by Stephen Sundlof, D.V.M., Ph.D.
DR. SUNDLOF: Well, thank you. I am a poor substitute for Dr. Tollefson, I will just confess right up-front; who has really got a very firm grip on the budget of NARMS.
But I wanted to talk about a few things that I would really like to have this expert panel, as individuals, comment on and give us your thoughts. And then I want to talk about two different areas. First of all we, obviously, have to make the best use of the appropriated dollars that we have available to us. And in sitting here the last couple of days, I have heard a lot of really very interesting things that the money that funds NARMS now is being used to produce some really valuable information.
And it becomes an issue of prioritizing. Everything I have heard here sounds like it is just wonderful things that we need to do but, obviously, we can’t do everything. So help us, if you can, with trying to prioritize what you think are the most important things that we need to be doing.
And I think I heard Dr. Kotarski say yesterday, you know, really, we need to have a sense of what it is we want NARMS to be. And then once we have that vision, we can have a better sense of priorities about what we should be funding.
So, number one, what are the areas that are most important that we should make sure that those get the appropriate attention before others. And then the other thing is the future. What about NARMS in the future. And I think most of us recognize that the funding picture for, at least, the foreseeable future, through the appropriations process, is not a very pretty picture. That we will be seeing continued reductions in our appropriated budget over the next few years, as a result of the war and deficits, and other things.
These always turn around eventually, but right now, we are not in the best shape from the standpoint of looking at increases in appropriated dollars.
What I have heard during the last couple of days also is that, you know, one of the great successes of NARMS is it has been able to leverage off of pre-existing programs. And, you know, FoodNet, and PulseNet, and FSIS slaughter samples, all of those have really contributed to the success of it.
But are we at a point where we need to -- there are also some deficiencies as a result that those systems were not developed specifically for the purposes which NARMS had in mind. And we maybe ought to be thinking bigger and broader about what would it really take to have a system that would do all of the things that we really want it to do.
You know, the sampling systems that we have in place right now don’t really give very clear representation of what the true population of enteric organisms are out there; through no fault of anybody, except that they were designed for something else, not for what we want the information on.
So I wanted to kind of ask the experts here to think in broader terms about what it would really take to have a robust NARMS program. And then once we have that in mind, then I think it is up to us in the government to seek out funding. And we would do that with the help of a lot of folks.
One of the things that has impressed me about the NARMS program is that the number of stakeholders that are in support of this program. There is a broad base of support through a number of stakeholders. And when you have that kind of support, you can translate that into new dollars, new appropriated dollars, because that is how things get done in Washington.
With broad coalitions of people all pushing together with some coordination, I think we can -- it would be my desire to try and work up a budget that we can work over the next few years to try and gain enough support for that, that we can take it at some point to our appropriators and say, this is important, here is why it is important.
We will have a lot of folks supporting that, and really try and make NARMS a -- you know, it is already a world-class program, but really make it the world-class program. One that we can all stand shoulder-to-shoulder and present the united front and say, you know, we have the best program we can think of.
So that is really all I have to say. I would be glad to answer any questions, but just to preface my remarks that I don’t have detailed knowledge of the budget on NARMS. So, with that, I will see if there is any questions.
DR. YOUNGMAN: Are there any questions for Dr. Sundlof?
DR. ALTEKRUSE: Yes. Could you elaborate on some of the broad coalition outside of the government? Just to help us.
DR. SUNDLOF: Sure. Well, we have recently had live interaction with the Animal Agriculture Coalition. It is made up of a number of the trade organizations, including the ADMA. But Lyle may have a better list, but you certainly -- you know, pork producers, National Cattlemen’s Association, National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, Sheep Association -- who am I forgetting Lyle? The Farm Bureau.
MR. : Veterinarian medical colleges.
MR. : The Meat Institute.
DR. SUNDLOF: Yes, the Meat Institute. And all of them are very supportive of NARMS. So that is a big coalition. It is also very popular among the consumer advocacy organizations, so there is a strong stakeholder base there. It is in some ways, it is very unusual to have that broad of support for a program by groups that generally don’t agree with each other on anything. They, generally, agree with each other that NARMS is important.
DR. YOUNGMAN: Are there some other questions on funding?
DR. SUNDLOF: Oh, we have a list of the Animal Agriculture Coalition. The American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, American Society for Animal Science, American Veterinary Medical Association, Animal Health Institute, Livestock Exporter’s Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Grain and Feed Association, National Milk Producer’s Federation, and National Pork Producer’s Council.
That is just who sent me the last letter. I think there are additional members on that, but it gives you a sense of who is out there.
DR. VOGEL: Yes, I think there is about 30 to 35 different organizations that are participating with the Animal Agriculture Coalition. They come together in different formats on different issues, depending upon what their interests are. So, on this letter, there is just some of those organizations sign onto that letter.
DR. SUNDLOF: And what the Animal Agriculture Coalition does is -- one of their functions is to make sure that the appropriations committees -- generally, the Agriculture Appropriations Committee -- is aware of the issues that are important to them around the time that they are working on the budget. So they are a good source of -- they have a direct access to the appropriators. They interact with them on a frequent basis and they make sure that, again, when the appropriations bills come up, the issues that are important to them get the attention of the appropriators.
DR. YOUNGMAN: Are there other questions for Dr. Sundlof?
DR. SUNDLOF: Okay, thank you.
DR. YOUNGMAN: Okay, thank you very much.
Well, I guess now is a good time for a break. I can see that they brought the refreshments for our break. If we could take 15 minutes, we are ahead of schedule; which is a good thing, a good position to be in. And if we can reconvene please at quarter to ten. Thank you.
(Whereupon, a brief recess was taken)
DR. YOUNGMAN: We are about ready to start again.
DR. YOUNGMAN: While you are getting into your chairs, I just wanted to remind you of a couple of things. One is this morning there was a booklet that describes the NARMS Program that was provided on the table outside. If you don’t have a copy, please help yourself.
Also, Elvira asked me to remind you that she put out on the table also home pages for the USDA’s report on NARMS for the FDA’s report. So it just briefly describes what is there if you want to check on your computer when you get back to your offices what kind of information we have on our web page. And this is the CDC’s report, so this shows you where to go and how to get more information that each of the arms have for NARMS.