The FDA today rolled out proposed guidance on “The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals”. The guidance document can be found at the FDA website here . The guidance is “intended to help reduce the development of resistance to medically important antimicrobial drugs used in food-producing animals.” During a conference call to present the guidance, the directive was lauded by such groups as the Union of Concerned Scientists. A 60 day comment period has been established for the public to provide input or express concerns or support on the proposed guidance. A press release outlining the proposal and providing additional information can be found by clicking here .
The American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) affiliated appreciation clubs for Harold Hafs and Robert Zimbleman have teamed up to support an intern in Washington, DC. The inaugural intern, Carilynn Gravatte, was selected this spring and is currently serving an internship with the American Meat Institute. Carilynn is a senior animal science major at the University of Kentucky and has been active in ASAS and numerous university-related organizations. We are pleased to have her representing ASAS in Washington this summer.
The Federation of Animal Science Societies co-sponsored the recent CAST Food-Animal Agriculture Symposium entitled Sustaining Animal Agriculture: Balancing Bioethical, Economic, and Social Issues. The symposium was held June 8-10, 2010 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC and brought together representatives from academia, industry, government and consumer groups to discuss the future of animal agriculture.
A strong series of speakers gave participants a variety of perspectives on some of the key issues impacting animal agriculture including animal welfare, food security and the global and societal impacts of food animal production. Presentations spurred spirited discussion on the definition of sustainability and how animal agriculture should evolve to meet increased global demands while balancing animal welfare, environmental stewardship and the economics of animal production. A common theme across many of the presentations was the continued need to advance science to provide a sound foundation for the future. FASS was pleased to be a co-sponsor of the symposium and looks forward to continuing the dialogue on these key issues impacting animal agriculture.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Insitute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) held a public meeting on June 2nd to receive comments on the future direction of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI is the USDA’s largest competitive grants program and plays an important role in funding key research, education and extension projects related to agriculture, including the animal sciences. The AFRI program has recently undergone a series of significant changes raising concerns within scientific and industry circles.
The Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS) participated in the public meeting and voiced its concerns over some of the structural changes to the program, as well as the lack of emphasis on the animal sciences.
Current changes to AFRI have raised some significant concerns that while the overall AFRI budget may be increasing; the investment in animal sciences may actually be decreasing. For example, under the 2010 AFRI RFAs, funding targeted at food animal research under the Foundational RFA is only 8.6% ($22.5M) of AFRI’s $262M budget and 5.6% of the total competitive grants budget at NIFA.
FASS recognizes that some additional investments in animal science may come from the challenge area RFAs, and that the 2010 challenge areas do provide for some investment in animal related research. Because the challenge areas topics are narrowly focused and will change from year to year, it is critical that the opportunity for progress in solving issues related to food animals be maintained.
FASS is concerned about the use of forward funding for the challenge area RFAs and the potential unintended consequences. Future RFAs may not be viable if sufficient funds are not provided for the program. This means that a sustained effort to grow the program will be needed to ensure that AFRI is capable of producing robust RFAs on an annual basis.
Another potential unintended consequence of the new system is the negative impact on single investigator and new investigator driven science. While FASS recognizes the value of larger, longer and more integrated grants, a balance needs to be maintained to ensure that creative investigator driven research is not discouraged or lost. The Foundational RFA can help play a role in supporting creative investigator driven research and it is critical that funding for this RFA be maintained, and increased, if possible.
In addition to the overall structure and funding of the AFRI program, FASS is deeply concerned about the recent RFAs decreased emphasis on animal science. Animal agriculture is critically important to the U.S. economy, and sufficient resources must be dedicated to advancing animal science.
Farm gate receipts for animal agriculture, which include crops used as animal feed, currently total $200B annually and animal agriculture comprises 60 to 70% of the total agriculture economy. Overall, the sale of animals and animal byproducts and related allied industry business is valued at $1.3 trillion, which is about 10% of the GDP.
Underfunding of food animal research jeopardizes the critical basic and applied research necessary to address threats to the sustainability of animal agriculture in the U.S., such as the rapidly escalating energy costs, environmental concerns/regulations, animal welfare issues, emerging diseases and foreign competition. It is important that the AFRI program provide resources to tackle the pressing science needs in animal agriculture. FASS strongly encourages NIFA to maintain a strong foundational RFA program that can foster investigator driven research.
In addition, Challenge Area RFAs should reflect animal agriculture’s role in addressing these priority areas. FASS strongly encourages NIFA to include animal related projects in each of the Challenge Area RFAs in 2011 and future years.
As the AFRI program continues its transition, and future RFAs are developed, it is important to remember the value of food animal research to the future of animal agriculture in the U.S. AFRI is the primary competitive grants program supporting basic and applied research in food animals. Consequently, the portion of the NIFA-AFRI budget dedicated to food animal research should reflect the critical importance of animal agriculture to the overall agriculture economy.
Continued erosion of AFRI funding dedicated to food animal research will continue to stymie recruitment of top notch young investigators to conduct cutting-edge science relevant to animal agriculture. This pipeline is necessary to train the next generation of scientists and industry leaders dedicated to research in animal agriculture.
A vibrant competitive grants program dedicated to food animal research is fundamental to sustaining the abundance of a high quality, safe, and affordable supply of meat, milk, fish and eggs produced in the U.S. This will greatly benefit consumers and help foster the continued success of animal agriculture.
