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Government Relations

Budget and Appropriations

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) FY 2016 Appropriations

In the second issue of the July AAEA Exchange, the Government Relations Update mentioned that both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their respective fiscal 2016 spending bills for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies. Since we are so late in the budget cycle, the Council does not expect either bill to see floor action, but the approved levels give negotiators a starting point for the omnibus discussion.

One major factor forcing differences in the two bills is the allocation level provided to appropriators. For example, the Senate draft bill would provide $20.5 billion in discretionary funds. The House Appropriations approved the agriculture bill, which provides $20.65 billion in discretionary funding. However, the House bill also includes $250 million for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The Senate spending bill does not include a CFTC appropriation level because the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services has jurisdiction over that issue. However, for some programs, this meant the difference between garnering support from the subcommittee at the 2014 or 2015 appropriations levels. Few programs received increases in the subcommittee bills.

While the Chairman of the House Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Samuel Farr of California, have worked together for some time on the subcommittee, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and ranking member Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., are new to their roles as the subcommittee leaders. In both chambers, members of congress report a high level of bipartisan cooperation to achieve goals on agricultural issues.

Please see the AAEA Exchange July 2015 Issue 15 for more information on USDA committee-approved FY16 appropriations levels.

National Science Foundation (NSF) FY 2016 Appropriations (re: Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations)

Representative John Culberson (R–TX) has undertaken a campaign to limit the funding going to the social, behavioral, and economic science (SBE) and geoscience directorates. In May, he told AAAS ScienceInsider that he wants “to make the hard sciences a priority—the math and physics and pure science. The fundamental mission of NSF should be those core sciences.” Report language in the current House-passed appropriations bill states that four directorates—biology, engineering, computer science, and math and physical sciences—would receive 70% rather than 65% of the Research and Related Activities account (R&R). In addition, the bill’s report language shelters specific accounts that exist outside of the Directorate structure, freezing the budgets of those programs at 2015 levels, leaving SBE and GEO with only $1.32 billion between them in 2016, a reduction of 16.2% according to AAAS reporter Jeffrey Mervis. Fortunately, the Senate version, approved out of committee on June 10, does not contain this language.

NSF 2015 Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (Science Authorization Bill)

On July 29, 2015, Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act. The bipartisan legislation aims at requiring that each National Science Foundation announcement of a grant award be accompanied by a non-technical explanation of the project’s scientific merits and how it serves the national interest. Several organizations have written letters or articles that express concern about the legislation. See related content from COSSA and Inside Higher Ed.

U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) FY 2016 Appropriation

On June 25, 2015, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed S.1695 – S. Rept. 114-74, the FY 16 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and related agencies. Budget reductions imposed in the bill threaten to limit Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) funding to the point where it will be required to eliminate data programs. In response to the passage of this bill, the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, stating that, under its appropriation bill, “BLS would have difficulty continuing to operate its core programs and would need to permanently eliminate surveys as a result.” The surveys most likely to be at risk of elimination are the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), and the International Price program (specifically, the survey of export prices). The BLS Employment Projections, the Employee Benefits programs, and the resumption of the Contingent Worker Survey (CWS) may also be at risk. The American Economic Association is going to undertake some educational programming about the importance of these data resources. Please contact if you’d like to partake in these activities or have narratives to share about the importance of these statistical resources. See the Washington Post article on the topic here.

Government Relations Initiatives

Comments on the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research Draft Priorities

In accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill, the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) was established and 15 directors appointed to its board in July of 2014. Here is biographical information on the FFAR Board of Directors. The Foundation’s charge is to leverage public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships that are critical to boosting America's agricultural economy. The Foundation operates as a non-profit corporation seeking and accepting private donations to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress has provided $200 million for the Foundation, which must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects. At the advice of Dr. Mark Keenum, the Foundation has shared an initial list of research priorities with the Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE). C-FARE is now working with the AAEA Government Relations Committee and its Board of Directors to identify gaps where the agricultural and applied economics profession would be able to inform the challenges that lie ahead for the agricultural, food, and resource sectors. Please let us know of any ideas you might have for research focus areas that are particularly suited for public-private partnership funding. Email C-FARE Executive Director, Caron Gala at

Agricultural and Applied Economics Priorities and Solutions Project

The AAEA Government Relations Committee will nominate an expert from the profession to serve as a liaison and leader on the Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics’ Agricultural and Applied Economics 2025 Priorities and Solutions project. The objective of the project is to identify future agricultural policy, agricultural market and risk, environmental quality, rural community development, and agri-business management research opportunities, resource, and workforce training needs via a priority planning project. The project will permit the agricultural and applied economics discipline to develop a strategic research and engagement vision to address societal challenges. The project will elevate public awareness and appreciation of the analytical power and research capacity of the profession and provide a rationale for related public and private support. It will provide a vision for the next generation of research and education investments in the agricultural and applied economics profession and for the agricultural research sector at large. As part of its involvement, the AAEA Government Relations Committee will be advising C-FARE on how to best engage the AAEA Sections to be a part of this project. Stay tuned; we will be in touch as the project progresses!

