Science Policy Report

Address all comments to the Science Policy Office at:

04 July 2012

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ OECD says developing countries to boost farm productivity
~ Rio+20 defines global “to-do list”
~ United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Geography and Spatial Sciences Program
~ Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research
~ Texas NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)
~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Food Safety
~ Research Experiences for Undergraduates
~ Research Infrastructure Development (RID), EPSCoR
~ Rangeland Research Program
~ Advanced Drop-In Biofuels Production Project
~ Enhancing Program Delivery in Georgia
~ Critical Zone Observatories
~ Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ Science Policy Associate sought by Societies
~ GAO suggest direct payments should be reconsidered
~ Public health relies on environmental stewardship in the farm bill

Congressional/Administration News

~ Societies continue to push back on travel restrictions for federal scientists
~ In rare display of bipartisanship, Senate passes farm bill
~ Meanwhile, Lucas still determined to finish farm bill despite obstacles
~ House pushing to cut EPA’s budget and reduce regulatory reach
~ Gearing up for possible sequestration, House puts heat on Obama administration
~ House won’t consider agriculture appropriations before July 4th recess

International Corner

(TOP) ~ OECD says developing countries to boost farm productivity

Increasing yield on farms in developing countries may help meet rising global demand for food in the next 10 years according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  According to comments made by Wayne Jones, the OECD’s division head for agri-food and trade markets, closing the “productivity gap” between farms in developing and developed countries by 20 percent in the next decade would increase world grain output by about 5 percent. Read the full draft

(TOP) ~ Rio+20 defines global “to-do list”

The Rio+20 sustainability summit ended with the endorsement of a document which includes a commitment to establish a set of sustainable development goals. However, the task of defining and quantifying those goals, as well as determining time frames for reaching them was assigned to an expert working group.  The group’s proposals are to be presented to the United Nations General Assembly in 2013.  Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program, called the results “modest,” and said they reflect “a much more complex landscape” than the original 1992 Earth Summit. He noted that “[w]hat is happening here in Rio is a very different pattern of leadership.  We do not have in the sustainable development arena anymore, or environmental policy for that matter, a developed-country leadership standing out in terms of having taken the environment agenda forward.” Steiner added, “[m]any of the biggest breakthroughs that we have seen presented here are actually happening in developing countries.” Read more here

(TOP) ~ United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

According to "The Future We Want" conference outcome document, agreed upon by member states attending the June 20-22, 2012 conference, "better health is a 'precondition for, an outcome of, and an indicator of sustainable development' [and] the importance of universal health coverage to enhancing health, social cohesion and sustainable human and economic development [is emphasized]. And it acknowledges that the global burden and threat of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) constitutes one of the major sustainable development challenges of the 21st century." The outcome document also calls for "a wide range of actions, such as beginning the process to establish sustainable development goals; detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development; strengthening the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures; taking steps to go beyond gross domestic product to assess the well-being of a country; developing a strategy for sustainable development financing; and, adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production." In addition, "some $513 billion in funding has been committed by governments, the private sector, civil society and other groups to achieve a sustainable future."  Read more here

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

(TOP) ~ Geography and Spatial Sciences Program

The Geography and Spatial Sciences Program sponsors research on the geographic distributions and interactions of human, physical, and biotic systems on the Earth's surface. Investigations are encouraged to propose plans for research about the nature, causes, and consequences of human activity and natural environmental processes across a range of scales. Projects on a variety of topics (both domestic and international) qualify for support if they offer promise of contributing to scholarship by enhancing geographical knowledge, concepts, theories, methods, and their application to societal problems and concerns. Deadline 13 Sep. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research

NSF is promoting two choices under the Partnerships for Innovation (PFI): Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) subprogram. The first choice, Technology Translation, encourages the translation of technologically-promising research discoveries made by prior and/or current NSF-funded investigators toward a path of commercialization; while the second choice, Research Alliance, promotes synergistic collaborations between an existing NSF-funded research alliance (including consortia such as Engineering Research Centers, Industry University Cooperative Research Centers, Science and Technology Centers, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers, Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers, Centers for Chemical Innovation, and Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation grantees) and other public and private entities to motivate the translation and transfer of research discoveries into innovative technologies and commercial reality. A webinar will be held within 6 weeks of the release date of this solicitation to answer any questions about this solicitation. Details will be posted on the Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) website ( as they become available. Deadline 13 Nov. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Texas NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture, is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) utilizing Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Applications are requested from eligible governmental or non-governmental organizations or individuals for competitive consideration of grant awards for projects between 1 and 3 years in duration. Deadline 3 Aug. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Food Safety

