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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Policy Archives available under Group Pages.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC ,
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
In the absence of agreement on a long-term deficit reduction
plan, on March 1st, President Obama signed an order directing
federal agencies to reduce spending subject to sequestration under the
Budget Control Act of 2011. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
estimates that to achieve the necessary $85 billion in savings, sequestration
would require a reduction of approximately 5.0 percent in non-defense
discretionary spending and 7.8 percent in non-exempt defense discretionary
spending. Additional reductions will be taken in certain mandatory
programs specified in the law.
As federal agencies prepare to implement the sequester, the
Congress is turning its attention to the Continuing Resolution (CR), which is
currently funding the entire federal government through March 27. There
is general agreement between Congress and the White House and between Democrats
and Republicans that there should be no government shutdown. It also
appears likely that there will be no attempt to try to overturn the sequester
in the final appropriations bill.
So what is likely to happen?
Due to the significant uncertainty, many federal
agencies restrained spending to hedge their bets in the uncertain budgetary
situation. Many agencies have implemented the traditional CR formula
using the lowest of the FY 2012 enacted level, the President’s FY 2013 budget
request, the House appropriations level, or the Senate appropriations
level. Agencies have also retained some percentage of funding under the
CR in anticipation of a possible sequester.
Because of these actions, the impact of the
sequester will vary by agency depending on the types of programs it
funds. For federal research agencies, the first priority is likely to be
funding existing grants and grantees.
Until Congress completes action on the FY 2013
appropriations bill, research agencies are likely to delay announcing new
Both the House and Senate Appropriations
Committees are working on the CR. The House Committee expects to fund defense-related
bills and to continue the CR level for other federal agencies. The
Senate Committee may offer an omnibus appropriations bill to complete action on
all 12 bills as significant progress on such a bill was made late last year.
Once agencies have a full-year budget to
implement their programs, there could be a flurry of funding solicitations
released with relatively short times for submitting applications in order to
obligate funding this fiscal year, which ends September 30.
In the meantime, each federal agency will be refining its
plan to implement the sequester (please see below for a list of agency
resources on the sequester). Congress and the White House will work to
agree on final FY 2013 appropriations, which will be subject to the sequester.
The next opportunity to restart negotiations between the White House and
Congress on a long-term deficit reduction plan, which may or may not revisit
the sequester, will be during consideration of the budget resolution for FY
2014 and discussions on raising the ceiling on the debt limit, which expires on
On February 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a
hearing on the impacts of sequestration. The website below will link you
to a list of department and agency letters to the Committee with information
about how sequestration is expected to impact each entity. Information
for NSF, NIH, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the
Departments of Defense, Commerce, Education, Agriculture, and Energy (as well
as numerous others) can be found here: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/ht-full.cfm?method=hearings.view&id=17d3dc99-c065-4bec-a7c8-cfd374bf41a3.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Friday, December 21, 2012
ASPB co-sponsored a briefing on Capitol Hill, titled "From
the Root Up: Understanding the 2012 Drought,” with the American Meteorological
Society. The House Committee on Science,
Space, and Technology hosted the briefing, which discussed both the impacts to
crops from this year’s drought as well as the meteorological and climate
conditions that lead to the drought.
Dave Wegner, Professional Staff for the House Committee on
Transportation’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment provided
opening remarks in order to frame the briefing and subsequent discussion. The briefing was well attended, with over 60
congressional staff and stakeholders present.
invited John Boyer (in photo, left), the E. I. du Pont Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Emeritus at the University of Delaware to speak about how plants respond to
drought and the advances in crop drought tolerance. Dr. Boyer noted that this year’s drought in
the Midwestern U.S. was initially expected to cause losses in our food supply. However, this was averted thanks to plant
biology research that has led to the incorporation of drought tolerant traits in
modern crops. Dr. Boyer explained that
further research is needed in plant biology in order to build upon these
successes and improve drought tolerance in crops. In response to a question from the audience,
Dr. Boyer noted that despite these advances, food prices still rose this year
because other parts of the world are increasingly demanding animal protein and,
subsequently, increasingly demanding grain to feed animals.
The American Meteorological Society invited John
Nielsen-Gammon (in photo, middle), Regents Professor at Texas A&M University and Texas State
Climatologist, as well as Roger Pulwarty (in photo, right), Director of the National Integrated
Drought Information System at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. Dr. Nielsen-Gammon
discussed how climatic conditions make certain parts of the world, including
the Midwest, more susceptible to drought, and Dr. Pulwarty spoke about the ways
in which various government agencies work with state and local stakeholders to
plan decisions around drought information and forecasts.
