Science Policy Report

Address all comments to the Science Policy Office at:

07 November 2012

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ Halving food losses would feed an additional billion people
~ Agriculture needs multi-national research coordination
~ USAID funds effort for heat-tolerant corn

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Funding Available for Environmental Research and Development
~ AFRI Foundational Program
~ Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program
~ Organic Farming Research Foundation Grants
~ Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program
~ Collaborative Forest Restoration Program
~ National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship
~ Water Conservation Field Services Program
~ Community-based Forest-management Programs for REDD Readiness in Zambia
~ EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program
~ Division of Environmental Biology

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ Last chance to make your voice heard on sequestration petition
~ Ken Burns' Dust Bowl to air on PBS
~ Proceedings released from summit on strategies to manage herbicide-resistant weeds
~ National climate assessment and development advisory committee meeting
~ AGI accepting applications for 2013 award for excellence in earth science teaching
~ Video highlights from the Water for Food Industry Leaders panel
~ Mandating GM food labels could mislead and falsely alarm consumers
~ Greenhouse gas emissions from food production may double earlier estimates
~ Importance of water to the U.S. economy symposium
~ NWF releases roadmap for increased cover crop adoption

Congressional/Administration News

~ Farm bill chances still considered slim despite Cantor remarks
~ Soil health coalition letter
~ Federal agencies feel repercussions of spending bill uncertainty
~ Demand for biodiesel falls as industry meets federal mandate

International Corner

(TOP) ~ Halving food losses would feed an additional billion people

More efficient use of the food production chain and a decrease in the amount of food losses will dramatically help in maintaining the planet's natural resources and improve people's lives. Researchers in Aalto University, Finland, have proved a valid estimation, for the first time, for how many people could be fed with reducing food losses. The world's population is an estimated seven billion people. An additional one billion can be fed from our current resources, if the food losses could be halved. This can be achieved if the lowest loss percentage achieved in any region could be reached globally. The new study is the first to evaluate the impact of food losses and its relationship to resources on a global scale. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Agriculture needs multi-national research coordination

Proposed strategies to boost research coordination between G20 countries could give “a huge leg up” to agricultural research programs, emphasized USDA’s Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics and Chief Scientist Catherine Woteki. She described the first Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists (MACS), held in Guadalajara, Mexico, saying that commitments to investment and efficiency from each member country are vital at this stage. Science policy leaders decided on several platforms, whose goal is to create opportunities for advancing agricultural research, making it more accessible with less duplication. The focus now is to continue to make investments in some of the fundamental science and also be meeting needs of our own producers, Woteki has said. She noted that MACS is focused on sharing “pre-competitive research,” the “kind of research the private sector can’t do because there’s not a return on investment.” According to an ERS report released in September, “there is a clear long-term trend toward greater private-sector funding and performance of R&D” and most of the private-sector agricultural R&D supports researchers working in private companies focused on issues with the highest expected private returns. Read full report

(TOP) ~ USAID funds effort for heat-tolerant corn

The U.S. Agency for International Development's Feed the Future initiative has committed $3.8 million to help develop varieties of corn that can withstand South Asia's rising temperatures. The grant is intended to help the region (which includes India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh) adapt to a growing demand for poultry feed and changing diets in the face of climate change. The partnership includes the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred, Purdue University, and several companies and national research partners in South Asia. Out of a total of approximately 6 million hectares of hybrid maize grown in South Asia, nearly a million hectares are highly vulnerable to high temperature stress especially during flowering. Nearly 80 percent of the maize growing area in this region is rain-fed and highly vulnerable to extreme weather events, including drought and high temperatures. CIMMYT will work on developing a better understanding of the little-known mechanisms of heat adaptation in corn and developing varieties that can withstand high temperatures.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

(TOP) ~ Funding Available for Environmental Research and Development

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) is seeking to fund environmental research and development proposals. SERDP is DoD’s environmental science and technology program, planned and executed in partnership with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, with participation by numerous other Federal and non-Federal organizations. Proposals responding to focused Statements of Need (SON) are requested in the following areas: environmental restoration, munitions response, resource conservation and climate change, and weapons systems and platforms. Pre-proposal deadline 8 Jan. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ AFRI Foundational Program

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has released the request for applications for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational Program. This funding opportunity supports research, education and extension in fundamental and applied food and agricultural sciences. The AFRI Foundational Program addresses six priority areas which include: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities. Deadline 22 May. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program

