ASM Comments on Upcoming Farm Bill

November 5, 2022

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
731 Hart Senate Office Building
U.S. Senate
​Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable John Boozman
141 Hart Senate Office Building
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable David Scott
468 Cannon House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Glenn Thompson
400 Cannon House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairwoman Stabenow, Chairman Scott, Ranking Member Boozman and Ranking Member Thompson,

On behalf of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), thank you for the opportunity to provide recommendations for the upcoming Farm Bill. As one of the oldest and largest life science societies with more than 30,000 members in the United States and around the globe, our mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences. ASM is committed to advocating for public policies that are rooted in science, and we support policies that respect and enhance the integral role of microbes in plant, animal and ecosystem health and the role of microbiology in a well-functioning agricultural economy.

As you weigh Farm Bill priorities, we ask that you consider the invaluable contributions of microbial research to modern agriculture, food safety and security and resilience to a changing climate. Our number one recommendation to Congress is to prioritize foundational USDA intramural and extramural research in the next Farm Bill. While we understand the bill must address a number of priority areas, continued underinvestment in agricultural research threatens American global leadership, natural resources and food security.

In addition to increasing authorized funding levels for agricultural research, we have identified 3 key priority areas for Title VII of the Farm Bill: supporting biotechnology to advance the agricultural bioeconomy; leveraging agricultural microbiomes for plant, animal and human health; and combatting antimicrobial resistance. USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) has made strong advancements in each of these areas, but much more can be done with additional support.

The upcoming Farm Bill presents opportunities to strengthen the agricultural bioeconomy and protect humans, animals and ecosystems from ongoing and emerging threats.
  • ASM encourages continued support for pathogen research and advanced pathogen genomics across USDA research programs.
Microbe-based innovations support the agricultural bioeconomy and protect us from pathogens and disease. For example, recent Agricultural Research Service research on a fungal pathogen that hijacks wheat crops’ resistance response led scientists to develop new wheat strains to counteract that pathogen. Likewise, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility conducts research on the threat and potential impact of animal diseases, including pathogens that could spread to humans.

Advanced genomic sequencing technology has transformed our ability to detect and contain foodborne illness, and these tools can be expanded to more easily identify genetic markers associated with specific traits and provide us with tools to not only combat pathogens but foster greater resilience and health for plants and animals. Deploying next generation sequencing technologies more fully in agriculture will keep the United States at the leading edge of the biobased economy.
  • ASM strongly recommends a 5-year reauthorization of AGARDA (Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority) that requires a strategic plan from USDA within 180 days of enactment.
Basic research provides the foundational information that food producers and conservationists need to deploy innovative solutions, yet USDA lacks adequate mechanisms to bridge the “valley of death” from research to deployment. Congress has recognized the “ARDA”-type funding mechanism as effective and authorized AGARDA in the 2018 Farm Bill, yet USDA has not developed the required strategic plan and funding remains insufficient.
  • ASM strongly encourages the committee to support the data infrastructure needed to support open access requirements, FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) data standards, and the large volume of data required for microbe-based solutions. Congress should also work with the agency to identify interagency agreements to increase efficiencies and strengthen collaboration.
USDA collects an enormous amount of data but much of it lacks accessibility and interoperability. Congress must support the agency’s efforts to strengthen data collection, utilization and sharing; to facilitate research and innovation; to meet the needs of farmers, ranchers and conservationists; and to comply with new federal open access requirements.

Past investments in microbiome research have paved the way for transformative therapeutic interventions. The Farm Bill can establish American leadership in microbial innovation in agriculture.
  • ASM strongly recommends a commitment to characterizing and leveraging agriculturally significant microbiomes, equivalent in scale to the Human Microbiome Project.
Thanks to investments in the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), epidemiology and model systems can now identify associations between changes in the microbiome and conditions ranging from autism to cancer, to the efficacy of drugs used to treat cardiac conditions. Launched in 2007, the HMP was tasked by the National Institutes of Health with creating resources and methods that link interactions between humans and their microbiomes to health-related outcomes. In agriculture, farmers and scientists apply similar techniques to characterize, monitor and manipulate the microbiome of plants, animals and soil to advance climate resilience, human and animal nutrition and health. The President’s recent Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing specifically notes the need to foster a biological data ecosystem that advances these goals, and the uniquely interdisciplinary nature of microbiome research can serve as a model in this area.
  • ASM strongly supports the establishment of a soil health study that incorporates characterization of the microbiome of different types of soil and develops key microbial measurements to characterize soil health, leading to the development of a unified USDA soil strategic plan.
Soil health is key, as much of nutrition, food production and climate solutions depend on characterizing the soil microbiome. Yet the department lacks a unified vision of soil health across its agencies.

The Farm Bill can provide a path forward for USDA as it strives to combat antimicrobial resistance.
  • ASM recommends that USDA review and strengthen its existing data collection programs to understand the risks associated with drug-resistant pathogens and detect them before they spread to humans through contaminated meat or food. We also encourage the implementation of stewardship programs to ensure appropriate use of medically important antimicrobials to avoid the development of resistant pathogens for commonly used treatments.
  • ASM strongly supports the establishment of a food animal microbiome initiative that incorporates characterization of the microbiome of different types and breeds of food animals and develops key microbial measurements to characterize animal health and development, in support of advancing USDA’s Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most daunting public health challenges facing the U.S. and the world. ASM and its members are tackling AMR from a variety of angles—from health care and clinical laboratory settings to agricultural and environmental microbial research perspectives, in the U.S. and around the world. A problem as complex as AMR requires multi-faceted approaches consistent with the One Health model, recognizing that the health of people, animals, and the environment are interdependent. Likewise, policy solutions must be comprehensive and address AMR from multiple angles and, when possible, with integrated strategies.

Tackling AMR will require increased investment in basic and applied research into why microbes become resistant, how they persist in ecological niches, and to develop novel countermeasures. This work also will entail public-private partnerships through entities such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health and ideally its USDA equivalent, AGARDA. Other policy approaches that are critical to success include those that bolster AMR surveillance and laboratory capacity, support programs dedicated to infection prevention and control in healthcare and non-healthcare settings, policies to promote access to AMR tools in low and middle resource countries that improve diagnostics, microbiome modulators and antibiotic stewardship, and broader application and integration of pathogen genomic sequencing technologies.

ASM and our members look forward to working with you throughout this process. Thank you again for soliciting stakeholder input. Please reach out to Amalia Corby at with any questions.


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Allen D. Segal
Director of Public Policy and Advocacy
American Society for Microbiology

Author: ASM Advocacy

ASM Advocacy
ASM Advocacy is making it easy and providing opportunities for members to advocate for evidence-based scientific policy.