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Science Policy Report

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30 November 2016

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Donald Trump is choosing his cabinet. Here’s the latest list.
~ House GOP supports CR extension
~ Petition: Bring Science to the White House
~ Trump and next Congress could quickly erase scores of major regulations
~ Societies send climate science letter to Trump transition team
~ Who will advise Trump on science?
~ Trump to scrap NASA climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’
~ Science, Education Leaders Call for a U.S. Science Adviser
~ What now for science?
~ Trump admits 'some connectivity' between climate change and human activity
~ Obama advisers urge action against CRISPR bioterror threat
~ Hundreds of US businesses urge Trump to uphold Paris Climate Deal

Science News

~ Subsurface injection of manure reduces estrogen transport
~ America’s Great Plains lost more habitat in 2014 than the Brazilian Amazon
~ Could power plant waste help cut water pollution?
~ With an eye on hunger, scientists see promise in genetic tinkering of plants
~ Big farms are getting bigger and most small farms aren’t really farms at all
~ Lasting effects of biosolids in agroecosystems
~ Millennials and their impact on food

International Corner

~ UK should tell foreign scientists that it won’t force them to leave, report recommends
~ Dow-DuPont said to expect EU objections to merger next month
~ Smog may be easing, but in parts of China water quality worsens
~ Argentina’s scientists engulfed in budget crisis

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Webinar
~ Seeding Solutions
~ Plains and Prairie Potholes Cooperative Landscape Conservation
~ Maine Conservation Innovative Grants
~ Dimensions of Biodiversity

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Donald Trump is choosing his cabinet. Here’s the latest list.

President-elect Donald J. Trump is meeting this week with more candidates for administration jobs and is debating who should be his secretary of state. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump picked his nominees for Treasury secretary and commerce secretary. These are Mr. Trump’s selections so far. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ House GOP supports CR extension

House Republicans have indicated a preference for passing another short-term continuing resolution (CR) through the spring of 2017, which would keep government funding at the current levels and allow the incoming Trump Administration to finalize FY 2017 spending. The initial date for the CR was March 31, but today House Republicans stated the CR could extend through April. Senate Republicans, are worried that the workload required to confirm Trump's cabinet nominations will bleed into the spending debate and they want more time to finish nominations before turning their attention to the fiscal fight. The current CR expires December 9, 2016 giving Congress only a few more days to hammer out the details of the extension bill.


(TOP) ~ Petition: Bring Science to the White House

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has launched a petition to President-elect Trump asking him to make appointing a Science Advisor a top priority. The petition is posted on Change.org and is open to anyone to sign. See the petition and sign here.


(TOP) ~ Trump and next Congress could quickly erase scores of major regulations

Under a seldom used law, the next Congress could quickly overturn more than 100 major regulations recently finalized by the Obama administration, including rules that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect sensitive environments from energy development, improve nutrition labels on food products, and regulate electronic cigarettes. And once Congress has acted to reject a regulation, federal agencies are barred from reissuing “substantially similar” rules unless lawmakers allow it. That draconian possibility – allowed under the 1996 Congressional Review Act (CRA) – has set off alarm bells among numerous interest groups, including environmental, labor and public health organizations. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Societies send climate science letter to Trump transition team

A coalition of 31 scientific organizations, including ASA, CSSA and SSSA, sent a consensus letter on climate science and the impacts humans have on climate change to the Trump administration transition team. The same letter was sent to Congress in June. The organizations also expressed interest in working with President-Elect Trump, his transition team, and his administration on the scientific issues related to the challenges of our changing climate. Read the letter here.


(TOP) ~ Who will advise Trump on science?

In 1976, President Gerald Ford appointed physicist H. Guyford Stever as the first Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Having previously advised the military during World War II, and directed the National Science Foundation for four years, Stever became the first of a long line of advisors who counseled the White House on matters of science and technology—everything from disease outbreaks to climate change to nanotechnology. His current counterpart John Holdren, formerly a professor of environmental policy at Harvard University, has performed the same service for Barack Obama since 2009, together with a 135-person team. And in a few short months, he will hand over his duties to someone else—a new appointee who will become President-elect Donald Trump’s scientific consigliere. Who will that person be? No one knows. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Trump to scrap NASA climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’

Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by NASA as part of a crackdown on “politicized science,” his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. NASA’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century. This would mean the elimination of NASA’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for NASA to do what he has previously described as “politically correct environmental monitoring.” Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Science, Education Leaders Call for a U.S. Science Adviser

The heads of 29 top U.S. scientific and higher-education organizations – including Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS – wrote to President-elect Donald Trump on November 23, urging him to quickly appoint a “nationally respected leader with appropriate engineering, scientific, management and policy skills” to serve as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Such a senior-level adviser would be able to assist the White House in “determining effective ways to use science and technology to address major national challenges,” the group noted. They requested a meeting with the President-elect or leaders of his transition team to suggest candidates for top science and technology posts within the new Administration and to offer assistance “to ensure that the U.S. innovation infrastructure grows and flourishes.” Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ What now for science?

Faced with the uncertainty of what the 2016 U.S. presidential election means for science, we may find some reassurance in understanding that the health of the nation’s scientific enterprise depends on much more than the attitudes of the particular person who is president. We must not forget that members of Congress and other national, state, local, and international officials also make policy and collectively constitute a considerable force that is in many ways more influential than the president alone. There is now important work to do ensuring that all citizenry, including the president, understand the powerful benefits of science and that decisions made with scientific input are more likely to succeed. Read the full article.
 


(TOP) ~ Trump admits 'some connectivity' between climate change and human activity

President-elect Donald Trump conceded last week there is "some connectivity" between human activity and climate change and wavered on whether he would pull the United States out of international accords aimed at combating the phenomenon, which scientists overwhelmingly agree is caused by human activity. The statements could mark a softening in Trump's position on US involvement in efforts to fight climate change, although he did not commit to specific action in any direction. During the campaign, he vowed to "cancel" the US's participation in the Paris climate agreement, stop all US payments to UN programs aimed at fighting climate change and continued to cast serious doubt on the role man-made carbon dioxide emissions played in the planet's warming and associated impacts. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Obama advisers urge action against CRISPR bioterror threat

Scientific advisers to President Obama warn that the U.S. urgently needs a new biodefense strategy and should regularly brief President-elect Donald Trump on the dangers posed by new technologies like CRISPR, gene therapy, and synthetic DNA, which they say could be co-opted by terrorists. In a letter to the president, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) urges the creation of a new entity charged with developing a national biodefense strategy within six months. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Hundreds of US businesses urge Trump to uphold Paris Climate Deal

Hundreds of businesses such as Starbucks, General Mills and Hewlett Packard are asking President-elect Donald Trump to follow through on U.S. commitments to combat climate change. They argue it's good for business. More than 360 companies and investors made their plea in an open letter to Trump, President Obama and members of Congress. They called on Trump to "continue U.S. participation in the Paris agreement," which he has threatened to scrap, and invest in the "low carbon economy at home and abroad." The signatories also include DuPont, eBay, Nike, Unilever, Levi Strauss & Co. and Hilton. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Subsurface injection of manure reduces estrogen transport

Livestock production is increasingly tied to water quality concerns, in part due to the management of manure on farms. While strong emphasis has been placed on how manure application methods affect nutrient transport, the effects on estrogen transport are largely unknown. In the 45th issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, researchers report on a nine-month field study in central Pennsylvania to compare estrogen concentrations and loads leaving fields that had received dairy manure via shallow disk injection versus surface broadcast methods. The team found that shallow disk injection reduced estrogen loads over the study period by an average of two orders of magnitude compared to surface broadcast. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ America’s Great Plains lost more habitat in 2014 than the Brazilian Amazon

In 2014 the Great Plains lost more acres of grasslands than the Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation, according to a new report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Fifty three million acres of America’s Great Plains have been lost each year since, threatening important and iconic species like grasslands songbirds, the monarch butterfly, and native bumble bees. The staggering rate of conversion also jeopardizes the ecological services the Great Plains provide, like filtering trillions of gallons of water, recharging our groundwater supplies and storing climate-changing carbon dioxide. According to the report, 3.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions were released into the atmosphere due to plowing of grasslands between 2009 and 2015— the equivalent of 670 million extra cars on the road. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Could power plant waste help cut water pollution?

