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Science Policy Report

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Note: Due to the August recess there will be no SPR on August 12 or 26. The next SPR will be posted on September 9.

Thank you, The Science Policy Office team.

21 November 2012

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ FAO food price index falls slightly in October
~ Involving local farmers is key to success in foreign investment
~ China's corn revolution promises great leap forward in yields

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ FY13 Water Conservation Field Services Funding
~ Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellowship
~ Virginia Tech Urban Forestry Fellowships
~ George Washington Carver Internship
~ Annie’s Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship
~ AFRI: Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change
~ FY 2013 Indian Tribes and Intertribal Consortia
~ Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation
~ Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences: Investigator-initiated research
~ Climate Change Education Partnership Alliance Office
~ Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Undergraduate Program
~ Feed the Future Agriculture Technology Transfer
~ Water Resources Research National Competitive Grants

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ Farm Foundation launches blog to broaden agriculture and food system conversations
~ Nitrogen management on U.S. corn acres, 2001-10
~ More study needed to prevent future water wars
~ Potential farm-level effects of eliminating direct payments
~ Land prices
~ Engineering Ministries International (EMI) Nepal Project Trip Opportunity

Congressional/Administration News

~ Peterson determined to pass farm bill
~ EPA releases draft Section 319 nonpoint source program and grant guidelines
~ EPA keeps renewable fuels levels in place after considering state requests

International Corner


(TOP) ~ FAO food price index falls slightly in October

According to the latest UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Food Price Index, global food prices fell one percent in October 2012 and for the first ten months of the year food prices were on average eight percent lower than in the same period in 2011. The Index dipped two points to 213 points from September's revised level of 215 points. The decline was largely due to lower international prices of cereals and oils and fats, which more than offset increases in dairy and sugar prices. Meanwhile the FAO Food Outlook, a bi-annual global market report, noted that lower international prices and freight rates, together with lower cereal purchases, could push down the world food import bill in 2012. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Involving local farmers is key to success in foreign investment

International investments that give local farmers an active role and leave them in control of their land have the most positive effects on local economies and social development, according to a new FAO report. The report, Trends and Impacts of Foreign Investment in Developing Country Agriculture, emphasizes that investment projects that combine the strengths of the investor (capital, management and marketing expertise, and technology) with those of local farmers (labor, land, local knowledge) are most successful. Business models that leave farmers in control of their land give them an incentive to invest in land improvements and also favor sustainable development. Read full article


(TOP) ~ China's corn revolution promises great leap forward in yields

China is using higher-yielding corn seeds and embracing modern technology in an effort to ensure the country will not be a long-term major corn importer. The record import of 5.5 million tons of corn in 2011-12 raised the prospect that China was becoming dependent on big overseas purchases. The government, which has always pushed for self-sufficiency, has approved the use of more hybrid seed varieties and given more money to state farming institutions. The corn crop in China is forecast at a record 200 million tons this year, and imports are expected to tumble as a result. Read full article

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ FY13 Water Conservation Field Services Funding

The Bureau of Reclamation is requesting proposals to fund activities in support of its Water Conservation Field Services Program (WCFSP) within the Lower Colorado Regional Area (LCRA). Reclamation has a major responsibility, in partnership with water users, states, and other interested parties, to help improve water resource management and water use efficiency in the western United States. More efficient water use is a key component of Reclamation's water resource management strategy. The objective of this announcement is to invite irrigation and water districts, states, local governments, water providers, and other entities that have a tie to reclamation projects to leverage their resources by cost sharing with Reclamation on activities/projects that make more efficient use of existing water supplies through in the LCRA. Deadline 7 Dec. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellowship

The Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows Program is a unique two-year international fellowship administered by the Congressional Hunger Center (CHC). Its mission is to develop leaders committed to finding lasting solutions to hunger and poverty worldwide through both direct programming and good policies. Leland Fellows are given the opportunity to develop new skills while actively working to alleviate hunger and poverty. Deadline 11 Jan. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Virginia Tech Urban Forestry Fellowships

Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment is currently accepting applications for graduate and undergraduate fellowships and scholarships in urban forestry offered by two prominent conservation organizations: the Garden Club of America and the Virginia Urban Forest Council. The Garden Club of America has a history of interest in the health of the urban forest and supports young scientists in their undergraduate and graduate studies in this field. The Virginia Urban Forest Council (known as Trees Virginia) is offering scholarships to enhance the ranks of future urban forestry professionals by providing financial assistance to students studying urban forestry and related curricula at Virginia colleges. Deadline for Trees Virginia is 21 Dec. and deadline for Garden Club is 31 Jan. For application forms, eligibility requirements, and instructions, visit Garden Club or Trees Virginia.
 


(TOP) ~ George Washington Carver Internship

The World Food Prize Foundation George Washington Carver Internship is an unparalleled professional opportunity for students interested in global issues of hunger, poverty and development. Under the supervision of Ambassador Kenneth Quinn and The World Food Prize staff, Carver Interns become an integral part of this internationally renowned organization and interact with World Food Prize Laureates, government officials, international experts in science and agriculture, leaders in industry and business, and members of local and national media. Through this experience, Carver Interns learn first-hand both the public and private side of operating an international non-profit organization and increase their understanding of the international fight against hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Deadline 26 Nov. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Annie’s Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship

Annie’s Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship Program is open to full time undergraduate and graduate students studying at an accredited 2 or 4 year college or graduate school in the U.S. for the 2013-2014 school year. Up to $100,000 in scholarships is available. Students must be focusing studies on sustainable agriculture.  International students may apply as long as they are studying at a U.S. school. Deadline 15 Dec. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ AFRI: Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is seeking research grant applications for the Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change Challenge Area under its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) which focuses on the societal challenge to adapt agroecosystems and natural resource systems to climate variability and change and implement mitigation strategies in those systems. Specific program areas are designed to achieve the long-term outcome of reducing the use of energy, nitrogen, reducing GHG emissions from practices, and water in the production of food, feed, fiber, and fuel; reduce GHG emissions from these agroecosystems; and increase carbon sequestration. Deadline 15 April. Read full announcement

 


(TOP) ~ FY 2013 Indian Tribes and Intertribal Consortia

EPA is soliciting proposals pursuant to Section 319 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) from eligible tribes and intertribal consortia to develop and/or implement watershed-based plans and on-the-ground projects that will result in significant steps towards solving Nonpoint Source (NPS) impairments on a watershed-wide basis. Eligible entities are strongly encouraged to submit proposals that develop and/or implement watershed-based plans designed to protect unimpaired waters and restore NPS-impaired waters. Deadline 14 Dec. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation

The Directorate for Engineering at the National Science Foundation has established the Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) to serve a critical role in focusing on important emerging areas in a timely manner. This solicitation is a funding opportunity for interdisciplinary teams of researchers to embark on rapidly advancing frontiers of fundamental engineering research. For this solicitation, proposals will be considered that aim to investigate emerging frontiers in the following three specific research areas: flexible bioelectronics systems (BioFlex), origami design for integration of self-assembling systems for engineering innovation (ODISSEI), and photosynthetic biorefineries (PSBR). Deadline 8 Feb. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences: Investigator-initiated research

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) supports quantitative, predictive, and theory-driven fundamental research and related activities designed to promote understanding of complex living systems at the molecular, subcellular, and cellular levels. Research supported by MCB uses a range of experimental approaches--including in vivo, in vitro and in silico strategies--and a broad spectrum of model and non-model organisms, especially microbes and plants. Typical research supported by MCB integrates theory and experimentation. Projects that address the emerging areas of multi-scale integration, molecular and cellular evolution, quantitative prediction of phenome from genomic information, and development of methods and resources are particularly welcome. Deadline 30 Jan. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Climate Change Education Partnership Alliance Office