ASPB will continue to educate Members of Congress and their
staff on plant biology related issues through congressional briefings and meetings
in order to advance plant biology research.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
April 26, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry approved
legislation that, if enacted into law, would result in a far-reaching
reorganization of programs supporting the nation’s farmers and ranchers. The bill,
S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, would dramatically
restructure farm income support and crop insurance programs, as well as
eliminate, consolidate, and streamline existing programs for conservation,
rural development, trade, nutrition, energy, research and extension, forestry,
and related programs for the five-year period through fiscal year (FY) 2017.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced he plans to take up the bill
for debate by the full Senate in the near future. Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee has
concluded hearings on the Farm Bill and anticipates preparing its own bill
later this summer.
the USDA research and extension programs, the Senate bill would largely extend
current programs. The bill would extend the authorization for intramural
research through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) through FY 2017. The
Senate bill would also reauthorize the National Institute of Food and
Agriculture (NIFA) through FY 2017 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 (AFRI is currently
funded at $264.5 million in FY 2012). The bill would also reauthorize funding
for the Extension Service.
Senate version of the 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.”
Additionally, the Senate bill does not address the indirect cost rate as
the 2008 Farm Bill did. Thus, under the proposed Senate bill, the indirect cost
rate remains at the current level of 30 percent established in the FY 2012
Agriculture Appropriations bill. The 2008 Farm Bill increased the indirect cost
rate from 19 percent to 22 percent.
bill would establish a significant new research initiative in the creation of a
non-profit Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), which would
promote a public-private partnership to leverage additional funding for
agriculture research. The Senate bill includes mandatory funding of $100
million toward this effort, which must be matched by non-federal funding through
Senate 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 2017 and would be authorized at $30
million annually. The most significant amendment adopted during the Committee
consideration of the bill would provide $800 million in mandatory spending to
continue existing energy programs. Of this amount, $26 million in mandatory
funding is provided each year through FY 2017 for BRDI.
Rep. Hartzler stressed that, "Only about half of 1
percent of the [federal] budget supports food production -- a very small
investment to keep our food supply safe, affordable and reliable.” Furthermore, funding of research for food and
agriculture makes up an even smaller fraction of the one half of one percent. Rep. Hartzler called out the importance of
agricultural research in feeding a growing global population. "Crop yields have
increased tremendously over the past few years due to improved genetics and
enhanced crop protection products…continued improvements are necessary to feed
Rep. Cuellar worries about other pieces of long-term
legislation taking precedence over the farm bill and the effects of not passing
the bill this year. "Without a new farm
bill, USDA is unable to assist with new difficulties that have arisen since
2008 - such as the expanding citrus diseases – and cut areas that have out
lived their usefulness.”
you may be aware, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recently
approved the Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act, H.R. 3433.
The bill, which the full House has not considered, is intended to provide more
transparency in the federal grant-making process by requiring all federal
agencies to publicize the selection procedures for each grant program. It also mandates the White House Office
of Management and Budget (OMB) create a single, comprehensive website for all
federal grant opportunities, among other provisions.
Many in the research community have concerns with the bill’s
transparency requirements in the peer-review process, which include the posting
of full copies of funded proposals online (albeit with an exception for
information that is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)). Although many efforts have been made to
effect positive changes in the bill, the amount of disclosure required is still
potentially damaging to the peer-review process. As such, Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ) and
David Price (D-NC) have drafted a "Dear Colleague” letter to the House
leadership urging them to fix these remaining issues; Reps. Holt and Price also
are seeking additional signatories to the letter from among their
ASPB is closely
monitoring this bill and working to remove damaging provisions in the
legislation. If you have concerns with
the GRANT Act, you can share them with your Representative and/or encourage
them to sign on to the Holt-Price Dear Colleague letter. Contact information for your
Representative is available at http://house.gov/representatives/. You
can either call their Washington, D.C., office or send an e-mail via your
Representative’s website. If you do not
know who your Representative is, you can enter your zip code into the above
website to find out. The deadline for additional signatories to
the Dear Colleague letter is Friday, January 13.
If you’d like help reaching out to your Representative,
please contact ASPB’s Public Affairs Manager, Kathy Munkvold, at email@example.com.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC,
Monday, December 19, 2011
Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – December 2011
The U.S. Congress voted to accept a package of fiscal
year (FY) 2012 appropriations measures to avoid a shutdown of a significant
portion of the Federal Government as the current Continuing Resolution was set
to expire Friday night. This action followed months of wrangling over the
federal debt and deficit and reducing federal spending. The final bills
represent real compromise and sustain important investments in federal research
and education programs, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH),
Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, Department of Defense (DOD) basic
research, and Pell grants, at current levels or with modest increases.
The House of Representatives passed the package early on Friday while
the Senate passed the bills on Saturday.
