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Government Relations Update

DC Update – President’s Budget

The president’s final budget for fiscal year 2017 included flat funding for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Hatch, Smith Lever, and other capacity accounts, giving a small increase to the 1890 institutions. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) received a $25M increase in discretionary funds over the FY16 appropriation in addition to a proposed mandatory increase of $325M. The USDA Economic Research Service received a small increase over FY16 appropriations of $6M. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service received a $9M increase over FY16 appropriations. See the full description here.

Upcoming Events

February 25 and 26, 2016 – USDA 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the members of this year’s Agricultural Outlook Forum Plenary Panel on Providing Leadership for Present and Future Generations in the Transformation of Agriculture. The varied backgrounds of this year’s panelists—academia, business, farming, and media—bring a range of expertise to this discussion on transforming the future of agriculture. The group includes Elizabeth Garrett, president of Cornell University; Ilene Gordon, CEO of Ingredion; Pamela Hess, executive director of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture; and Pam Johnson, an Iowa farmer and former president of National Corn Growers Association. Thirty concurrent track sessions supporting this theme include the Agriculture Talent Pipeline, Bioproducts, Commodities, Land and Tenure Transition, New Markets, Organics, Risk Management, Scientific Advancement, Trade, and Urban Agriculture. The two-day meeting will be held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Register here.

National Academy of Sciences Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium on Coupled Human and Environmental Systems

March 14-15, 2016

The goal of this colloquium is to bring together researchers joined by an interest in using the paradigm of coupled human-natural systems to advance our understanding of ecosystem and human health. Research on coupled human-environment systems has often been conducted separately in ecology, epidemiology, geography, and other fields for many years, depending on the study system of interest. Bringing together groups from these disciplines will facilitate collaborations and synergies that cut across the boundaries of traditional disciplines, resulting in greater progress than would be possible with these groups working in isolation from one another.  Learn more here.

Kickoff Event: Valuation of Ecosystem Services Workshop

At the USDA Whitten Building, Rm. TBA.
April 12th, 2016

Please register here. Summary: The Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics will introduce participants to the guiding principles and proposed approaches for developing a national framework to quantify ecosystem service benefits during a workshop event. The workshop will be divided into a morning orientation and an afternoon of working breakout groups, divided by resource team topic. The morning session will be open to experts who are not on the resource teams. The orientation will (1) establish a common set of principles supported by science to guide the development of monetary valuation and non-monetary benefit metrics and (2) present the causal chain approach to ecosystem service metric development for use by resource teams.

Recent Events

Creating the Future Workforce in Food and Agriculture

National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C. on February 10–11, 2016

The meeting was organized under the auspices of the Academies’ Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR). The Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) and Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE) co-sponsored the workshop along with other stakeholders. The workshop was aimed at developing a forward-looking set of strategies to guide the recruitment, education, placement, and retention of the next generation of workforce participants in the agriculture, food, and natural resources (AFNR) enterprise. During the two days of the meetings, each discussion group prepared a written action plan that addressed the group’s assigned topic. The workshop “playbook” will be used to instigate research, programming, and support for new and creative initiatives around which employers, educators, and others who are part of the agriculture, food, and natural resource enterprise can take coordinated action. Dr. Ani Katchova, AAEA board member and associate professor at The Ohio State University; Dr. Claire Narrod of Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; and Caron Gala, C-FARE executive director all participated in the program on behalf of the profession. Learn more.

AAEA Board Members and farm income experts, Dr. Allen Featherstone of Kansas State University and Ani Katchova of The Ohio State University meeting with Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS).

