Science Policy Report

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27 February 2013

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ Learning to fight global warming, one crop at a time
~ Food and nutrition security should be the top development goal
~ Nutrition and food security in the city
~ Apply to present at G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture
~ Communities try to adapt to climate change in Nepal
~ U.N.'s sustainable energy initiative could keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ AFWA Bioenergy
~ FY 2013 Conservation Innovation Grants
~ FY13 and FY14 Region 10 Wetland Program Development Grants
~ ROSES 2013: Terrestrial Ecology
~ Minor Crop Pest Management Program Interregional Research Project (IR-4)
~ Research Training Program for College and University Students
~ Bay-Delta Restoration Program: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency Grants

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ Melting tundra releases CO2 more quickly than previous estimates
~ USDA releases agricultural projections to 2022
~ Too hot, too wet, too dry: building resilient agro-ecosystems
~ Ethanol driving push to convert grassland to cropland
~ Drought persists, despite some improvements
~ Global warming impacts on streams depend on system's landscape

Congressional/Administration News

~ Senate to vote on dueling bills to avert cuts, but no deal in sight
~ NDD letter sent to congress
~ Vilsack likely to face questions on proposed spending cuts
~ Subcommittee to spotlight travel, conference spending
~ White House mulls new global food aid approach: send cash
~ USDA proposes revised definition of 'rural'

International Corner

(TOP) ~ Learning to fight global warming, one crop at a time

Simple changes in the use of fertilizers and pest control can help European farms cut their energy use by 10 to 20 percent and reduce greenhouse emissions, a study showed. In September 2010, Fundación Global Nature launched the AgriClimateChange project. Funded by the European Commission, the project sought to determine energy usage and emission levels in more than 130 farms across Spain, France, Germany and Italy, and come up with a list of practical measures to mitigate agriculture's contribution to global warming. The organization compiled information about the average use of tractors and other machinery, fuel consumption, and fertilizer and pesticide use in each of the farms, and developed software to calculate the farms' initial energy and emissions balance. In the following years, each farm put into action several energy-savings measures and the energy usage values were recalculated. "By implementing simple and realistic measures in over 25 citrus, olive, banana and tomato farms in Valencia and the Canary Islands, we've proven that it's possible to reduce between 10 and 20 percent of their energy usage and greenhouse gases," said Jordi Domingo, an agricultural technician at the foundation.

(TOP) ~ Food and nutrition security should be the top development goal

A global multi-stakeholder consultation to discuss the world development agenda beyond 2015 has called for food security and nutrition to be the central element in future development efforts. New development objectives should be established for the entire global community. The one-day consultation on Hunger, Food Security and Nutrition in the Post-2015 Development Agenda stressed that food security and nutrition represent the cornerstone for progress on other development fronts such as employment, education, the environment and health and in achieving a quality future for humankind. The meeting brought together some 180 government, international organization, civil society and private sector stakeholders of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the foremost inclusive platform to discuss food security and nutrition-related issues. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Nutrition and food security in the city

nutritionIn this opinion piece, William J. Garvelink, a senior advisor with the Global Strategy, International Medical Corps at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Kristin Wedding, a fellow and deputy director with the CSIS Global Food Security Project, ask how we will feed a growing, richer and more urban population in the future. Because demographic trends will shape food security: not only will we need to feed over nine billion people by 2050, but we will see massive urbanization, with the majority of it taking place in Africa and Asia. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Apply to present at G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture

The G-8 has scheduled an 'International Conference on Open Data in Agriculture' for April 29 and 30, 2013 in Washington, DC which is intended to convene policy makers, thought leaders, food security stakeholders, and data experts to discuss the role of open data in increasing food security and to build a strategy to spur innovation by making agriculture data more accessible. Innovators are invited to demonstrate the impact of open data on food security; demonstrate the impact of access to agriculturally-relevant data on developed and/or developing countries; and/or demonstrate the impact of bringing multiple sources of agriculturally-relevant public and/or private open data together. Get more information

