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Science Policy Report

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26 September 2012

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ World hunger: the problem left behind
~ Legislation on reform measures move forward
~ New law removes several state and USAID positions from confirmation requirement
~ EU proposal would limit use of crop-based biofuels
~ East African farmers prepare for effects of climate change

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ FY13 Guidelines for Brownfields Assessment Grants
~ 2012 Dr. Karl C. Ivarson scholarship
~ Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM
~ Integrated Earth Systems
~ 2013 Conservation Innovation Grant
~ P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability
~ FY13 Guidelines for Brownfields Cleanup Grants
~ Interdisciplinary Research in Hazards and Disasters
~ Performance and Effectiveness of Green Infrastructure Stormwater Management

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ NOAA news release says August global temperatures are fourth highest on record
~ Crop insurance losses begin to mount amid drought
~ Stand up for science competition announcement

Congressional/Administration News

~ Congress passes FY13 continuing resolution
~ House ag committee releases farm bill report, but bill to get no floor time
~ Secretary Vilsack: research strengthening agriculture’s resilience
~ Obama administration details sequestration cuts
~ USDA establishes National Watershed Research Network
~ USDA expands drought assistance
~ Reid, Boehner agree on time frame for farm bill action, if not content

International Corner


(TOP) ~ World hunger: the problem left behind

Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, says the run-up in corn prices due to the drought is a reminder that we are nowhere near solving the problem of feeding the world. The assumption, he says, that widespread economic development leads to corresponding gains in agriculture, is not proving to be true. In fact, agriculture seems to be one of the lagging economic sectors of the last two decades. Take Africa, he says, where, despite the expansion of the African middle class and decline in child mortality rates, these advances have not been balanced by gains in agriculture. It remains an issue, he writes, how Africa’s growing population will be fed. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Legislation on reform measures move forward

Three authorization bills relevant to the International Affairs Budget have either been introduced recently or are scheduled to receive upcoming committee consideration. The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 is responding to numerous recommendations to strengthen U.S. foreign aid transparency and to apply uniform, government-wide evaluation systems for all foreign assistance. The legislation requires the President to create a website that posts information from all U.S. agencies that provide foreign assistance, showing not only country and global aid funding levels, but also country assistance strategies, budget documents and justifications, evaluations, and other relevant foreign aid reports. The other two bills include the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review Act of 2012 (an effort to elevate civilian power to advance U.S. national interests) and the Economic Growth and Development Act (to create a more effective working relationship between U.S. government global development aid agencies and the American private sector).


(TOP) ~ New law removes several state and USAID positions from confirmation requirement

On August 10th, President Obama signed into law the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 following House passage on August 2nd.  Co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the bipartisan legislation eliminates the need to obtain Senate confirmation for about 170 executive branch posts.  While senior-most positions at the State Department, USAID, MCC, and related agencies will still require Senate confirmation, several fall within the scope of the International Affairs Budget, including assistant administrator for management at USAID, assistant secretary for public affairs and assistant secretary for administration, both for the State Department. See bill summary


(TOP) ~ EU proposal would limit use of crop-based biofuels

The European Union plans to impose a limit on the use of crop-based biofuels over fears they are less climate-friendly than initially thought and compete with food production, according to draft EU legislation. The new rules, which will need the approval of EU governments and lawmakers, represent a major shift in Europe's much-criticized biofuel policy and a tacit admission by policymakers that the EU's 2020 biofuel target was flawed from the outset. The plans also include a promise to end all public subsidies for crop-based biofuels after the current legislation expires in 2020, effectively ensuring the decline of a European sector now estimated to be worth €17 billion a year. The policy U-turn comes after EU scientific studies cast doubt on the emissions savings from crop-based fuels, and following a poor harvest in key grain growing regions that pushed up prices and revived fears of food shortages. Read full article


