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, June 05, 2013
Congress returned from the Memorial Day recess having made significant progress on the 2013 Farm Bill. On May 14 and 15, respectively, the Agriculture Committees in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives approved their versions of the 2013 Farm Bill. The Senate continues debate on its version of the bill this week, hoping to whittle down a list of some 200 amendments with a goal of passing the bill before Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) turns to the comprehensive immigration reform bill. The full House expects to debate its bill later this month. The House and Senate versions of the bill largely mirror the legislation approved last year, thus setting up the same potential issues over reforms of the crop insurance and related commodity support programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); both must be worked out before a final bill can be enacted.
On May 14, 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. On a bipartisan 15 to 5 vote, the Committee approved S. 954, the Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. The bill 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) 2018.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Senate’s nearly $955 billion authorization bill would reduce federal direct spending by an estimated net $17.8 billion over ten years below 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 the research programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which Congress must fund each year in the appropriations bills.
On May 15, the House Committee on Agriculture approved a bipartisan 2013 Farm Bill on a vote of 36 to 10 following a marathon mark up. The House version of the Farm Bill, H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM), reflects a serious effort to reduce overall spending associated with agriculture-related and nutrition programs, and sets up some major issues, including crop insurance, commodity assistance, and benefits under SNAP, to be addressed with the Senate during eventual conference negotiations toward a final bill.
According to preliminary estimates by the CBO, the House version of the Farm Bill would total $940 billion over ten years and would reduce federal direct spending by an estimated $33.3 billion over ten years below current law projections.
In addition to the programs discussed below, both the Senate and House bills extend supplemental disaster assistance for livestock producers and other farmers experiencing losses due to drought and other natural disasters.
For the research programs authorized in the bills, existing authorities are largely extended through fiscal year (FY) 2018, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Both bills 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 about $275 million in FY 2013). The Senate states that it makes no policy changes in the research programs of USDA. The House Committee notes that given current budget constraints, the Committee reduces existing authorization levels (not actual spending) by an estimated $500 million, and includes specific authorized funding levels for programs with open-ended ("such sums as may be necessary”) authorizations. The House Committee also removes USDA’s authority to fund non-competitive grants.
Both the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill continue the current formula grant programs for land-grant institutions through FY 2018. Formula programs authorized under the Hatch Act and Smith-Lever Act have open-ended authorizations for appropriations at "such sums as may be necessary.” Both bills 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.
The most controversial provision in the research title of the House bill is a requirement (Section 7128) for USDA to institute a 1:1 match for new research grants. There is significant concern by researchers over the requirement to match federal funding from USDA on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
The Administration takes issue with a Senate and House provisions (Sections 7512 and 7513, 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 Initaitive, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. These programs expired with other Farm Bill authorities last year when Congress failed to extend existing law.
The Senate bill authorizes a total of $416 million in mandatory funding for Specialty Crops over the FY 2014-FY 2023 period. A total of $80 million in mandatory funding over five years is provided for the Organic Research Initaitive. Finally, $85 million in mandatory funding over five years is provided for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program with military veterans included as eligible for the program.
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.
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 Senate bill creates the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) as it did last year and includes $200 million in mandatory funding to capitalize the Foundation for research, 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 Senate bill includes mandatory funding of $200 million over five years toward this effort, which must be matched by non-federal funding through the Foundation. The House bill does not include FFAR in its version of the bill as it did last year.
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.
Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC,
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
On April 17, the Senate
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations
Subcommittee approved its version of the fiscal year (FY) 2013 appropriations
bill, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),
and Economic Development Administration (EDA). The bill is a mixed bag
for these agencies, of which NSF and NIST are the clearest winners as they
would receive substantial increases over their FY 2012 funding levels.
NASA Science also fares well. However, the bill would deal a heavy blow
to NOAA, by transferring its weather satellite programs to NASA, while EDA
would receive a decrease below the FY 2012 level. The Subcommittee passed
the bill on a 17 to one vote with Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) as the lone
Although the overall CJS
bill would cut $1 billion from the FY 2012 level, it is important to note there
is low likelihood of Congress passing any appropriations bills for FY 2013
before the November elections as there is an extreme divide between both
Democrats and Republicans, as well as between the House and Senate. The
Senate plans to write the appropriations bills at the level agreed to last
August in the Budget Control Act while the House bills will be a total of $19
While no details are
available regarding specific NSF priorities and programs, the bill would fund
the National Science Foundation at $7.3 billion, down $100 million (1.4
percent) from the President’s FY 2013 budget request, but $240 million or 3.4
percent above the FY 2012 level.