In FY 2012, NSF funded six Phase II Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP-II) projects. The PI's, Co-PI's and significant partners of the six CCEP-II projects constitute the CCEP. The lead PI's for the six projects comprise the CCEP Alliance (CCEPA), which will convene on a regular basis in order to identify common needs and opportunities for collaboration across the CCEP network. Key to the success of this networked approach is the creation of a CCEP Alliance Office (CCEPA Office), which will: facilitate communication among the projects participating within the CCEP-II network; enable and nurture cross-project coordination and collaboration, such as assisting with data collection for a program-wide evaluation undertaken by NSF; and, support dissemination of resources developed by the CCEP-II network to the larger scientific community and the public. The CCEPA Office is also expected to foster coordination of CCEP-II activities with the larger climate change education community. Deadline 5 Feb. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Undergraduate Program

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have awarded a large share of bachelor's degrees to African American students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and nine of the top ten baccalaureate institutions of African American STEM doctorate recipients from 2006-2010 are HBCUs. To meet the nation's accelerating demands for STEM talent, more rapid gains in achievement, success and degree production in STEM for underrepresented minority populations are needed. The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program is committed to enhancing the quality of undergraduate STEM education and research at HBCUs as a means to broaden participation in the nation's STEM workforce. To this end, HBCU-UP provides awards to develop, implement, and study evidence-based innovative models and approaches for improving the preparation and success of HBCU undergraduate students so that they may pursue STEM graduate programs and/or careers. Deadline 11 Feb. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Feed the Future Agriculture Technology Transfer

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is seeking applications for Assistance Agreements from all U.S. and non-U.S. qualified organizations for funding to support a program entitled “Feed the Future Agriculture Technology Transfer Project.” The overall goal of the project is to provide technical assistance and capacity building for increasing the availability of agricultural technologies to increase and sustain productivity in Northern Ghana. Deadline 14 Dec. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Water Resources Research National Competitive Grants

Awards are available only to Water Research Institutes or Centers established pursuant to the provisions of section 104 of the Water Resources Research Act. However, any investigator at an institution of higher learning in the United States is eligible to apply for an award through a Water Research Institute or Center. All portions of the proposals, with the exception of the SF 424 Application for Federal Assistance and SF 424B Assurances, must be submitted through the NIWR website. Deadline 7 Mar. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports


(TOP) ~ Farm Foundation launches blog to broaden agriculture and food system conversations

Farm Foundation, NFP, has launched a new blog, AgChallenge2050 for agriculture and food system stakeholders to share their perspectives about food and agriculture issues. The blog is an initiative of Farm Foundation's A Dialogue on Food and Agriculture in the 21st Century, which creates opportunities for a full range of stakeholders to have constructive discussions about the diverse challenges of increasing food production to meet global demands while maintaining and protecting natural resources. Contributors to AgChallenge2050 will offer perspectives in four key areas of the Dialogue Project: farm and food policy; adaptability and resilience, the role of science and technology in agriculture, and human capital needs in agriculture and the food system. To date more than a dozen individuals have stepped forward as blog contributors. Check out the blog


(TOP) ~ Nitrogen management on U.S. corn acres, 2001-10

The USDA Economic Research Service has released a report which found that although technical and financial assistance have promoted best management practices like applying nitrogen at agronomic rates or injecting it directly into the soil and the use of best nitrogen management practices has improved since 2001, excessive amounts of nitrogen continued to be applied on 31 percent of corn acres in 2010. Surveyed corn acres receiving manure did not show any improvement in nitrogen management between 2001 and 2010. Since 92 percent of corn acres receiving manure do not meet the rate, timing, and method criteria, a continued policy focus on improved manure management may be warranted, especially if higher commercial fertilizer prices increase the use of manure as a source of nutrients. Read full report


