your experience to students at the ASPB annual meeting and in the ASPB News.

5.       When requested, share information about policy discussions with peers, for example via a blog

6.       Participate in development of ASPB policy statements

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Analysis of the FY 2015 CRomnibus Appropriations Bill

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Monday, December 15, 2014


Executive Summary

In a herculean effort, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees concluded negotiations on a final Continuing Resolution (CR) and Omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 83) to fund federal government agencies for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2015. The so called “CRomnibus” bill sustains federal investments in research, education, and healthcare programs important to research universities and non-profit research institutions. The bill as passed the House and the Senate is expected to vote over the next few days with the Congressional Leadership working to round up the votes to pass the bill. The President will sign the bill.

The bill includes funding for 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills and upholds the $1.013 trillion spending cap for FY 2015 agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (the “Ryan-Murray” agreement). The final bill is also consistent with the $521 billion spending cap placed on defense and the $492 billion non-defense spending cap.

Reflecting the high-stakes political arena in Washington, D.C. following the election that gave Republicans a comfortable majority in the Senate, it was not certain that the oft characterized “do-nothing” Congress could agree to a final appropriations measure. It increasingly appears, however, that there will be bipartisan support for the final CRomnibus bill to give federal research agencies and education programs certainty for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The more controversial bills, such as Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Interior and Environment, narrowly avoided a full-year CR when agreements were reached over funding the healthcare reform law and various policy riders relating to regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection agency (EPA), among other issues. The only agency remaining under a CR is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would be funded through February 27, 2015. This action provides an avenue for the incoming Republican-led Congress to take the Administration to task over the President’s recent executive actions on immigration, but the CR also will disrupt the operation of numerous federal agencies under the DHS umbrella.

The CRomnibus bill sustains support for federal research agencies and reflects continued bipartisan support for these investments even in times of tight budgets:

  • NSF would receive modest increases in all accounts for a total of $7.3 billion, an increase of $172 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. Cognitive science and neuroscience are highlighted in the report language with a recommended $21 million for new research.
  • While funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science is held to the current level of about $5.1 billion, priority innovation programs, including Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), Energy Innovation Hubs, the exascale initiative, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) are supported.
  • Within NIFA, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would be funded at $325 million, a significant increase of $8.6 million (2.7 percent). Notably, the bill includes a provision (Sec. 749) exempting AFRI through FY 2015 from the 1:1 matching requirements that were mandated in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Details of the major federal research, education, and healthcare programs funded in the CRomnibus bill follow. While the CRomnibus bill would provide budgetary certainty for the remainder of the fiscal year, the budget battle will be rejoined in the upcoming 114th Congress.  Please see the following link to view Lewis Burke's full analysis of the FY 2015 Crombnibus:

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  funding  NSF  research  USDA 

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Agency Update: Senate Confirms New Deputy Secretary of Energy; Other Nominations Languish

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Monday, September 29, 2014


On September 18 as the Congress prepared to leave Washington for pre-election campaigning, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall to be the Deputy Secretary of Energy.  Dr. Sherwood-Randall’s confirmation was expedited by the Senate as she prepares to become the second highest ranking official in the Department of Energy (DOE), serving as the top deputy to Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz and as the chief operating officer of the Department.  She succeeds Daniel Poneman, who served as Deputy Secretary of Energy for five years.  Even as she was confirmed, several other high-ranking nominees for the Department continue to languish in the Senate.  These include:

  • Franklin Orr to be Undersecretary of Science and Energy
  • Mark Kastner to be Director of the Office of Science
  • Ellen Williams to be Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
  • Christopher Smith to be Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy
  • Jonathan Elkind to be Assistant Secretary for International Affairs
  • Joseph Hezir to be Chief Financial Officer
  • Monica Regalbuto to be Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management

In announcing the nomination of Dr. Sherwood-Randall, the White House provided the following biographical information:

“Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control, a position she has held since 2013.  Dr. Sherwood-Randall served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council from 2009 to 2013.  Prior to joining the White House, she was a Stanford University Senior Research Scholar from 2000 to 2008, and from 2004 to 2008 she was also the Adjunct Senior Fellow for Alliance Relations at the Council on Foreign Relations.  From 1997 through 2008, she was a Founding Principal in the Harvard-Stanford Preventive Defense Project.  From 1994 to 1996, she served at the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, for which she received the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.  From 1990 to 1993, Dr. Sherwood-Randall was Co-Founder and Associate Director of the Harvard Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.  From 1986 to 1987, she served as Chief Foreign Affairs and Defense Policy Advisor to then Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.  Dr. Sherwood-Randall received a B.A. from Harvard University and a doctorate from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.”

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Policy Update: National Research Council Releases Report Reviewing Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Thursday, September 18, 2014


On September 9, the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC) released a report titled “Spurring Innovation in Food and Agriculture: A review of the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Program.” The purpose of the NRC report was twofold: to assess the effectiveness of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) with respect to the congressional goals and mandates for the program and to review the program’s progress in developing innovation and competition in the Nation’s food and agriculture system.

The NRC committee’s general consensus is that AFRI serves a unique and vital role, recognizing that agricultural research and development is essential for producing necessary food, fuel, and fibers to meet the growing population. However, the committee concluded that AFRI does not receive adequate resources to meet current and future food and agricultural challenges. Additionally, the committee determined that the structure of AFRI is complicated and recommends better priority setting as well as reconfiguring programs to better align with AFRI’s mission.

As part of the report’s rollout, on September 9 the National Academies hosted a public webinar that provided an overview of the report and its findings. USDA has not yet issued a statement or response to the NRC report. During the report’s public roll out, the committee acknowledged that the matching requirement for Non-Land Grant Institutions contained in the 2014 Farm Bill effectively deters new researchers from pursuing AFRI awards and thwarts academia-workforce growth.

The report’s recommendations are organized into four main areas: “Need for Food and Agriculture Research; Realignment of Program Structure to Match Mission, Mandate, and Budget; Strategy and Collaboration and; Program Management.” Details include:

Need for Food and Agriculture Research
The NRC committee concluded that AFRI’s “mandated scope, mission, and responsibilities” are critical components of the U.S. research and development portfolio because they specifically focus on international and national challenges in food and agriculture. Despite the pivotal role of the program’s research, the report indicates that AFRI has been inadequately funded and currently lacks the requisite resources to address prevailing and future issues.

In response to this conclusion, the NRC committee recommends that the U.S. should bolster investments in agricultural research. According to the recommendation, increased commitment to competitive agricultural R&D will ensure America’s stature as a leader in innovation and technology to address the health, well-being, and food requirements of a growing population.

Realignment of Program Structure to Match Mission, Mandate, and Budget
The NRC committee reported difficultly in discerning the mission and structure of AFRI, requiring multiple rounds of correspondence with NIFA to determine these components. As a result, the committee concluded that AFRI has a complex and unclear infrastructure, complicated by the presence of duplicative and coinciding programs that are not entirely consistent with the congressionally-mandated priorities. The report indicates that AFRI’s portfolio is heavy in applied research and lacks a balance between foundational and applied research. Further, the committee finds that the program’s current challenge areas are too narrowly defined for specific issues and in many cases, these areas are repetitive. The committee notes the alarming decline in the number of applicants, recipients, and trainees. Moreover, the committee reports that AFRI’s continued emphasis on large Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) grants, a “disproportionate percentage of the AFRI budget,” is unsustainable with respect to current appropriations levels and has resulted in a decrease of published papers.

The report recommends that NIFA streamline AFRI, reorganizing it to address the program’s specific mission and mandates as prescribed in authorizing legislation. The committee proposes that priority should be given to foundational research that will support innovative technologies, “provide platforms for extension and education,” and develop the next generation workforce researchers. The report indicates that the Challenge-Area Program should be eliminated and the Foundational Program should emphasize investigator-driven research instead. By eliminating the CAP grants, AFRI could focus on other types of smaller-scale funding awards. With respect to the declining numbers, the committee notes that AFRI should examine the causes and implement programs to address this deficit.