In the heartland of U.S. agriculture, a growing number of farmers are spraying manure produced by animal feeding operations—which can raise thousands of animals on relatively small plots of land—across vast swaths of cropland. The phosphorus and nitrogen in the dung help fertilize crops. But when the nutrients wash into waterways, they can spur algal blooms that ultimately suffocate aquatic ecosystems. To prevent such damage, researchers have long sought ways to keep nutrients from leaching from farm soils. And recently, they’ve taken a fresh look at using gypsum, a soft white or gray mineral also known as calcium sulfate dihydrate, to help keep phosphorous where it is wanted. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ With an eye on hunger, scientists see promise in genetic tinkering of plants

A decade ago, agricultural scientists at the University of Illinois suggested a bold approach to improve the food supply: tinker with photosynthesis, the chemical reaction powering nearly all life on Earth. The idea was greeted skeptically in scientific circles and ignored by funding agencies. But one outfit with deep pockets, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eventually paid attention, hoping the research might help alleviate global poverty. Now, after several years of work funded by the foundation, the scientists are reporting a remarkable result. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Big farms are getting bigger and most small farms aren’t really farms at all

In 1986, the government predicted that the number of farms in the U.S. was set to fall by half. That prediction was made by the Office of Technology Assessment in a 1986 report on the changing state of agricultural technologies. There were 2.2 million farms in 1982, the OTA wrote. There were likely to be 1.2 million by the year 2000. The idea wasn’t so much that food production would fall — those 128 people + you would still be fed — but that who they were fed by was changing. Farms were industrializing, consolidating — and midsize farms would be the losers. But here’s the weird thing: The OTA’s prediction didn’t come true. There were about 2 million farms in 2002, according to the Agricultural Census. There are still about 2 million farms today. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Lasting effects of biosolids in agroecosystems

Wastewater treatment plants collect everything that goes down the drain and return treated water for future use. During this process, many by-products are collected (e.g., debris, solid waste) that can contain pathogens, heavy metals, and other contaminants. These by-products need to be disposed of, and the most common options for doing so include burying in a landfill or incineration. However, these disposal options have disadvantages—putting anything in a landfill takes up space while contaminating water and incineration of waste can produce air pollution. One solution to the disposal problem is to recycle the wastewater by-products. With additional processing (e.g., anaerobic digestion and heating), pathogens can be removed or killed. The resulting material, typically called biosolids, can then be used as fertilizer on agricultural fields, in backyard gardens, or in landscaping. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Millennials and their impact on food

Those dang kids and their fancy foods. In a hotel conference room Tuesday where old codgers outnumbered their youthful counterparts, Eve Turow Paul bounced on stage and energetically explained to these older food and ag industry veterans that she and her cohorts are about to run the show when it comes to the agenda on food. No, Paul's not part of the Trump transition team. She's a millennial and in 2017 her generation will surpass those Baby Boomers as the largest spending group in the world. And millennials have this strong need to experience food, know food, connect with the world through food and use food to identify a social status. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ UK should tell foreign scientists that it won’t force them to leave, report recommends

A parliamentary committee has warned the U.K. government that its general reassurances to U.K. researchers and European scientists working in the country are not enough and that the needs of research should be at the center of exit negotiations with the European Union. To ensure that, the new Department for Exiting the European Union, should appoint a chief scientific adviser, says the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in a report on Brexit. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Dow-DuPont said to expect EU objections to merger next month

Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. are expecting to get formal objections to their $60 billion merger from European Union regulators as soon as next month, listing potential antitrust concerns with their bid to form the world’s biggest chemical company, according to two people familiar with the investigation. The European Commission in Brussels is poised to send the complaint to the companies in December, according to people who asked not to be named because the process is confidential. It may lay out how the transaction could reduce competition in areas such as crop protection, seeds and certain petrochemicals. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Smog may be easing, but in parts of China water quality worsens

China is making progress in battling the damaging smog that can shroud its big cities, but in many areas – from parts of the giant Yangtze river to the coalfields of Inner Mongolia – its water pollution is getting worse. Despite commitments to crack down on polluters, the quality of water in rivers, lakes and reservoirs in several regions has deteriorated significantly, according to inspection teams reporting back to the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP). In documents published last week, inspectors found that a fifth of the water in the Yangtze’s feeder rivers in one province was unusable, and thousands of tons of raw sewage were being deposited into one river in northeastern Ningxia each day. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Argentina’s scientists engulfed in budget crisis

