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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.

02 January 2013

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ Global corn demand spurs historic shift in China
~ Localized climate projections reveal big trouble for Mexican, Central American farmers
~ FAO and ACP Countries agree strategic partnership
~ Forest products industry slowly recovers from recession
~ Climate still low priority as EPA administrator steps down
~ Mexico finds unlikely allies in trade fight
~ The European Commission and Germany contribute €10 million to UNDP

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Carbon, Hydrogen and Separation Efficiencies in Bio-Oil Conversion Pathways
~ Building a More Inclusive Computing Environment for Science and Engineering
~ Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program
~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Sustainable Bioenergy
~ Children, Youth and Families at Risk Sustainable Community Projects
~ ROSES 2012: MAVEN Participating Scientist Program
~ EarthCube
~ 1890 Facilities Grant Program
~ Distance Education Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas
~ Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grants Program
~ Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ Agency report paints 'sobering' picture of forestlands in coming decades
~ Sustainable agriculture webinar
~ Federal science and engineering support to universities, colleges, and nonprofits
~ Inaugural e-news from the NRC Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources
~ Interagency working group on plant genomics: The National Plant Genome Initiative
~ Farm bill programs on rural communities background report
~ Characteristics of doctoral scientists and engineers in the United States: 2008

Congressional/Administration News

~ No end in sight as congressional impasse over fiscal cliff drags on
~ Peterson announces new agriculture committee democrats
~ Pentagon funding for biofuels survives defense bill conference
~ Mikulski to take gavel as Senate shuffle is held to a minimum
~ Lucas looking for way to move farm law extension
~ Science committee examines US Antarctic program
~ EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, has resigned; effective after January 29

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Global corn demand spurs historic shift in China

According to the U.S. Grains Council, China is on track to produce more corn than rough rice for the first time in history, illustrating the growing affluence by the Chinese middle class and their demand for a more protein-rich diet. In its December World Agricultural Supply & Demand Estimate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture upwardly revised its projection of Chinese corn production from 200 million metric tons (7.9 billion bushels) to 208 million metric tons (8.2 billion bushels). USDA is also projecting a Chinese rough rice production of slightly more than 204 million metric tons. Over the past 20 years, China has experienced explosive growth in meat demand. Poultry consumption has increased 300 percent. Pork consumption has increased 85 percent and beef consumption has increased 155 percent. That is a dramatic contrast to the U.S. figures, which are 45 percent, 6 percent and 3 percent respectively. Rice represents a staple food for more than 2 billion people--including two of the world's most populous countries, India and China--but the data suggests people in China are increasing their desire for animal protein. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Localized climate projections reveal big trouble for Mexican, Central American farmers

A deadly combination of warmer weather and less rainfall in Mexico and its southern neighbors will devastate yields of traditional crops like corn and beans, as well as the region's market-critical coffee harvest, according to two studies. Mexico stands to lose between a quarter and a third of its agricultural production by 2080, according to a study by William Cline of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Global Development. That is more than any country besides India. Central America will see agricultural output shrink between 12 and 24 percent, according to Cline, a loss cushioned by the region's average rainfall of 6 millimeters per day, compared with Mexico's 2 millimeters per day. "The fundamental problem is that water needs will go up as the heat rises, but unfortunately, these countries will be getting less water," Cline said. Land suitable for coffee growing in parts of Central America is expected to shrivel by up to 80 percent by 2050, one of the micro-forecasts published this year said. To head off the slow-motion catastrophe, the region's governments are investing millions of dollars in the development of better seeds and better-trained farmers, among other things.


(TOP) ~ FAO and ACP Countries agree strategic partnership

FAO and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states are to become strategic partners in the fight against hunger and poverty and for the sustainable management of natural resources in the 79-member bloc of countries. Under an agreement signed yesterday, "FAO and the Secretariat of the ACP Group shall strengthen their collaboration to better address continuing food insecurity and malnutrition, hunger, natural resources management and climate change challenges," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Forest products industry slowly recovers from recession

