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Science Policy Report

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19 December 2012

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ Doha climate conference opens gateway to greater ambition and action on climate change
~ Meanwhile…dismay at agriculture impasse in UN climate talks
~ FAO calls for farmer-centered approach to investment in agriculture
~ Immigration waits in the wings
~ Global report: obesity bigger health crisis than hunger
~ Council endorses hunger eradication as FAO’s number one goal

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI): NIFA Fellowships Grant Program
~ Plant Genome Research Program
~ WISH: Women in STEM High School Aerospace Scholars
~ IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program 2013
~ Research Coordination Networks
~ BLM Utah Youth Initiative Program FY 2013
~ Global Biosecurity Engagement Activities
~ Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) NIST Boulder Programs
~ ANNH-Serving Institutions Education Competitive Grants Program
~ Adaptation of Western US Agriculture to Climate Change Induced Water Scarcity

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ Societies initiate AFRI coalition letter to the president
~ PCAST releases ag preparedness report
~ Nominations open for 2013 Borlaug CAST Communication award
~ EPA’s 2012 national water program strategy: response to climate change
~ Solicitation of review editors for the draft report of the NCADAC
~ Season-average price forecasts for corn, soybeans, and wheat
~ Water quality standards for Florida's lakes and flowing waters; proposed rule

Congressional/Administration News

~ Spending bills stalled, another CR looms
~ Lubchenco announces resignation, spurs talk about who'll replace her
~ Societies join AAAS in signing multi-organization letter on sequestration
~ No word on farm bill in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Doha climate conference opens gateway to greater ambition and action on climate change

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, governments have taken the next essential step in the global response to climate change. Countries have successfully launched a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, agreed a firm timetable to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015 and agreed on a path to raise necessary ambition to respond to climate change. They also endorsed the completion of new institutions and agreed ways and means to deliver scaled-up climate finance and technology to developing countries. The Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, called on countries to swiftly implement what has been agreed in Doha so that the world can stay below the internationally agreed maximum two degrees Celsius temperature rise. Get more information


(TOP) ~ Meanwhile…dismay at agriculture impasse in UN climate talks

Farmers, researchers and policy makers have expressed their disappointment that progress towards including agriculture in the U.N. climate talks has stalled, with little hope of getting it back onto the agenda at the negotiations in Qatar. Recent discussions in the committee handling the issue failed to reach agreement, largely due to differences over whether to include the role of agriculture in reducing or mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the developing countries don't want any mention of mitigation, which could be because they don't believe there should be any targets that affect their food security. Agriculture is responsible for 14 percent of global climate-changing emissions, a figure that rises to 19-29 percent if all the processes of food production are included. Read full article


(TOP) ~ FAO calls for farmer-centered approach to investment in agriculture

Making more and better investments in agriculture is one of the most effective ways to reduce hunger and poverty while safeguarding the environment. This is the key message of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ flagship annual report, The State of Food and Agriculture 2012 (SOFA). The world´s more than one billion farmers must be central to any agricultural investment strategy, as they are the biggest investors in this sector, the report notes. But farmers' investments are often limited by unfavorable investment climates. A new investment strategy is needed that puts agricultural producers at its center. New data compiled for the report show that farmers in low and middle income countries invest more than $170 billion a year in their farms. According to the FAO report, investing in agriculture is clearly paying off. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Immigration waits in the wings

Immigration reform is waiting quietly in the wings. President Barack Obama promised top Latino leaders on a conference call that once a deal is reached on the fiscal cliff, he’ll throw the full force of the White House behind overhauling the country’s immigration laws. Top Obama aides are already laying the groundwork for a campaign-style operation to broaden the base of support for a mega-bill. The White House will not only target Latino voters but also religious leaders, law enforcement and others, according to sources familiar with the administration’s thinking. Officials have met in recent weeks with prominent Hispanic activists like Henry Muñoz on the issue of immigration reform. Latino leaders this is a clear sign that Obama plans to keep his word and make immigration a signature policy of his second term. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Global report: obesity bigger health crisis than hunger

Obesity is a bigger health crisis globally than hunger, and the leading cause of disabilities around the world, according to a new report published in the British medical journal The Lancet. Nearly 500 researchers from 50 countries compared health data from 1990 through 2010 for the Global Burden of Disease report, revealing what they call a massive shift in global health trends. The report revealed that every country, with the exception of those in sub-Saharan Africa, faces alarming obesity rates, an increase of 82% globally in the past two decades. Middle Eastern countries are more obese than ever, seeing a 100% increase since 1990. The so-called 'Western lifestyle' is being adapted all around the world, and the impacts are all the same. The health burden from high body mass indexes now exceeds that due to hunger, according to the report. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Council endorses hunger eradication as FAO’s number one goal