Community Food Projects should be designed to meet the food needs of low-income people; increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs; and promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues; and/or meet specific state, local, or neighborhood food and agriculture needs for infrastructure improvement and development, planning for long-term solutions, or the creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers. CFPs are intended to bring together stakeholders from the distinct parts of the food system and to foster understanding of national food security trends and how they might improve local food systems.  Deadline 28 Nov. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Organic Farming Research Foundation Grants

OFRF is accepting grant proposals for research in categories of organic seed quality or crop breeding and education/outreach projects in categories of organic seed quality or crop breeding. The OFRF grants program is open to all applicants residing in Canada, Mexico and the United States. OFRF particularly encourages farmers, ranchers, researchers, and extension personnel to consider applying for funding. Deadline 19 Nov. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program

This competitive grants program is intended to promote and strengthen the ability of Hispanic-Serving Institutions to carry out higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences. The programs aim to attract outstanding students and produce graduates capable of enhancing the nation's food and agricultural scientific and professional work force. Deadline 18 Feb. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Collaborative Forest Restoration Program

The U.S. Forest Service Southwestern Region requests applications for forest restoration projects on Federal, Tribal, State, County, Land Grant, or Municipal forest lands in New Mexico that are designed through a collaborative process that includes affected communities and other stakeholders. Individuals, businesses, groups and other organizations are encouraged to collaborate on the design, implementation, and monitoring of projects that value local and traditional knowledge, promote healthy and productive forests and watersheds, and build ownership and civic pride. CFRP encourages communication and joint problem solving through interagency, cross-jurisdictional, and inter-tribal projects. Deadline 25 Feb. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

This notice announces that applications may be submitted for the National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship (Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship Program). Sea Grant anticipates funding not less than 30 selected applicants, of which those assigned to the Legislative branch may be limited to 10. Each award will be funded at a total of $56,500 in federal funding. Deadline 29 Mar. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Water Conservation Field Services Program

The objective of this Funding Opportunity is to invite eligible applicants to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing with reclamation on activities that will do one or more of the following: promote the preparation of written water management and conservation plans that will lead to subsequent implementation of conveyance, measurement, or operational improvements which will conserve water, increase water use efficiency, or enhance operational efficiency; demonstrate new or previously unknown water management technologies and practices; implement activities identified in an approved and written water management and/or conservation plans. Deadline 29 Jan. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Community-based Forest-management Programs for REDD Readiness in Zambia

USAID is interested in supporting organizations capable of managing and implementing a Global Climate Change (GCC) project aimed at strengthening the Government of Zambia’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) strategy and improving joint management of forests and natural resources in Zambia. As part of market research, USAID/Zambia is sharing the link to a DRAFT Program Description in order to: 1. Identify potential sources interested in working on Global Climate Change (GCC) Initiatives in Zambia, and 2. Gather feedback from potential stakeholders about the overall objectives and expected outcomes of the proposed Community Forest -based Management project. Deadline 21 Nov. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is a program designed to fulfill the National Science Foundation's (NSF) mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide. The EPSCoR program is directed at jurisdictions that have historically received lesser amounts of NSF Research and Development funding. Through this program, NSF establishes partnerships with government, higher education, and industry that are designed to effect lasting improvements in a state's or region's research infrastructure, R&D capacity and hence, its national R&D competitiveness. Deadline 30 Jan. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Division of Environmental Biology

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) supports fundamental research on populations, species, communities, and ecosystems. Scientific emphases range across many evolutionary and ecological patterns and processes at all spatial and temporal scales. Areas of research include biodiversity, phylogenetic systematics, molecular evolution, life history evolution, natural selection, ecology, biogeography, ecosystem structure, function and services, conservation biology, global change, and biogeochemical cycles. Research on organismal origins, functions, relationships, interactions, and evolutionary history may incorporate field, laboratory, or collection-based approaches; observational or manipulative experiments; synthesis activities; as well as theoretical approaches involving analytical, statistical, or computational modeling. Deadline 23 Jan. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