The global forest products industry is slowly recovering from the economic crisis, with the Asia-Pacific region and particularly China taking the lead. New data published by FAO indicate that on average global production of the main forest products grew by 1 to 4 percent in 2011 compared to 2010 showing that countries are slowly coming out of recession. Production of wood-based panels and paper in 2011, for example, was above the pre-crisis levels of 2007 and appears to be growing relatively strong in most regions, whereas global production of industrial roundwood despite an increase of 3 percent in 2011 over the figure for 2010 has not so far reached the pre-crisis levels. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Climate still low priority as EPA administrator steps down

Lisa P. Jackson is stepping down as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency after a four-year tenure that began with high hopes of sweeping action to address climate change and other environmental ills but ended with a series of rear-guard actions to defend the agency against challenges from industry, Republicans in Congress and, at times, the Obama White House. Ms. Jackson, 50, told President Obama shortly after his re-election in November that she wanted to leave the administration early next year. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Mexico finds unlikely allies in trade fight

Tomatoes are at the heart of a trade dispute between the United States and Mexico. Mexican tomatoes, under a 16-year old agreement, are allowed to enter the American market at a minimum price. Florida farmers are leading a campaign to scrap the accord, arguing that it allows farmers in Mexico to export tomatoes at a price below their costs. Trade between the countries is now worth more than $1 billion per day, and tomatoes lead the list of produce exports coming into the U.S. The Commerce Department, in September, announced a preliminary decision to end the accord, and a final decision could be issued in the next few weeks. But other U.S. interests are lining up in favor of continuing it, particularly those businesses and communities that benefit from Mexican tomatoes. Read full article


(TOP) ~ The European Commission and Germany contribute €10 million to UNDP

The European Commission and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) have each announced a €5 million contribution to United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to help assist 25 developing countries around the world reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The joint Low Emission Capacity Building Program (which now has a budget of more than €32 million) was launched in 11 countries in 2011 with contributions from the European Commission and BMU, and expanded to a further 14 countries in 2012 as a result of additional funding from the European Commission and the Government of Australia’s Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and AusAID. Read full article

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Carbon, Hydrogen and Separation Efficiencies in Bio-Oil Conversion Pathways

This Funding Opportunity Announcement will address research and development challenges that were identified at a stakeholder workshop held in December 2011 called “Conversion Technologies for Advanced Biofuels” and from a Request for Information (RFI) conducted in November 2012. This FOA will focus on moving knowledge and understanding of basic or fundamental principles observed at Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 1 into practical, applied research and development at TRLs 2-3 or beyond. The results of the experimental data produced at TRLs 2-3 should validate the researcher’s analytical predictions and lead to inventions or innovations that help overcome key technical barriers to improved yield and economic feasibility of producing biofuels via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways (i.e. fast pyrolysis, ex situ and in situ catalytic fast pyrolysis, hydropyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and solvent liquefaction). Successful applicants will provide an R&D work-plan to address the technical barriers that must be overcome to produce a hydrocarbon fuel blendstock at $3.00/gallon or less (gasoline equivalent), and demonstrate the potential to transfer findings to pilot- and demonstration-scale systems. Deadline 13 Feb. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Building a More Inclusive Computing Environment for Science and Engineering

The NSF's vision for Advanced Computing Infrastructure (ACI) focuses specifically on ensuring that the science and engineering community has ready access to the advanced computational and data-driven capabilities required to tackle the most complex problems and issues facing today's scientific and educational communities. To accomplish these goals requires advanced computational capabilities within the context of a multilevel comprehensive and innovative infrastructure that benefits all fields of science and engineering. Recent developments in computational science have begun to focus on complex, dynamic and diverse workflows. Some of these involve applications that are extremely data intensive and may not be dominated by floating point operation speed. While a number of the earlier acquisitions have addressed a subset of these issues, the current solicitation emphasizes this even further. Deadline 15 Apr. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program

The purpose of this program is to support Extension Agents who establish Extension education programs on the Indian Reservations and Tribal jurisdictions of Federally-Recognized Tribes. To the extent practicable, priorities should reflect the following national critical needs areas: 1) Development of sustainable energy; 2) Increased global food security; 3) Adaptation /mitigation of agriculture and natural resources to global climate change; 4) Reduction of childhood and adolescent obesity; and 5) Improved food safety. Deadline 31 Jan. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Sustainable Bioenergy