Scientists in Argentina are bracing for hard times next year. Later this month, the country’s senate is expected to approve a 2017 budget that would deal a crippling blow to research. Researchers and students have been staging protests in the capital, Buenos Aires, and in other cities since news of the pending cuts broke last month. When Argentine President Mauricio Macri took office in December 2015, he vowed to double the share of spending on science and technology in the government’s budget from 0.7% to 1.5%. But that promise has collided with an economic downturn that is driving up the nation’s debt. As part of its plan for balancing its books, the government intends to cut the science and technology budget by $198 million, to $2.1 billion in 2017—an 8.5% decrease. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Webinar

Join this interactive webinar on Friday, Dec. 2 at 2pm EST for a debrief and discussion about the themes and consensus reached at the FFAR November 9-10 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms convening session. FFAR Scientific Program Director Dr. LaKisha Odom and FFAR Soil Health Advisory Council Chair Dr. Doug Karlen will lead an interactive online discussion regarding critical gaps and white space in soil health research. Webinar participants will be invited to take an active role in advancing the discussion and developing priority research directions in this Challenge Area. Learn more and register here.


(TOP) ~ Seeding Solutions

Seeding Solutions is a call to the community to come forward with bold, innovative, and potentially transformative research proposals in our recently launched Challenge Areas. Prospective grantees may come forward with a proposal for up to $1,000,000 of FFAR funding over one to five years, and must secure 1:1 matching funding from a non-Federal source before a grant will be awarded. FFAR anticipates funding at least one meritorious and transformative proposal in each challenge area. Each grant will be awarded over a period of one to five years. To be considered, projects must have the potential for a transformative impact within the Challenge Area. The Challenge Areas are: 1) Food Waste and Loss; 2) Protein Challenge; 3) Water Scarcity; 4) Innovation Pathway to Sustainability; 5) Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms; 6) Urban Food Systems; and 7)Making “My Plate” Your Plate. Pre-proposal deadline, January 16. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Plains and Prairie Potholes Cooperative Landscape Conservation

The Plains and Prairie Potholes (PPP) Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) is seeking project ideas for potential funding in 2017. The PPP LCC is responsible for identifying, prioritizing, and supporting projects that will address the scientific uncertainties and needs that can inform better conservation. Climate change, shifts in land-use, urban expansion, agricultural changes, are all contributing stressors affecting the plains and prairie potholes landscape. Two distinct areas of research that will better inform on-the-ground conservation decision-making and delivery for natural resources managers have been identified: 1) Information related to land use, land use policy and factors influencing land use and land conversion; and 2) Information related to land owner decision-making that will help the partnership improve and/or incentivize conservation. Deadline, January 23. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Maine Conservation Innovative Grants

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Proposals are currently being accepted from Maine. Deadline, February 15. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Dimensions of Biodiversity

Despite centuries of discovery, most of our planet's biodiversity remains unknown. The scale of the unknown diversity on Earth is especially troubling given the rapid and permanent loss of biodiversity across the globe. The goal of the Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign is to transform, by 2020, how we describe and understand the scope and role of life on Earth. This campaign promotes novel integrative approaches to fill the most substantial gaps in our understanding of the diversity of life on Earth. It takes a broad view of biodiversity, and focuses on the intersection of genetic, phylogenetic, and functional dimensions of biodiversity. Successful proposals must integrate these three dimensions to understand interactions and feedbacks between and among them. While this focus complements several core programs in BIO, it differs by requiring that multiple dimensions of biodiversity be addressed simultaneously, in novel ways, to understand their synergistic roles in critical ecological and evolutionary processes, especially pertaining to the mechanisms driving the origin, maintenance, and functional roles of biodiversity. Deadline, February 21. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; FFAR; AAAS; ScienceInsider; The New York Times; Change.org; The Atlantic; CNN; NPR; Technology Review; Independent; World Wildlife Federation; FiveThirtyEight; The Progressive Farmer; Salem Radio Network News; Bloomberg;

Vision: The Societies Washington, DC Science Policy Office (SPO) will advocate the importance and value of the agronomic, crop and soil sciences in developing national science policy and ensuring the necessary public-sector investment in the continued health of the environment for the well being of humanity. The SPO will assimilate, interpret, and disseminate in a timely manner to Society members information about relevant agricultural, natural resources and environmental legislation, rules and regulations under consideration by Congress and the Administration.

This page of the ASA-CSSA-SSSA web site will highlight current news items relevant to Science Policy. It is not an endorsement of any position.