Strategy and Collaboration
According to the committees’ current findings, AFRI lacks “clearly articulated” plans to inform its management, priorities, and cross agency work. The report outlines the need for more strategic, delineated interagency initiatives. Additionally, it notes that AFRI requires an external advisory council to oversee and guide strategic direction and programmatic decisions.

In response to these conclusions, the committee recommends AFRI develop a strategic plan to establish a framework and to help implement, achieve, and assess the program’s goals. Additionally, an AFRI Scientific Advisory Council should be created to support these efforts, with incumbent members from the research, industry, and academic communities.

Program Management
The report states that AFRI has a complex, collective management structure where multiple individuals, rather than a single administrator, oversee the program and are held accountable for performance. The NRC committee findings describe an applicant community that is increasingly frustrated by disjointed program areas that vary year to year, effectively hindering the research community’s long-term planning and ability to resubmit or renew proposals. Based on these findings, the committee recommends the development of definitive metrics that will measure success, impacts, and whether the project(s) align with priorities and goals. These metrics would help to inform and guide National Program Leader’s (NPL) project-funding decisions and allow continued efforts to balance the AFRI research portfolio.

To strengthen program management, the NRC committee recommends NIFA create a more defined organizational and authoritative structure for AFRI, with a single, designated individual responsible for leading and overseeing day-to-day operations of the program. In conjunction with this new structure, the committee recommends NIFA create a foundational information-management system that will guide the program’s strategic planning and policy decisions, as well as provide assessments of the research funding. These recommended changes will support evaluation of AFRI projects in terms of societal and economic impacts. In addition, creating recommended standard operating procedures would enhance the role of NPLs with respect to final project-funding decisions.

Sources and Additional Information:
      The full NRC report is available at


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Appropriations Update: Congress Gears Up for a Continuing Resolution to Fund the Government into FY 2015

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Friday, August 08, 2014


The U.S. Congress left for the August recess without passing a single fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bill.  When Congress returns on September 8, there will be a limited number of days to reach agreement on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government into the new fiscal year, which begins October 1.  While neither the House nor Senate anticipate a government shutdown, consideration of the CR is likely to be complicated by the significant divide between the House and Senate over the President’s request for emergency supplemental appropriations to address the immigration crisis at the Southern border.  This supplemental is likely to be part of the negotiations on and attached to the CR.

Status of Bills

The House of Representatives has passed its versions of seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills.  The Senate hasn’t passed any of its bills.  With Congress planning to leave again for the month of October to campaign in advance of the November mid-terms, a CR will be needed to continue operations of the federal government until Congress returns for a “lame duck” session following the elections.  Recent statements from congressional leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), suggest that the CR will continue federal funding into December to allow Congress to return after the elections and chart the path forward.  That path could include negotiations on an omnibus appropriations bill to provide federal agencies with a full-year budget similar to the FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, an extension of the CR for a full year, or an extension of the CR into next year when a new Congress is sworn in and can revisit the bills. 

What to Expect

If the past is any guide, Congress is likely to consider a short-term CR that funds programs at the FY 2014 enacted (or current) level.  While the top-line funding allocations may be at the FY 2014 level, federal agencies have some discretion for how they administer a CR.  Some agencies may allocate funding at about 90 percent of the usual rate.  Agencies may also consider funding programs at the lower of the President’s FY 2015 budget request, the House bill, the Senate bill, or the FY 2014 enacted level.  Although for a short period of time, with the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming elections and particularly the outcome of the Senate races, federal agencies are likely to be restrictive in allocating funding until Congress decides how to complete the FY 2015 appropriations process.

A final appropriations endgame will depend on the political climate resulting from the mid-terms.  While many theories exist as to what various outcomes could mean for legislating during the lame duck, a “status quo” result where Republicans hold the House and Democrats maintain their Senate majority is the scenario most likely to allow for an omnibus bill.  The outlook for the lame duck would become more uncertain if Republicans net the six seats necessary to take control of the Senate.    

Faculty should contact their agency program managers closer to October about how their current awards will be managed under a CR.

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Budget Update: White House Issues Guidance to Federal Agencies on FY 2016 Budget Formulation and Science and Technology Priorities

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Thursday, August 07, 2014


Even as Congress is mired in the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations process and will have to enact a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government beginning October 1, the Obama Administration is gearing up to draft the President’s FY 2016 budget request to Congress.

As previously reported, on May 5, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued guidance to federal agencies on the development of the President’s FY 2016 budget request. On July 18, OMB and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued their annual memorandum outlining the President’s science and technology priorities for the next budget. During the summer and fall, federal departments and agencies will be making their case for initiatives and program priorities to be included in the President’s budget request, which is to be released in February.

In the May 5 memorandum, OMB encourages agencies to build on the President’s priority areas by reducing spending on lower priority programs to fund investments in programs such as “education, innovation, infrastructure and security.” OMB also urges agencies to identify management efficiencies to improve government operations.

In a departure from past budget guidance, OMB provides a less draconian budget scenario of a 2 percent reduction below the net discretionary total projected for an agency in the President’s FY 2015 budget request. This reduction is to apply to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending provided in annual appropriations acts to give the President options to consider as he seeks funding for Administration priorities. Agencies are also encouraged to identify budget savings proposals in mandatory programs. Last year’s budget guidance sought proposed budget reductions of 5 and 10 percent.

The budget scenario hints that the President’s budget is likely to again include a separate “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” for both defense and non-defense investments above current spending caps. OMB instructs agencies to identify additional investments in effective programs that are up to 5 percent above the regular budget submission. These investments are to be ranked in priority order.

In the July 18 science and technology specific memorandum, OMB and OSTP underscore the importance of federal funding for research and development (R&D) to meet the nation’s needs. They note the importance of science, technology, and innovation to the nation’s economy through job creation, and the many benefits to all Americans from these investments.

The priorities of the Obama Administration remain quite consistent with past budget submissions. The Administration again encourages agencies to identify “Grand Challenges” that require significant advances and may require high-risk research. Agencies are encouraged to be creative in supplementing
traditional funding mechanisms, such as grants and contracts, with more market-based incentives, such as “prizes.” The White House also encourages agencies to pursue international partnerships to advance Administration priorities, such as in global health and development, and to share the cost of large research projects, with a caution to ensure strong management procedures.

The Administration also directs agencies to align federal investments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education with the Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan with a goal of reducing program duplication and fragmentation and improving program effectiveness.
Recognizing continued budget constraints, OSTP and OMB task agencies to redirect available resources from lower-priority programs to science and technology activities supporting key multi-agency research priorities.

These include:

• Advanced manufacturing and industries of the future: As part of its economic revitalization strategy, the Obama Administration wants to advance state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities. The Administration emphasizes government-industry-university partnerships to pursue industries of the future, such as nanotechnology, robotics, materials development, and cyber-physical systems.

• Clean energy: The President continues to advance an “all of the above” energy strategy to promote energy security and energy independence. The Administration wants to promote American leadership in renewable energy technologies, citing manufacturing and developing a modern electricity grid; improving energy efficiency in buildings, homes, and industrial production; and developing a new 21st century transportation system that could bring the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Transportation together in R&D.

• Earth observations: The Administration emphasizes the need for interagency cooperation to integrate Earth-system data and to maximize observational coverage to protect human life, property, the economy, and national security.

• Global climate change: Agencies are directed to advance the recommendations of the U.S. Global Change
Research Program (USGCRP) and the President’s Climate Action Plan.
• Information technology and high-performance computing: The Obama Administration emphasizes the need for investments to expand big data collection and support discovery science. Agencies are directed to address plans for cybersecurity R&D to protect U.S. computer systems from cyber attacks. The Administration emphasizes interagency collaboration and coordination with the private sector to promote innovation in high- performance computing.

• Innovation in life sciences, biology, and neuroscience: The White House highlights the importance of investments in biological discovery research that could greatly advance health, energy, food security, and technologies outlined in key Administration studies. The White House also emphasizes the need to support research to benefit service members and veterans’ mental health. In an anticipated initiative, the Administration highlights the challenges associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the need to develop new countermeasures.

• National and homeland security: Recognizing continued external threats, the Obama Administration reiterates the need to support balance in basic and applied research and advanced technology development. Specific areas of interest include “hypersonics, countering weapons of mass destruction, accelerated training techniques, and handling large data sets for national-security mission requirements.”