FAO's governing Council ended its week-long meeting by endorsing a change in the Organization's first global goal from merely reducing hunger to its eradication. "This unequivocal commitment sets our sights where they should be," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "We cannot accept anything less than the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition." The Council, which meets every six months to oversee program and budgetary activities, also endorsed the strategic objectives that will guide FAO's future work. "The strategic objectives which you have endorsed set us in the right path to give an even greater contribution to the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition," Graziano da Silva told the Council at its closing session. Read full article

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI): NIFA Fellowships Grant Program

The FY 2013 AFRI NIFA Fellowship RFA focuses on developing the next generation of research, education, and extension professionals in the food and agricultural sciences who will lead agriculture into the future by solving current and future challenges facing our society. The AFRI NIFA Fellowships Grant Program targets talented, highly-motivated doctoral candidates and postdoctoral trainees that demonstrate remarkable promise and the potential to become gifted education, extension, and research professionals in the United States. The NIFA Fellows are individuals who have the potential for remarkable accomplishments in agricultural science. The Program seeks to develop the technical and academic competence of doctoral candidates and the research independence and teaching competencies of postdoctoral students in the food, forestry and agricultural sciences, which are within NIFA’s challenge areas. Deadline 7 Mar. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Plant Genome Research Program

This program is a continuation of the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) that began in FY 1998 as part of the National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI). Since the inception of the NPGI and the PGRP, there has been a tremendous increase in the availability of functional genomics tools and sequence resources for use in the study of key crop plants and their models. Proposals are welcomed that build on these resources to develop conceptually new and different ideas and strategies to address grand challenge questions in plants of economic importance on a genome-wide scale. There is also a critical need for the development of novel and creative tools to facilitate new experimental approaches or new ways of analyzing genomic data. Especially encouraged are proposals that provide strong and novel training opportunities integral to the research plan and particularly across disciplines that include, but are not limited to, plant physiology, quantitative genetics, biochemistry, bioinformatics and engineering. Deadline 13 Mar. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ WISH: Women in STEM High School Aerospace Scholars

NASA is looking for the engineers, scientists, researchers and innovators of tomorrow. The WISH project offers a one-of-a-kind experience for female high school students to jump start their future and explore the possibilities of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related major or career. WISH is looking for female high school juniors from across the country to join in this great adventure. WISH starts with an online community and culminates with a summer experience at a NASA Center. Deadline 3 Jan. Get more information


(TOP) ~ IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program 2013

Each summer, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), located in Schloss Laxenburg near Vienna, Austria, hosts a selected group of graduate students from around the world in its Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP). These students work closely with an IIASA senior scientist mentor on a project proposed by the student, related to his or her graduate research, with the goal of a publishable paper. Deadline 14 Jan. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Research Coordination Networks

The goal of the RCN program is to advance a field or create new directions in research or education by supporting groups of investigators to communicate and coordinate their research, training and educational activities across disciplinary, organizational, geographic and international boundaries. RCN provides opportunities to foster new collaborations, including international partnerships, and address interdisciplinary topics. Innovative ideas for implementing novel networking strategies, collaborative technologies, and development of community standards for data and meta-data are especially encouraged. Proposed networking activities directed to the RCN program should focus on a theme to give coherence to the collaboration, such as a broad research question or particular technologies or approaches. Deadline 4 Mar. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ BLM Utah Youth Initiative Program FY 2013

BLM-Utah has youth funding available to work with youth organizations and conservation corps for the purposes of introducing youth ages 16 to 25 year of age to careers in the BLM and accomplishing needed work. BLM is interested in working with youth to complete conservation projects that enhance the students’ classroom learning by providing them opportunities to gain experience, learn about public lands, further their understanding and appreciation of natural and cultural resources, and pique their interest in natural resource careers. Young men and women who participate in the rehabilitation and restoration of our nation’s natural, cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational, comprehensive environmental field studies and service programs that advance ecological literacy, conservation, and environmental research in the areas of public land restoration, forestry, and trail work and scenic treasures will gain an increased appreciation and understanding of our public lands and of the value of public service, and are likely to become life-long advocates for those values. Deadline 30 June. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Global Biosecurity Engagement Activities

The Department of State’s Office to Cooperative Threat Reduction (ISN/CTR) is pleased to announce an open competition for assistance awards through this Request for Proposals (RFP). ISN/CTR invites non-profit/non-governmental organizations and educational institutions to submit proposals for projects that will advance the mission of the Department’s Biosecurity Engagement Program (BEP). ISN/CTR has approximately $20,000,000 available in the current fiscal year to award multiple grants and cooperative agreements in this field. ISN/CTR prefers projects that cost less than $500,000, though awards may involve multiple projects that cumulatively exceed $500,000. Deadline 1 Feb. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) NIST Boulder Programs