(TOP) ~ Communities try to adapt to climate change in Nepal

Communities in Nepal are beginning to feel the effects of climate change and are trying to adapt, a survey showed. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Nepal has been gathering information on communities' attitudes and responses to climate variations. According to climate change adaptation specialist Valdemar Holmgren, preliminary results for one area show people are fully aware of changes in climate patterns. The survey indicates that more than 80 percent of households in the Koshi River basin in the east of Nepal notice a change in temperature, while about 90 percent note changes in rainfall. As a result, some farmers have begun to change their crops to adapt to new conditions. "In many mountain communities, climate change might not be, at present, the central problem," Holmgren said. "Outward migration of the men in search of work is a big issue, with women left to do the work and manage the family finances. Changes in climate become an additional pressure on communities struggling to cope." Exactly how much climate change is occurring in the Himalayan region is hard to say. Data gathering across such a large region is difficult.

(TOP) ~ U.N.'s sustainable energy initiative could keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius

International climate negotiations have stalled in recent years, offering little hope that the world might keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. But the United Nations' existing commitment to universal sustainable energy access could get most of the way toward that goal. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the "Sustainable Energy for All" (SE4ALL) initiative in 2011. The program's three goals were to ensure universal access to modern energy, double the share of global renewable energy and double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. While the SE4ALL initiatives do not address climate change directly, sustainable energy access is a fundamental part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as eradicating poverty.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

(TOP) ~ AFWA Bioenergy

afwaThe Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is requesting proposals from contractors able to complete several projects related to integrating wildlife conservation and sustainable bioenergy production. Proposals must be received by the designated contact no later than 5 pm ET on March 6, 2013. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ FY 2013 Conservation Innovation Grants

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Applications are requested from eligible governmental or non-governmental organizations or individuals for competitive consideration of grant awards for projects between one and three years in duration. Deadline 22 Mar. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ FY13 and FY14 Region 10 Wetland Program Development Grants

Wetland Program Development Grants (WPDGs) provide eligible applicants an opportunity to conduct and promote the coordination and acceleration of research, investigations, experiments, training, demonstrations, surveys, and studies relating to the causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction, and elimination of water pollution. All proposals submitted under this RFP must be for projects that build or refine state/tribal/local government wetland programs. Deadline 5 Apr. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ ROSES 2013: Terrestrial Ecology

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. Deadline 15 May. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Minor Crop Pest Management Program Interregional Research Project (IR-4)

The purpose of the IR-4 program is to enable the crop protection industry to provide safe, effective, and economical crop protection products for growers and consumers of minor/specialty crops. The crop protection industry cannot justify the costs associated with the research and development, registration, production, and marketing of crop protection products for minor/specialty crops due to the smaller market base and limited sales potential. The IR-4 program provides the assistance needed to ensure that new and more effective crop protection products are developed and made available to minor/specialty crop producers. Deadline 2 Apr. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Research Training Program for College and University Students

The objective of this RFP is to support the training of undergraduate and graduate students in environmental research. The Program will substantially benefit future environmental scientists and technicians. It is envisioned that the goal of increasing both the effectiveness and number of future environmental scientists and technicians will be achieved by allowing students to collaborate with senior ORD scientists while working in a fully operational federal research laboratory. Research training will be conducted at EPA’s facilities in Cincinnati, Ohio. Some examples of the field of study for desirable student participants include (but are not limited to) those majoring in chemistry, engineering, biology, computer science, physical sciences, life sciences, ecology, and urban planning. Deadline 15 Apr. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Bay-Delta Restoration Program: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency Grants

The objective of this FOA is to invite Indian Tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing with Reclamation on projects that save water, improve water management, create new supplies for agricultural irrigation, improve energy efficiency, and benefit endangered species. Projects should also increase the capability or success rate of on-farm water conservation or water use efficiency projects that can be undertaken by farmers and ranchers through irrigation system improvements and irrigation efficiency enhancements. Deadline 8 Apr. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

(TOP) ~ Melting tundra releases CO2 more quickly than previous estimates

tundraSunlight is speeding up the conversion of Arctic soil carbon into carbon dioxide, raising the possibility that future warming could occur at a much faster pace, according to a new study. Scientists generally agree that higher temperatures increase the likelihood of collapses of long-frozen Arctic ground, or permafrost, creating large holes in the tundra and landslides. But there has been less understanding of how long-buried carbon in the permafrost behaves when suddenly exposed to the sun's rays after such collapses, which are caused by the melting of ice-rich soils. It is important to understand the dynamic, because permafrost is such a rich potential source of the greenhouse gas. If all the world's permafrost melted, it could double the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The study demonstrates another feedback caused by warming: high temperatures melt Arctic soil, which then releases even more carbon dioxide, helping create additional warming, the researchers said. The scientists found that sunlight increases the bacterial conversion of soil carbon to carbon dioxide by at least 40 percent compared to soil that remains in the dark.