• R&D for informed policy-making and management: In a final category, the White House acknowledges the need for “user-driven information and tools to ensure science investments more directly support decision-making.” Both OMB and OSTP acknowledge the continuing constraints under existing budget caps; however, it seems clear that the Administration will again segment the FY 2016 budget request. There will be a base budget that complies with existing budget caps, and a separate fund along the lines of the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative that will propose additional investments in priority programs, such as clean energy, research, education, etc. above current spending limitations. While the Administration is likely to propose offsetting savings to pay for these additional investments, if the current year is any guide, they are unlikely to be acceptable to the Congress.


• Memorandum M-14-07, Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Guidance, May 5, 2014, Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, Washington, D.C.,

• Memorandum M-14-11, Science and Technology Priorities for the FY 2016 Budget, July 18, 2014, Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C.,

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Budget Update: House of Representatives Begins Consideration of Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Friday, June 13, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014


On June 11, the U.S. House of Representatives began debate on the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2015.  Progress was made on several amendments before the House leadership set the bill aside for possible action later this summer.  The unexpected defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in his primary brought House legislative action to a halt, and a White House veto threat against the bill led to further action being deferred.

On May 29, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the bill on a bipartisan vote.  The House bill totals $20.9 billion in discretionary spending, which is approximately equal to the current level.  The overall bill, including both discretionary and mandatory spending, totals $142.5 billion.  The House Committee estimates that the overall bill is $1.5 billion below the President’s request and $3 billion below the FY 2014 enacted level.

Overall spending on the FY 2015 appropriations bills totals $1.014 trillion, which is essentially a freeze at the FY 2014 enacted level.  The House Agriculture Appropriations bill is one of the few non-defense bills that is slated to receive approximately the same level of discretionary funding as for the current year.

For the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) major research agencies, the House bill recommends a total of nearly $2.6 billion, which is approximately $150 million above the FY 2014 enacted level.  For the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the House bill would provide $1.12 billion for salaries and expenses in FY 2015, a reduction of $2.2 million below the FY 2014 level and $15.9 million (1.4 percent) above the President’s budget request.  During the Committee consideration of the bill, an amendment was adopted to add $155 million for the ARS Buildings and Facilities program for the repair, improvement, or construction of facilities.  The cost was offset by reduction other non-research accounts in the bill.  No funding was requested by the President for ARS Buildings and Facilities.

For the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the House bill would provide $1.27 billion, which is $3.3 million below the FY 2014 enacted level and $61.7 million (4.6 percent) below the President’s budget request.  Within NIFA, the Committee would support competitive research through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) by recommending $325 million, an increase of $8.6 million (2.7 percent) above the FY 2014 enacted level and the same as the President’s budget request and the Senate-reported bill.  The House bill does not include funding for the Administration’s three proposed Innovation Institutes for which $75 million was requested.  The Senate-reported bill also does not fund the Innovation Institutes.

Additionally, within NIFA, the House Committee also supports key formula funding for the nation’s land-grant institutions, providing a proposed $243.7 million for formula assistance under the Hatch Act and $300.0 million for cooperative extension activities under the Smith-Lever Act 3(b) and 3(c) programs.  These recommendations for the formula grants are the same as the FY 2014 enacted levels and match the President’s budget request and the Senate-reported bill.

For the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the bill would provide $1.0 billion, which is $5.5 million (<1 percent) below the FY 2014 enacted level and $3.8 million (<1 percent) above the President’s budget request.

This bill would also provide new appropriations of $2.57 billion for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is $22.2 million above the FY 2014 enacted level and $1.3 million below the President’s budget request.  The Committee proposes $4.48 billion in total funding, including user-fees, for the agency.

The House Committee would provide $1.8 billion for overseas food aid, including the “Food for Peace” program.  The bill also includes a $13 million increase of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program for a total recommendation of $198.1 million.

While progress was made on the bill during its consideration by the full House on June 11, there are several amendments and issues that are expected to be raised if the bill is revisited.  During Subcommittee and full Committee consideration of the bill, Democratic members took issue with provisions in the bill that would allow USDA to grant waivers to school lunch programs having difficulty, including economic hardships, meeting new standards for fresh fruits and vegetables.  Amendments to strike the waiver language from the bill failed, but are expected to be offered as floor amendments.  Subcommittee members also objected to the inclusion of white potatoes as an approved commodity under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and to the exclusion of urban children in a pilot summer food program.  Concerns were also raised with the proposed funding level for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which is charged with oversight under the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, and the need for additional funding for food safety programs.

The Administration has issued a veto threat against this bill.  The Administration objects to the inclusion of a provision in the bill that would allow USDA to grant waivers to school lunch programs having difficulty meeting new standards for fresh fruits and vegetables.  The White House characterizes this as injecting “political decision-making into science-based nutrition standards.”  First Lady Michelle Obama has stated her concern and strong objection to this provision in the bill, which could undermine her efforts to combat childhood obesity.  The Administration also objects to the lack of funding for financial oversight, and raises issues over the inclusion of white potatoes in the WIC food package.  Among other provisions, the Administration states its concern that the Committee does not provide funding for the three proposed innovation institutes.

Additional funding details can be found in the chart below. 

House Agriculture Appropriations Bill, FY 2015

Approved by House Appropriations Committee on May 29, 2014

(In thousands)



FY 2014 Enacted

FY 2015 Request

FY 2015 House

House vs. FY 2014 Enacted

House vs. FY 2015 Request

USDA, Research, Education, Economics








Agricultural Research Service (ARS)








National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)








Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)







Innovation Institutes







Hatch Act






Hispanic Serving Institutions Education Grants






Hispanic Serving Agriculture Colleges and Universities







Smith-Lever Act 3(b) and 3(c)






Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA)








FDA, Total








Sources and Additional Information:

·  For additional information, including the text of the bill and report and a press release summarizing the Committee changes to the bill, please see the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee website at

· A press release summarizing the Subcommittee recommendations in the bill can be found at

· The White House Statement of Administration Policy on the bill can be found at


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Budget Update: House Appropriations Committee Announces Funding Allocations to Expedite Action on Spending Bills

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014


On May 6, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee announced the preliminary subcommittee allocations for the purpose of writing the 12 annual spending bills. As anticipated, Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) set the subcommittee allocations within the overall spending limitation of $1.014 trillion agreed to in the two-year bipartisan Balanced Budget Act of 2013.  Last month, House Republicans narrowly passed a fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget resolution that would have reduced federal spending by $5.1 trillion over the next 10 years to balance the budget.  The budget resolution, if implemented, would have required significant reductions in the appropriations bills.  With the Senate deferring action on a budget resolution, the House Republican leadership tacitly agreed to abide by the spending caps currently in law.

By adhering to the two-year budget agreement, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have an opportunity to consider the annual spending bills in an orderly way and with hope that some might be enacted into law before the October 1 start of the new fiscal year.  In a very partisan election year with the Senate Democratic majority looking vulnerable, it can be expected that controversial policy issues will again complicate the appropriations process.

The House Appropriations Committee upholds the “firewall” between defense and non-defense spending enacted in the bipartisan budget agreement.  The Act provides $521.3 billion in FY 2015 for defense programs, excluding funding associated with the war in Afghanistan (“Overseas Contingency Operations”), and $492.4 billion for non-defense programs.  In previous years, House Republicans have increased overall spending for defense by reallocating non-defense spending to those programs.  With both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees abiding by the “firewall” between defense and non-defense spending, it could improve the odds for some of the bills to be enacted.

The House Subcommittee allocations for the FY 2015 appropriations bills could also help pave the way for enactment of some of the less controversial bills even with overall spending essentially at a freeze compared to FY 2014.

· The Defense Subcommittee would receive nearly $491 billion in regular appropriations, excluding funding to support the war in Afghanistan, which has not yet been requested by the President.  This is approximately $4.1 billion above the FY 2014 enacted level.

· The increase for the Defense Subcommittee comes in part from reductions in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, which is allocated $1.8 billion below the FY 2014 enacted level.