This AFRI Challenge Area focuses on the priority to secure America's energy future. It supports the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil, have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts, and are compatible with existing agricultural systems. The long-term outcome for this program is to implement regional systems that materially deliver liquid transportation biofuels to help meet the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 goal of 36 billion gallons/year of biofuels by 2022 and reduce the National dependence on foreign oil. In order to achieve this outcome, this program will support single-function Research, multi-function Integrated Research, Education, and/or Extension Projects, and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants that address one of the Program Area Priorities (see Sustainable Bioenergy RFA for details). Deadline 3 Apr. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Children, Youth and Families at Risk Sustainable Community Projects

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA announces the Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) funding program to improve the quality and quantity of comprehensive community-based programs for at-risk children, youth, and families supported by the Cooperative Extension System. The CYFAR program mission is to marshal resources of the Land-Grant and Cooperative Extension Systems to develop and deliver educational programs that equip limited resource families and youth who are at-risk for not meeting basic human needs with the skills they need to lead positive, productive, contributing lives. Deadline 20 Feb. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ ROSES 2012: MAVEN Participating Scientist Program

This NASA Research Announcement (NRA) solicits proposals for supporting basic and applied research and technology across a broad range of Earth and space science program elements relevant to one or more of the following NASA Research Programs: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Planetary Science, and Astrophysics. This ROSES NRA covers all aspects of basic and applied supporting research and technology in space and Earth sciences, including, but not limited to: theory, modeling, and analysis of SMD science data; aircraft, stratospheric balloon, suborbital rocket, and commercial reusable rocket investigations; development of experiment techniques suitable for future SMD space missions; development of concepts for future SMD space missions; development of advanced technologies relevant to SMD missions; development of techniques for and the laboratory analysis of both extraterrestrial samples returned by spacecraft, as well as terrestrial samples that support or otherwise help verify observations from SMD Earth system science missions; determination of atomic and composition parameters needed to analyze space data, as well as returned samples from the Earth or space; Earth surface observations and field campaigns that support SMD science missions; development of integrated Earth system models; development of systems for applying Earth science research data to societal needs; and development of applied information systems applicable to SMD objectives and data. Deadline 1 Mar. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ EarthCube

EarthCube is a community-driven activity sponsored through a partnership between the NSF Directorate of Geosciences and Office of Cyberinfrastructure to transform the conduct of geosciences research and education. EarthCube aims to create a well-connected and facile environment to share data and knowledge in an open, transparent, and inclusive manner, thus accelerating the ability of the geosciences community to understand and predict the Earth system. EarthCube is a long-term dialog between the NSF and the interested scientific communities to develop cyberinfrastructure that is thoughtfully and systematically built to meet the current and future requirements of geoscientists. New avenues will be supported to gather community requirements and priorities for the elements of EarthCube, and to capture the best technologies to meet the current and future needs of the broad and diverse geoscience community. Deadline 26 Mar. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ 1890 Facilities Grant Program

The 1890 Facilities Grant Program is intended for the acquisition and improvement of agricultural and food sciences facilities and equipment, including libraries, so that the 1890 land-grant institutions, including Tuskegee University and West Virginia State University may participate fully in the development of human capital in the food and agricultural sciences. Deadline 11 Feb. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Distance Education Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas

The purpose of this program is strengthen the capacity of Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas to carry out resident instruction, curriculum, and teaching programs in the food and agricultural sciences through distance education technology. The Distance Education Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas (DEG) is a NIFA-administered competitive grants program focused on improving formal, postsecondary agricultural sciences education. Deadline 1 Mar. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grants Program

The purpose of the BRAG program is to support the generation of new information that will assist Federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the effects of introducing into the environment genetically engineered organisms (GE), including plants, microorganisms (including fungi, bacteria, and viruses), arthropods, fish, birds, mammals and other animals excluding humans. Investigations of effects on both managed and natural environments are relevant. The BRAG program accomplishes its purpose by providing Federal regulatory agencies with scientific information relevant to regulatory issues. Deadline 21 Mar. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program

