On December 22, President Obama signed into law a bill to reauthorize the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  The legislation (S. 3984) increases funding authorizations for the agency’s museum services to $38.6 million in fiscal year 2011.  This represents an increase of 14 percent above the fiscal year 2010 funding level.

According to the American Association of Museums, the law contains several provisions proposed by museums, including “enhanced support for conservation and preservation, emergency preparedness and response, and building statewide capacity.  The bill specifically supports efforts at the state level to leverage museum resources, including statewide needs assessments and the development of state plans to improve and maximize museum services throughout the state.”

On December 14, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the “International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.”  The treaty, which went into force in 2004, aims to ensure food security throughout the world through the conservation, exchange, and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.  According the letter of transmittal from President George W. Bush to the U.S. Senate in 2008: “The centerpiece of the Treaty is the establishment of a multilateral system under which a party provides access to other parties, upon request, to listed plant genetic resources held in national genebanks.  These resources are to be used solely for purposes of research, breeding, and training in agriculture.”

Unfortunately, the Senate failed to act on the treaty prior to the chamber’s adjournment for the year.  This means that the Committee on Foreign Relations must pass the treaty again in the next session of Congress before it can be considered by the full Senate.  Although the United States signed the treaty when the treaty was originally crafted nearly ten years ago, we have yet to ratify it.