NIST Boulder is soliciting applications from eligible colleges and universities located in the U.S. and its territories nominating undergraduate students to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) NIST Boulder Programs (SURF NIST Boulder Programs). The SURF NIST Boulder Programs will provide research opportunities for undergraduate students to work with internationally known NIST scientists, to expose them to cutting-edge research, and to promote the pursuit of graduate degrees in science and engineering. Deadline 15 Feb. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ ANNH-Serving Institutions Education Competitive Grants Program

The purpose of this program is to promote and strengthen the ability of Alaska Native-Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian (ANNH)-Serving Institutions to carry out education, applied research, and related community development programs. NIFA intends this program to address educational needs, as determined by each institution, within a broadly defined arena of food and agricultural sciences-related disciplines. Priority will be given to those projects that enhance educational equity for underrepresented students; strengthen institutional educational capacities; prepare students for careers related to the food, agricultural, and natural resource systems of the United States; and maximize the development and use of resources to improve food and agricultural sciences teaching programs. Deadline 1 Mar. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Adaptation of Western US Agriculture to Climate Change Induced Water Scarcity

The goal of this proposed research is to compile and synthesize studies that address the impact of climate change on water resources and agricultural production in the western US. This proposed research is expected to prepare the basis for a larger project where data collected in this phase plus data to be identified from existing datasets will be merged and analyzed to provide a quantitative assessment of adaptation of farmers to Climate Change Induced Water Scarcity. Deadline 28 Dec. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports


(TOP) ~ Societies initiate AFRI coalition letter to the president

ASA, CSSA, and SSSA along with several other signatories from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) coalition, have initiated a letter effort to ask the President and congressional leaders to avoid further cuts to AFRI. In light of ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations and the prospect of sequestration, the letter is of important value as it highlights several concerns from those in the science community regarding the potential budget cuts. “If the fiscal cliff occurs, cutting-edge research that will help meet the technological challenges of today may be severely delayed or even lost, harming both today’s scientific enterprise and tomorrow’s scientific leaders, who are currently trainees and students”, the letter says. Read full letter


(TOP) ~ PCAST releases ag preparedness report

The report by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on Agricultural Preparedness and The Agriculture Research Enterprise recommends that the government increase investments in agricultural research and create six institutes across the country to address challenges. Those challenges include water use, pests and pathogens, agriculture's environmental footprint, the production of bioenergy, and the ability to grow food amid climate change. The council, an advisory group of leading scientists and engineers appointed by the president, did the analysis at the request of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and a working group carried out the research and made recommendations to the full council. The report also recommends that the government increase investments in agricultural research by $700 million a year through expanding competitive programs within the Department of Agriculture, increasing the National Science Foundation budget for agricultural research, and awarding more fellowships for graduate and post-doctoral researchers. Read press release and See full report


(TOP) ~ Nominations open for 2013 Borlaug CAST Communication award

Nominations are open for the 2013 Borlaug CAST Communication Award, an honor that recognizes professionals actively working in the agricultural, environmental, or food sectors who are promoting agricultural science in the public policy arena. This award has become an influential component in the efforts to keep agricultural issues and programs in the public eye and in front of national and world policymakers. Organized by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, and sponsored by DuPont Pioneer, the award carries on the legacy of Dr. Norman Borlaug. The award winner will receive a bronze sculpture, an honorarium, and an invitation to give a presentation at an award ceremony. Deadline 1 Feb. Access nomination form


(TOP) ~ EPA’s 2012 national water program strategy: response to climate change

The document describes how EPA’s water-related programs plan to address the impacts of climate change. It describes long-term visions, goals and strategic actions for the management of sustainable water resources for future generations in five key areas: infrastructure, watersheds and wetlands, coastal and ocean waters, water quality, and working with Tribes. It also includes EPA's goals and strategic actions in 10 geographic climate regions. The 2012 Strategy emphasizes working collaboratively with partners and stakeholders, developing information and tools, incorporating adaptation into core programs, and managing risks of impacts including from extreme weather events. See full strategy


(TOP) ~ Solicitation of review editors for the draft report of the NCADAC

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking nominations for review editors of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC) National Climate Assessment 2013 Draft Report which informs the nation about already observed changes, the current status of the climate, and anticipated trends for the future. The NCA report process integrates scientific information from multiple sources and sectors to highlight key findings and significant gaps in our knowledge. The NCA also establishes consistent methods for evaluating climate impacts in the U.S. in the context of broader global change. The NCADAC anticipates releasing a draft of the Third NCA Report for expert review and public comment in early 2013. See federal register notice


