ESA Science Policy Updates
ESA Supports Self-Nominations of Tick Researchers to Serve on HHS TBD Subcommittees (January 5, 2018)
The Tick-Borne Disease Working Group, which was authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act, met for the first time on December 11, 2017 and agreed to the formation of six subcommittees. Nominations were initially sought from third party groups, but on December 22, the committee opted to only accept self-nominations. ESA worked with several well-known tick professionals and the Science Policy Committee to encourage self-nominations and then issues a letter of support for those nominations.
ESA Joins Scientific Societies to Announce the first National Pesticide Safety Education Month (NPSEM) (January 2, 2018)
Along with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) and the American Phytopathological Society (APS), ESA supported naming February 2018 to be the inaugural month for this educational promotional effort. The purpose of NPSEM is to reinforce the core principles of safe pesticide handling, from purchase to disposal. Sponsors are sought to provide cash or non-cash contributions in 2018 to support Pesticide Safety Education Programs run by the nation's land-grant universities. Organizations interested in sponsoring NPSEM should contact Wayne Buhler, PhD, coordinator of the Pesticide Safety Education Program at North Carolina State University. Activities may be tagged with the hashtag #NationalPSEMonth.
ESA Joins Scientific Community in Supporting Open Scientific Communication (December 19, 2017)
Several organizations expressed concern and dismay following a news article which stated that the CDC was forbidden to put seven words and phrases into budgetary request documents. In a community sign-on letter organized by AAAS, the community requested that OMB work with the heads of all government agencies to ensure that they are basing their decisions, communications, policies and regulations on the best scientific evidence. The Society also joined sign-on letters from the March for Science and others.
ESA Responds to USDA-NIFA Request for Input on Funding Priorities (December 1, 2017)
Culminating a series of Listening Sessions, the National Institute on Food and Agriculture (NIFA) sought input from the scientific community on setting funding priorities by seeking responses to two questions: (1) What is your top priority in food and agricultural research, extension, or education that NIFA should address?, and (2) What are the most promising science opportunities for advancement of food and agricultural sciences? ESA's response is linked above and MUVE submitted their own response, found here.
ESA Targets Senate with Continued Advocacy to on Tax Bill (November 28, 2017)
After the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) passed the House (see below), advocacy efforts moved to the Senate. ESA joined other professional scientific societies seeking to preserve important tax benefits for graduate students by sending a letter to all U.S. Senators opposing repealing existing provisions in tax law that make tuition waivers non-taxable. The letter to the Senate was identical to that which was sent to the House.
ESA Advocates to Preserve Tax Deductions for Graduate Students (November 15, 2017)
As proposed, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), introduced by the House majority leadership, would repeal graduate student tuition waivers and many other educational credits. The net effect on U.S. graduate students would be a doubling or tripling of tax liability, which would invariably drive many away from higher education. Since a majority of graduate students are in the key areas of science, engineering, technology, and math, the impact would be particularly harmful to the STEM community. The Society issued an Action Alert to encourage the entomological community to oppose this legislation. A few days later (November 21) ESA signed on to an open letter from March for Science which advocated for the same issue.
ESA Joins Multi-Society Effort to Advocate for Tax Reform that Protects America's Nonprofit Sector (November 2, 2017)
The Society joined more than 300 other professional and trade associations to remind the Congressional tax writing committees about the important tax benefits that surround the critical role associations play in the American way of life. In particular, the letter sought to highlight the importance that non-dues revenue plays in the ability of membership associations to survive periods of economic downturn and fulfill their tax-exempt purpose.
ESA Joins Other Scientific Societies in Letter to President Opposing Administration's Immigration Policies (October 17, 2017)
ESA joined over 70 other scientific organizations in sending a letter to President Trump in response to the September 24, 2017 proclamation on visas and immigration, opposing the inherent damage the policy would have on diplomatic, humanitarian, and national security interests. The letter was organized by AAAS and is part of a broader and continuing effort by the scientific community to support immigration policies that recognize the importance of openness, transparency, and the free flow of ideas.