A congressional briefing on the “Dynamics of Farm Profitability – Factors Influencing the Decline in Farm Income”

U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry on February 11, 2016

Summary: Farm sector profitability was impacted by lower crop and livestock prices in 2015. Net cash farm income for 2015 was forecast to be $93 billion, down 28% from 2014 levels. Thin margins are putting increased pressure on the nation’s farmers, impacting the choices that farmers take to manage risks. Speakers discussed the 2016 forecast and updates to the 2015 results for net farm income. Experts discussed the strategies that farmers are using to mitigate lending/repayment risks and the impact of farm-level federal and state policies on farm profitability. National experts will discuss the macroeconomic factors that are impacting the financial situation of the agricultural sector and the impacts of farm policy on farm sector assets, debt, and wealth. Three speakers included Jeffrey Hopkins, farm economy branch chief in the Resource and Rural Economics Division (RRED) at the USDA Economic Research Service; Allen Featherstone, professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University and director of Master in Agribusiness Program; and Ani Katchova, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics and farm income enhancement chair in The Ohio State University. Learn more.

 “Climate Change and Agriculture: Revisiting the Evidence and Potential Solutions” Symposia

Coordinated by C-FARE with support from the AAEA and USDA OCE at the AAAS Annual Meeting on Global Science Engagement on February 14, 2016

Summary: A major assertion in both the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. National Climate Assessment reports is that climate change is already affecting agricultural productivity, and adaptation is already occurring in response. Effects are spatially heterogeneous and likely to intensify in the next century. Debate and substantial research are needed on the nature, scale, and severity of future climate change; means of adaption into the future; and potential mitigation actions. This symposium addresses key dimensions of climate change impacts on agriculture, as well as adaptation and mitigation: the projected impact of climate change on agricultural productivity and food security in domestic and international settings; the motivation for adaptation efforts, along with potential strategies and roles for public versus private entities; and prospects for and policy toward the use of agriculture in climate change mitigation. The agricultural sector needs to prepare for two phases of climate change: one between now and 2040, with a global temperature increase of about 1 degree Celsius; and the post-2040 phase, which could range from 2–6 degrees Celsius depending on the mitigation actions taken from this point forward. Speakers highlighted the current status of agricultural adaptation to climate change, attitudinal and economic hurdles to scaled-up adaptation measures, and the need to intelligently link adaptation and mitigation. Organizer: Caron Gala, Council on Food, Agricultural, and Resource Economics; Moderator: Jan Lewandrowski, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Speaker Presentations: The Underlying Climate Mechanisms of International Food Trade by Thomas Hertel, Purdue University; Elaborations on Climate Adaptation in U.S. Agriculture by Bruce McCarl, Texas A&M University; and Climate Change Mitigation and U.S. Agriculture: Promises, Preemption, and Pathways by Alison Eagle, Duke University. About 50 attendees from the AAAS meetings attended the symposia. See the related AgriPulse article here. The USDA Economic Research Service will also host a webinar on the subject of agricultural adaptation to climate change on February 17. Please view the webinar recording here. Learn more.

Funding Opportunities

Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS)

Interdisciplinary research efforts to transform scientific understanding of the food-water-energy nexus are well integrated. The overarching goal of INFEWS is to catalyze them in order to improve system function and management, address system stress, increase resilience, and ensure sustainability. The NSF INFEWS initiative is designed specifically to attain the following goals: 1) Significantly advance our understanding of the food-energy-water system through quantitative and computational modeling, including support for relevant cyber-infrastructure; 2) Develop real-time, cyber-enabled interfaces that improve our understanding of the behavior of FEW systems and increase our ability to support decisions; 3) Enable research that will lead to innovative system and technological solutions to critical FEW problems; and 4) Grow the scientific workforce capable of studying and managing the FEW system through education and other professional development opportunities. Deadline: March 22. Learn more.

Organic Agriculture Grants

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is seeking research grant funding applications from colleges and universities for its Organic Transitions Program (ORG). The program supports the development and implementation of research, extension, and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers, as well as those adopting organic practices. In FY 2016, ORG will continue to prioritize environmental services provided by organic farming systems in the area of soil conservation, pollinator health, and climate change mitigation. This includes greenhouse gases (GHGs), as well as the development of educational tools for cooperative extension personnel and other agricultural professionals who advise producers on organic practices and the development of cultural practices and other allowable alternatives to substances recommended for removal from the National Organic Program’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. NIFA anticipates having approximately $3.8 million available in grant funds for the program in FY2016. Applications due by: April 15, 2016. Learn more.