· The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee, the largest non-defense bill which funds the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Education, would receive $155.7 billion, a reduction of approximately $1.08 billion below the FY 2014 enacted level, but an improvement over last year’s House allocation.

· The Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee would receive nearly $1.2 billion above the FY 2014 enacted level, largely due to the need for additional highway spending.

· The Interior-Environment Subcommittee, which funds the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey, would fare better than last year’s House allocation, receiving $162 million above the FY 2014 level for a total of $30.2 billion.

· The Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is slated for a reduction of about $398 million below the FY 2014 enacted level; however, the House Subcommittee has approved a $51.2 billion bill that provides an increase of more than $200 million above the current level for both NSF and NASA.

· The Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, which funds the Department of Energy Office of Science and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), would receive $34.0 billion, which is $50 million less than the FY 2014 level.

· The Homeland Security Subcommittee would also be funded about $50 million below the current level for a total of nearly $39.2 billion.

· The Financial Services Subcommittee allocation would be $575 million below the FY 2014 enacted level at $21.3 billion.

· Three House Subcommittees would receive essentially the same allocation as in FY 2014.  They are the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee at $20.9 billion for FY 2015; the Legislative Branch Subcommittee at about $4.3 billion; and the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee at about $42.4 billion.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairs and Ranking Members are committed to trying to move all 12 annual spending bills through Congress this year.  The fact that both Committees agree to live by the overall spending limitation and the firewall between defense and non-defense spending in the two-year budget agreement alleviates significant roadblocks to moving the bills through Committee.  It is important to reiterate, however, that electoral politics and divisive policy issues, such as the Affordable Care Act, gun control, environmental and other issues could derail the hope of completing stand alone spending bills this year.

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Policy Update: National Science Board Releases Report on Administrative Burden

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Friday, May 02, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014


On May 1, 2014, the National Science Board (NSB), the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation (NSF), released a report entitled, “Reducing Investigators' Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research.”   The report outlines a number of recommendations to eliminate, harmonize, and streamline rules and regulations, while acknowledging the need to be transparent, accountable, and safe in carrying out federally funded research.

Given the range of funding agencies and organizations that would be involved in implementing the recommendations of this report, it is uncertain how quickly or if at all the recommendations will be addressed.  While Congress remains concerned at the administrative burdens placed on researchers, an additional barrier to reducing such burdens is the pressure on federal agencies to demonstrate the value and impact of federal research spending.

As Lewis-Burke previously reported, in December 2012, NSB established a Task Force on Administrative Burdens to examine the administrative workload of federally funded researchers.  In March 2013, NSB released a request for information (RFI), which received thousands of replies from researchers supported by a range of funding agencies.  The RFI responses along with a series of community roundtables and discussions with other federal agencies provided input to the report.

Through this consultation with the community, NSB identified the following areas being most associated with high administrative workload: financial management; grant proposal process; progress reporting; human subjects research and institutional review boards (IRBs); time and effort reporting; research involving animals and institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs); and personnel management.  The report identifies the following key recommendations:

1. Focus on the Science – peer-review and post-award oversight should focus on merit and achievement.

a. Agencies should modify proposal requirements to focus on evaluating the merit of the proposed research.

b. Annual progress reports should be limited to research outcomes.

2. Eliminate or Modify Ineffective Regulations

a. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should provide clarification on the process of time and effort reporting.

b. Support a number of recently proposed reforms to regulations governing human subjects research.

c. An evaluation of all regulations, policies, guidance, and best practices related to improving the care and use of animals to be carried out.

d. Balance conflict of interest (COI) with support for university-industry partnerships.

e. Re-examine safety and security requirements.

3.       Harmonize and Streamline Requirements

a. Federal agencies to accelerate harmonization of grant process.

b. Harmonize audit process to be based on regulatory requirements.

c. Establish a permanent high-level, interagency committee to oversee recommendations in this report.

4. Increase University Efficiency and Effectiveness

a. Universities should clearly communicate origin of compliance requirements.

b. Agencies to collaborate with universities and research organizations to identify best practices to manage administrative burdens.

c. Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) staff to provide researchers with support in the preparation and modification of protocols.


Sources and additional information:


·The full NSB report is available at:


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Policy Update: Senate Appropriations Committees Holds Hearings on Driving Innovation through Federal Investments

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014


On April 29, the Senate Committee on Appropriations held a hearing entitled “Driving Innovation through Federal Investments.”  The hearing was well-attended and featured the following witnesses: Dr. John P. Holdren, Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary, Department of Energy (DOE); Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH); Dr. France A. Córdova, Director, National Science Foundation (NSF); and Dr. Arati Prabhakar, Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the role of federally-funded research in driving innovation, improving quality of life and national security, creating American jobs, and growing the U.S. economy.  While there is strong bipartisan support for innovation and committee members expressed agreement on the need to keep within the limits of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, it was apparent by statements made at the hearing that how to address the budget deficit remains a partisan issue.

Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) opened the hearing by acknowledging the importance of the budget deficit, but asked, “…are we being so austere that we are limiting our future growth?” She expressed concern that budget cuts would contribute to an innovation deficit.  Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) used his opening statement to highlight the federal debt, government oversight to ensure the most effective programs are supported, and the importance of public-private partnerships.  Other committee members were very supportive of investments in research and discussed how to address concerns that the current fiscal environment is capping long-term growth.

Key themes discussed during the hearing included:

·U.S. leadership in science and engineering – federal investments in science and technology are decreasing in terms of percentage of GDP and China would soon overtake the U.S.

·Best practices to enhance the innovation process to take basic research from the lab to commercialization and partner with industry.

·Milestones and deliverables for the Administration’s BRAIN Initiative.

·Success of the DARPA model and how best practices might be shared across other agencies.

·Role of Congress in directing NIH to invest in specific diseases and how this may limit studies of rare diseases and new discoveries.

·Support for the EPSCoR and IDeA programs and the need to increase opportunities for undergraduates, women, and underrepresented groups across the U.S.

·Challenges facing early career faculty and the need for stable growth across funding agencies to maintain the pipeline of researchers.

·Activities across federal agencies in weather forecasting and infrastructure investments.

In addition to the expert witness comments, the Committee received input on this issue through more than 100 written testimonies submitted by outside organizations. 

Sources and Additional Information:

         ·            More information on the hearing including full witness testimony is available at:


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Policy Update: FIRST Act Passes First Hurdle in House

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Friday, March 14, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014


On March 13, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology considered and approved by voice vote the “Keeping America FIRST: Federal Investments in Research, Science, and Technology at NSF, NIST, OSTP and Interagency STEM Programs.”  The approval is the first official Committee action towards reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act.  A date for bill consideration by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has not yet been announced.  The Senate has not yet released a draft COMPETES bill, but it is expected to have substantial differences from the House version.   

As Lewis-Burke has previously reported (see below), the FIRST Act would cover the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  In a major change from the discussion draft released last fall, the bill considered by the Subcommittee would authorize funding for the three agencies while also detailing authorization levels for specific Directorates within the NSF Research and Related Activities Account. 

The research community has a number of concerns with the bill that Democrats on the Subcommittee echoed during consideration.  The largest concern is with authorization levels in the bill that would provide growth lower than inflation for NSF and NIST in fiscal year (FY) 2015 and would cut authorization levels for the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) by over 40 percent from current levels in FY 2014 and FY 2015.  Democratic Members of the Subcommittee decried the low authorization levels in the bill and offered a number of amendments to raise the SBE authorization levels or eliminate the detailed authorization levels for individual Directorates.  These amendments were mostly defeated on a party-line vote except for one by Subcommittee Ranking Member Dan Lipinski (D-IL) that restored about half of the cuts to SBE. 

Other areas of concern to the research community that were addressed in the markup include a provision that would limit the amount NSF can spend for employing staff under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) and a provision that would establish new procedures at NSF on research misconduct.  Democratic amendments on both issues were withdrawn after the Majority agreed to work with the amendment sponsors to change these sections.  Additionally, an amendment from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) that would strike the public access section of the bill failed on a party line vote.