(TOP) ~ East African farmers prepare for effects of climate change

Farmers in East African countries are adopting resilient farming approaches and technologies to help combat the effects of a warming climate according to a report by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. The research is based on a survey of more than 700 farming households in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. More than half of agricultural households surveyed said they planted at least one shorter-cycle crop variety and adopted at least one drought-tolerant variety, practices that improve crop production and prepare farms for high heat and water scarcity. "For generations, farmers and livestock keepers in East Africa have survived high levels of weather variability by testing and adopting new farming practices. As this variability increases, rainfall patterns shift and average temperatures rise due to climate change, they may need to change faster and more extensively," said Patti Kristjanson, a CCAFS theme leader. Food insecurity issues prevent farmers from implementing other climate change preparedness strategies, like terracing and water storage, that take more time and money.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ FY13 Guidelines for Brownfields Assessment Grants

The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act requires the U.S. EPA to publish guidanceto assist applicants in preparing proposals for grants to assess and clean up brownfield sites. EPA’s Brownfields Program provides funds to empower states, communities, tribes, and nonprofits to prevent, inventory, assess, clean up, and reuse brownfield sites. EPA provides brownfields funding for three types of grants: 1. Brownfields Assessment Grants, 2. Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Grants, 3. Brownfields Cleanup Grants. Under these guidelines, EPA is seeking proposals for Assessment Grants only. Deadline 19 Nov. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ 2012 Dr. Karl C. Ivarson scholarship

Each year, through the Dr. Karl C. Ivarson scholarship, financial support is provided to a student(s) entering second or subsequent year of post graduate studies in soil science (in areas of agriculture, environment, geology, agro-ecology, or other related disciplines) at a Canadian university. Candidates must hold Canadian citizenship or permanent residence status in Canada and be enrolled in their graduate program for at least one semester beyond the application deadline. Deadline 16 Nov. See full announcement


(TOP) ~ Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM

The Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (TUES) program seeks to improve the quality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for all undergraduate students. This solicitation especially encourages projects that have the potential to transform undergraduate STEM education, for example, by bringing about widespread adoption of classroom practices that embody understanding of how students learn most effectively. Deadline 14 Jan. 2013. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Integrated Earth Systems

Integrated Earth Systems (IES) is a program in the Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) that focuses on the continental, terrestrial and deep Earth subsystems of the whole Earth system. The overall goal of the program is to provide opportunity for collaborative, multidisciplinary research into the operation, dynamics and complexity of Earth systems at a budgetary scale between that of a typical project in the EAR Division's disciplinary programs and larger scale initiatives at the Directorate or Foundation level. Specifically, IES will provide research opportunities for the study of Earth systems from the core of the Earth to the top of the critical zone with a specific focus on subsystems that include continental, terrestrial and deep Earth subsystems at all temporal and spatial scales. Deadline 14 Nov, 2013. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ 2013 Conservation Innovation Grant

The purpose of CIG is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies, while leveraging the Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection in conjunction with agricultural production. CIG projects are expected to lead to the transfer of conservation technologies, management systems, and innovative approaches (such as market-based systems) into NRCS policy, technical manuals, guides, and references or to the private sector. Deadline 15 Oct. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of the P3-People, Prosperity and the Planet Award Program is seeking applications proposing to research, develop, and design solutions to real world challenges involving the overall sustainability of human society. The P3 competition highlights the use of scientific principles in creating innovative projects focused on sustainability. The EPA offers the P3 competition in order to respond to the technical needs of the world while moving towards the goal of sustainability. Deadline 11 Dec. Read full announcement here
 


(TOP) ~ FY13 Guidelines for Brownfields Cleanup Grants

EPA’s Brownfields Program provides funds to empower states, communities, tribes, and nonprofits to prevent, inventory, assess, clean up, and reuse brownfield sites. EPA provides brownfields funding for three types of grants: 1. Brownfields Assessment Grants - provides funds to inventory, characterize, assess, and conduct planning (including cleanup planning) and community involvement related to brownfield sites. 2. Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Grants – provides funding for a grant recipient to capitalize a revolving fund and to make loans and provide sub-grants to carry out cleanup activities at brownfield sites. 3. Brownfields Cleanup Grants - provides funds to carry out cleanup activities at a specific brownfield site owned by the applicant. Under these guidelines, EPA is seeking proposals for Cleanup Grants only. Deadline 19 Nov. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Interdisciplinary Research in Hazards and Disasters