(TOP) ~ USDA releases agricultural projections to 2022

This report provides projections for the agricultural sector to 2022. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices. The projections are based on specific assumptions about macroeconomic conditions, policy, weather, and international developments, with no domestic or external shocks to global agricultural markets. The 2008 Farm Act was assumed to be extended and remain in effect through the projection period. The projections are one representative scenario for the agricultural sector for the next decade. The projections in this report were prepared during October through December 2012, reflecting a composite of model results and judgment-based analyses. Read full report

(TOP) ~ Too hot, too wet, too dry: building resilient agro-ecosystems

Join the Global Harvest Initiative and the Daugherty Water for Food Institute for events on March 20, 2013. We will recognize World Water Day by hosting two panel discussions under the title, “Too Hot, Too Wet, Too Dry: Building Resilient Agro-ecosystems.” In the morning, Paul Weisenfeld, USAID Assistant to the Administrator in the Bureau for Food Security; Dr. Heidi Cullen, Climate Central Chief Climatologist; Manish Bapna, World Resources Institute Executive Vice President and Managing Director; and Claudia Garcia, DVM, Elanco Senior Director of Global Corporate Affairs; will discuss global water, food security, and climate change challenges. Get more information

(TOP) ~ Ethanol driving push to convert grassland to cropland

High crop prices driven largely by the demand for ethanol and biodiesel are spurring farmers in the Corn Belt to convert vast amounts of grassland into cropland, according to a new study that is drawing heat from the ethanol industry. The conversion of 1.3 million acres of grassland into cropland between 2006 and 2011 has significant implications for the environment, including a likely reduction in bird diversity, greater flood risk and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. "Our results show that rates of grassland conversion to corn/soy across a significant portion of the U.S. Western Corn Belt are comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia," wrote Christopher Wright and Michael Wimberly of South Dakota State University.

(TOP) ~ Drought persists, despite some improvements

About half the United States will remain in drought or develop drought conditions in the next three months, according to an early drought outlook released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its partner agencies. The lack of an El Niño or a La Niña this year has made predictions more difficult, said David Miskus of the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, but the center's other models agree that much of the United States will see higher-than-average temperatures and below-normal precipitation. In particular, California, the Rocky Mountain states, much of the lower Great Plains, Texas and Florida will remain dry or develop drought. Despite drought lingering in much of the country, recent storms have offered some relief, particularly on the Mississippi River. Whether the river will remain navigable later this year will depend on spring and summer precipitation.

(TOP) ~ Global warming impacts on streams depend on system's landscape

The impacts of climate change on stream flows will vary significantly depending on how river systems get their supply of water, a recent study shows. Looking at daily stream flow data from 81 watersheds across the western United States between 1950 and 2010, researchers from Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service explored the drainage efficiency and snowpack dynamics of the systems. Landscapes determine how water is fed into rivers. Some terrains, such as the Oregon Coast Range favor water runoffs into rivers, resulting in high flows in the winter and very little water left in the summer. Other areas, such as the upper Cascades, are composed of porous rock that absorbs rain and melted snow, slowly seeping water into river systems. According to the researchers, snow-driven systems like the Cascades are more vulnerable to climate change. As temperatures go up, mountain snows will melt faster and the seemingly abundant supply of water could run out sooner in the season. "In slow-draining landscapes, the highest point of the river is going to occur earlier in the year," said study co-author Gordon Grant. "It keeps diminishing over the entire period before the fall rains come."

