Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Government Relations & Washington Update - March 2021

AAEA Increases Washington Engagement

Since the beginning of the year, AAEA has been increasing its engagement in Washington, DC.  Lowell Randel, AAEA’s new Washington Representative, is meeting with key government officials and partners to discuss the importance of agricultural and applied economics and identify opportunities to advance AAEA priorities.  Randel has met with USDA officials including ERS Administrator Spiro Stefanou and USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer to discuss ways AAEA and its members can work with them more closely. 

Randel has also been busy working with coalitions including the National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research (NCFAR) and the AFRI Coalition to build support for the federal investment in agricultural research, extension and education.  AAEA is helping coordinate an NCFAR Congressional Briefing that will highlight the importance of ERS and NASS programs to Congressional staff. 

AAEA is actively engaged with coalition partners in the budget and appropriations process for fiscal year 2022.  AAEA recently joined a letter with 139 national and state organizations congratulating Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on his recent confirmation and calls for increased investments in agricultural research.  The letter asks Secretary Vilsack to support a balanced portfolio that includes both extramural and intramural research, competitive and capacity funding, extension and outreach, and statistics and economics.  AAEA is also supporting coalition letters to Congress requesting federal investments in key agricultural research programs within NIFA, ERS and NASS.

With the transition in Presidential administrations, the budget and appropriations process for fiscal year 2022 will be delayed.  It is common for incoming presidential administrations to miss the traditional timeframe of early February for annual President’s Budget proposals.  In many cases, the incoming administration will provide a high-level overview of its budget priorities and a more detailed, full budget proposal later in the spring.  It appears that the Biden Administration is likely to follow this pattern, which will delay the annual budget and appropriations process for fiscal year 2022. 

While Congress awaits the first Biden budget, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are considering a return to earmarks.  The process for Congressionally directing appropriations spending to member priority projects was halted in 2011 after a series of controversies related to earmarks.  Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate have indicated a desire to reinstate the process and the House Appropriations Committee has recently released its framework and rules for what the committee is calling “Community Project Funding”.  The Senate is expected to announce its approach to earmarks in the near future.  In the past, agricultural research accounts were home to dozens of annual earmarks, including some related to agricultural economics.

AAEA will keep members updated on policy developments and opportunities to advance agricultural and applied economics as it continues to increase its engagement in Washington.

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