This AFRI Challenge Area promotes and enhances the scientific discipline of food safety , with an overall aim of protecting consumers from microbial and chemical contaminants that may occur during all stages of the food chain, from production to consumption. The long-term outcome for this program is to reduce foodborne illnesses and deaths by improving the safety of the food supply, which will result in reduced impacts on public health and on our economy. In order to achieve this outcome, this program will support single-function Research Projects and multi-function Integrated Research, Education, and/or Extension Projects, and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants that address one of the Program Area Priorities (see Food Safety RFA for details). Deadline 14 Nov. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Research Experiences for Undergraduates

The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program. This solicitation features two mechanisms for support of student research: (1) REU Sites are based on independent proposals to initiate and conduct projects that engage a number of students in research. (2) REU Supplements may be included as a component of proposals for new or renewal of NSF grants or cooperative agreements or may be requested for ongoing NSF-funded research projects. To identify appropriate REU Sites, students should consult the directory of active REU Sites on the web at Deadline 12 Sep. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Research Infrastructure Development (RID), EPSCoR

Administered through NASA’s Office of Education, the purpose of NASA EPSCoR is to strengthen the research capability of jurisdictions that have not in the past participated equably in competitive federal research and development activities. This Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) solicits proposals for the NASA EPSCoR Infrastructure Development 2012 (RID 2012) program. Each funded NASA EPSCoR proposal will focus on building the core strength needed to develop competitive research and technology development methods and activities for the solution of scientific and technical problems of importance to NASA as defined by one or more of the three Mission Directorates, the Office of the Chief Technologist, and/or one or more of the ten NASA Centers. The proposal should demonstrate contribution to the overall research infrastructure, science and technology capabilities, higher education, and economic development of the EPSCoR jurisdiction. The proposal is due no later than 4:30 p.m., Eastern Time, Friday, August 3, 2012. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Rangeland Research Program

The goal of RRP is to contribute to the improvement of U.S. rangeland resources and the ecosystem services they provide by supporting the development of new and emerging rangeland science methodologies which specifically address the interrelationships between multiple disciplines. The primary purpose of RRP is to provide U.S. agricultural producers, rural landowners, and land managers with integrated science strategies to make informed land management decisions with an emphasis on enhancing the restoration and sustainable integrity of U.S. rangelands. Deadline 30 July. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Advanced Drop-In Biofuels Production Project

The goal of this project is to establish one or more complete domestic value chains capable of producing drop-in replacement biofuels . This includes feedstock production and logistics, conversion facilities (Integrated Biorefineries), and fuel blending, transportation, and logistics. The Government intends to form an Integrated Biofuels Production Enterprise (IBPE) comprised of partnerships that establish the complete value chain. The contemplated effort will include the design, construction and/or retrofit, validation, qualification and operation of a domestic commercial-scale IBPE that meets a target of at least 10 million gallons per year neat biofuel production capacity. The IBPE will be capable of producing drop-in liquid transportation fuels targeted for military operational use, and as such, must be approved and certified MILSPEC JP-5, JP-8 and/or F-76 equivalents by the time the IBPE becomes operational. Deadline 13 Aug. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Enhancing Program Delivery in Georgia

Georgia NRCS is making a Request for Proposals (RFP) to applicants for outreach and related activities that will improve NRCS program promotion and delivery to new and underserved individuals, groups, and communities in Georgia. As a result, the Georgia NRCS will partner with the successful applicants on these related activities and projects that will improve program promotion, delivery and technical assistance to these groups. Funds will be awarded through a statewide competitive grants process. Applications are requested from eligible entities only for competitive consideration of grant awards for outreach related projects between one and two years in duration. This notice identifies the objectives for projects, the eligibility criteria for projects, and associated instructions needed to apply for grants. Deadline 30 July. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Critical Zone Observatories