Congressional/Administration News

(TOP) ~ Senate to vote on dueling bills to avert cuts, but no deal in sight

The Senate plans to vote on dueling proposals aimed at averting the looming spending cuts set to kick in Friday, March 1. While House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested that Republicans may be able to support Senate proposals eliminating agriculture subsidies to offset some of the cuts, reiterating the GOP's insistence that additional tax revenue be taken off the table. The White House, however, has been strongly lamenting the potentially devastating effects of the so-called sequester and talking up the need for additional tax revenue. Both sides appear to be headed once again toward a collision course. Senate votes on the pair of bills are expected toward the end of the week. Senate Democrats unveiled their proposal to avert cuts that would slash $85 billion in spending across almost all federal agencies for the remainder of this year. The Democrats' bill would eliminate a so-called tax loophole that spares developers of oil sands from paying into a federal spill-cleanup trust fund. It also would raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations, eliminate agriculture subsidies and cut defense spending. Senate Republicans have not yet unveiled their proposal.

(TOP) ~ NDD letter sent to congress

ASA, CSSA, and SSSA, with the support of NDD United (Non-Defense Discretionary United), have joined 3,200 organizations in signing a letter to Members of Congress seeking a balanced approach to deficit reduction. The letter urges Congress to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to discretionary programs. Discretionary programs are funded annually by Congress through the appropriations process and generally fall into two categories: “defense discretionary,” which includes the Pentagon’s budget; and “nondefense discretionary” (NDD), which includes everything else. Read the full letter

(TOP) ~ Vilsack likely to face questions on proposed spending cuts

vilsackThe House Agriculture Committee will ask tough questions at a hearing about the Agriculture Department's plans for the across-the-board spending cuts it must put in place at the beginning of March. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to testify at the hearing focused on the state of the rural economy, just days before the sequester cuts are set to go into place unless Congress acts to avert them. Vilsack has laid out a sequester plan that involves furloughs for meat inspectors and reductions in conservation programs. But lawmakers and farm groups still have questions about how cuts would be implemented and how they would affect farmers. At a meeting a few weeks ago, Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said the hearing’s purpose was "not only evaluating how our producers are faring since experiencing a historic drought, and in some parts of the country a multiyear drought, but also measuring the competitiveness of rural economies.” The committee plans to turn its attention to the farm bill once the broader Congress makes decisions about sequestration and other budget issues in the next couple of months.

(TOP) ~ Subcommittee to spotlight travel, conference spending

A House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee plans to examine federal travel and conference spending at a hearing. The Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census will address the cost and frequency of agency travel and whether the Obama administration has effectively reined in such spending. The full Oversight and Government Reform panel tackled the issue in the last Congress after a 2010 GSA conference in Las Vegas was revealed to have cost more than $822,000. News about the GSA conference tab came a year after OMB ordered agency heads to review conference spending and forced the resignation of Administrator Martha Johnson and the firing of two other GSA officials. Last Congress, the House passed the "Digital Accountability Transparency Act," also known as the DATA Act, however, the bill was never taken up by the Senate.

(TOP) ~ White House mulls new global food aid approach: send cash

The White House may soon propose the biggest change in U.S. food aid since the programs were created during the Cold War  - donating cash for hunger relief instead of shipping American-grown food thousands of miles to global trouble spots, say farm groups and charities. Reformers have argued for years that cash donations, the method used by most nations, are more efficient. But food donation has been the favored U.S. approach since the Food for Peace program was enacted in 1954. Groups on both sides of the issue have said that when the Obama administration unveils its budget for the fiscal year opening October 1, the budget may endorse cash donations and propose fewer food donations. Read full article

(TOP) ~ USDA proposes revised definition of 'rural'

The USDA has released a report proposing that the definition of "rural" be revised to any place with a population of fewer than 50 thousand people, causing concern that the expanded definition could hurt smaller rural communities clamoring for funding through USDA programs. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson said that while they were appreciative of the information contained in the report, they were "disappointed" in USDA's proposals to shift funding away from the most rural areas by inflating the definition across the board. See full report

Sources: Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; Center for Strategic and International Studies; Climatewire; Congressional Quarterly; Environment and Energy Daily; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Global Harvest Initiative; Hagstrom Report; Kansas Farmer; Meridian Institute; Reuters; USDA

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.