Big Ag. Data Steering Committee to Identify Issues and Opportunities

In the 21st century, the agricultural and food sector face many seemingly daunting challenges. These include 1) feeding an expanding world population through productivity gains or increased food accessibility; 2) efficiently allocating scarce water resources; 3) expanding ecosystem services and limiting agri-environmental impacts; and 4) maximizing food quality and safety. Meanwhile, over the past several decades, geographic and database technologies have accelerated the rate of and capacity for collecting spatial information about the health of agronomic and specialty crops, ecosystems, supply chains, and even consumer groups. In particular, the assembly of vast databases that contain granular and near real-time data on climate, weather, and land-based systems that support food, feed, fiber, and bio-based fuel production is unprecedented. The experts within the agricultural and applied economics profession are exceptionally well suited to work with these large datasets to elucidate the implications of “big data” for the U.S. economy.

This information, frequently referred to as the “big data of agriculture,” has innumerable applications for farm management, crop and food risk protection, eco-system services, and supply chain management. Using the tools of agricultural and applied economics, the possibilities for increasing market efficiencies and policy options throughout the producer and consumer agri-supply chains can be identified. As a result, in coordination with the agricultural economics community, the Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics is forming the Big Ag. Data Steering Committee. The charge of the steering committee is to identify a disciplinary working definition of “big ag. data,’ opportunities for and limitations of its use, and a set of research goals and priorities for publicly funded research. The research goals and priorities will provide guidance to investors in the profession related to the evaluation and analysis of the implications of big data in agricultural production efficiencies, risk, and agri-business management. Please send a brief summary (no more than 1 page) of what you doing in this arena or envision our profession using these data and techniques. Please send your narratives to and Keith Coble at by August 28.

Funding Opportunities

United States Department of Agriculture – Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP)

Award Ceiling: $200,000 – Deadline: Aug. 31, 2015

The purpose of this competitive undergraduate scholarship grant program is to increase the multicultural diversity of the food and agricultural scientific and professional workforce and to advance the educational achievement of all Americans by providing competitive grants to colleges and universities.

Environmental Protection Agency – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative 2015 Request for Applications Agricultural Watershed Management Implementation

Deadline: Sep. 28, 2015

This Request for Applications (RFA) solicits applications from eligible entities for grants and/or cooperative agreements to be awarded pursuant to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan II. This RFA is the EPA’s major competitive grant funding opportunity under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for FY 2015 and is one of several funding opportunities available through federal agencies under the GLRI. Applications are requested for projects within the five categories: Invasive Species Prevention (EPA-R5-GL2015-ISP), Invasive Species Control (EPA-R5-GL2015-ISC), Urban Watershed Management Implementation (EPA-R5-GL2015-UWM), Agricultural Watershed Management Implementation (EPA-R5-GL2015-AWM), and the Maumee River Watershed Nutrient Prevention Pilot Project (EPA-R5-GL2015-MNP).

Economic Development Administration (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS)

Award Ceiling: $500,000 – Deadline: Oct. 5, 2015

The Department of Commerce (DOC) FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan sets forth the strategic goal of working within and across ecosystems throughout the country to develop regional innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters. This comprises building public and private capacity to invent, improve, and commercialize new products and services. Regional innovation strategies are a keystone of the Secretary of Commerce’s commitment to building globally competitive regions. As part of this strategy, funding is available for capacity-building activities that include Proof of Concept Centers (POCCs) and Commercialization Centers (CCs) (as well as scaling of existing commercialization programs and centers) and for operational support for organizations that provide essential early-stage funding to startups. Under the RIS Program, EDA is soliciting applications for two separate competitions: (1) the 2015 i6 Challenge and (2) Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grants. Applicants may but are not required to submit proposals for more than one competition under the RIS Program.

United States Department of Agriculture/Microsoft Innovation Challenge to Address Food Resiliency – $60,000 in Prizes Offered for Most Creative Applications Using USDA Open Data

Deadline: Nov. 20, 2015

The challenge invites entrants to develop and publish new applications and tools that can analyze multiple sources of information about the nation's food supply, including USDA datasets that are now hosted on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft's cloud-computing platform. The deadline for entries is November 20, giving challenge participants three months to create their applications. Winners will be announced in December 2015. Microsoft promoted the challenge at the 2015 meeting of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association. Full details are at

National Science Foundation (NSF) – Food, Energy and Water (FEW) Workshops

To find new answers, the NSF has funded 17 grants, totaling $1.2 million, to support workshops on the interactions of food, energy and water, or FEW. Additionally, $6.4 million will supplement existing grants, enabling scientists to conduct additional research. The FEW workshops will each involve 30-80 participants. The workshops are intended to facilitate partnerships among researchers in the natural sciences, physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and computing and engineering. Their goal is to find innovative approaches to understanding food-energy-water systems, such as those found in the changing conditions of California, and in large international river systems. Researchers will also study technologies that can create resource efficiencies, reduce waste and enhance reuse. Workshops of interest:

Report prepared by Caron Gala, the Executive Director of the Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE).
Contact Caron at