The overarching goal of Hazards SEES is to catalyze well-integrated interdisciplinary research efforts in hazards-related science and engineering in order to improve the understanding of natural hazards and technological hazards linked to natural phenomena, mitigate their effects, and to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Hazards SEES aims to make investments in strongly interdisciplinary research that will reduce the impact of such hazards, enhance the safety of society, and contribute to sustainability. Hazards SEES seeks research projects that will productively cross the boundaries of several disciplines. Proposals must demonstrate the inclusion of the appropriate expertise to address the research questions, hypotheses, and problems being posed. Hazards SEES research projects should be designed around one or more locations, identifiable hazards, and/or themes. Deadline 4 Feb 2013. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Performance and Effectiveness of Green Infrastructure Stormwater Management

The U.S. EPA, as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications proposing to conduct research on and demonstration of the performance and effectiveness of green infrastructure (GI) practices at the urban watershed-level. For this Request for Applications (RFA), the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, specifically the 40,500 acre Philadelphia Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) area, will serve as the geographic study area. Successful projects should leverage resources and utilize strategic partnerships to address the complexities of urban communities and contribute to a more holistic understanding of the potential of green infrastructure in the urban water cycle. Deadline 8 Jan 2013. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports


(TOP) ~ NOAA news release says August global temperatures are fourth highest on record

August 2012 global temperatures were "... fourth highest on record [while] Arctic sea ice exceeds all-time lowest extent on record ..." according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It notes that "... August 2012 also marks the 36th consecutive August and 330th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average ... Most areas of the world experienced much higher-than-average monthly temperatures, including far northeastern North America, central and Southern Europe, and east central Asia. Meanwhile, parts of Siberia were notably cooler than average. In the Arctic, sea ice extent averaged 1.82 million square miles, resulting in the all-time lowest August sea ice extent on record ..." See full report


(TOP) ~ Crop insurance losses begin to mount amid drought

Thousands of farmers are filing insurance claims this year after drought and triple-digit temperatures burned up crops across the nation's Corn Belt, and some experts are predicting record insurance losses - exacerbated by changes that reduced some growers' premiums. G.A. "Art" Barnaby, a Kansas State University Extension specialist in risk management, estimates underwriting losses on taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance will hit nearly $15 billion this year. He expects a staggering $25 billion in crop insurance claims to be filed by growers across the nation, driven primarily by one of the worst droughts in the U.S. decades. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Stand up for science competition announcement

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is sponsoring a competition for the most effective demonstration of how NIH, NSF, and other federally funded research improves the health, quality of life, or economy of local communities. Grand prize: $10,000. Events or exhibits must be held or started before November 10, 2012. Final submissions must be received by December 1, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Get more information

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ Congress passes FY13 continuing resolution

Following conclusion of the Republican and Democratic conventions, lawmakers returned with the primary order of business being passage of a six-month Continuing Resolution (CR) that will delay FY13 appropriations decisions until early next year.  Both the House and Senate have approved the measure that will extend spending through March 27 and increase funding levels for most programs and agencies by about 0.6 percent. The measure will now be sent to the president for his signature. The CR is largely “clean” in that it does not include new, controversial policy riders and largely maintains spending at current (FY12) levels, with a few exceptions related to defense and homeland security.  It funds discretionary spending at $1.047 trillion, the level adopted for FY13 last year as part of the Budget Control Act and the amount the Senate used in drafting its appropriations measures for FY13.


