January 23, 2008 – ASM Sends Letter on Farm Bill

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) applauds the efforts of Congress to increase and improve US agricultural research in the 2007 Farm Bill. The ASM is the largest single life science organization, with more than 42,000 members. Its mission is to enhance the science of microbiology, to gain a better understanding of life processes, and to promote the application of this knowledge for improved health and environmental well-being.

The ASM is concerned that the United States is losing ground in the important field of agricultural research, just as the challenges the nation faces in global competitiveness, food safety, energy production, and climate change, place more emphasis on the need for greater research to respond to these issues.

The ASM urges Congress to support the provisions, outlined below, in the 2007 Farm Bill. These provisions will help to achieve the goals of increasing support for agricultural research, improving efficiency in meeting USDA’s mission, strengthening ties and linkages between government and universities, and improving the perception of USDA science.
  • The establishment of a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which would administer all programs under the Cooperative State, Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), including competitive, peer reviewed grants on basic research. NIFA would raise the profile of competitive research.
  • The reauthorization of the National Research Initiative (NRI) Competitive Grants Program at $500 million, and maintaining the $200 million in mandatory funding for the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS).
  • An increase in the indirect cost benefit cap to 30 percent.
  • The establishment of a Congressional Bipartisan Food Safety Commission required to study, and make recommendations for modernizing food safety programs emphasizing prevention, based on risk assessment and the best available science.
  • Providing the USDA with authority to conduct research and diagnostics for highly infectious foreign animal diseases on mainland locations in the United States.

The ASM believes that these provisions will improve the USDA research infrastructure and help attract more researchers and students to the field of agricultural research, providing the best system for conducting research to meet the nation’s challenges.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the 2007 Farm Bill and for your support of agricultural research.

Sincerely,

Ruth Berkelman, M.D., Chair, Public and Scientific Affairs Board
Michael Doyle, Ph.D., Chair, Committee on Agriculture and Food Microbiology

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