ESA Submits Comments to EPA Regarding Wolbachia (September 26, 2017)
In comments submitted through the Federal Register, ESA president Susan Weller provided testimony to EPA-OPP regarding registering the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis as a new active ingredient to be used as a biopesticide and delivered through the introduction of male Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. After consulting with ESA's liaision with EPA-OPP and others, Weller indicated that the Society had no findings of significant concern regarding the registration. The letter also highlighted the ESA fact sheet on non-chemical approaches to mosquito management. (Update, October 5): In a joint statement, FDA and EPA decided that genetically modified mosquitoes are not currently subject to FDA regulation. Under FIFRA's authority, EPA will continue to oversee genetically modified mosquitoes and FDA will only become involved in regulation if the product’s intent is to reduce disease or disease pathogens.
ESA Thanks Lawmakers for Establishing Agriculture Research Caucus (August 23, 2017)
ESA wrote a letter of support to Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), co-founders of the House Agriculture Research Caucus. The letter acknowledged the importance of federally-funded research, even in difficult economic times. Additionally, the letter identified key research priorities for ESA and offered the society as a resource for the caucus.
ESA Nominates Tom Mather to Serve on HHS TBD Working Group (August 14, 2017)
On July 17 in the Federal Register, the US Department of Health and Human Services published an Announcement of Intent To Establish the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group and Solicitation of Nominations for Appointment to the Working Group Membership. The formation of the group was called for in the 21st Century Cures Act. On August 14 ESA nominated Dr. Thomas N. Mather, Director of the TickEncounter Resource Center and a 39-year member of the Society to serve on the panel.
ESA Offers to Provide Beekeeping Advice to Vice President's Wife (August 10, 2017)
President Susan Weller wrote a letter to Second Lady Karen Pence after her announcement of installing a beehive at her residence. The letter was timed to coincide with National Honey Bee Day on August 19. In the letter ESA offered to serve as a resource for the Pence's hive in addition to providing encouragement and support for the Second Lady's previous statements about the importance of protecting pollinators.
ESA and Partners Continue to Advocate for NIST Funding during Conference Talks (August 4, 2017)
Once again, ESA joined other professional association partners in advocating for supporting funding for the forensic sciences now that the FY18 CJS appropriations bill (see below form July 19) has moved to the budget conferencing stage. The letter requests full support of OSAC and a rejection of the Administration's proposed cuts to the program in the next budget.
ESA Joins AAAS and Scientific Societies to Request Meeting with EPA (July 31,2017)
ESA was one of fifteen scientific societies to sign a letter to Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting a meeting to discuss the latest reseach in climate science as well as to learn about the Administration's proposed "red team/blue team" plan to debate the issue. The letter argues the point that decades of peer review have already validated the scientific consensus on climate science.
ESA and Others Submit Letter of Opposition to Proposed Cuts to NIST (July 19, 2017)
The American Statistical Association spearheaded a letter that was submitted to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) voicing opposition to the Administration's proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) forensic science research and reform work. NIST is the lead scientific agency for much of the federal government's forensic science efforts. The letter further called for full support of the Organization of Science Area Committees (OSAC).
ESA Coalition Partners Submit Bipartisan Budget Letter (July 18, 2017)
ESA is a member of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) and also the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). Both groups were signatories on a recent letter to both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate urging that the two parties work together to draft a bipartisan budget agreement that increases the spending caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary programs as a means to sustain innovation in scientific research, engineering, and technology.
ESA Provides Comments on the National Monitoring Plan for Native Bees (July 6, 2017)
In June, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture requested input on behalf of its Pollinator Health Working Group on strategies for monitoring native bees in the United States. Comments were required to address why a national monitoring plan for native bees is important, what kind of information/data is needed, and how such information would be used. ESA submitted comments, noting the potentially significant economic impact of the loss of wild pollinators and recommending the support of research on bee nutrition, systematics and classification of native bees, land use, and the effect of pesticides, among other subjects.