The final conference agreement details funding amounts
and agency directives for federal agencies, including:
Defense Appropriations Bill – Department of Defense
Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill
– Department of Energy (DOE)
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education
Appropriations Bill – Department of Education, and the Department of Health and
Human Services including the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The $915 billion Consolidated Appropriations bill
includes $30.698 billion for NIH for an increase of $299 million (0.7 percent)
above FY 2011. The final bill creates the National Center for Advancing
Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is the top priority for NIH Director
Francis Collins, and includes $10 million for the new Cures Acceleration
Network (CAN). The bill decreases the NIH salary cap from Executive Level
I ($199,700) to Executive Level II ($179,700)—a better outcome than the House
draft bill, which recommended Executive Level III, but the first time Congress
has decreased the NIH salary cap.
The DOE Office of Science would receive $4.889 billion,
an increase of $46.34 million (about one percent) above FY 2011. The
final bill provides $20 million each to establish two new Energy Innovation
Hubs – one on Batteries and Energy Storage and one on Critical Materials.
The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) programs of the Department
are slated for level funding at $1.825 billion. The Advanced Research
Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), will receive $275 million, half of the $550
million requested by the President.
DOD basic and applied research programs remain a priority
within the bill as the overall increase for the Department was held to $5
billion above the FY 2011 level, a compromise between the House’s $17 billion
increase and the Senate’s proposed freeze. For DOD research overall, a total
of $72.4 billion is approved. While this represents a $2.5 billion
decrease below the current level, the reduction is less than experienced by
other aspects of the defense budget.
The final bill includes the necessary funding to continue
the maximum Pell grant award at $5,550, while
making changes to the program to reduce cost. However, the program is
still expected to face increased funding pressures because of the overall
growth of the program.
Additionally, the Senate rejected, in a 43 to 56 vote, a
resolution that would have triggered a 1.83 percent across-the-board reduction
against all discretionary spending except for defense, military construction,
and veterans programs. The reduction was designed to pay for an
additional $8.1 billion in disaster relief appropriations, which will now be
provided as emergency spending following Senate approval of that
The Congress also passed, and the President has signed, a
bill to extend the Continuing Resolution through December 23rd to allow the
President to review and sign the Consolidated Appropriations bill into law this
week. These actions will finally complete the FY 2012 appropriations
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC,
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Media attention has focused on the failure of the 12-member
congressional Supercommittee to reach agreement on a package to reduce the
federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next nine years. However,
universities and science organizations are not the victims of the deficit
impasse. Generally, federal funding for scientific research is not the target
of deficit reduction for several reasons: (1) the amount of domestic
discretionary funding for science is not large enough to have significant
impact on deficit reduction; (2) science has bipartisan support among
politicians since it is part of the innovation economy upon which the country’s
financial recovery is partially dependent; and (3) dismantling the scientific infrastructure of the country is counter-productive in the global
technology-driven forces of the 21st century. There are aspects of the current
federal deficit paralysis that indirectly affect higher education –
particularly relating to student aid, academic health centers, and tax policy –
but reducing direct federal support of scientific research at academic
institutions is not front-and-center.
Now, many are trying to determine what happens next as Congress
still has much work to do before adjourning next month. With funding fully
enacted for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Agriculture and Food Research
Initiative (AFRI) the competitive funding arm of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA), with modest increases (NSF and NOAA), flat funding (AFRI)
or a slight reduction (NASA), completion of the fiscal year (FY) 2012
appropriations process, especially for NIH funding, is an important challenge.
In addition to funding the remaining appropriations bills, which are currently
operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through December 16th, there are
other issues looming before Congress, such as extension of unemployment
benefits, doctor payments, and tax extenders. This report describes the impact
of the collapse of the Supercommittee at the federal level; however, actions
might be taken by state and local governments to respond to possible
implications associated with the collapse of the Supercommittee process.
Outlook for Science Funding
Among its many to-dos, Congress must still complete nine
remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills, including bills that fund the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of
Defense (DOD), and the Department of Education (ED). It is expected that this
will be done through one large "omnibus” package before the end of the calendar
year. As previously reported, other science agencies for which appropriations
bills have been passed—namely NSF, NASA, NOAA, and the Department of
Agriculture (USDA)—fared relatively well in FY 2012, receiving budgets that are
about flat or slightly increased above the FY 2011 enacted level. A similar
outcome is expected for basic research in agencies like NIH and DOE in the
final appropriations agreement.
One caveat is that it is not uncommon for a modest
across-the-board reduction to be included in an omnibus appropriations bill
should it be warranted to keep discretionary appropriations within the overall
cap of $1.043 trillion enacted in the Budget Control Act (debt limit agreement).
Should the appropriations process stall, there has been some discussion of extending
the current CR into early next year, which would result in a freeze for all
programs at the current (FY 2011) level until Congress completes an omnibus
bill or enacts a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Planning is also underway by agencies for the President’s FY
2013 budget request which is expected to be more conservative than in past
years and may even be delayed due to the uncertainty of future budget cuts. The
FY 2013 process remains very uncertain at the moment with flat funding for
federal research agencies considered "a win” in the coming years.
