Senate Committee Adopts FY 2024 Funding Levels, Advances Agriculture Funding Bill
Before leaving for a Fourth of July break, congressional committees furthered their work on fiscal year (FY) 2024 funding bills.
In spite of reaching a deal a few weeks ago regarding government debt and spending, the two legislative chambers are moving in different directions in regards to annual spending in the 12 appropriations bills that collectively fund the federal government. The House has set FY 2024 funding targets significantly below the levels permitted under the debt deal, whereas the Senate opted for more variable funding. Roughly half of the spending bills will be flat funded in the Senate's plans and the other half would see increases or decreases.
Both chambers are planning an increase for defense spending. Commerce, Justice, and Science--which includes funding for the National Science Foundation--is slated for a 16 percent cut by the Senate and a 29 percent cut by the House. Details about specific agencies within this funding pot are not yet available.
Among other notable differences that could impact science funding is in the Interior-Environment bill, which funds the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. The House bill cuts funding by 35 percent, but the Senate only cuts funding by 2 percent overall from the current fiscal year. The bill that will include the National Institutes of Health is positioned similarly, with a 29 percent cut in the House and a 6 percent cut in the Senate.
Agriculture programs would see an overall 15 percent increase in the Senate plan versus a 30 percent cut by the House. Senate appropriators recently passed legislation detailing agriculture funding, with members from both political parties expressing support for agricultural research as a priority. The Senate bill would fund the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at $1.9 billion, a slight increase over current funding; the House committee significantly cut funding for ARS facilities, resulting in an overall $114 million reduction for ARS. In spite of these top-line differences, both Appropriations Committees specified in supporting documentation that extramural research support be "funded at no less than fiscal year 2023 levels."
Other notable differences include competitively awarded agricultural research in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative would be flat funded in the Senate bill; the House would provide a $5 million increase. The Long-Term Agroecosystem Research Network would see a $1 million increase in the House bill; the proposed Senate funding is not yet clear. Although the House seeks to end the climate hubs program, the Senate bill maintains it.
Research on PFAS chemicals in agriculture is called out in the reports accompanying the appropriations bills. The Senate provides $10 million to establish a Center of Excellence for PFAS solutions in agricultural and food systems, in conjunction with a university partner. "Funding shall be used on research to address PFAS issues in the agricultural landscape, animal uptake, adsorption, distributions, metabolism, ... and subsequent distribution in the environment."
Congressional committees will continue their work on the remaining appropriations bills in the coming weeks.
Proposed Rule Would Restore Protections for Listed Species
The Biden Administration has proposed to restore protections for endangered and threatened species that were curtailed by the Trump Administration.
The draft regulations, which are now available for public comment, would put back in place protections for threatened species to prohibit their killing or injuring--the same protections that endangered species have under federal law. Such protections for threatened species were originally imposed in 1978 via regulation, but the Trump Administration changed to a case-by-case consideration of protections for threatened species instead of blanket protections. The new proposal would restore the broader protections while still allowing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to craft individual rules for species, as warranted.
The draft rules would also remove consideration of economic impacts from listing decisions. The Endangered Species Act states that listing of species is to be made solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available. Designation of critical habitat would largely revert to the pre-2019 standards under the new rules.
Another proposed change would grant tribal governments the same ability as federal agencies to "aid, salvage, or dispose of" threatened species during the course of conservation activities.
Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams said of the proposed rules: "These proposed revisions reaffirm our commitment to conserving America's wildlife and ensuring the Endangered Species Act works for both species and people."
Although the proposed regulations do not completely roll back the Trump-era rules, this is the second time in recent years that the Biden Administration undid their predecessor's changes to the Endangered Species Act.
New United Nations Treaty to Protect the High Seas
The United Nations passed a resolution in June to protect international waters from climate change, industrial fishing, deep-sea mining, shipping, and other stressors. These so-called high seas are roughly two-thirds of Earth's oceans.