ESA Submits Testimony Through Federal Register Supporting Forensic Science (June 7, 2017)
On April 10, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS), an independent group of approximately 30 scientists who supported the Justice Department. Entomology is a fundamental aspect of the forensic sciences and has been instrumental in solving many cases. The Science Policy Committee convened a writing team to draft testimony opposing the move, saying "The NCFS has played an important role in reviewing and establishing the scientific foundation for the reliability of forensic investigation."
Analysis of President Trump’s FY2018 Budget Request (May 25, 2017)
Lewis Burke Associates (ESA's government relations firm) prepared an analysis of the Administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget request which—as expected—contains large cuts to many scientific programs of importance to ESA members. While the drastic cuts proposed in the request are unlikely to be enacted into law, the budget request provides information on agency plans and priorities as well as insight into which Obama Administration-era initiatives are likely to be carried over by the Trump Administration. In particular, using FY17 as a baseline, the request proposes cuts of the following sizes to the discretionary budgets of selected federal agencies: NIH – 21%, FDA - 32%, State Department and USAID – 34.6%, EPA – 47.5%, NSF – 11%, USDA-ARS – 22%, USDA-NIFA – 8%, and IMLS – 90%.
ESA, AIBS, and Other Groups Deliver Science Funding Letter (May 23, 2017)
The American Institute of Biological Sciences, ESA, and 39 other scientific organizations co-signed a letter that was sent to all Members of Congress following the release of the Administration's budget request on May 23, 2017. The letter argues that a $1 federal investment in agricultural research yields an estimated $10 return on that investment. It further states that for the past 50 years, roughly half of the U.S. private sector growth has resulted from research and development. Strong bipartisan support of science funding is requested.
Using the Example of the Screwworm Outbreak to Advocate for Science Funding (May 18, 2017)
Current ESA President, Dr. Susan Weller and current Vice President-Elect, Dr. Robert Peterson, co-authored an EntomologyToday post that advocated for robust and continued federal scientific research funding. Using the example of the screwworm fly which, after a recent outbreak in south Florida, was recontained using the sterile insect technique (SIT), the pair make the point that SIT and other federally-funded entomological discoveries provide tremendous benefits to society.
Analysis of the FY2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (May 3, 2017)
Lewis Burke Associates (ESA's government relations firm) prepared an analysis of the omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government through September 30, 2017. This stopgap measure was a compromise between the Congressional leadership, the Administration, and the Democratic congressional minority to fund federal agencies. The compromise avoided a government shutdown that loomed on May 5 when the current continuing resolution expired. Despite the cuts initially proposed by the Administration, the final bill actually provides increases to federal investments in many of the research, education, and healthcare programs that are important to ESA.
ESA Submits Written Testimony on Funding Recommendations for FY2018 (May 1, 2017)
Over the past two months, ESA has been preparing and submitting written testimony to key House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over agencies and programs that support entomology. This testimony is used by the subcommittees to help inform their decisions as they consider funding levels for programs within their jurisdiction. Testimony was submitted to four Senate subcommittees (Agriculture, CJS, Interior/Environment, and LHHS) and four House subcommittees (Agriculture, CJS, Interior/Environment, and LHHS).
ESA Commends the March for Science (April 24, 2017)
As one the first scientific societies to offer its formal support to the grassroots March for Science, ESA joined dozens of scientific organizations on the Monday after the March to commend the organizers and to vow to build on the momentum created by the event, through continuing to reach out to the public and policymakers at all levels to promote sound scientific policies that advance discovery and benefit society.
