Government Relations & Washington Update
AAEA Participates in NIFA Listening Session
On November 2nd, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) held a listening session for stakeholders to share input on agricultural research priorities. The “NIFA Listens” stakeholder listening opportunity informs the research, extension and education priorities of NIFA, which has the mission of investing in and advancing agricultural research, education and extension to solve societal challenges. AAEA’s Washington Representative, Lowell Randel participated in the listening session on behalf of AAEA. Randel stressed the critical nature of the social sciences as an essential part of NIFA’s overall portfolio and importance of data. He encouraged NIFA to increase investments economic research and support the integration of economics into more programs and projects in the future.
Randel also recommended that NIFA consider hiring additional economists to support NIFA programs. To that end, it is very encouraging that NIFA has recently published a vacancy announcement for a NIFA National Program Leader, Ag Economics. Applications for the position will be accepted until November 23, 2022. More information and a link to apply for this National Program Leader position is available at: https://www.usajobs.gov/job/688208000.
Randel also spoke about the Grand Challenges documents that AAEA released earlier this year that highlight some key areas where increased economic research can help address important issues impacting agriculture and the rural economy. AAEA’s Grand Challenges include the following areas:
- Rural Recovery and Prosperity
- Ensuring that all people have safe, affordable, accessible, and acceptable food for leading a healthy and active life
- Agricultural Production and Climate Change
- Supply Chain
AAEA will continue to closely engage with NIFA to communicate research priorities and the importance of economic research to the overall success of NIFA programs.
Biden Issues Memorandum on Strengthening Security and Resilience of U.S. Food and Agriculture
On November 10th, President Biden signed National Security Memorandum-16 (NSM-16) to strengthen the security and resilience of United States food and agriculture. Agriculture, food, and related industries contribute about five percent of the United States gross domestic product (GDP), representing over one trillion dollars per year and more than 19 million jobs. Inherently vital to American life, wellness, health, and economy, this critical food and agriculture sector has, in recent years, faced a range of deliberate and naturally occurring threats to its security and resilience.
Food and agriculture systems and supply chains are designated as critical infrastructure, primarily owned and operated by private sector and non-Federal entities, and can be vulnerable to disruption and damage from domestic and global threats. To strengthen the security and resilience of this vital sector, President Biden approved NSM-16. NSM-16 provides presidential guidance to (i) identify and assess the threats of greatest consequence; (ii) strengthen partnerships to enhance the resilience of the workforce; and coordinating our government to act more efficiently and effectively, and (iii) enhance preparedness and response. This work builds upon ongoing actions by the Administration, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to strengthen the resilience of U.S. food and agriculture supply chains. Below are specific steps planned by the administration to strengthen security:
Identify and Assess the Threats of Greatest Consequence: The NSM outlines a process for the Federal Government to identify and assess threats of greatest consequence to the food and agriculture sector. This includes:
- Redefining the way that chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats are defined, in relation to the food and agriculture sector specifically;
- Focusing on cyber threats and the consequences of the climate crisis;
- Enhancing threat and risk assessments, disseminating needed information with relevant Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments and private sector partners; and
- Mandating a continuous process to assess and mitigate the risks and vulnerabilities of the food and agriculture sector.
Strengthen Partnerships to Enhance the Resilience of the Workforce: The private sector owns and operates the majority of the food and agriculture sector and, in conjunction with SLTT officials, is generally the first line of response when an incident happens. This NSM sets out to strengthen the resilience of the food and agriculture workforce, who are essential critical infrastructure workers, by:
- Refining and promoting the identification of, and guidance for, essential critical infrastructure workers in the food and agriculture sector to continue to work safely while supporting ongoing operations during high-consequence or catastrophic incidents; and
- Supporting the development, provision, and promotion of relevant education at all levels to train the existing workforce and build a pipeline of future essential workers.
Enhance Preparedness and Response: This NSM positions the Federal Government to develop, maintain, assess, enhance, and encourage the adoption of systems and activities that will harden the Nation’s ability to prepare and respond to an agricultural incident by:
- Training Federal, SLTT, and private sector partners together on how to prepare for and respond to threats to the food and agriculture sector;
- Integrating Federal, SLTT, private, and academic laboratories to increase testing and diagnostic surge capacity and standardizing diagnostic and reporting protocols to facilitate timely information sharing;
- Enhancing our National Veterinary Stockpile, which is the animal-health equivalent of the Secure National Stockpile; and
- Strengthening our plant disease response capability with the National Plant Disease Recovery System.