(TOP) ~ Last chance to make your voice heard on sequestration petition

The ASA, CSSA and SSSA Science Policy Office has developed a petition asking Congress to craft a comprehensive deficit reduction plan that recognizes the value of future investments in scientific and technological research. Without further action by Congress, sequestration will have devastating impacts on the research community and will result in the loss of $12.5 billion to federally funded R&D in 2013 alone. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA are asking for your help to reach our goal of over 500 scientists, certified professionals, and students to show Congress that the research community opposes these draconian cuts to research funding. The deadline for signing the petition is 9 Nov. Click here to sign

(TOP) ~ Ken Burns' Dust Bowl to air on PBS

The film ‘The Dust Bowl,’ by Ken Burns will air on PBS November 18 & 19 at 8:00 EST. The airing of this film provides NRCS and its Ag/Conservation partners with a unique opportunity to support the film, leverage its release to help tell the story of conservation, and make the case for more. The film focuses on the story of the people who survived the Dust Bowl years as well as tell the story of the Soil Conservation Service and its founder, Hugh Hammond Bennett. Get more information

(TOP) ~ Proceedings released from summit on strategies to manage herbicide-resistant weeds

Preserving the efficacy of herbicides, and of herbicide-resistance technology, particularly as it relates to the use of glyphosate, depends upon awareness of the problem and coordinated action to address the problem by individuals at the farm level and beyond. This summit served as a venue to bring awareness of this important issue to stakeholders and as an opportunity for experts from diverse disciplines to strategize ways to address herbicide-resistant weeds. See proceedings

(TOP) ~ National climate assessment and development advisory committee meeting

The NOAA National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC) has scheduled a public teleconference for October 24, 2012. Public access will be "available at the office of the U.S. Global Change Research Program in Washington, DC. The public will not be able to dial into the call" The Committee's mission is to "synthesize and summarize the science and information pertaining to current and future impacts of climate change upon the United States and to provide advice and recommendations toward the development of an ongoing, sustainable national assessment of global change impacts and adaptation and mitigation strategies for the Nation. Within the scope of its mission, the committee's specific objective is to produce a National Climate Assessment. See full announcement

(TOP) ~ AGI accepting applications for 2013 award for excellence in earth science teaching

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) is accepting nominations for the Edward C. Roy Award for Excellence in Earth Science Teaching. Given annually, this award is presented to one full-time K-8 teacher in the U.S. or U.K. whose excellence and innovation in the classroom elevates students’ understanding of the Earth and its many processes. Applications must be postmarked by January 10, 2013. See full announcement

(TOP) ~ Video highlights from the Water for Food Industry Leaders panel

Joined by Jeff Raikes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this year, executives from Global Harvest Initiative member companies addressed the importance of increasing the productivity of water use in agriculture at the 2012 Water for Food Conference Industry Leaders Panel in Lincoln, Nebraska. The role of water productivity in agriculture is again in focus at the upcoming 2012 World Food Prize Symposium, where Dr. Daniel Hillel has been named the 2012 World Food Prize Laureate for his innovative work in micro-irrigation. View video highlights

(TOP) ~ Mandating GM food labels could mislead and falsely alarm consumers

Foods containing ingredients from genetically modified (GM) crops pose no greater risk than the same foods made from crops modified by conventional plant breeding techniques, the AAAS Board of Directors has concluded. In releasing the Board’s statement, AAAS noted that it is important to distinguish between labeling intended to protect public health—about the presence of allergens, for example—and optional labeling that aids consumer decision-making, such as “kosher” or “USDA organic,” which reflects verifiable and certifiable standards about production and handling. Several current efforts to require labeling of GM foods are not being driven by any credible scientific evidence that these foods are dangerous, AAAS said. Read full statement

(TOP) ~ Greenhouse gas emissions from food production may double earlier estimates

Food production, including the growing, transport and processing of crops, is responsible for between 19 and 29 percent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent study. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research's program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) published its findings in the journal Environment and Resources, tracking the combined emissions of growing food, deforestation to make way for farms and the supply chain to get crops to consumers. This estimate is higher than the IPCC in its last assessment report, which placed agriculture's role in climate change at around 10 percent. The concept of indirect land use change, or the emissions that result from not keeping a forest intact, is difficult to measure and has been especially controversial in assessing the climate gains of growing energy crops for biofuels. Organizations like the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, a pro-biofuel organization, have called the inclusion of indirect land-use change "anything but a proven science." The interaction of different climate change consequences (the effect of heat on plants and against the potential prevalence of pests) also needs more research.