Earth observations are a critical ingredient for understanding and predicting the sustainability or disruption of natural services that support basic human needs including water, food, energy, mineral resources, and safe habitation. Such observations are collected by seismic networks, atmospheric and ocean-based sensors, river and tide gauges, and satellites that observe changing terrestrial features including receding glaciers, growth of deserts and urban centers, and evolving vegetative covers. One pressing challenge is to develop terrestrial observatories that could document and inform prediction of the multi-scale and less visible transport of energy and material, and evolution of the Earth's critical zone -the thin veneer of Earth that extends from the top of the vegetation to the base of weathered bedrock. Unprecedented pressures are being placed on the critical zone, and understanding the interrelated processes, system dynamics, sensitivities, and thresholds in this zone is of vital importance for informing human decisions. NSF seeks proposals to establish a networked set of Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) that will address pressing interdisciplinary scientific questions concerning geological, physical, chemical, and biological processes and their couplings that govern critical zone system dynamics. Deadline 5 Feb 2013. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Higher Education Multicultural Scholars Program

The purpose of this competitive undergraduate scholarship grant program is to increase the multicultural diversity of the food and agricultural scientific and professional workforce, and advance the educational achievement of all Americans by providing competitive grants to colleges and universities. The Multicultural Scholars Program is available every year. Deadline 29 Aug. Read full announcement here

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

(TOP) ~ Science Policy Associate sought by Societies

The Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies (ACSESS) is seeking candidates for a Science Policy Associate position within the Washington, D.C. Science Policy Office (SPO). ACSESS is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization providing management and administrative support services to its founding members: the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). Responsibilities: *Support and lead efforts to increase federal funding opportunities for agronomic, crop and soil sciences; *Manage the development of position statements; *Conduct research and prepare background documents, one-pagers and other resources to support SPO legislative and appropriations efforts; *Organize and assist with the SPO’s Congressional Hill Days; *Assist in the development and operation of SPO grassroots advocacy campaigns; *Support coalition activities; *Lead rulemaking and federal advisory board/committee/council nomination activities; and *Develop content for and manage the SPO webpage. Qualifications: *Hill and/or federal agency work experience; * Experience developing and managing authorizing and appropriations bills; *Knowledge of federal science agencies and programs; *Familiarity with science policy and the scientific community; *Detail oriented, organized, self-starter; able to prioritize effectively under deadline pressure; *Excellent communications skills, especially the ability to confidently speak in public; *Strong writing skills, especially the ability to communicate policy ideas and legislative proposals concisely and effectively to a diverse range of audiences; *Ability to work both independently and on team projects. Interested candidates should submit a resume, cover letter, and writing samples electronically to Please put “ACSESS Policy Associate” in the subject line. Applications must be received by Friday, July 13. Salary commensurate with experience; comprehensive benefits package. ACSESS is an equal opportunity employer.

(TOP) ~ GAO suggest direct payments should be reconsidered

"From 2003 through 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made more than $46 billion in direct payments to farmers and other producers. These producers planted varying percentages of acres that qualified for payments based on their historical planting yields and designated payment rates (qualifying acres). Cumulatively, USDA paid $10.6 billion—almost one-fourth of total direct payments made from 2003 through 2011—to producers who did not, in a given year, grow the crop associated with their qualifying acres, which they are allowed to do. About 2,300 farms (0.15 percent of farms receiving direct payments) reported all their land as “fallow,” and producers did not plant any crops on this land for each year for the last 5 years, from 2007 through 2011; in 2011, these producers received almost $3 million in direct payments. Direct payments generally do not align with the principles significant to integrity, effectiveness, and efficiency in farm bill programs that GAO identified in an April 2012 report. Congress should consider eliminating or reducing direct payments. GAO also recommends that USDA take four actions to improve its oversight of direct payments.  Read more here

(TOP) ~ Public health relies on environmental stewardship in the farm bill

Robert Lawrence, the director of the Center for a Livable Future at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, writes that there is a lot at stake with the farm bill, not just for farmers and consumers, but for the air, waters and lands that farmers and the rest of us share. Lawrence writes: “And ultimately what's at stake with the farm bill is the health of every American now alive and thus of future generations.” The farm bill, through the years, has included many provisions to protect natural resources through different programs. Lawrence says his interest in conservation circles back to how the health of the environment affects the health of the human population. “An ailing ecosystem,” he says, “puts human populations at risk, and all of us interested in human health should be on the edge of our seats watching what the House does with the bill this month.” The marriage, he writes, between the natural environment and public health is complicated, but he highlights some of the most important connections. Read more here

Congressional/Administration News

(TOP) ~ Societies continue to push back on travel restrictions for federal scientists

ASA, CSSA, SSSA, and other scientific organizations collaborated in signing onto a letter addressed to USDA Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. The letter encourages him to maintain flexibility for government employees to attend scientific and technical conferences organized or supported by professional societies and non-governmental organizations. Read the full letter here