The bill approved by the Subcommittee has some significant changes from the discussion draft that Lewis-Burke reported on last fall.  Apart from the addition of authorization levels, the biggest changes were to a section requiring increased accountability for research grants at NSF.  The section still requires certification that projects funded by NSF address one of six generic goals, but the language has been clarified to state that “nothing in this section shall be construed as altering the Foundation’s intellectual merit or broader impacts criteria for evaluating grant applications.”  The certification could also now be done by a program director instead of the NSF director and would not have to be posted before the public issuing of the award.

Other changes in the bill include the removal of several sections: a provision on social and behavioral sciences at NSF that was potentially confusing; a section that repealed the sustainable chemistry program; and a provision that would direct NSF to evaluate the importance and benefits of non-United States citizens funded by federal science agencies.  The bill also has new sections authorizing informal and formal STEM education programs at NSF.

Please see below for previous Lewis-Burke reports on the FIRST Act and COMPETES reauthorization.

Sources and Additional Information:

More information on the Subcommittee markup, including an archived webcast, text of the legislation, and a list of amendments considered, is available at:


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Policy Update: New NSF Director Confirmed by the Senate and Other NSF Leadership Updates

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Friday, March 14, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014

One year since Dr. Suresh departed as Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. France Córdova has been confirmed as the new Director for NSF.  More details on Dr. Córdova are included below along with updates on the announcement of the new Assistant Director for the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE), and leadership of the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO).

Dr. France Córdova Confirmed as New NSF Director

On March 12, Dr. France Córdova was confirmed by the Senate as the new Director of NSF.  Dr. Córdova is expected to begin her new role on April 1, 2014.

As Lewis-Burke has previously reported, Dr. Córdova was nominated by President Obama in July 2013 to serve a six year term.  Dr. Córdova will take over from Dr. Cora Marrett who has been the Acting Director since Dr. Subra Suresh left at the end of March 2013 to become president of Carnegie Mellon University.  Dr. Marrett will return to her position as Deputy Director. 

Dr. Córdova is President Emeritus of Purdue University and is currently the chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, as well as a member of the National Science Board (NSB).  Dr. Córdova served as President of Purdue University from 2007 to 2012.  Before joining Purdue University, she was Chancellor of the University of California at Riverside from 2002 to 2007 and Vice Chancellor for Research and Professor of Physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1996 to 2002.  Dr. Córdova is an astrophysicist with a B.A in English from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology.  Following her Ph.D., Dr. Córdova spent 10 years working in the Space Astronomy and Astrophysics Group at the Los Alamos National LaboratoryFrom 1993 to 1996, she was the NASA Chief Scientist.  Dr. Córdova was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008 and is a national associate of the National Academies.  She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Association for Women in Science (AWIS).

Other Updates on NSF Staff

Additionally, Dr. John Wingfield, Assistant Director for the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) will be leaving NSF at the end of September 2014.  The search for his replacement is ongoing and interviews will be taking place shortly.  The Deputy Assistant Director for BIO, Dr. Joann P. Roskoski is due to retire at the end of March and will be replaced by Dr. Jane Silverthorne.  Dr. Silverthorne is currently the Division Director for the BIO Division of Integrative Organismal Systems.

Sources and additional information:

·         The White House press release on Dr. Córdova’s nomination from July 2013 is available at

·          Dr. Cook’s bio is available at:

·         The NSF announcement regarding Dr. Cook’s appointment is available at:


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Budget Update: Analysis of the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Budget Request for Federal Research, Health, and Education Programs

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014


Only a month removed from the final fiscal year (FY) 2014 spending decisions in Congress and with the FY 2015 discretionary spending caps largely the same, President Obama released his FY 2015 budget request on March 4th, a month after the required February submission to Congress and with many on Capitol Hill already moving into the appropriations process.

The budget request presents a very mixed picture in which the President reflects a forecast for non-profit organizations which is in part optimistic, while proposing new programs which appeal to his base in an election year. Based in part on bipartisan supported initiatives such as advanced manufacturing and exascale computing, the request continually touts the virtues of research and education to enable the economy of the future. In addition, the request proposes several new initiatives, such as a competitive graduate medical education program and incentives for colleges and universities which graduate large cohorts of Pell-eligible students, but bases these ideas on difficult offsets and at a time when many in Congress are unable or unwilling to accommodate new proposals. Finally, reflecting the continuing pressures on research, health, and education organizations, the request would make substantial cuts to provider payments such as indirect medical education, would squeeze defense basic research accounts in favor of more applied or translational initiatives, and includes the proposed college rating system trumpeted by the President during his annual State of the Union speech.

Overall, adhering to the two year budgetary framework (P.L. 113-67) passed in December 2013, the budget request includes $1.014 trillion in discretionary spending, a level which is largely consistent with FY 2014. The request also includes the continued partial offset to sequestration in FY 2015. While there is unlikely to be much debate over the overall spending levels, the total investment proposed for individual agencies, accounts, or programs will be adjusted by Congress in the annual appropriations process, especially in areas where substantial changes have been proposed from FY 2014 funding levels.
Regardless, the annual budget request, reflecting nearly nine months of planning and negotiations by the White House Administration, does provide a window into forthcoming plans and priorities. The proposed increases for research, assessment, education, and infrastructure reflect areas of emphasis for the remaining two and a half years of the Obama Administration and benchmarks for which congressional champions will advocate throughout the appropriations process.

Going beyond the budget requests for each agency and the statutory caps, President Obama proposes a new $55.4 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative (Opportunity Initiative), which includes numerous spending priorities such as advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, early education, infrastructure, etc. Beyond this stimulus-like fund, the budget proposes an ending of sequestration in FY 2016 and beyond through a combination of spending cuts, nearly $650 billion in added tax revenue, and from deficit reduction resulting from enactment of immigration reform legislation. While none of these politically charged proposals are expected to be taken up by Congress in this election year, it does provide specific initiatives around which Democrats are expected to rally and reinforces the looming fight which must be waged by the next Congress for FY 2016 and beyond with respect to overall spending and the fate of sequestration.

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Policy Update: House and Senate Conferees Agree to a Final Farm Bill

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, August 05, 2014

On January 27, House and Senate negotiators announced a final agreement on a five-year Farm Bill, completing a multi-year effort to reauthorize a broad suite of programs supporting the nation’s farmers and ranchers and nutrition programs assisting American families. The bipartisan Agriculture Act of 2014 (H.R. 2642) would result in a far-reaching reorganization of longstanding programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including crop insurance and commodity programs and nutrition assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/formerly food stamps). The final bill reauthorizes significant investments in agricultural research, including the creation of a new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) established with $200 million in mandatory funding. The bill also consolidates conservation programs and repeals authorizations for programs that have never been funded to streamline federal agriculture programs.

The final agreement on the Farm Bill took a herculean effort by the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. House Chairman, Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK), touted the efforts to negotiate a bill with “significant savings and reforms.” His Senate counterpart, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), highlighted the importance of a Farm Bill “that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs.”

The Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN), stated he has some reservations about the bill, but they are “outweighed by the need to provide long term certainty for agriculture and nutrition programs.” Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, emphasized that “this agreement will provide greater certainty to producers and rural communities, as well as American consumers.” 

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the final Farm Bill would result in direct spending of $956 billion over the next ten years, of which $756 billion would be for nutrition programs. The bill would reduce federal direct spending by an estimated $16.6 billion over ten years from current law projections. This bill governs spending on entitlement and mandatory programs that are not subject to annual appropriations action by Congress. It also authorizes appropriations for programs, such as USDA’s research, extension and education programs, which Congress must fund each year in the appropriations bills.

The USDA research and extension programs had strong bipartisan support throughout consideration of the Farm Bill with the final bill largely extending current programs. The bill would extend the authorization for intramural research through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) through FY 2018. The bill would also reauthorize the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through FY 2018 and extend the authorization for NIFA’s extramural competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), at the current $700 million annual level. In the recently enacted Omnibus Appropriations Act for FY 2014, AFRI is funded at $316.4 million, an increase of $25.9 million (8.9 percent) above the FY 2013 pre-sequester level. The conferees also note the decrease in funding for production agriculture through AFRI and stress the importance of making basic animal health research a priority.