(TOP) ~ More study needed to prevent future water wars

Water challenges linked to climate change will increase the risk of political tensions and even violence in countries that are strategic to the United States in the coming decades, according to a new report called "Global Water Security." The report was commissioned by the State Department and carried out primarily by the Defense Intelligence Agency to evaluate the impact global water issues will have on U.S. national security interests. The report concludes that while it is unlikely there will be wars over water in the next 10 years, water challenges (including drought, floods and poor water quality) could exacerbate regional tensions and could increase the risk of instability and potentially state failure in countries relevant to the United States' global policy interests. Read full report


(TOP) ~ Potential farm-level effects of eliminating direct payments

The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has released a report which found that since 2003, direct payments have accounted for a significant portion of farm program payments. If direct payments were eliminated, many agricultural producers would be affected, both through the loss of income and potential declines in land values and rental rates. An abrupt end to the direct payment program could reduce the number of farms with a favorable financial status (profitable farms having relatively low debt burdens) by about 11,000 nationally, or about 2 percent of farms that received direct payments in 2009. ERS notes that although the potential loss of income and decline in land values could be significant for some farms, new programs (not assessed in this report) that have been proposed in Farm Act deliberations could help maintain farm income stability if direct payments are eliminated. See full report


(TOP) ~ Land prices

In this article, Daryll E. Ray and Harwood D. Schaffer explore the record and near-record cropland prices across the corn belt, noting that the factors driving the willingness to pay higher prices are: low interest rates; federal crop insurance that can provide stable returns in the case of low prices or production problems; and, a possible increase in taxes on long-term capital gains provides incentives for landowners to sell. The authors next look at whether current land prices are sustainable, or a bubble. Recent factors that have positively affected land price increases would need to continue for the prices to be sustainable, they say. The critical question mark, according to Ray and Schaffer, is future crop prices and the ability of revenue insurance to offset lower grain prices. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Engineering Ministries International (EMI) Nepal Project Trip Opportunity

In 1996 EMI visited a small village in Southern Nepal to help a church establish a water system that would serve the local community. The response from that project was astounding and since then the church has seen threefold growth. The church has again asked eMi² to bring a team of design professionals to plan a water system that will serve over 12,500 people in Padampokhari Nepal. This is an opportunity that will involve a specific agricultural engineering and soil science component so please consider putting your skills to use as we serve some of the world's least reached people. Get more information

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ Peterson determined to pass farm bill

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said recently that he will oppose any effort to extend the existing farm bill. Peterson has said he remains opposed to an extension of any kind for any time and has urged the Republican House leadership to bring up the farm bill next week. He is optimistic that, if given the chance, they have the votes to pass a five-year farm bill. He claims is no good reason not to vote on the bill when they return next week, before Thanksgiving. This will give them the time they need to work out their differences with the Senate and get a new five-year farm bill signed into law by the end of the year.


(TOP) ~ EPA releases draft Section 319 nonpoint source program and grant guidelines

EPA has released draft Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories for review and comment. The revised guidelines provide states and territories with a framework to use section 319 Clean Water Act grant funds to effectively implement their state nonpoint source management programs. The guidelines provide updated program direction, an increased emphasis on watershed project implementation in watersheds with impaired waters, and increased accountability measures. They also emphasize the importance of states updating their nonpoint source management programs to ensure that section 319 funds are targeted to the highest priority activities. EPA is requesting comments by December 7. Click here for the guidelines


(TOP) ~ EPA keeps renewable fuels levels in place after considering state requests

The waiver on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) sought by several states due to drought conditions has been denied by the EPA which found that the evidence and information failed to support a determination that implementation of the RFS mandate during the 2012-2013 time period would severely harm the economy of a state, region, or the United States. This decision is based on economic analyses and modeling done in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). EPA notes that economic analyses of impacts in the agricultural sector showed that on average waiving the mandate would only reduce corn prices by approximately one percent. Economic analyses of impacts in the energy sector showed that waiving the mandate would not impact household energy costs. Read press release

Sources: Congressional Hunger Center; Congressional Quarterly; Environmental Protection Agency; Farm Foundation; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; Reuters; Strategic Conservation Solutions; USDA Economic Research Service; Virginia Tech News

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.