(TOP) ~ House ag committee releases farm bill report, but bill to get no floor time

With House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) canceling October's session, there is little hope the House will act on the farm bill before the election. The House is instead likely to let the 2008 farm bill expire on Sept. 30, a prospect with implications for farmland conservation and rural energy development. Several conservation programs would be unable to enroll new participants, while most farm-bill energy programs would lose their authorizations. The Department of Agriculture would be unable to enroll new participants in several rural conservation programs, however, USDA maintains it has the authority to continue restoration work already begun under the programs. The inability to draw new people into the programs will have an impact on the department's overall conservation efforts. Federal rural energy programs are also slated to lose their authorizations and of seven programs added to the farm bill's energy title in 2008, six would lose their authority. Those include the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which assists farmers with planting biofuel feedstocks, and the Biorefinery Assistance Program, which helps fund the commercialization of advanced biofuel facilities. See full committee report


(TOP) ~ Secretary Vilsack: research strengthening agriculture’s resilience

Secretary Tom Vilsack writes an article in regards to USDA’s plan of action to help farmers and ranchers impacted by the drought. He says that ultimately, agricultural research has a multitude of benefits. It strengthens our economy and lays the groundwork to create more jobs. It helps producers grow more crops, even in times of weather uncertainty. It helps farmers and ranchers conserve the natural resources we all hold dear. And it ensures that our nation will remain food secure by addressing today’s most challenging scientific questions. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Obama administration details sequestration cuts

In this blog piece, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) explores what automatic budget cuts – known as sequestration – would do to the farm bill and agricultural appropriations. The cuts are set to kick in on January 2, 2013. Prior to the release of OMB’s report, many observers believed sequestration would result in automatic cuts of $15 to $16 billion to farm bill programs. NSAC’s analysis of the report found the actual size of the cut would be much smaller, for a total of about $8 billion. The difference is due to the fact that OMB exempts nearly all crop insurance subsidies from automatic cuts, calling them “prior legal obligations.” As for agricultural appropriations, all U.S. Department of Agriculture discretionary line items would be cut by 8.2 percent each year, which means the $22 billion a year agricultural appropriations bill would be reduced by about $1.9 billion. Read full article


(TOP) ~ USDA establishes National Watershed Research Network

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) announced on Sep 11 that it has established a Long Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) network from among its existing experimental watersheds and rangelands nationwide to address large-scale, multi-year research, environmental management testing and technology transfer related to the nation's agricultural ecosystems. The national approach to be utilized in LTAR will allow scientists to investigate important research questions against a wide range of environmental conditions, include episodic events such as pest and pathogen outbreaks, detect important but slow-acting phenomena such as changes in soil carbon, climate, and land use, and calibrate and validate the models used to forecast such changes. As a whole, the network will seek to address complex scientific questions about long-term processes on a regional or national scale that cannot be addressed by individual locations. Read full article


(TOP) ~ USDA expands drought assistance

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that $11.8 million in additional financial and technical assistance to help crop and livestock producers in 22 states apply conservation practices that reduce the impacts of drought and improve soil health and productivity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides this assistance through its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Read full article


(TOP) ~ Reid, Boehner agree on time frame for farm bill action, if not content

Farm state lawmakers head home this week with only promises from House and Senate leaders that Congress will resolve a farm bill impasse after the elections have taken place. Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker John A. Boehner said that their chambers will act on the stalled legislation when they return in November. Even so, they seemed to be on different pages. Reid said he would press the House for a five-year farm bill while Boehner said the House would consider a multi-year measure or an extension of the current law. Neither leader provided details on how they could produce a negotiated farm bill during a lame-duck session that could last from two to five weeks. The House will have to move the Ag Committee’s measure (HR 6083) to the floor for what will be a contentious fight. If it passes, House and Senate negotiators will have to work out significant differences in proposed changes to farm programs and cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

Sources: ACDI/VOCA; Agricultural Institute of Canada Foundation; Agricultural Research Service; Climatewire; E&E Daily; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; Meridian Institute; National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; USDA NRCS

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.