The conferees reached a compromise on a provision that would have required all institutions of higher education that are not land-grant institutions or designated non-land-grant institutions to provide a 1:1 match for NIFA funds if that institution was not partnering with a USDA entity or land-grant institution on the grant. After pushback from public institutions of higher education that were not designated as land-grant or non-land-grant institutions, the final bill includes one provision to somewhat work around the matching provision and another provision to clarify the process by which the designation as a non-land-grant institution is achieved. First, USDA can grant a waiver to the matching funds requirement if a grant involves “research or extension activities that are consistent with the priorities established by the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board.” Second, the bill requires USDA to “establish an ongoing process through which public colleges or universities may apply for designation as [a non-land grant college of agriculture]” as several institutions had said the process was unclear to them. 

CBO estimates that the Research and Extension title of the final bill would result in $1.1 billion in mandatory spending over the next ten years. One of those mandatory programs is a major new initiative to boost agricultural research. The bill authorizes a new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), which is established with $200 million in mandatory funding to remain available until expended. The conferees stress that FFAR should not duplicate current funding or research efforts, and that it should not offset or allow a reduction in annual appropriations for agricultural research. The purpose of FFAR is to foster public-private partnerships to identify and prioritize the most pressing needs of the agriculture sector. Funding from FFAR must be matched 1:1 with non-federal funding.

The bill would also reauthorize funding for the Extension Service and USDA education programs through FY 2018. The conferees continue mandatory funding, as well as authorize additional appropriations if Congress so chooses, for Specialty Crop Research, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension, and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development.

The bill authorizes $80 million in mandatory funding for FY 2014 and each year thereafter to support research on specialty crops. It also extends the authorization of appropriations for specialty crop research through FY 2018. An Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension program is established to tackle citrus greening and other citrus diseases with $25 million in mandatory funding per year for FY 2014 through FY 2018, and a similar authorization of appropriations for this initiative.

An annual authorization of $20 million in mandatory funding per year for FY 2014 through FY 2018 is provided for competitive grants, including farm business management, for the Organic Research and Education Initiative. A similar $20 million in mandatory funding is provided to support the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers program for each year for FY 2014 through FY 2018 with an extension of the authorization for additional appropriations through FY 2018. The program is also expanded to include veterans. 

The final Farm Bill has no provisions affecting the current formula grant programs for land-grant institutions. Formula programs authorized under the Hatch Act and Smith-Lever Act have open-ended authorizations for appropriations at “such sums as may be necessary.”

The bill does not address the indirect cost rate as the 2008 Farm Bill did. The indirect cost rate remains at the current level of 30 percent established in the FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act.

Also within the research title, the conferees would establish a new program to recruit and support veterinarians, for which the nation faces a shortage. The bill would authorize $10 million per year for FY 2014 and each following fiscal year for these grants. 

The bipartisan Farm Bill would extend existing energy programs affecting rural areas, including the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), which would be extended for five years through FY 2018. The conferees would provide $3 million in mandatory funding for BRDI each year for FY 2014 through FY 2017 and would authorize appropriations at $20 million annually through FY 2018. The bill provides an estimated $879 million in mandatory spending to continue the Repowering Assistance Program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, the Rural Energy for America Program, and the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program.

The final bill achieves most of the deficit reduction by eliminating direct and countercyclical payments for major commodity programs, such as wheat, corn, soybeans, etc. The conferees replace these programs with strengthened crop insurance programs to enhance the ability of farmers to manage risk. Crop insurance helps protect farmers during difficult times, from unexpected spikes in food prices, and in cases of natural disaster, such as the spring freezes that affected fruit crops last year. The conference agreement would also provide a permanent livestock disaster assistance program to assist producers affected by natural disasters. These provisions will assist producers affected by recent drought and winter storms that decimated livestock herds in the Northern Plains last year. CBO estimates net savings from the commodity programs at $14.3 billion over ten years. The crop insurance provisions are estimated to cost an additional $5.7 billion over ten years above the base program.

The conferees agree to numerous provisions that would eliminate duplication and consolidate federal programs, such as conservation programs. The final bill consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13, and also includes provisions to strengthen and streamline programs to protect land, water, and wildlife resources. The bill would save nearly $4 billion over ten years from proposed changes in conservation programs. 

The nutrition programs were one of the most contentious issues in the Farm Bill. The conferees compromised making reforms to SNAP which will save an estimated $8 billion over ten years. The House-passed bill saved nearly $39 billion from SNAP and other nutrition programs over ten years, whereas the Senate-passed bill saved nearly $4 billion over ten years.

The final issue to be resolved was creating a balanced dairy program for a sector which has both large and small producers. A new margin insurance program was negotiated to close the final conference issue.


• The text of the final conference agreement on H.R. 2642, the Agriculture Act of 2014, can be found at

• The statement of managers accompanying the bill can be found at

• The cost estimate of bill by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) can be found at 

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Policy Update: Analysis of the FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014


Seizing their best opportunity to shape federal spending decisions for the next year, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees late on Monday night (January 13) released an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2014. If approved, the bill would provide a needed boost for federal research, education, and healthcare programs important to research universities and non-profit research institutions. Somewhat surprisingly, the omnibus includes all 12 of the annual spending bills. The more controversial appropriations bills—including Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Interior and Environment—were expected to require continuing resolutions (CRs) to fund programs at current levels for the remainder of FY 2014, particularly after a stalemate over issues such as funding for the healthcare reform law caused a halt in appropriations negotiations and a shutdown of the federal government in October. Reaching agreement on all 12 bills is a victory for appropriators who have seen their influence decline in recent years as gridlock on major funding issues coupled with increased partisanship made CRs commonplace.

As drafted, the sprawling omnibus bill adheres to the $1.012 trillion top line spending level established by the Ryan-Murray budget agreement approved by Congress last month. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) were able to negotiate a package that contains concessions for both parties and is free of many of the divisive policy riders that threatened to derail progress. If the House and Senate approve the bill as expected, the omnibus will avert the threat of another government shutdown and represent a reassertion of congressional power to set spending priorities across the federal government.

With some relief from sequestration for two years and support for new initiatives in the omnibus, many federal research agencies and programs fare well in the agreement. The Department of Energy Office of Science, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and science and technology programs at the Department of Defense are among those slated to receive increases above FY 2013 levels (post-sequestration). As evidenced by the proposed omnibus, research and development, and particularly basic research, remains a bipartisan priority for Members of Congress despite constrained total spending levels. The House may begin consideration of the bill as soon as Wednesday (January 15) with the Senate to follow later in the week. Congress must approve the bill prior to the January 18 expiration of the short-term CR set to be enacted to allow Congress additional time to complete the omnibus.

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Policy Update: COMPETES Reauthorization Moves Forward in Both the Senate and House

Posted By Tyrone Spady, Friday, November 08, 2013
Updated: Thursday, July 31, 2014


In the past two weeks, Congress has initiated its work to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which was originally passed in 2007 in response to the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm report.  The legislation authorized doubling the funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  COMPETES was last reauthorized for fiscal year (FY) 2011-2013, resulting in its expiration on September 30, 2013.  While the Senate is working on a bipartisan effort to reauthorize COMPETES, House Republicans and Democrats are each working on their own versions of the reauthorization.  As of right now, House Democrats have released a discussion draft of a comprehensive bill, whereas House Republicans are planning to move forward on two separate bills: the FIRST ACT will cover NSF and NIST; and the Einstein America Act will cover the DOE Office of Science.   

A major point of contention that has emerged in discussion drafts is levels of reauthorization for the agencies covered.  For example, authorization levels for DOE’s Office of Science are almost a billion dollars higher in the draft Senate bill over the draft House Republican bill for FY 2015.  Another substantial area of expected disagreement is the extent of congressional oversight of grant policies and research directions.  These significant differences will make it challenging to come to a consensus on final legislation.

Senate Action

On November 6, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing entitled “America COMPETES: Science and the U.S. Economy.”  This was the first hearing to kick off the Senate’s COMPETES activity.  The main issues discussed at the Senate hearing included sequestration, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, and innovation.  The Committee is strongly supportive of basic research and the need to authorize a continued doubling of budgets for the science agencies to ensure the foundation for continued U.S. economic growth.