(TOP) ~ Importance of water to the U.S. economy symposium

Water is vital to a productive and growing economy in the United States, directly and indirectly affecting the production of goods and services in many sectors. Current economic literature provides some insights into the importance of water to various sectors, but this information is dispersed and, in many cases, incomplete. EPA is conducting a study on the importance of water in the U.S. economy. As part of the study, EPA and American University' Center for Environmental Policy are co-hosting the Importance of Water to the United States Economy Symposium (December 4, 2012; Washington, DC). To register for the symposium and/or get more information, click here

(TOP) ~ NWF releases roadmap for increased cover crop adoption

Cover crops, defined as non-commodity crops either inter-seeded into living cash crops or planted onto bare fields during fallow periods, are a climate-friendly farming practice providing multiple benefits to the environment through carbon sequestration, improved water quality, and forage for wildlife. The NWF Healthy Farms and Forests Team have been working with partners to overcome barriers and promote increased cover crop adoption in the Mississippi River Basin. Cover crops are a win-win because they are beneficial to farmers and the environment; yet, our research indicates that less than 1% of cropland acres are actually planted to cover crops. Read full report

Congressional/Administration News

(TOP) ~ Farm bill chances still considered slim despite Cantor remarks

The chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee is citing comments by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as evidence of hope that Congress can produce a final farm bill in this year’s postelection session. But many in the agriculture, nutrition and conservation communities are increasingly pessimistic that Congress has the time or the will to complete a multi-year bill in the lame duck. The House Agriculture Committee bill has been on hold since the panel approved it in July, and it seems more likely that lawmakers will vote to extend the 2008 farm law, which expired on Sept. 30. Cantor, like Speaker Boehner, who made similar statements before the election recess began, was vague about whether the vote would be on the ag committee’s bill, an extension of the 2008 law or some other option. The House ag committee approved its bill in July, but House leaders kept it off the floor because of disagreements over the proposed cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and it appeared unlikely that Cantor, Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, could find enough support to pass the bill.

(TOP) ~ Soil health coalition letter

The National Resource Conservation Service has unveiled a national effort to promote healthy soil benefits. The initiative is meant to help farmers meet current and future demands for American-grown agriculture by encouraging good soil and natural resources practices that are beneficial to their operations. This awareness and education effort is supported in a letter written to NRCS Director Dave White, coordinated by the Soil Health Coalition. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA are co-signers to this letter. Read the full letter

(TOP) ~ Federal agencies feel repercussions of spending bill uncertainty

Congress may well wind up clearing stopgap funding measures for the entire fiscal year to avoid partisan political battles and a possible government shutdown. However, for federal agencies the move would create other problems as lawmakers effectively would be punting spending decisions that are necessary to govern. Ranging from holding off on major Defense projects to keeping alive domestic programs that both Capitol Hill and White House want to end, Congress’ failure to pass a single, stand-alone spending bill this year already has palpable impacts for agencies. Appropriations bills in general are spoken of in the aggregate, with hundreds of billions of dollars distributed across large, impossibly detailed annual spending bills. Yet they are the accumulation of thousands of individual items (a description, direction and dollar figure for every program, activity and account in the federal budget) reviewed, enacted and accounted for line by line. Such careful budget planning however, is cast aside when Congress appropriates through a continuing resolution, as it has for at least the first six months of fiscal 2013, because its keeps current funding in place with few significant changes for the new fiscal year.

(TOP) ~ Demand for biodiesel falls as industry meets federal mandate

With the federal biodiesel mandate largely achieved, biodiesel producers have struggled with plummeting demand, and at least one Iowa biodiesel refinery has closed down. Production has been quite strong through September and the demand has basically been met for the year, so that will reduce the incentive for oil companies to buy biodiesel for the rest of 2012. Producers are dealing with fluctuating prices for renewable identification numbers, or RINs, which oil companies must buy to show their compliance with the federal mandate. Over the summer, RINs sold for as much as $1.50 per gallon, indicating strong demand, but as the industry approached the 1-billion-gallon mandate, the value of the RINs fell to as low as 50 cents. Soy Energy in Mason City, Iowa, said this week it will temporarily take its plant offline and lay off its 20 employees.

Sources: Agripulse; American Geosciences Institute; Climatewire; Congressional Quarterly; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; Global Harvest Initiative; Greenwire; Meridian Institute; National Academy of Sciences; Natural Resources Conservation Service; National Wildlife Federation

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.