Above: Master Oyster Grower course participants examine a shucked oyster at a certification class presented by Virginia Sea Grant extension partner Karen Hudson. (Photo credit VASG Photography Intern Jessica Taylor.)
It is budget season. The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are making progress on FY18’s appropriations to fund the operations of government, in spite of all the noise surrounding higher-profile policy debates.
On July 13th the full House Appropriations Committee marked up the FY18 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Sea Grant. The House rejected the President’s recommendation to eliminate Sea Grant, and quite the opposite, fully funded Sea Grant at its FY17 level ($63M), plus an additional $7M for integrated aquaculture research and extension activities. On July 25th the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the FY18 CJS appropriations bill. The Senate also rejected the President’s budget proposal, and increased Sea Grant’s FY18 budget to $65M, plus $11.5M for aquaculture.
While there are several critical steps remaining in the appropriations process—for example the conference committee is to reconcile the differences between House and Senate budgets, and there is possibly (likely) going to be a continuing resolution if the reconciliation cannot be finalized before October 1s—this is great news, and a testament to both the impact of the work that Virginia Sea Grant (VASG) does and the support our stakeholders showed us with Congress!
Impact means making a difference, supporting coastal communities and businesses, discovering new solutions to coastal and marine problems, helping communities deploy those solutions, preparing tomorrow’s workforce, and positioning Virginia to be a national leader in coastal and marine resource issues, management and economies. We have illustrated that impact in my previous blog posts – e.g., $120M Natural Disaster Resilience Grant Competition from U.S. Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to implement innovative resilience design concepts emerging from a VASG seed project; and a nation-leading number of post-graduate Knauss Marine Policy Fellows placed among all state Sea Grant programs. We expanded on these successes and launched a Commonwealth Fellowship in 2017 to provide Virginia state coastal and marine resource agencies with the same talented post-graduates that we supply the Knauss program.
We continue to provide opportunities for Virginia that will illustrate our impact to our stakeholders, constituents, and champions. So far in 2017, VASG has leveraged our capacity and the base competitive monies we get annually from NOAA to secure 258 percent more federal, private sector, foundation, and state resources for stakeholders. In 2016, we leveraged that capacity by 127 percent, so we are continuing to improve. This means more aquaculture research and technical assistance, more workforce development in coastal and marine STEM and policy fields, more research and development on resilience and adaptation strategies for Virginia communities. We will serve our stakeholders better, have even greater impacts in Virginia and the region, and engender continued Congressional support—congressional support that we may need again next year.
In the 1980s Sea Grant was proposed for elimination by the President for several years in a row, and our stakeholders showed their support then. I’m proud to see that over 30 years later, the Sea Grant model is still working, making differences in people’s lives, and maintaining strong support among our stakeholders and Congressional delegation.
Thank you, and VASG looks forward to continuing to serve you, Virginia, and the region.