Throughout the hearing Democratic Members of the Committee highlighted the harmful, indeterminate effects of sequestration on basic research.  Committee Chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), stated that, “Sequestration’s indiscriminate cuts are costing us dearly...  That means fewer grants, less support for young researchers, and even scientists moving their work abroad.” 

Two panels testified before the Committee, with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), an original co-sponsor of the 2007 COMPETES legislation, being the lone participant on the first panel.  The second panel included: Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Vice Chairman of the National Science Board and Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma; Dr. Saul Perlmutter, Professor of Physics at University of California, Berkeley and Senior Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Dr. Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College; and Dr. Stephen Tang, President and CEO of the University City Science Center.

In his testimony, Senator Alexander highlighted the need to “finish the job” of doubling basic research funding to maintain the “high standard of living” in the U.S.  Senator Alexander stated that, “governing is about setting priorities,” and the reauthorization of the America COMPETES legislation should double research, reduce waste, and approve necessary programs.

The second panel discussed a wide range of topics related to COMPETES.  Dr. Droegemeier discussed the importance of basic research and the role of NSF in the U.S. research and innovation ecosystem; he gave examples of economic and societal benefits that have come from basic research, and also highlighted the NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) as a role model for capacity-building and enhancing competitiveness.  Dr. Perlmutter highlighted the need to attract the next generation of researchers to ensure the U.S. remains a world leader in scientific research and to prevent brain drain with leading researchers moving overseas.  He described how curiosity-driven research can lead to surprising results that may help “secure a better future,” with new discoveries often building on 30 plus years of research.  Dr. Klawe talked about STEM education and the need for additional investment to develop innovative teaching models to ensure more women and minority students study STEM subjects such as computer science.  Finally, Dr. Tang described the positive impact of the COMPETES Act in innovation and commercialization and the need for increased support in this area.  He also highlighted the TRANSFER Act, which would allocate existing funding to proof-of-concept activities and validate the commercial potential of early-stage research.

The hearing was well attended by both the public and Committee Members. In addition to Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD), Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Dan Coats (R-IN), Tim Scott (R-SC), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) all attended portions of the hearing.

In addition to the Commerce Committee hearing, Senator Alexander has released a discussion draft for the energy portion of COMPETES that would set authorization levels for the Office of Science and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy on a doubling track over five years reaching $6.877 billion and $440.12 million respectively by FY 2018.  The draft also cancels unused authorizations from previous COMPETES bills and provides very little additional guidance on policy or research priorities for DOE.

House Action

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has already begun their COMPETES reauthorization process.  As mentioned above, House Republicans are planning to introduce two separate bills with House Democrats wanting to introduce a comprehensive COMPETES reauthorization bill.  Majority and Minority discussion drafts of the proposed legislation have been circulating and deal with a myriad of issues ranging from computing and STEM education to public access and technology transfer/commercialization. 

The Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing on October 30, entitled, “Providing the Tools for Scientific Discovery and Basic Energy Research: The Department of Energy Science Mission.”  The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the DOE Office of Science in preparation for the formal introduction of the Subcommittee’s Einstein America Act.  At the Subcommittee hearing, witnesses included Pat Dehmer, Deputy Director for Science Programs in the Office of Science at DOE; Horst Simon, Deputy Director at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and John Hemminger, Chair of the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee for DOE.

The Einstein America Act would reauthorize the programs of the DOE Office of Science for two years.  Reflecting the continuing pressure on discretionary spending, the proposed bill would authorize funding at $4.7 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2014, a 1.7 percent increase above current levels and one percent above the level in the pending House-passed version of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill for FY 2014.   The bill proposes a $4.75 billion authorization level for the Office of Science for FY 2015.  The Einstein America Act does not include language related to ARPA-E; we expect the House Subcommittee to do a separate bill for ARPA-E. 

The proposed Einstein America Act would authorize a Light Source Leadership Initiative within the Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES).  It also includes language authorizing DOE to pursue exascale computing through the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program.  The bill would direct the Department to maintain U.S. facilities for underground scientific research working with the Office of High Energy Physics and the Office of Nuclear Physics.

The Subcommittee Members questioned the panel on a variety of topics.  Chairwoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) highlighted the importance of “fundamental science and basic research” to “long-term economic competitiveness.”  She noted the 113 Nobel Prizes awarded to scientists associated with DOE, and the need to “continue to pursue this standard of international excellence.”

Ranking Member Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) emphasized the importance of collaboration between the national laboratories and industry and the valuable resource the national user facilities provide to the nation.  Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) emphasized initiatives within the Office of High Energy Physics, the priority of exascale computing within DOE, and inquired about continued U.S. commitment to the international fusion project in view of escalating costs.   Rep. Lipinski expressed his support for the exascale computing initiative as a cosponsor of the Hultgren language in the bill.  He also emphasized the priority of technology transfer and giving the laboratories and universities more flexibility in pursuing these activities. 

Concerns were expressed by Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) about language in the draft legislation that would place priority on “biological systems and genomic science” through the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) over environmental and climate science.  He emphasized the importance of DOE efforts in STEM education and support for young scientists to train the energy workforce.  He also expressed concern about the Administration’s proposal to consolidate STEM programs, including the Computational Science Graduate Fellowships.

The Subcommittee on Research and Technology will host a hearing next week, entitled, “Keeping America FIRST: Federal Investments in Research, Science, and Technology at NSF, NIST, OSTP and Interagency STEM Programs.”  This hearing will be in preparation for the formal introduction of the Subcommittee’s FIRST Act

Lewis-Burke will continue to monitor the hearings and legislation and report back on developments.  

Sources and Additional Information:

·         More information on the Senate COMPETES hearing, including the witnesses’ testimonies, opening statements, and an archived webcast, is available at:

·         More information on the House DOE hearing, including the witnesses’ testimonies, opening statements, and an archived webcast, is available at:

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Policy Update: Status of Agriculture Legislation and Initiatives

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Monday, August 05, 2013


As Congress prepares to recess for five weeks until September 6, it leaves major agricultural legislation as unfinished business. Congressional action will be needed to extend current law in the limited time remaining before the beginning of fiscal year (FY) 2014 on October 1. However, in a show of bipartisanship, members in the House and Senate have joined in introducing legislation to promote agricultural research by creating a new charitable, tax-exempt status for agricultural research organizations that can help leverage private funding for research in partnership with universities.

Farm Bill

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have passed their respective versions of the 2013 Farm Bill and now there is pressure to convene a conference committee to negotiate a final bill. However, the House Republican leadership is holding up the process as it tries to determine how to move a separate nutrition bill, as the nutrition component was stripped from the House’s version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 2642) before narrowly passing the House floor on a 216 to 208 vote. This has delayed any move toward convening a conference committee. The original House Farm Bill proposed reducing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; "food stamps”) by $20.5 billion over ten years. However, by striking the nutrition section, the House has deleted those proposed "savings.” The companion Senate bill, the Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (S. 954), includes the nutrition piece and would save $4 billion out of the SNAP program if enacted. Both House and Senate Agriculture Committees will have to entertain another extension of existing authorities beyond September 30 while they continue to try to bridge their differences and convene a conference.

Agriculture Appropriations Bill

The hope of moving the FY 2014 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill was derailed by the initial failure of the House to pass a comprehensive Farm Bill. In the absence of a Farm Bill, calling up the Agriculture Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2410) for debate on the House floor would have invited amendments more suited to the Farm Bill. As such, House Republican leadership delayed action on the appropriations bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee has also reported its version of the bill (S. 1244), but the Senate is just now considering its first appropriations bill on the Senate floor. With very few legislative days in September, Congress will have to turn to a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the entire federal government for some period of time beginning October 1. The discussions surrounding the CR also are expected to begin conversations with the White House on: (1) the need to again increase the debt limit; (2) the prospect of another round of across-the-board cuts through sequestration in January pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011; and (3) further deficit reduction talks with the President.