Scenarios for FY 2014 and Beyond
In August, the Budget Control Act enacted a process that would
institute automatic across-the-board budget cuts over nine years, known as
sequestration, in the event that the Supercommittee could not reach a deal.
However, given that the cuts are not scheduled to go into effect until January
2013 (after the election) and are subject to subsequent revision by Congress,
it is possible they will be delayed or never triggered at all. In the event no
changes are made to the automatic budget cuts, the White House Office of
Management and Budget would be required to reduce the discretionary
appropriated budget by $109 billion per year for nine years, allocated equally
between defense spending and nondefense spending.
Reductions in discretionary spending from 2014 to 2021 would be
achieved by reducing the aggregate overall caps on such spending for each year.
While the President could propose specific cuts to agencies such as NIH and
NSF, specific appropriations would still be subject to the annual congressional
appropriations process and program funding could be increased or further
decreased within the overall capped amount for all discretionary spending. As a
general rule of thumb, if these cuts were allocated proportionately, it would
mean 6 to 8 percent reductions to the domestic spending agencies.
Concerns are already being expressed by the Administration and
by both Democratic and Republican Members of Congress over the magnitude of
potential spending cuts to defense. The Congressional Budget Office estimates
that the DOD budget could be cut by as much as 10 percent in FY 2013 under the
mandated sequester with additional reductions in discretionary defense spending
over the nine-year period to estimated savings of about 8.5 percent in FY 2021.
Such reductions, totaling an estimated $492 billion, could impact big defense
programs already at issue in Congress, as well as drive changes in the
structure and mobility of the nation’s military services already under
consideration. Additional reductions in mandatory defense spending are also
likely under current law. While some want to undo the sequester for defense,
the President has threatened to veto any bill that focuses only on exempting
In short, the budget outlook for the next several years is
uncertain at best. The main question on the table is whether and how to skirt
the automatic cuts that would be levied against FY 2013 appropriations as
required under the Budget Control Act. However, flat funding for science agencies
remains a possibility over the next few years and should be viewed as a "win”
in the current budget climate.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Saturday, November 05, 2011
The House and Senate appear to have come together on a
strategy to complete consideration of the fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations
bills. Rather than combine all 12 appropriations bills into one large
omnibus appropriations package, as Congressional appropriators have done in the
past, Congressional leaders plan to enact the appropriations bills through a
more piecemeal approach; passing three or four appropriations bills at one time
in "minibus" appropriations packages. Congressional leaders from both
parties have also indicated that they will adhere to the top line discretionary
spending levels that were agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (the debt
limit bill), which are approximately $24 billion higher than the total
discretionary spending level approved by the House earlier in the year.
The first such minibus bill was passed by the Senate on
November 1 and included the Senate's Agriculture–FDA appropriations bill,
Commerce–Justice-–Science bill, and Transportation–Housing and Urban Development
bill. These bills provide funding for federal research agencies such as
the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, among others. On the
evening of November 3, House and Senate appropriators met to begin conference
negotiations on the first minibusbill.
Conference members agreed to top line spending targets for each bill that
comply with the Budget Control Act. Specifically, they agreed to $19.6
billion for the Agriculture–FDA bill ($2.4 billion above the House-passed
level, and $200 million below the Senate-passed level), $52.7 billion for the
Commerce–Justice–Science bill ($2.5 billion more than the House proposed level,
and level with the Senate-passed bill), and $55.6 billion for the
Transportation–Housing and Urban Development bill ($400 million above the
House-proposed level and $300 million above the Senate-passed level).
Negotiators were very courteous to one another during the
conference committee meeting, stating their intentions to work together to
complete the FY 2012 appropriations bills before the end of the calendar
year. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) stated
that the conferees have been instructed to keep their schedules open over the
upcoming Congressional recess period to complete negotiations on the minibus
package before November 14. The House and Senate are expected to pass the
first minibus bill during the week of November 14, before the current
continuing resolution (CR) expires on November 18. The minibus package
will likely include an additional CR to extend funding for programs under the
remaining appropriations bills through mid-December to provide additional time
for Congress to complete its work.
While negotiators have agreed to top line funding levels for
each appropriations bill, there are still discrepancies between the House and
Senate on programs within the bills that will need to be worked out. This
includes emergency aid to states for recent natural disasters and funding for
transportation projects through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic
Recovery (TIGER) grants program, among others. Funding for science and
education programs within these appropriations measures has not been
highlighted as an area of contention, and in fact, research agencies are faring
quite well in receiving funding that is flat or slightly below current levels.
