In November, the Executive Board approved the AVMA joining lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., to recoup the $80 million Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems program for use in the National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program. Passage of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 had already earmarked that money for the grants program.
"The funding is approved," said Dr. Donald G. Simmons, director of the AVMA Education and Research Division. "What this (lobbying) letter does is try to get that funding released."
In the past, the Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service was responsible for administering the IFAFS and the NRI Competitive Grants Program, two programs with similar missions. In 2002, the Farm Bill funded IFAFS at $120 million, but for internal, political reasons, Congress chose to discontinue this program. Congress redistributed $40 million of these funds into the NRI Competitive Grants Program, with a mandate to use the money specifically for IFAFS-like research projects. The remaining $80 million, however, has been in limbo.
Several research groups, including the Coalition on Funding Agricultural Research Missions, National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research, and National Association of States Universities and Land Grant Colleges, have begun lobbying the government to release this remaining money to enable the USDA's CSREES to fund additional, needed research projects.
The AVMA Council on Research believes that release of the remaining money is essential to fund necessary agricultural research in the United States and made the recommendation for AVMA to join the lobbying efforts. The Legislative Advisory Committee also sent a memo supporting this recommendation.