USDA NIFA Fellowships Grant Program for Undergraduate, Predoctoral, and Postdoctoral Students in the Agricultural Sciences

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is accepting applications under its AFRI Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences Education and Literacy Initiative (AFRI ELI). This initiative is intended to prepare the next generation of scientists through fellowships for doctoral candidates and post-doctoral scholars; promote research and extension experiential learning for undergraduates such that upon graduation they may enter the agriculture workforce with exceptional skills; and provide immersive learning experiences for secondary school educators, enabling them to identify and replicate best practices to enhance student outcomes. NIFA anticipates having approximately $18.9 million available in grant funds for the program in FY2016.

Application Deadlines: 
* March 18, 2016 for Professional Development Opportunities for Secondary School Teachers 
* March 24, 2016 for Research and Extension Experiential Learning for Undergraduate
Learn more.

Summer Internships at USDA-ERS

Economic Research Service summer internships are an excellent opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to gain valuable research experience by assisting highly skilled economists and/or social scientists and to work with ERS models and data sets. These positions require individuals with a solid foundation in economic theory and strong quantitative skills; experience with data collection, econometric analysis, data base management, and/or mathematical programming and models; and good communications skills. Interns participate in a wide variety of research projects involving agriculture and environment, domestic and international markets, agricultural and trade policy, food safety, diet and nutrition, consumer economics, rural development, and agricultural finance. The closing date to apply is February 22, 2016. Application information can be found at ERS is inviting applications from both undergraduate and graduate students for the following grade levels: GS- 04/05/07/09. Summer interns may work from May 1 to September 30, 2016.

As part of its government relations activities, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) participates in the following coalitions.

Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) is a non-partisan coalition of scientific, consumer, and producer groups that seek sound research policies that focus more of our best minds on feeding America and the world, as well as advocate for increased funding for such research. AFRI is a program established by Congress in 2008 to award competitive grants for research projects—at any institution—that apply best ideas from any discipline to the many problems confronting today’s farmers and consumers. SoAR Foundation is working to educate various stakeholders about the importance of agriculture research, including full funding for the AFRI competitive grants encourage innovation by directing federal funds to the most promising proposals. See the SoAR letter in support of AFRI for fiscal year 2017 (FY17) here.

The USDA produces a vast amount of data and information that directly inform decisions by food and agricultural market participants; agricultural input and food businesses; banks and other credit institutions; and those who make food, farm, economic development, and trade policy. Friends of Agricultural Statistics and Analysis (FASA) stakeholders depend on the reliable production of timely, accurate, and objective food, agricultural, rural economic, and resource statistics and market information. FASA supports the maintenance and growth of agriculture, food, and resource statistics, data, and analysis through the USDA Research, Education and Economics Mission Area (USDA REE), as well as other sources in the USDA portfolio. FASA has not yet circulated letters for sign-on for FY17.

National C-FAR is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, consensus-based, and customer-led coalition that brings food, agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and natural resource stakeholders together with the food and agriculture research community, serving 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. Both C-FARE and AAEA collaborate to provide speakers for the NC-FAR Lunch~n~Learn briefing series.

The Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation (RMF) is committed to promoting a broader and more complete understanding of agriculture and to building upon Charles Valentine Riley’s legacy as a person with a vision for enhancing agriculture through scientific knowledge. RMF program activities promote a broader and more complete understanding of agriculture as the most basic human endeavor and to enhance agriculture through increased scientific knowledge. C-FARE has participated in the Pursuing a Unifying Message: Elevating Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Research as a National Priority. The project recently released its summary statement on January 25, 2016. The document makes many important points, but much to our dismay, it does not mention the important role of intramural economics research or government statistics in the research portfolio. We are encouraging all future documents to be more inclusive and aware of the portfolio of investments. Please contact us if you’d like to be a part of this effort.