Appropriators have stated that they may attach additional,
less controversial spending bills to this minibus appropriations package such
as the Legislative Branch bill and the Homeland Security bill. The Senate
is expected to consider a second minibus package in the coming week which may
include the Energy and Water Development bill, the Financial Services bill, and
the State and Foreign Operations bill.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) took a strong stand for agricultural research on the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier this week. In introducing the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, Sen. Kohl, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, emphasized the priorities in the bill.
Another priority worthy of protection is agricultural research. Without continued investment, food production in this country and around the globe will not be able to keep up with challenges posed by growing populations, climate change, invasive pests, and other threats. According to the Economic Research Service, global demand for food will grow 70 to 100 percent by 2050. To meet that demand, our production capacity will have to increase. Those increases will not happen without sustained emphasis on agricultural research. Senator Blunt and I have worked hard to protect these investments, often at the expense of other USDA programs.
Sen. Blunt (R-MO) is the Republican Ranking Member on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
Thank you, Senators, for supporting and speaking up on behalf of agriculture research.
Posted By Lewis Burke Associates LLC,
Thursday, October 06, 2011
On October 5, President Obama signed a bill to continue funding the operations of the entire Federal Government
through November 18. The Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.R.
2608) is necessary because none of the 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY
2012) were enacted by October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal
year. The CR will provide Congress with the opportunity over the next few
weeks to negotiate an omnibus appropriations bill to complete the FY 2012
While the CR was overwhelmingly passed by the House on a 352
to 66 vote, the House Republican leadership depended on nearly an equal number
of Democrats to Republicans to pass the CR, reflecting the deep divisions that
remain within the House Republican caucus about continued efforts to reduce
federal spending. Both the overall level of spending for FY 2012 and
whether or not to offset spending on disaster aid with funding reductions
elsewhere in the budget are issues that are likely to complicate negotiations
on a final FY 2012 omnibus appropriations bill.
The Continuing Resolution would:
Reduce all discretionary programs
across-the-board by 1.503% below the FY 2011 enacted level to keep
spending within the $1.043 trillion overall cap enacted in the Budget Control
Act of 2011 (debt limit agreement);
Limit the activities of Federal agencies to
those funded or underway in FY 2011;
Provide for certain "anomalies" or special cases
where additional authority is needed to continue ongoing activities. For
example, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is given the authority to
carry out the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program through
September 30, 2012, and to carry out the Small Business Technology Transfer
(STTR) and the Commercialization Pilot Programs through November 18;
Provide a total of $2.65 billion in disaster
relief funding to assist the thousands of Americans who have been affected by
floods, wildfires, Hurricane Irene, and the Mid-Atlantic earthquake, and other
natural disasters. The final CR drops the proposed offsetting savings to
help pay for the disaster aid funding to which Senate Democrats and the White
House objected. House Republicans initially wanted to partially
offset the disaster spending by rescinding (canceling) $1 billion for the
Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program, and
$100 million from the DOE Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program.
The U.S. Senate passed the CR on a 79 to 12 vote on
September 26. Without passage, the previous CR would have expired at midnight this morning.
The recommendation is to provide $6.7 billion for NSF in FY 2012, $1.1 billion below the budget request.
The Research & Related Activities (R&RA) account is proposed at $5.4 billion, which is $121 million (2%) below last year, and $811 million (13%) below the budget request. The report language states that "The Committee’s fiscal year 2012 recommendation renews its support for Federal long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformative to our economy and our way of life in the context of a Federal budget that is shrinking," prioritizing multi-disciplinary, high-risk research.
The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account is recommended to receive $117 million, the same as FY 2011 funding but $108 million (48%) below the budget request. Of some concern to life scientists is permission for NSF to transfer up to $100 million from the R&RA account to fully fund the Ocean Observatories Initiative or begin work on the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), which is based in the Biological Sciences Directorate.
The Education & Human Resources (EHR) account is proposed at $829 million, a $32 million (4%) reduction from FY 2011 and $82 million (9%) below the budget request. Despite the cut, the report reinforces that "the future of U.S. competitiveness rests on our ability to train the next generation of scientists and engineers." The Appropriations Subcommittee speaks in favor of NSF investment in Professional Science Master's programs and several programs to broaden participation in STEM fields.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee accepts NSF's decision to terminate several programs including the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, Graduate STEM Fellows in K–12 Education, National STEM Distributed Learning (Digital Library), Research Initiation to Broaden Participation in Biology, and Science of Learning Centers. The report also applauds NSF for the creation of the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) to help translate new discoveries into commercial products. And it affirms that "broadening participation should remain an essential component of the NSF merit review criteria."
Posted By Adam Fagen,
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has approved funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2012. The bill provides $52.7 billion in funding, a reduction of $626 million from FY 2011.