Actor Mike Rowe, famous for hosting the Discovery Channel Program Dirty Jobs, recently spoke at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, IL and left with a new view of animal agriculture. In his blog, Rowe speaks of his experience and some of the distinct challenges facing the industry while offering an outsiders view of the effects they will have on us all. His blog post can be read in its entirety at http://www.mikeroweworks.com/2010/05/the-future-of-farming/
President Obama announced on April 22nd the nomination of Dr. Catherine Woteki for the position of USDA Under Secretary of Research, Education and Economics (REE). This would be Dr. Woteki’s second stint at REE, as she served as REE Deputy Under Secretary during the Clinton Adminstration. She also served as the first Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA.
Dr. Woteki also has experience in the university community and the private sector. She currently works as the Global Director of Scientific Affairs for Mars, Incorporated and previously served as the Dean of Agriculture at Iowa State University. Her knowledge and background make her a strong nominee to be Under Secretary and we wish her luck in the confirmation process.
The official White House announcement can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/president-obama-announces-more-key-administration-posts-42210
On Wednesday, April 21st, the House Agriculture officially kicked-off the process for the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill by holding a hearing with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The primary focus of the hearing was to discuss the implementation of the 2008 Farm Bill in preparation for the 2012 Farm Bill.
Secretary Vilsack gave a detailed accounting of how USDA has gone about implementing the 2008 law. From a research perspective, Secretary Vilsack highlighted the transformation of the old Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) into the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as one of the success stories.
It may seem like 2012 is a long time away, but holding initial hearings at this stage of the Farm Bill cycle is not uncommon. Preparations to reauthorize comprehensive farm legislation take a tremendous amount of time and effort, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson has indicated that he is ready to begin that long process.
Secretary Vilsack’s testimony from the hearing can be found at the House Agriculture Committee website at: http://agriculture.house.gov/testimony/111/h042110/Vilsack42110.pdf
The American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) hosted a webinar on Tuesday, April 20th to discuss the FASS and ASAS Science Policy Programs and hot issues currently impacting animal science. The webinar was recorded and will be available on the ASAS website in the near future.
Dr. Bob Wettemann kicked off the webinar by providing some background on the establishment of the ASAS and FASS science policy programs. Lowell Randel then highlighted FASS activities in Washington and some of the hot issues facing animal agriculture including antibiotic use, animal welfare and research funding. Dr. Jim Pettigrew, chair of the ASAS Public Policy Committee, discussed the development of FASS policy statements, which will be used to help shape the FASS message in Washington.
The meeting culminated in a report from USDA’s National Insitute for Food and Agriculture. Dr. Margo Holland and Dr. Peter Johnson provided insight into the recently released Request for Applications for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Their presentation focused on which AFRI programs offer the opportunity for funding of animal science related projects, and the timelines for submission. This information will be extremely helpful for scientists interested in participating in the AFRI program.
The webinar was seen as successful and sets a good foundation for future ASAS and FASS webinars focused on policy.
USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS) and National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) held a two day workshop on March 23rd and 24th to discuss research priorities in the area of animal health. The workshop was well attended by a mix of industry, academia and government representatives. The goal of the workshop was to develop a coordinated action plan for USDA’s animal health research programs with the objectives of discussing, prioritizing and developing strategies to accomplish the research needs of principle stakeholders of ARS and NIFA.
The group heard from senior leaders at USDA including Acting REE Under Secretary Molly John and Acting Chief Scientist and NIFA Director Roger Beachy. Industry representatives from pork, beef, dairy/milk, sheep, goats, specialty farmed species, horses, and poultry (broiler, layer and turkey) presented a review of research priorities from a stakeholder perspective and breakout sessions followed. During the breakout sessions, industry, academia and government representatives had detailed discussions about the research needs for the various animal species and developed lists of priorities that will be used by ARS and NIFA for future program direction.
Several themes emerged from the breakout sessions, including animal welfare, genetics/genomics, antimicrobial resistance, foreign animal disease, emerging and foreign animal diseases and the livestock/wildlife interface. In addition, there was discussion about specific diseases impacting the various species. The results of the workshop will be posted on the ARS and NIFA websites.
ARS and NIFA are to be comended for holding this priority setting workshop, which resulted in a rich discussion about the future of animal agriculture and the science needed to ensure its continued viability and success.
USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the fiscal year 2010 request for applications for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) on Monday, March 22nd. The announcement outlined the agency’s plans to dispurse approximately $262 million in competitive grants across the following five challenge areas:
It is anticipated that grants awarded under this solicitation will be larger and for a longer duration than previous USDA competitive grant programs. Some grants could be as large as $45 million over a five year period. Funds will also be available for foundational grants as well as pre and post-doctoral fellowships.
USDA has indicated that the AFRI priority area of “Animal Health and Production and Animal Products” will be addressed under “Climate Change”, Food Safety”, “Global Food Security” and the “Foundational” programs. More details on the AFRI announcement can be found at: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/afri/afri.html
In addition, NIFA Director Roger Beachy held a webcast on Tuesday, March 23rd, which can be viewed at: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/webcast.html
Finally, NIFA is planning to host a series of webinars on each of the AFRI programs. Dates and times have yet to be scheduled.