ESA Re-Endorses Bipartisan SMASH Act of 2017 Legislation (April 19, 2017)
Senator Angus King (I-ME) re-introduced a mosquito management Bill entitled the Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act, in the 115th Congress. The Bill was introduced and supported by ESA last year as well but did not survive to become legislation. The SMASH Act of 2017 is co-sponsored by three other Senators: Richard Burr (R–NC), Bill Nelson (D–FL), and Marco Rubio (R–FL).
ESA Joins Coalition of Scientific Societies and Others to Advocate for Funding Research and R&D (April 6, 2017)
ESA joined AAAS and 284 other professional societies, universities, research organizations and industry groups in signing a letter of support that articulates the importance of investing in basic and applied research across all disciplines. The letter is directed to the U.S. Congress and urges them to complete the FY 2017 appropriations and provide robust funding for research and also urges them to consider the importance of R&D as it addresses the pending budget request for FY 2018.
Budget Blueprint FY 2018: Implications for Research, Higher Education, and Health Programs (March 16, 2017)
ESA's government advocacy firm, Lewis Burke Associates, LLC, prepared a brief overview and analysis of President Trump's initial budget, released in March 2017. In particular the report outlines the steep cuts to discretionary spending that would be required to achieve the President's proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending. While Congress is unlikely to enact this budget as drafted, the level of the proposed cuts to science funding indicate the Administration's priorities. ESA President Susan Weller issued a message to ESA members about the budget proposal on March 17: Update on President Trump's Proposed 2018 Budget Blueprint.
ESA Signs AFRI Coalition Letter Supporting Robust 2018 Farm Bill (February 21, 2017)
ESA co-signed a letter organized by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the House Committee on Agriculture. The letter's purpose was to highlight the important deficit reductions already supported by previous farm bills and to stave off additional cuts to agricultural funding.
ESA Supports the March for Science (February 21, 2017)
ESA endorsed the March for Science to be held on April 22, 2017. The guiding principles of ESA recognize that the discipline of entomology is global, that all of its members must be able to participate fully in the science, and that entomologists must collaborate with government and the public to maximize the positive benefits insect science offers to the world. The stated goals and principles of the March for Science align closely with these strategic principles of ESA.
ESA Congratulates New Acting Director of EPA-OPP (February 14, 2017)
President Weller sent a letter of congratulations to Richard Keigwin who was appointed to be acting Director of the U.S. EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs (EPA-OPP). The letter served the dual purposes of offering ESA as a resource as Mr. Keigwin oversees the department, but also to serve as an introduction to ESA's Subject Matter Expert Liaison between the society and EPA-OPP.
ESA Signs AAAS to President Trump Opposing Temporary Immigration Ban (Jan 31, 2017)
The Society joined 151 other organizations in sending a letter to the White House opposing a recent Executive Order on visas and immigration. The letter expressed grave concerns on the impact that the Executive Order would have on U.S. science and engineering capacity as well as the free flow of information and ideas. The letter specifically advocated that the Executive Order be rescinded.
ESA Responds to Wall Street Journal Article, Cites Progress and Paths Forward in Fight Against Zika (January 19, 2017)
The Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor co-signed by ESA President Susan Weller and American Mosquito Control Association Stanton Cope, in response to an article characterizing the fight against Zika as being at a "dead end." Weller and Cope's letter highlights the ongoing work of entomologists and mosquito-management professionals and notes the virtues of an integrated-pest-management approach to managing mosquito populations. See the edited version of the letter published in the Wall Street Journal, January 19 edition [subscription required], and the original letter submitted on behalf of ESA and AMCA [PDF].
ESA Thanks Outgoing CDC Director Tom Frieden for his Service (January 19, 2017)
In a joint letter from 2017 ESA President Weller and 2016 ESA Berenbaum, ESA thanked Thomas R. Frieden for his service as the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frieden was appointed by President Obama and served as CDC Director from June 2009 until January 20, 2017. As with most heads of federal agencies, he has resigned his position to allow the incoming Trump Administration to name a new director.