Of most interest to ASPB members are the proposed cuts at the National Science Foundation. Although details have yet to be released, the Subcommittee released the following in their mark:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funded at $6.7 billion, a reduction of $162 million or 2.4 percent below the FY2011 enacted level.
ASPB will keep tabs on the details and the progress of this spending bill...and those for the other agencies of interest to ASPB in both the House and Senate.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Sunday, September 11, 2011
The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget appropriation for the Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The bill totals $31.625
billion, a reduction of $57 million below the FY 2011 enacted level for
programs and agencies funded in the bill.
Given the competition for funding
within the bill, the DOE Office of Science, which funds basic research
associated with agency missions, fared quite well. The Senate Committee
approves $4.843 billion for the DOE Office of Science, which is essentially a
freeze at the FY 2011 enacted funding level. The Committee recommendation
for the DOE Office of Science is $573.5 million (10.6%) below the President’s
Detailed funding recommendations
for the various programs within the Office of Science are displayed in the
chart below. The Senate bill would provide continuation funding for the
three existing Energy Innovation Hubs (Hubs) – the Fuels from Sunlight Hub; the
Energy Efficient Building Systems Design Hub, and the Nuclear Energy Modeling
and Simulation Hub, for which the President requested $24.3 million each.
As did the House of Representatives, the Senate Committee also approves the new
Batteries and Energy Storage Hub within the Office of Basic Energy Sciences,
providing $20 million for the new Hub in lieu of the requested $34.2 million.
The Committee also recommends $10 million for the predictive modeling of
internal combustion engines initiative.
The Senate Committee is silent on
the President’s request for $20 million in the Industrial Technologies program
within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to establish
a new Critical Materials Hub even though its overall recommendation of $96
million for the program matches the House-passed bill which does fund the
Hub. The Senate Committee does not approve the third new Hub requested by
the President for Advanced Modeling Grid Research.
The Senate Committee concurs with
the President’s request to provide up to $100 million to continue support for
the 46 existing Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), but not to fund
additional centers at this time.
For the Biological and
Environmental Research (BER) program, the Senate Committee recommendation of
$621.8 million is $10 million (2%) above FY 2011. The Committee
recommends $295.1 million for climate and environmental science, which the
House significantly reduced.
The Senate Committee would
approve $7.5 million to support graduate fellowships.
For the Advanced Research
Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Senate would provide $250 million to
continue support for research into high-risk, high-reward transformational new
energy technologies, an increase of $70.4 million (39%) above the FY
2011 enacted funding level, but $300 million (55%) below the President’s
The applied research programs of
DOE relating to renewable energy through Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
(EERE) are sustained at the current level of $1.796 billion for FY 2012. The
President requested $3.2 billion for these programs. The House reduced
EERE to $1.3 billion overall. Details of the Senate recommendations for
wind and solar energy, biomass, and the technologies programs are included in
the following chart. New initiatives within the EERE programs are
unlikely given the constraints under current budget allocations.
Additional details on the funding
recommendations approved by the Senate Committee are included in the chart
Senate Energy and Water
Development Appropriations Bill, FY 2012
As reported by the Senate Energy and Water Development
Appropriations Subcommittee, 9/7/11
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Friday, September 09, 2011
On September 7, the Senate
Appropriations Committee approved its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2012
appropriations bill which funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food
and Drug Administration (FDA), and related agencies. The bill would
provide a total of $19.78 billion in discretionary funding, a reduction of $138
million (less than one percent) below the FY 2011 enacted level and $2.2
billion (10%) below the President’s FY 2012 budget request. The
bill also provides significant funding for mandatory programs including food
stamps, child nutrition programs, federal crop insurance, and commodity price
While the Senate bill includes
reductions below the FY 2011 level for many programs, it represents a
significant improvement over the House-passed bill due to the enactment of the
Budget Control Act (debt-limit agreement), which included a discretionary
spending cap for the Appropriations Committees that is $24 billion more than
the House allocation under the House-passed budget resolution.
Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chair Sen. Herb
Kohl (D-WI) [at right] characterized the Senate bill as "very austere” and highlighted
Subcommittee priorities including protecting public health and safety;
maintaining current services for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and
other nutrition programs; making continued investments in research; supporting
rural development; supporting foreign food aid; and responding to floods and
other disasters, of which the Senate bill would provide $266 million for
For the USDA research programs,
the Senate Committee sought to sustain most funding levels. A total of
$2.3 billion would be provided for agricultural research through the National
Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agricultural Research Service
(ARS), which is $39 million below the FY 2011 level.
For NIFA overall, a total of
$1.214 billion is recommended in the Senate bill, a reduction of $798,000 below
the FY 2011 level but $9.231 million above the House-passed bill. NIFA’s
competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative
(AFRI), would receive $266 million, an increase of $1.53 million above the FY
2011 level, but $59 million below the President’s FY 2012 request.
