AAAS Policy Alert -- June 27, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
House Appropriations Committee Passes Agriculture Spending Bill. Last Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved its
FY 2013 Agriculture funding bill (HR. 5973). According to AAAS estimates (PDF),
the bill would provide approximately $1.9 billion for R&D at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), $88 million or 4.5 percent below the President's request and $118 million or 5.9 percent below
FY 2012 levels. The FY 2013 numbers, however, do not include the department's Biomass R&D Initiative, which is mandatory funding allocated in the Farm Bill, and thus would not receive its appropriation
through the regular spending bill. It received $40 million in FY 2012, its last authorized year, and is up for reauthorization in the current
Farm Bill. Within USDA, the House Committee would reduce Agricultural Research Service R&D by $22 million or 2.2 percent below FY 2012 levels, and reduce National Institute of Food and Agriculture
R&D by $91 million or 12.2 percent below FY 2012 (a $51 million or 7.3 percent decline if leaving out the Biomass R&D program). However, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would
receive a boost of $12 million or 4.6 percent above current year funding. Most other sources of R&D funding at USDA would receive small cuts from FY 2012. The bill generally falls short of both the
President's request and the current Senate version of the bill (S. 2375), which passed the Appropriations Committee on April 26 and
awaits floor action. Outside USDA, the bill also provides funding for the Food and Drug Administration, where R&D would be cut slightly by $2 million or 0.9 percent from FY 2012, to $263 million.
full House may consider the Agriculture appropriations bill this week, along with the Transportation spending bill. The timing is less clear in the full Senate, though it appears the Senate version of
the Agriculture spending bill - as well as the Energy and Water, and Veterans spending bills - will be among the first on the docket. The Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science spending
bill - which funds the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Commerce, among others - continues to face delays as Congress deals with the ongoing National Weather Service
For updates on the federal research and development budget for FY 2013, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy website.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Sequestration Details Sought in Farm Bill. As part of the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act
of 2012 (commonly known as the Farm Bill)(PDF), which passed the Senate on June 21 by a 64-35 vote, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Patty Murray (D-WA) included an amendment to require reports by the Department
of Defense (DOD), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and White House on the implementation of sequestration. The DOD report, due by August 15, is to assess the impact of the sequestration on national
defense. The OMB and White House reports, due 30 days and 60 days after passage of the Farm Bill, respectively, would provide specifics of what programmatic funds would be cut from defense and non-defense
In related news, the National Association of Manufacturers released a report last
week predicting the combined effects of the caps placed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestration on the Pentagon and defense industry. The report projected that over 1 million private-sector
jobs would be cut as a result of the sequestration, in addition to 200,000 military jobs in 2014.
Farm Bill Proposes Creation of Agriculture Research Foundation. In addition to the sequestration reports described above, language
in the Farm Bill proposes to establish a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit, nongovernmental corporation that would complement USDA's existing research programs. The foundation
would seek funding via donations from outside sources to advance national research priorities in the agricultural realm. The bill authorizes $100 million in mandatory funding to help start the foundation,
but this funding could only be spent once the foundation secures matching funding from outside sources. The foundation is based on similar entities in other disciplines, such as the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
Senate Rejects Measure to Stop Regulation of Mercury. Sen.
James Inhofe's (R-OK) resolution (S.J.Res.37) to reverse
an Environmental Protection Agency rule on mercury and toxic air emissions from coal-fired plants was voted down in the Senate, 46-53.
Senate to Vote on NRC Nominees. This
week the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote (PDF) on the nominations of Allison
MacFarlane and Kristine Svinicki to serve as Chairwoman and Commissioner, respectively, of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
House Passes FDA Reauthorization Bill. On June 20, the House passed the Food and Drug Safety and Innovation Act (S. 3187),
which expands the Food and Drug Administration's user fees program to fund quicker domestic drug reviews and more inspections of international drug manufacturing facilities. The bill reconciles previous
versions passed by both chambers, and is expected to pass the Senate this week.
House Passes Conservation and Economic Growth Act. Last week the House passed the Conservation and Economic Growth
Act (H.R. 2578) by a bipartisan vote of 232-188. The Act bundles together 14 bills that remove federal red tape to economic development. The Act, for example, includes a bill (H.R. 1505) that
would provide the Department of Homeland Security greater control over public land along the Mexican and Canadian borders in the interest of national security by waiving several laws that protect wildlife
and tribal lands as well as other environmental provisions such as the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. A summary of the 14 bills included in the package can be found here.
Hearing on Future of Research Universities. On
June 27, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on
the recently released NRC report on Research Universities and the Future of America. Witnesses will include
study chair and former DuPont CEO, Chad Holliday, and an array of university Vice Presidents for Research.
State Announces New Partnership Between African Nations and U.S. In a speech given at the U.N. Conference
on Sustainable Development, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. will contribute $20 million to developers or investors who are looking to initiate projects that will improve access
to clean energy for African citizens who live without power. The Secretary stated the hope that funding and loans through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation will spur infrastructure development
and additional private investments.
NIH Launches New Web Resource, Continues Building Stem Cell Registry. The National Institutes of Health has launched a new online resource about
the impacts of NIH research - particularly on health, the economy, jobs and scientific knowledge. In other news, last week NIH approved the latest collection of human embryonic stem cell lines
eligible to be used in federally funded research, bringing the total in NIH's Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry to 174.
Future of Bio-/Agro-Defense Facility Uncertain. The future of the proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, scheduled to open in 2020 in Manhattan, KS, remains uncertain.
The high security facility for studying animal diseases has now been the subject of three assessments, with one more due out later this month. The latest assessment, just completed by the National
Academies, is highly critical of a separate assessment by the Department of Homeland Security released this past February. The Academies report states
that the risk estimates are based on "questionable and inappropriate assumptions" and fail to account sufficiently for the possibility of human error. Meanwhile, another National Academies
committee is assessing whether the U.S. needs a high-security agricultural lab, and may well recommend that it not be built. The Administration did not seek funding for lab construction in the
FY 2013 request, though the House of Representatives appropriated $75 million in its Homeland Security funding bill.
Comment on the above item. Policy Alert blog entries are located
on AAAS's MemberCentral. Once you are logged
in, click on "Blogs" and look for "Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list.
Romney on Immigration and Visas. In his speech last
week before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated that he would support a policy where "Every foreign student who obtains
an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering at a U.S. university should be granted permanent residency." For more information on the candidates' positions on S&T issues,
go to the AAAS election web site: http://elections.aaas.org/
UNESCO to Establish Science Advisory Board. The United Nations Environmental, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced that
it would set up an international scientific advisory board to advise the UN Secretary-General and promote inter-agency cooperation on science-related issues. The board will include experts from the
natural sciences, engineering, and social and human sciences. The announcement was made at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) last Friday.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Andrew Amis, Kelly Anderson, Kavya Devarakonda, Mark Frankel, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Earl Lane, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri, Brad Wible
The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members to inform them of developments in science and technology policy that may be of interest. Information in the Policy Alert is gathered from published news reports, unpublished documents, and personal communications. Although the information contained in this newsletter is regarded as reliable, it is provided only for the convenience and private use of our members. Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to