The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program seeks to encourage talented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers. The Noyce Scholarship Track provides funds to institutions of higher education to support scholarships, stipends, and academic programs for undergraduate STEM majors and post-baccalaureate students holding STEM degrees who earn a teaching credential and commit to teaching in high-need K-12 school districts. The NSF Teaching Fellowship/Master Teaching Fellowship Track provides funding to support STEM professionals who enroll as NSF Teaching Fellows in master's degree programs leading to teacher certification by providing academic courses, professional development, and salary supplements while they are fulfilling a four-year teaching commitment in a high-need school district. Deadline 20 Mar. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports


(TOP) ~ Agency report paints 'sobering' picture of forestlands in coming decades

Rapid population growth over the next five decades will result in the loss of millions of acres of privately owned forests in and around national forests, fragmenting wildlife habitat and negatively affecting water quality, according to a new Forest Service report that one top Obama administration official termed "sobering." The nearly 200-page document also warns that increased temperatures due to climate change could dry up critical watersheds originating in national forests, leading to water shortages in the Southwest and the Great Plains areas. The report recommends that the service develop flexible forest and rangeland policies for the 193 million acres it manages that would allow it to adjust quickly as climate and land-use patterns change. If national policymakers do so, "the negative effects on the environment, economy, and society portrayed by the scenarios in this report are not foregone conclusions”. Urban development and the volume of developed land areas, mostly in the South, are expected to increase 41 percent by 2060, according to the report, resulting in the loss of as much as 34 million acres of forested lands in the lower 48 states. Read full report


(TOP) ~ Sustainable agriculture webinar

The title of this free webinar is 'Factoring Sustainable Agriculture into the Food vs. Fuel Debate'. It intends to bring thought-leading perspectives on how we should be addressing a key component of this crucial environmental issue. Both food and fuel are vital necessities; the ever-increasing demand for food by our growing population is clear and the use of clean fuels to mitigate against climate change and environmental degradation is also imperative. A polarized debate over the 'correct' use of agricultural production is no longer useful as it is obvious that agricultural commodities will continue to be used by both the food and fuel markets. Rather than deliberating over how agricultural products are utilized, effectively delivering sustainability and efficiency to increase crop yields through smart farming practices can calm rising tensions between end users. Get more information


(TOP) ~ Federal science and engineering support to universities, colleges, and nonprofits

NSF annually collects statistical data from the 19 federal agencies that account for virtually all support for science and engineering (S&E) research and development at educational institutions. Data are also collected on these agencies' obligations to nonprofit institutions. The 52 detailed statistical tables presented in this report are based on data from the Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: FY 2009. Data included in this report are federal academic and nonprofit obligations by type of activity, by year, by geographic division and state, by agency, and by individual institution rankings. Each category of support is broken down into ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) and non-ARRA components. Read full report


(TOP) ~ Inaugural e-news from the NRC Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources

The National Research Council’s (NRC), the operational arm of the not-for-profit, nongovernmental, independent National Academy of Sciences, Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources has launched its inaugural e-newsletter, which will provide an update 4 times a year on NRC studies and other activities organized under the auspices of the Board. NRC BANR also plans to use the newsletter as way to seek feedback on ideas for studies and workshops that the Board is developing. Subscribe and, in the inaugural issue, learn about the membership of an important new committee: Committee to Review the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) - this is USDA’s flagship competitive grants program. Subscribe to the newsletter


(TOP) ~ Interagency working group on plant genomics: The National Plant Genome Initiative

The National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI) was established in 1998 as a coordinated national research program by the Interagency Working Group on Plant Genomes (IWGPG) under the Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council. The goal of the NPGI is to develop a basic knowledge of the structures and functions of plant genomes and to translate this knowledge to a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of economically important plants and plant processes of potential economic value. The IWGPG was re-established in November 2012 under the Life Sciences Subcommittee of the Committee on Science to engage the plant community in prioritizing genomics tools and resources, define new strategies that will meet community needs and priorities sustainably, advance biological innovation and breakthrough discovery, and improve coordination among Federal agencies and international plant genomics partners. As part of its activities, the IWGPG has been charged with seeking input from the broader research community, including the public and private sectors as well as the international community, towards the development of the NPGI 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. Read workshop announcement