The treaty will make it easier to establish large-scale marine protected areas and set worldwide standards for environmental impact assessments of commercial activities. Science is also addressed, including making research conducted in international waters more accessible and addressing the transfer of marine technology.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said after the vote: "By acting to counter threats to our planet that go beyond national boundaries, you are demonstrating that global threats deserve global action and that countries can come together in unity for the common good."
The treaty needs to be ratified by at least 60 nations before it goes into effect.
This treaty has been 15 years in the making. Currently, only 1.2 percent of international waters are protected.
Meet with Your Lawmakers This Summer and Help Inform Science Policy
The American Institute of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce that registration is now open for the 2023 Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.
Now in its 14th year, this national initiative is an opportunity for biologists across the country to meet with their federal or state elected officials to showcase the people, facilities, and equipment that are required to support and conduct scientific research. This initiative helps to put a face on science and to remind lawmakers that science is happening in their district and state.
The Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event enables scientists, graduate students, representatives of research facilities, and people affiliated with scientific collections to meet with their federal or state elected officials without traveling to Washington, DC. Participating scientists can meet with their elected officials at the local district office, virtually, or may invite them to visit their research facility.
"I am grateful for the experience, which has enriched my professional development. I am particularly pleased to think that we started a conversation with Rep. Joyce Beatty's office that will continue in the future. I encourage everyone to reach out beyond their scientific community, which includes explaining your science to your district offices."
- Coralie Farinas, Graduate Student, Ohio State University
AIBS will once again organize the event this summer and fall in a hybrid format, with options for both virtual as well as in-person meetings and tours. AIBS will schedule participants' meetings with lawmakers and will prepare participants through online training and one-on-one support. Meetings will take place mid-July through October, depending on the participant's schedule and their lawmaker's availability.
This event is made possible by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, with the support of event sponsors American Society of Primatologists, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Botanical Society of America, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Paleontological Society, and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.
Registration for participation is free, but required and closes on July 14, 2023. To learn more and register, visit io.aibs.org/cdv.
Enter the 13th Annual Faces of Biology Photo Contest
Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest for a chance to win $250 and to have your photo appear on the cover of the journal BioScience.
The competition recognizes scientists who use imagery to communicate aspects of biological research to the public and policymakers. Once again, this year's competition is sponsored by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in addition to the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).
"Photography is one of many excellent tools scientists have to showcase their work to new audiences, including policymakers and the public," said Scott Glisson, CEO of AIBS. "AIBS remains committed to strengthening scientists' ability to communicate with broad audiences. An important part of that effort has been supporting this artful approach to sharing their research."
The theme of the contest is "Faces of Biology." Photographs entered into the competition must depict a person, such as a scientist, technician, or student, engaging in biological research. The depicted research may occur outside, in a lab, with a natural history collection, on a computer, in a classroom, or elsewhere.
The winning photos from the 2022 contest were featured in the April 2023 issue of BioScience.
Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on September 30, 2023. For more information or to enter the contest, visit our website.
The Smithsonian Institution will hold a free three-day national education summit on July 18-20. Educators, policymakers, and others are invited to participate in this event, which will include a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education as well as life on a sustainable planet. The hybrid event will be held in person in Washington, DC and online. Learn more.
- Republican members of Congress have re-introduced legislation to prevent President Biden from declaring a climate emergency. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Representative August Pfluger (R-TX) are the primary bill sponsors. Biden has not declared a national emergency on climate change, but last summer pledged to use his powers to address global warming. A presidential emergency declaration would unlock additional funding and powers for the administration to use.
The House Natural Resources Committee approved legislation to prohibit the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture from banning lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands. Committee Chair Bruce Westerman (R-AR) justified the bill during the committee mark-up: "where lead is shown to cause harm to wildlife it should be addressed accordingly, but a systemwide ban where no scientific link can be made is the wrong approach and ultimately undermines wildlife conservation." The bill includes an exemption to allow site specific bans where lead is a demonstrated cause of wildlife population decline.
From the Federal Register
The following items appeared in the Federal Register from June 20 to 30, 2023.
Environmental Protection Agency
Health and Human Services
Institute of Museum and Library Services
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Office of Science and Technology Policy