CJS Appropriations Bill, FY 2013
reported by the Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, 4/17/12
FY 2013 Request
FY 2013 Subcom Mark*
FY 2012 Enacted
FY 2013 Request
* Senate CJS numbers reflect amounts from the
Subcommittee press release, which have been rounded. Exact numbers are
not yet available.
† The increase to NASA reflects the proposal to move
NOAA’s satellite procurement and management activities to NASA. Without
this large increase, the Senate CJS bill would cut NASA by $41.5 million below
the FY 2012 level.
The cut to NOAA reflects a proposal to move of NOAA’s satellite procurement and
management activities, which constitute more than one-third of the agency’s
budget, to NASA.
29th, new legislation to establish a Foundation for Food and
Agriculture Research was introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat
Roberts (R-KS), Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition,
and Forestry, respectively. The foundation
that would be created by the legislation aims to facilitate public/private partnerships
and leverage private investments in food and agriculture research. The full text of the bill can be found here: http://roberts.senate.gov/public/_pdf/WEI12224.pdf.
ASPB has been working closely
with an ad hoc group in support of
food and agriculture research, spearheaded by ASPB member and former NIFA
Director Roger Beachy, to elevate the perception of and need for food and
agriculture research in general and specifically to establish a foundation
similar to that proposed in the legislation, but with the ultimate goal of a
federal match on private investments.
The ad hoc coalition garnered
support for the legislation through a letter with nearly 100 scientific
societies (including ASPB), growers’ and producers’ associations, universities,
and private companies signing on. The
letter and list of signatories can be found here: http://1.usa.gov/H40Wa2.
One extremely successful
precedent for a similar foundation is the Foundation for the National Institutes of
Health (http://www.fnih.org/), which has
raised more than $500 million dollars supplementing NIH research funding in its
15 year existence.
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.
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
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 email@example.com or to U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry, 328A Russell Senate Office Bldg, Washington, D.C. 20510.
A group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chair Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Ranking Member Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in support of USDA research funding. The senators asked that the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) be funded at $324.6 million, the level requested by President Obama for fiscal year (FY) 2012 and a $60 million increase over FY2011 levels.
"We appreciate the constraints you face in allocating scarce dollars for discretionary programs at USDA," the senators wrote. "However, investing in research is investing in America's future. If America is going to be competitive in the global economy in the coming decades, we have to address long-term challenges by making strong investments in agricultural research today. We urge you to make AFRI a priority as you make your Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations decisions."
The senators especially singled out biomass feedstocks as a critical contribution of USDA research:
We are especially encouraged that AFRI has made biomass feedstock development a high priority for its upcoming grant awards. Meeting our national Renewable Fuels Standard goal of producing 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 will require a substantial investment in the production of high-quality, cost-effective feedstocks for advanced biofuel production. Developing these feedstocks, and the most sustainable methods of growing them, presents exciting economic development opportunities in America's rural communities, but only if we act today to make the necessary research investments.
Joining Sen. Franken on the letter were Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will hold its first field hearing on the next Farm Bill on April 9, 2011, on the campus of Michigan State University (MSU) in Lansing. The
hearing, "Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill,"
will focus on the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill, examining
agriculture as well as energy, conservation, rural development, research,
forestry and nutrition policies that affect Michigan. The Farm Bill provides oversight for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The general public may attend and watch the hearing (RSVP information below) and can also submit written testimony which will be included in the official record of the hearing. Three copies of your testimony can be submitted at the hearing or can be sent to the Committee no later than April 16, 2011. You may also submit questions for possible consideration by the panel members during a limited question and answer period before April 7, 2011. Send your testimony or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to US Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry, 328A Russell Senate Office Bldg, Washington, D.C. 20510.
For up-to-date information on the hearing and Farm Bill process, you can visit the Senate Agriculture Committee website at ag.senate.gov.
To RSVP for the hearing, contact the Agriculture Committee Office at 202-224-2035 or email email@example.com.
Posted By Adam Fagen,
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye, (D-HI) announced yesterday that the Committee will implement a moratorium on earmarks for the session of Congress that just began, meaning that earmarks will not be an option for the next two years. Sen. Inouye's statement puts the Senate in line with the House and the White House, as both Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and President Obama have said that they would not support spending bills that contain earmarks.