(TOP) ~ Farm bill programs on rural communities background report

As part of AGree’s ongoing efforts to lay the groundwork for a common understanding of the complex issues facing our food and agriculture system, they have released a final background report for 2012. The background report was written by Douglas Jackson-Smith, professor of sociology, Utah State University; Jessica D. Ulrich-Schad, doctoral candidate in sociology, University of New Hampshire; and Curt Grimm, research associate professor of anthropology and deputy director of the Carsey Institute, University of New Hampshire. The report summarizes the impact of federal farm and food programs on rural communities in the United States. The report focuses on five programs: farm commodity programs; farm risk management, insurance, and disaster programs; agricultural conservation programs; food and nutrition programs; and rural development programs. Read full report


(TOP) ~ Characteristics of doctoral scientists and engineers in the United States: 2008

This report contains detailed statistical tables that present data from the 2008 Survey of Doctorate Recipients, a biennial panel survey that collects data on the demographic and general employment characteristics of individuals who have received a research doctorate in a science, engineering, or health field from a U.S. academic institution. The published tables provide information on the number and median salaries of doctoral scientists and engineers by field of doctorate and occupation, by demographic characteristics, and by employment-related characteristics. See full report

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ No end in sight as congressional impasse over fiscal cliff drags on

As lawmakers creep closer to the fiscal cliff, they are working under the shadow of multiple failed attempts by President Barack Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner to strike a sweeping deal. And they have no clear legislative path forward outside those talks. Boehner brought to the floor a plan that would allow taxes to increase only on millionaires but had to pull it for lack of votes. Even before then, leaders acknowledged that bill wasn’t the end game. Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA), Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) and every other Republican leader was pressing flesh for “plan B,” a rare sight in Congress. Even though Senate Democrats vowed they would not take up the measure and Obama has threatened to veto it, the vote was seen as important because Boehner cast it as not just a show of strength to Democrats but a dose of reality for his conference. Senate Republicans saw the measure as a means to a legislative end. Top GOP aides wonder when the talks between the principals will resume in earnest. When asked, senators did not indicate there were any contingency plans in case the administration and House GOP fall short of a deal and take the government over the fiscal cliff. If it’s true that there’s no real backup plan in the works, congressional Democrats could face some pressure to step up to the table and work out a deal with their Republican counterparts.


(TOP) ~ Peterson announces new agriculture committee democrats

U.S. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., has announced four new Democratic members appointed to the Committee for the 113th Congress. “I look forward to working with these new members during the 113th Congress,” Peterson said. “Each member brings a great deal of expertise and a commitment to addressing the wide-ranging issues overseen by the Committee.” The new members joining the Committee include: Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1), Ann Kuster (NH-2), Gloria McLeod (CA-35) and Filemon Vela (TX-34). Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla, has also announced five subcommittee chairmen for the House Agriculture Committee. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) will once again chair the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) will retain his chairmanship over the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. Three lawmakers will receive subpanel gavels from departing committee members. Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) will chair the Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, while Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) will chair the Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development and Credit. Rep. Steve King of Iowa (R) will chair the Department Operations, Oversight and Nutrition Subcommittee.


(TOP) ~ Pentagon funding for biofuels survives defense bill conference

Defense authorization bill conferees have reached a compromise agreement on biofuels provisions in the fiscal 2013 defense policy bill, fencing off about $70 million in defense funding for the building of a biofuels refinery until the departments of Energy and Agriculture pony up equal funding. The restrictions on the money reflect growing concerns among Republicans (as well as the oil industry at large) about the Pentagon’s efforts to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Some lawmakers are also concerned that the administration is attempting to create a market for biofuels that would compete with oil. The deal in conference allows the biofuels program to go forward largely unfettered, but still reflects concerns among GOP lawmakers that Defense shouldn’t pick up a disproportionate share of the costs with its overall budget under pressure. House language that would have prohibited the purchase of biofuels if they were more costly than other typically used fuels was stricken from the measure as a trade-off with the fenced funds for the refinery. While the Pentagon had sought $70 million in FY’13 for the refinery project, the Energy Department sought only $40 million and Agriculture had no funds set aside for the project. The use of the funds, according to the agreement, would not be limited in time, meaning whenever the other two agencies come up with the matching funds, the Defense dollars would be released for the project.