(TOP) ~ Season-average price forecasts for corn, soybeans, and wheat

The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has released its latest data in which a futures-price forecasting model is used to provide season-average price forecasts. ERS notes that farmers and policymakers are interested in the level of counter-cyclical payments (CCPs) provided by the 2008 Farm Act to producers of selected commodities. CCPs are based on the season-average price received by farmers. This data product provides three Excel spreadsheet models that use futures prices to forecast the U.S. season-average price received and the implied CCP for three major field crops (corn, soybeans, and wheat). Users can view the model forecasts or create their own forecast by inserting different values for futures prices, basis values, or marketing weights. Get more information


(TOP) ~ Water quality standards for Florida's lakes and flowing waters; proposed rule

EPA has issued a Proposed Rule that would temporarily stay its regulation the 'Water Quality Standards for the State of Florida's Lakes and Flowing Waters; Final Rule' (inland waters rule) to November 15, 2013. EPA's inland waters rule currently includes an effective date of January 6, 2013, for the entire regulation except for the site-specific alternative criteria provision, which took effect on February 4, 2011. This proposed stay does not affect or change the February 4, 2011, effective date for the site-specific alternative criteria provision. The December 6, 2010 Final Rule established numeric nutrient criteria in the form of total nitrogen, total phosphorus, nitrate+nitrite, and chlorophyll for the different types of Florida's inland waters to assure attainment of the State's applicable water quality designated uses. See proposed rule

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ Spending bills stalled, another CR looms

Steny HoyerCongress is unlikely to move any fiscal 2013 spending bills by the end of the year, a decision likely guaranteeing the federal government will operate under a continuing resolution for the entire year. Appropriators say they have made significant progress in settling differences between House and Senate spending bills and had hoped several bills could be rolled into a year-end omnibus. But leaders, focused on a fiscal cliff accord and emergency aid for superstorm Sandy, have shown little interest in moving a catchall spending bill. “I think it is pretty tough to do an omnibus in the time available to them,” Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said. Instead, Congress is most likely to pass another six-month CR to cover the remainder of fiscal 2013, probably just before the current stopgap expires March 27. Operating under CRs for an entire year has become a recent trend in election years. A second six-month CR for fiscal 2013 would likely contain a large number of special provisions to address urgent needs of federal agencies, inviting some of the same political battles that would have come with an omnibus. Some appropriators remained optimistic about clearing fiscal 2013 spending legislation eventually, noting that bipartisan agreements were in the works. But a new Congress would likely have little interest in considering fiscal 2013 bills and would be more inclined to focus on the 2014 budget process.


(TOP) ~ Lubchenco announces resignation, spurs talk about who'll replace her

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco has announced that she will step down in February, ending a four-year tenure where she dealt with controversial issues, from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to the skyrocketing cost of weather satellites. She became the first woman to lead NOAA in 2009, and being a marine biologist, she represented a shift for an agency whose previous two leaders had backgrounds in oceanography. In her departure email, Lubchenco highlighted 20 "top achievements" during her time at the agency, including "ending over-fishing," strengthening the nation's environmental satellite infrastructure and creating the first National Ocean Policy. Names of several possible replacements have been bandied about among ocean experts who track NOAA issues, including Terry Garcia, Frances Ullmer and Andrew Rosenberg. But the NOAA post could go unfilled for some time, as the administration will have to first appoint and confirm a secretary of Commerce. Lubchenco has been a steadfast champion of science and under her leadership, NOAA renewed its focus on key ocean issues like ending overfishing, reducing marine debris, protecting the Arctic and tackling climate change and ocean acidification.


(TOP) ~ Societies join AAAS in signing multi-organization letter on sequestration

ASA, CSSA, and SSSA have signed onto a AAAS letter with over a hundred other organizations representing science, engineering, higher education and business. The letter urges the White House and congressional leaders to strike a balanced compromise on the looming “fiscal cliff” that avoids harming critical research efforts. The letter mentions that non-defense R&D funding has already declined by 5% in the past two years, and sequestration cuts “significantly threaten” U.S. leadership in areas ranging from agriculture and national security to energy. Read full letter


(TOP) ~ No word on farm bill in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

While President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) appear to be edging closer to an agreement on fiscal cliff legislation, there has been no apparent progress on negotiations between the House and Senate on the farm bill, and no word on whether it may be included in fiscal cliff legislation. A key farm lobbyist said leaders of the agriculture committees “are a bit stuck until Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, tell them they will or won’t put the bill in the fiscal cliff.” The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and other organizations critical of farm bill spending held a joint news conference in which they urged Congress not to pass a “secret farm bill” as part of the fiscal cliff legislation. “There’s a ways to go before the farm bill gets to the president’s desk, but legislators are working off of two solid draft bills,” said Dale Moore, American Farm Bureau Federation farm policy specialist.

Sources: American Farm Bureau Federation; Congressional Quarterly; Council for Agricultural Science and Technology; Energy and Environment Daily; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; Meridian Institute; Politico

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.