It's clear from his statement that Sen. Inouye is bending to political reality, even though he remains supportive of the value of earmarks, as long as the process is transparent and fair:
"I continue to support the Constitutional right of members of Congress to direct investments to their states and districts under the fiscally responsible and transparent earmarking process that we have established.
"However, the handwriting is clearly on the wall. The President has stated unequivocally that he will veto any legislation containing earmarks, and the House will not pass any bills that contain them. Given the reality before us, it makes no sense to accept earmark requests that have no chance of being enacted into law.
"The Appropriations Committee will thoroughly review its earmark policy to ensure that every member has a precise definition of what constitutes an earmark. To that end, we will send each member a letter with the interpretation of Rule XLIV (44) that will be used by the Committee. If any member submits a request that is an earmark as defined by that rule, we will respectfully return the request.
"Next year, when the consequences of this decision are fully understood by the members of this body, we will most certainly revisit this issue and explore ways to improve the earmarking process. At the appropriate time, I will once again urge the Senate to consider a transparent and fair earmark process that protects our rights as legislators to answer the petitions of our constituents, regardless of what the President or some Federal bureaucrat thinks is right."
As Sen. Inouye said, he will provide a copy of Senate Rule XLIV to each member, which defines an earmark. Specifically, the rule says:
the term 'congressionally directed spending item' means a provision or report language included primarily at the request of a Senator providing, authorizing, or recommending a specific amount of discretionary budget authority, credit authority, or other spending authority for a contract, loan, loan guarantee, grant, loan authority, or other expenditure with or to an entity, or targeted to a specific State, locality or Congressional district, other than through a statutory or administrative formula-driven or competitive award process;
Earlier today, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the America Creating
Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and
Science (COMPETES) Act by Unanimous Consent. The COMPETES Act,
originally authorized in 2007 in response to the National Academies’ 2005 Rising
Above the Gathering Storm report, provides authorization for the National
Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, and
the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the bill
(H.R. 5116) at the end of May and must now consider the compromise legislation
before it can be signed into law by the President.
The Reauthorization passed committee on April 28 with bipartisan support, it passed the House on May 26th with bipartisan support, and now, the Senate has weighed in and approved it—unanimously.
While there have been concessions made, the Senate’s amendments preserve the intent of the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report and the original COMPETES. It keeps our basic research agencies on a doubling path, it continues to invest in high-risk, high-reward energy technology development, it will help improve STEM education, and it will help unleash American innovation.
I am hopeful that this will come up before the House next week. I urge my House colleagues to stand with the business community, the academic community, the scientific community, and the Senate to send a strong message that the U.S. must maintain its scientific and economic leadership.
I cannot think of anything I would rather do as one of my final acts in Congress than sending this bill, with strong bipartisan support, to the president’s desk.
The Senate bill differs from the House bill passes earlier in several ways, including the following:
authorizes appropriations for NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST for three years instead of five;
much less detail on DOE with authorization for Office of Science overall rather than individual divisions;
additional conversation on innovation and competitiveness;
some language in the House bill not includes in the Senate bill.
Stay tuned for any additional information about contacting your Representative urging passage of the bill.
On November 19, Sen. Stabenow issued a statement about her new role:
am ready to lead the Senate Agriculture Committee in the 112th Congress.
Agriculture is critical to Michigan’s economy, employing a quarter of
our workforce. Not only does agriculture create jobs and feed our families
across America, but it is also helping us develop new fuels and energy
look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle,
as we begin writing a new farm bill that once again recognizes the importance
of America’s agricultural economy and rural communities.
Sen. Stabenow was previously a member of the committee and also served on agriculture committees when she was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Michigan legislature.
It's pretty clear that the 2010 midterm elections will lead to big changes in Congress. The Republicans have won the majority in the House of Representatives, which means that all of the House committee chairs will be changing from Democrats to Republicans. While many of the current Ranking Members will switch places with the current chairs, a large number of retirements and primary defeats will mean that there will be a lot of new faces. This will also lead to a bit of dominoes as Members and the Republican caucus decide which positions they want, thereby opening up other positions. In addition, some party leaders may be term-limited from retaining their leadership roles.
While the Democrats retained the majority in the Senate, retirements and election defeats will also lead to a game of musical chairs and new Chairs/Ranking Members for several committees.
ASPB will try to break down the election results over the next few weeks by describing some of the likely changes to the committees with jurisdictions over issues important to the plant biology community.