(TOP) ~ Mikulski to take gavel as Senate shuffle is held to a minimum

The death of Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) isn't setting off that many dominoes after all. Rather than undertaking a major shuffling of committee leadership, Senate Democrats instead decided to make history and will tap Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski to be the new Appropriations chairwoman. After a formal meeting of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Mikulski will become the first woman to run an appropriations panel in either chamber of Congress. At the time of Inouye's death, Mikulski was the fourth-ranking Democrat on Appropriations. But the second most senior Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont (who just replaced Inouye as Senate president pro tempore) decided to retain the gavel on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And the next in line, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), already chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Mikulski, 76, a 26-year veteran of the Senate, will be a far feistier Appropriations leader than either of her immediate predecessors: Inouye and the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.). It is not yet clear who will take over Mikulski's gavel at the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.


(TOP) ~ Lucas looking for way to move farm law extension

The House Agriculture chairman is exploring options for moving a renewal and extension of the 2008 farm law as the chances for producing a five-year bill this session fade. Chairman Frank R. Lucas said he has not made a decision about a farm bill extension, although he is trying to identify legislative vehicles that could carry one. An extension would give lawmakers additional time to produce a five-year farm bill in the 113th Congress if the two Agriculture committees cannot produce a compromise or cannot find a vehicle to which they can attach an agreement now. Lucas is planning to mark up a farm bill Feb. 27 if there is no final bill in the lame duck. Lucas is unlikely to find support from Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow for an extension. In a floor speech, Stabenow, D-Mich., renewed her call for passage of a five-year farm bill. The National Farmers Union agreed with her, affirming its opposition to a renewal and extension of the 2008 law (PL 110-246), which expired Sept. 30. “Any short-term extension of the farm bill would only cause a litany of problems that will not be easily fixed when a new farm bill eventually is signed into law,” NFU President Roger Johnson said. Lucas said the Senate’s $60.4 billion disaster aid bill for areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy could serve as a vehicle for an extension of farm policy.


(TOP) ~ Science committee examines US Antarctic program

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing to examine the work and goals of the US Antarctic program and to review recommendations from the US Antarctic Program Blue Ribbon Panel July 2012 report. In 2011, the National Research Council released a report on “Future Science Opportunities in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean” laying out recommendations for the direction of scientific research in Antarctica for the next two decades. Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) stated that he recognized the importance of the US maintaining a presence in Antarctica. He welcomed the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Panel and was pleased that the Panel provided specific implementing actions that could be categorized as either essential for safety and health, readily implementable, or investments having large payoffs. Norman Augustine, Chair of the Panel, noted that there were a number of opportunities to reduce logistical demands and that the Antarctic program does not have a capital budget. Augustine described specific financial recommendations in order to address funding the ten policy recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Panel stating that “a seven-year financial breakeven is considered by the Panel to be a reasonable investment, particularly when compared to the cost of not making it.” Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation, highlighted three discoveries as a result of scientific work in the Antarctic region: identifying the ozone hole, discovering antifreeze proteins, and the recent discovery of the Phoenix Galaxy Cluster which generates the highest rate of stars per year ever documented. He chartered a group within NSF to respond to the threats of program failure by creating a 5-year investment plan and a strategy to implement the recommendations issued in the report.


(TOP) ~ EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, has resigned; effective after January 29

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has announced that she is stepping down after four years in office, a move that is likely to spark a tough confirmation battle over her eventual successor. Jackson said in a statement that she was awaiting "new challenges," having made "historic progress" on various issues, including air pollution, toxic chemicals and children's health issues. She will depart after President Obama's State of the Union speech in January. Bob Perciasepe, the deputy administrator, will serve as acting EPA administrator, assuming no one is confirmed by the time Jackson departs. He is also a possible contender to replace Jackson permanently. With Republicans controlling the House, whoever replaces Jackson is likely to spend as much time defending the agency's agenda as she did for the last two years. Obama said in a statement that Jackson has shown "unwavering commitment to the health of our families and our children" during her term of office. Under her leadership, the agency has taken "sensible and important steps to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink," he added. Read full statement

Sources: American Institute of Physics; 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; National Academy of Sciences; National Science Foundation; United Nations Development Program; World Biofuels Markets

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