The Senate recommendation for AFRI is $41.0 million above the House-passed
The Senate Committee sustained
support for the formula funds for land-grant colleges and universities as a
priority in its version of the bill. Funding administered through the
Hatch Act would be sustained at the FY 2011 level of $236.0 million. For
Extension Activities under the Smith-Lever Act 3(b) and 3(c), the Senate would
provide $296.0 million, an increase of $2.09 million above the FY 2011
level. For Extension Activities overall, a total of $478.2 million is
recommended, slightly below the FY 2011 level, but $67.0 million above the
The Senate bill includes
reductions for USDA’s rural development programs below the FY 2011 level.
In addition, reductions are recommended for Housing and Community Development
Programs, Business Programs, Rural Utilities Programs, the National Conservation Service and the Watershed Rehabilitation Program.
A $40 million increase over
current spending is recommended in the Senate bill for the Food and Drug
Administration, which would receive nearly $2.5 billion for FY 2012. The
Senate would also sustain the Food Safety and Inspection Service at $1.0
billion, the same as the FY 2011 level.
The prospects for the bill being
considered by the full Senate are uncertain given the short time remaining
before the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year on October 1 and the need to enact
a Continuing Resolution before then to finance continued operation of the
entire federal government. An omnibus appropriations bill later this year
A chart detailing proposed funding levels for
key programs of interest to the research and education community is
Appropriations Bill, FY 2012
As reported by the Senate Agriculture Appropriations
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Moments ago, the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011 on a vote of 74-26, which raises the nation's debt ceiling, thus preventing a possible government default at the end of the day. The U.S. House of Representatives had passed the bill on a vote of 269-161 last night. President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.
Members of the ASPB community may be curious about the impact of this bill on the scientific and educational communities. First, some key take-aways:
The Budget Control Act of 2011, largely resembles recent proposals introduced by House Republicans and Senate Democrats in that it would cap discretionary spending for the next ten years and require future deficit reduction to be determined by a joint Congressional Committee and approved by Congress by December 23, 2011.
The discretionary spending cap for fiscal year (FY) 2012 would be $24 billion above the levels currently governing the House appropriations bills. The agreement, however, would establish "firewalls" around security and non‐security spending so that funding could not be redistributed between the two categories of spending.
While the plan would not initially cut federal science and education programs, these and other programs subject to annual appropriations could be subject to funding cuts in the deficit reduction package that must pass Congress before the end of 2011.
The bill would largely make up for the shortfall in mandatory funding for the Pell grant program, but additional discretionary funding will be required to maintain the $5,550 maximum award. It would also reform federal student aid programs, cutting interest subsidy loans for graduate and professional students and some student loan repayment incentives.
The bill would cap discretionary spending levels at $1.043 trillion in FY 2012, a slight reduction from FY 2011 discretionary spending which totaled about $1.049 trillion, but an increase of approximately $24 billion over the House‐passed budget resolution for FY 2012. Caps on discretionary spending would gradually increase to $1.234 trillion by FY 2021 and save an estimated $917 billion over that time frame. The bill establishes a "firewall" around security and non‐security spending so that funding could not be redistributed between the two categories of spending. Security spending is defined in the bill as funding for the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the intelligence community management account, and Function 150 programs (State Department and International Assistance).
The bill would allow the President to raise the debt ceiling by $400 billion right away and by another $500 billion after that. However, Congress can vote to stop the second increase in the debt ceiling. Future increases in the debt ceiling, which will be required by the end of 2011, would be subject to passage of another $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next nine years, which may include both spending cuts and revenue raisers. Should Congress fail to pass a deficit reduction measure by December 23 that reduces the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, the bill would force across‐the‐board cuts (sequestration) totaling $1.2 trillion or the difference between the deficit reduction package agreed to by Congress and the $1.2 trillion level. Cuts would be equally divided between security and non‐security programs to provide incentive for both Republicans and Democrats to broker a deal. Social Security, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, and other essential benefits would be exempt from cuts. Cuts to Medicare are capped at 2 percent and are limited to funding for providers.
The bill also includes $17 billion in mandatory funding for the Pell grant program. President Obama’s FY 2012 budget request assumes a $20 billion shortfall for the Pell Grant program in order to continue to fund the maximum Pell at $5,550. While the plan would provide the bulk of the estimated shortfall, additional discretionary funding would still be needed within the appropriations process to fund Pell at the maximum grant level for FY 2012.
Finally, the bill includes a provision requiring both the House and the Senate to vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before the end of the year. The debt limit increase, however, is not contingent on passage of the amendment as it was in an earlier House version of this legislation.