USDA Nominations

On August 1, the Senate approved the President’s nominees of Krysta Harden and Robert Bonnie to be the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, respectively. Ms. Harden has been the Chief of Staff to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack since 2011. She also served as the Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from 2009 to 2011. Ms. Harden served as CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts; was a Senior Vice President of Gordley Associates, a government relations corporation focused on agriculture from 1993 to 2004; and has experience as staff in the House of Representatives. Ms. Harden is a native of Georgia and comes from a family of farmers. She will replace Kathleen Merrigan who left USDA earlier this year.

Robert Bonnie has been nominated as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment. Mr. Bonnie has served as a senior policy adviser for environment and climate to Secretary Vilsack since 2009. Prior to coming to USDA, he held a number of positions with the Environmental Defense Fund from 1995 to 2008. A Kentucky native, with degrees in resource economics and forestry, he is an expert on the use of markets to promote stewardship on farms, ranches, and forest lands.

Bipartisan Agriculture Research Bill

In spite of partisan differences on the Farm Bill and on overall funding levels for the annual appropriations bills, a bipartisan group has introduced legislation designed to spur innovation and strengthen the agricultural enterprise through research partnerships. Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator John Thune (R-SD) have introduced legislation in the Senate to amend the U.S. Tax Code to create a charitable, tax-exempt mechanism to support agricultural research. The bill, S. 1280, the Charitable Research Act of 2013, is cosponsored by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chris Coons (D-DE), James Inhofe (R-OK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, which plans to consider a tax reform bill this fall.

A companion bill, H.R. 2671, has been introduced in the House by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI). The bill has 15 cosponsors, including the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN). The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, which also intends to consider tax reform legislation this fall.

The legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow an agricultural research organization that directly engages in research in partnership with a land-grant college or university or a non-land grant college of agriculture to receive a charitable tax deduction for research expenditures. The legislation is designed to generate new funding for agriculture research to help strengthen American agriculture and spur innovation in the agricultural sector of the U.S. economy. In introducing the legislation, the sponsors highlighted the need for innovative approaches to increase research funding during a constrained budget environment and to leverage private sector funding to support the research necessary to increase food production through new methods and technologies.

For additional information on the Senate research bill, please see

For information on the House research bill, please see

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NRC Seeks Input on AFRI (Due August 15)

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Monday, July 29, 2013

The National Research Council (NRC) has appointed a committee to perform an independent assessment of the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). (Please visit for a complete description of the study and committee membership.) As part of its information gathering, the committee is conducting a web-based solicitation to seek input broadly from researchers, academic and extension leaders, reviewers, and users and beneficiaries of AFRI. 

The committee has asked ASPB to reach out to its membership for input.  If you are interested in providing input on AFRI, please visit Comments should be submitted by August 15, 2013.

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House of Representatives Passes Revised 2013 Farm Bill

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Policy Update: U.S. House of Representatives Passes Revised 2013 Farm Bill

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – July 17, 2013

On July 11, a divided U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, on a second try to move a Farm Bill through the legislative process. The House Republican leadership had to depend solely on its caucus to pass the bill, which it did on a vote of 216 to 208 after experiencing a humiliating defeat on the House floor when a bipartisan version of the Farm bill (H.R. 1947) failed to pass (195 to 234) on June 20. The bill only passed after the House Agriculture Committee Chairman, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), stripped the nutrition title (Title IV) from the bill, leaving a significant difference in the House and Senate bills that must be reconciled in conference to negotiate a final bill. On June 10, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill (S. 954) with a strong bipartisan vote of 66 to 27 (for a description of the Senate bill, which remained largely the same as reported by the Senate Agriculture Committee, please see the Lewis-Burke report from June 4).

The Obama Administration strongly opposes the House-passed bill. The President’s senior advisors have recommended that the President veto the bill. The Administration states that the House bill has insufficient reforms to the commodity and crop insurance programs. It also takes issue with the lack of funding for USDA’s renewable energy programs, which would be made subject to annual funding by Congress. The White House also objects to the decision to strip the nutrition title from the bill, and leave reauthorization of these programs to separate legislation.

Striking the nutrition title from the House bill eliminated previously proposed savings of $20.5 billion over ten years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps). The Senate-passed bill would save $4 billion in nutrition programs over ten years.

The remainder of the House bill is largely as originally reported with some amendments adopted during floor consideration of H.R. 1947 incorporated into the new bill. The House-passed bill would save a net total of $12.8 billion over ten years below current law compared to $33.3 billion in savings in the original House bill. Including small revenue changes, the House-passed bill would reduce the federal deficit by $12.9 billion over ten years.

As does the Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill, the House bill would achieve most of the deficit reduction by eliminating direct and countercyclical payments for major commodity programs, such as wheat, corn, soybeans, etc. The House bill replaces these programs with a Farm Risk Management Election program focused on either price loss coverage or revenue loss coverage. These provisions save an estimated $18.7 billion in outlays over ten years. The House bill also repeals the 1949 permanent law governing commodity programs. The House bill would revamp crop insurance programs with an estimated net cost of $10.1 billion over ten years.

The House Agriculture Committee focused on eliminating duplication in federal programs by consolidating 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs and adopting various program reforms. The House-passed bill would save an estimated $4.8 billion over ten years from these reforms.

The House version of the Farm Bill continues strong support for research programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The House bill would largely extend existing authorizations for research programs through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). As does the Senate bill, the House bill extends the authorization for NIFA’s extramural competitive grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) at the current $700 million annual level. The House Committee cited budget constraints as the reason to reduce authorization levels for various programs (not actual spending) by an estimated $500 million. The House bill also replaces open-ended ("such sums as may be necessary”) authorizations with specific authorization levels. The House Committee removes USDA’s authority to fund non-competitive grants.

As does the Senate-passed bill, the House bill would continue current formula grants programs to support land-grant institutions. Formula programs authorized under the Hatch Act and the Smith-Lever Act are extended through FY 2018. Both bills also extend the authorizations for the Extension Service and for Hispanic-Serving Institutions through FY 2018.

Neither the Senate nor House bills address the indirect cost rate as the 2008 Farm Bill did. Thus, under the proposed bills, the indirect cost rate remains at the current level of 30 percent established in the Agriculture title of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013. The 2008 Farm Bill increased the indirect cost rate from 19 percent to 22 percent.

A provision getting some scrutiny in the research title of the House bill is a requirement (Section 6128) for USDA to institute a 1:1 match for new research grants. Land-grant institutions, USDA research entities, and institutions partnering with either would be exempt from this requirement, leaving other public and private research institutes likely subjected to the requirement to match federal funding from USDA on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

The Administration takes issue with Senate and House provisions (Sections 7512 and 6513, respectively) barring USDA from obligating appropriated funding for extramural competitive research grants unless USDA submits a comprehensive spending plan to Congress for its approval.

Both the House and Senate bills reinstate the authorization of mandatory funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, the Organic Research and Extension Initiative, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. These programs expired with other Farm Bill authorities last year when Congress failed to extend existing law.

CBO estimates mandatory spending for research, extension, and related matters in the House bill at $760 million over ten years. The House bill would provide $555 million over ten years for Specialty Crop Research; $100 million over five years for Organic Agriculture Research and Extension; and $100 million over five years for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development grants, also broadening eligibility to military veterans, and providing a set-aside of not more than five percent for this purpose. The Senate-passed bill would provide $581 million over ten years for these programs.

Both bills also create a Veterinary Services Investment program to help address the shortage of veterinarians. The bills authorize $10 million for each fiscal year beginning in FY 2014 for activities to recruit, train, support, and retain veterinarians.

The House Committee does not include an authorization for a new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). The Senate-passed bill would authorize FFAR and would provide $200 million in mandatory funding over five years to capitalize the Foundation for research projects, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis from non-federal funding. FFAR would promote a public-private partnership to leverage additional funding for agriculture research.

The House-passed Farm Bill reauthorizes existing energy programs affecting rural areas for five years through FY 2018, including the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) at $20 million annually. The House bill would also make these programs subject to annual appropriations by Congress, whereas the Senate bill provides mandatory funding totaling $880 million over ten years, which would require no further action by the Congress.

Sources and Additional Information:

· To view the House-passed bill, please see

· The Statement of Administration Policy on the House-passed bill can be found at

Tags:  Farm Bill  House 

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