(TOP) ~ In rare display of bipartisanship, Senate passes farm bill

On 21 Jun, the U.S. Senate passed, on a bipartisan vote, the Senate farm bill.  Voting 64/35 to approve the legislation authorizing research, education, and extension; conservation, energy, forestry, and related programs, the Senate passed the sweeping legislation only after a two-and-a-half-day marathon in which senators voted on more than 70 amendments.  "It's an important day for the Senate, coming together on 73 votes, working together in a bipartisan basis," said Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). "We now turn to our House colleagues." The legislation would spend $969 billion over the next decade but still cut $23.6 billion from farm programs and eliminate more than 100 program authorizations. It would cut about $6.5 billion from conservation programs, consolidating them from 23 to 13, and shift farm subsidies from a direct payment system to one that is more insurance-focused. The bill also would provide about $800 million in mandatory funding to rural energy programs working to increase energy efficiency and build up the nation's domestic advanced biofuels industry. 

(TOP) ~ Meanwhile, Lucas still determined to finish farm bill despite obstacles

With pressure now on the House to move on reauthorizing its farm bill, House Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas (R-OK) says he wants to work on building the momentum he needs to move a farm bill through his committee and the floor before the current law expires. But he also appears to be keeping his options open. Lucas said that it is possible for him to have the multi-year bill on the way to a conference committee before both chambers start a month-long recess on Aug. 3. On the other hand, he adds, there is Plan B, an extension for possibly as long as a year if necessary. The current farm policy law (PL 110-246) ends Sept. 30. “No. 1, my goal is still to do a farm bill and still accomplish a product that ties down ag policy for the next five years,” he said last week. “But in the course of the last three farm bills, I believe, we’ve had extensions at least one time per year.” He has set July 11 as the start of a markup for a wide-ranging draft farm bill. The committee might release the bill this week. 

(TOP) ~ House pushing to cut EPA’s budget and reduce regulatory reach

Late last week, House GOP appropriators advanced legislation that would make steep budget cuts to the EPA and block the agency from issuing new rules on greenhouse gas emissions and the cleanup of abandoned mines. On a mainly party-line vote of 26-19, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amended fiscal 2013 Interior-Environment spending bill that would provide $28 billion for the Interior Department, EPA, Forest Service and other related agencies — $1.2 billion below last year’s level and $1.7 billion below the president’s request. Of the course of a two-day markup, the committee focused much of its debate on policy riders included in the draft bill and the GOP’s plan to reduce spending for the EPA, which would receive $7 billion, a 17 percent cut from last year. The bill would slash spending for the Land and Water Conservation Fund — which pays for public lands acquisitions — to $66 million, an 80 percent cut from last year and the program’s lowest funding level since its creation in 1965.

(TOP) ~ Gearing up for possible sequestration, House puts heat on Obama administration

Early last week the House Budget Committee in a unanimous vote, supported legislation that would require the Obama administration to provide details about the impact of across-the-board automatic spending cuts set to take effect in January. In a rare show of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats added to the mounting pressure on the administration by approving the amended bill (HR 5872) in a 30-0 vote. As amended, the measure would require the report within 30 days, rather than by July 9, which was the date called for in the original version of the legislation. Meanwhile, in the Senate, legislators added similar language to its farm bill (S 3240) requiring the Defense secretary, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the president to report on the effects of sequester on defense and domestic programs, with short deadlines so lawmakers would have time to consider the implications. Under the Senate’s plan, the Pentagon’s report would be due Aug. 15, the OMB report would be due within 30 days of enactment and the president would be required to issue his report within 60 days. 

(TOP) ~ House won’t consider agriculture appropriations before July 4th recess

House Republican leadership confirmed that the $19.4 billion agriculture appropriations measure isn’t likely to come up before the July Fourth recess.  Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) assigned the first slot to the transportation appropriations bill.  While the delay fuels doubts that GOP leaders don’t want to move on a farm bill, Cantor’s office insists that he is not saying “no” to a farm bill this year.  House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Ok) remains committed to his new markup date of July 11 and reports indicate that he “has apparently been promised by the leadership that the same appropriations conflict won’t come back and haunt him then.” Read more here

Sources: ClimateWire; Congressional Quarterly; Environment and Energy Daily; Food Industry Environmental Network; GreenWire; The Huffington Post; Meridian Institute; New York Times

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.