Schnable addressed a standing room only crowd of congressional staffers,
agency representatives, and others interested in scientific research in a
hearing room for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. The presentation was part of National Coalition for Food and Agriculture
Research’s (National C-FAR’s) "Lunch~N~Learn” seminar series. Schnable is
the Baker Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University, the founding director
of the university’s Center for Plant Genomics, and a member of the ASPB public
affairs committee. He
was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
entitled "Mapping for the future of our food,” focused on the importance of
public sector funding of plant science research and development in boosting
crop yields amid increasing demands for plant-based products including food,
feed, fiber, and fuel. Schnable called for innovation in addressing potential
challenges, namely decreasing amounts of arable land, increasing costs and
undesirable ecological impacts of agricultural inputs, and coping with climate
highlighted the value of next generation sequencing technologies in linking
genes to crop traits resulting in ultimate improvements in yield, disease and
pest resistance, and nutrient utilization. He sees traditional breeding and
genetic engineering as complementary approaches in meeting this goal. He stressed that U.S. involvement in this
type of agricultural research is essential. In the absence of federal support
for scientific research in these areas, other countries have the means to do
this research and will profit in areas such as intellectual property, including
patents on genes associated with beneficial traits, and job growth at our
expense. He emphasized that the time between the initial research and a
finished crop variety displaying an enhanced trait is on the scale of a decade
or more—so now is the time to make investments to address anticipated
challenges ahead. Moreover, public
sector support must be continuous to allow progress to be made.
is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, consensus-based, and customer-led coalition that
brings food, agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and natural resource
stakeholders (including ASPB) together with the food and agricultural research
and extension community. The coalition serves as a forum and a unified voice in
support of sustaining and increasing public investment at the national level in
food and agricultural research, extension, and education. For additional
information, go to www.ncfar.org.
As quoted in the release, Sen. Roberts said, "This hearing will allow us to garner insight from our producers in Kansas as we begin the important task of writing the next Farm Bill. Their perspectives on current agriculture programs and the direction of this next Farm Bill are critical to the committee’s work in drafting policies that provide producers and rural America with the tools necessary for success."
The hearing will be held Thursday, August 25, 2011, from 9 a.m.-noon CDT, at the Hilton Wichita Airport, 2098 Airport Road, Wichita, Kansas.
You may participate in the hearing by submitting written testimony which will be included in the official record of the hearing. A copy of your testimony can be submitted at the hearing or can be sent to the committee no later than Thursday, September 1, 2011. Send your testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org or to U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry, 328A Russell Senate Office Bldg, Washington, D.C. 20510.
Weeks, who is Maxcy Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, studies the genetic and molecular mechanisms involved in the ability of algal cells (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) to enhance photosynthesis by increasing internal levels of CO2 to 60x the external levels of CO2 (i.e., a carbon concentrating mechanism) and the genetic engineering of crop plants for enhanced photosynthesis, disease resistance and herbicide resistance. Weeks also serves as director of the Nebraska Coalition for Algal Biology and Biotechnology.
Also speaking at the event is Connie Lausten, principal of cLausten LLC, who has helped develop new technologies and shape policies from electricity to biofuels. The discussion will be moderated by Corey S. Powell, the editor-in-chief of DISCOVER Magazine.
Details about the budget deal worked out in the last hours before a planned federal government shutdown last Friday are beginning to emerge.
And although the deal for the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget cuts $38.5 billion from the FY 2010 spending levels that the government had been operating under, most of the science agencies are spared big cuts. First, all non-defense discretionary spending would be reduced by 0.2% across the board. Here's the rundown from the agencies of most interest to ASPB members:
Department of Agriculture
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture would receive XXX, a reduction of $126 million below FY 2010 levels, with the cuts mostly in earmarked programs. The competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative would receive $265 million, which is actually a slightly increase (~1%) over FY 2010 levels.
The Agricultural Research Service would receive $1.135 billion, a reduction of $44 million from FY 2010 levels.
Department of Energy
The Department of Energy's Office of Science would receive $4.884 billion in the final FY 2011 appropriations bill, a reduction of $25 million below the FY 2010 enacted level.
This is $866 million above the level proposed earlier by the House.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would receive $180 million.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
NIH would receive $30.7 billion in the final FY 2011 appropriations bill. This represents a cut of $260 million (0.8%) from FY 2010 levels. $210 million would be cut from research funding and $50 million from buildings and facilities at NIH's Bethesda, MD, campus.
This is much less than the $1.6 billion cut originally passed by the House.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
NSF would receive $6.874 billion, which is $53 million (0.8%) below the FY 2010 level. The Research & Related Activities account would be funded at $5.575 billion, which is $43 million (0.8%) below FY 2010, and the Education & Human Resources account would be funded at $862.8 million, which is $10 million (1.2%) below FY 2010 levels.