Science Policy Report

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27 March 2013

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ Senate immigration group may wait for early April to unveil deal
~ Water insecurity looms as a major global issue
~ The fundamentals of immigration reform
~ World not on track to meet U.N. hunger goal – report
~ Sequestration resources and information
~ USAID Forward
~ Ending poverty hinges on tougher environmental goals – study

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ AFRI: Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change
~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Foundational Program
~ NOAA Sea Grant Community Climate Adaptation Initiative 2013
~ Professional Development Program Pre-proposals
~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Food Security
~ 2013 Pacific Northwest Bay-Watershed Education and Training

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ Call For Nominations: ASA, CSSA, & SSSA Awards
~ Amplified greenhouse effect shifts North's growing seasons
~ Food, fuel, and plant nutrient use in the future
~ U.S. Bioenergy Statistics
~ Support for sodsaver
~ AAAS R&D update FY 2013 funding levels
~ NOAA predicts a warm spring, followed by floods

Congressional/Administration News

~ Fiscal 2013 spending package averts additional sequester cutbacks
~ Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has resigned
~ Senate adopts budget
~ President Obama’s blueprint for a clean and secure energy future
~ National Ag Day Resolution
~ Obama admin boosts resource concerns in long-awaited project guidelines

International Corner

(TOP) ~ Senate immigration group may wait for early April to unveil deal

A bipartisan group of eight senators working to draft legislation to change immigration policy continues to move forward and is expected to unveil a bill as soon as the second week of April. “The progress has been steady,” said one senior Senate Democratic aide with knowledge of the negotiations. The group had planned to release its package before the end of March, but the unveiling will likely slip until after the upcoming recess. Many aspects of the package remain to be negotiated, aides said. For example, the group must agree on what measure to use to determine that the border is sufficiently secure. Once the borders are secured, 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States would be able to begin to apply for citizenship, which will be a long path contingent on other criteria including learning English and paying fines. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Water insecurity looms as a major global issue

waterAs if the scorched fields of the Great Plains or the stories of women who walk miles to fetch water each day aren't reminder enough, water issues still plague many parts of the world today, and they're expected to get worse. According to the United Nations, global water use over the last century has been growing at twice the rate of population increase. Climate change is adding to the challenges. Predictions show rainfall variability alone could damage existing water infrastructure and push more than 12 million people into absolute poverty. Momentum has been growing to make the notion of universal water security one of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, to replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. Marking the 20th anniversary of World Water Day, U.N.-Water, a U.N. interagency group, released a working definition of water security in a new report to help guide international dialogues. See full report

(TOP) ~ The fundamentals of immigration reform

In this article, Demetrios G. Papademetrious, the president and co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute, writes that if we want to fix America’s broken immigration system, we must be guided by both our highest values and our economic needs. He writes: “The United States, with more than 40 million foreign-born, a number that includes the estimated 11 million illegal residents, is not just the largest immigration player in the world; it’s larger than the next four largest players combined. Because immigration amounts to social engineering, how well we do it has profound consequences for huge swaths of our society, from education to health care to economic growth to foreign relations. Most important, how a country treats its immigrants is a powerful statement to the world about its values and the principles by which it stands.” Read full article

(TOP) ~ World not on track to meet U.N. hunger goal – report

The year 2012 was a dismal one for global food security, as droughts overcame many of the world's agricultural fields and countries fell short of their commitments to advance agriculture goals, said speakers at the launch of the "2012 Global Policy Food Report." This means countries have a lot of catching up to do in the next two years to reach the U.N. Millennium Development Goal to halve the number of people suffering from hunger between 1990 and 2015. "For 2012, global food security remains very fragile," said Shenggen Fan, director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute and the author of the report. "We still have more than 870 million hungry people in the world, despite the rapid progress we made in the last two or three decades." According to IFPRI projections based on data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 800 million people may suffer from hunger in 2015, if no efforts are made. If the goal is achieved, 675 million people will still suffer from hunger. See full report

(TOP) ~ Sequestration resources and information

Here are some items at the links below related to the impact of sequestration including the projected impact of sequestration on foreign aid as detailed by the Congressional Research Service entitled “The Budget Control Act, Sequestration, and the Foreign Affairs Budget: Background and Possible Impacts”, a note that has been sent to recipients of USAID funding, as well as an article in Devex about it. See CRS report, See USAID funding letter, and related article

(TOP) ~ USAID Forward

The U.S. Agency for International Development has released its first ever USAID Forward Progress Report, highlighting the past year’s successes and challenges in reforming the agency. USAID Forward, first announced in 2010, is an effort to strengthen the agency by embracing new partnerships, investing in innovation, and demanding a focus on results. Significant progress has been made, writes USAID, since the program was first announced: rigorous evaluations are being used to test what works and what doesn’t, with changes being made as needed; a culture of innovation is being fostered; USAID is building the capacity of countries to lead their own development, and the amount of mission funding in local governments, businesses and NGOs has doubled over the last two years; a critical shift in the way assistance is delivered has begun, particularly through the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs); and, internal capacity has been renewed by making sure the right people, with the right skills, are in the right places. See full report

(TOP) ~ Ending poverty hinges on tougher environmental goals – study

Governments need to tighten clean-air laws, control water use and cut pollution by 2030 if they want to have any chance of ending global poverty, scientists said. "The stable functioning of Earth systems, including the atmosphere, oceans, forests, waterways, biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles, is a pre-requisite for a thriving global society," the Australian-led team wrote in a recent edition of the journal Nature. Increased risks of floods, droughts and heat waves brought on by global warming threaten food security and development, the scientists said. The report suggested setting a new goal to end global poverty by 2030 but added that would be possible only if countries put more effort into preserving the planet while pushing for economic growth. "The protection of Earth's life support system and poverty reduction must be the twin priorities," the authors wrote. Read full article

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

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

The Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change Challenge Area RFA focuses on the societal challenge to adapt agro-ecosystems and natural resource systems to climate variability and change and implement mitigation strategies in those systems. In the Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change Challenge Area RFA, 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 agro-ecosystems; and increase carbon sequestration. Project types supported by AFRI within this RFA include multi-function integrated research, education, and/or extension projects and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants. Deadline 15 Apr. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: Foundational Program

The AFRI Foundational Program is offered to support research grants in the six AFRI priority areas to continue building a foundation of knowledge critical for solving current and future societal challenges. The six priority areas are: Plant Health and Production and Plant Products; Animal Health and Production and Animal Products; Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health; Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Agriculture Systems and Technology; and Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities. Single-function Research Projects and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants are expected to address one of the Program Area Priorities (see Foundational Program RFA for details). Deadline 22 May. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ NOAA Sea Grant Community Climate Adaptation Initiative 2013

noaaNOAA Sea Grant expects to make available up to $1,000,000 (pending Congressional appropriation) for a national competition to fund climate adaptation efforts for FY 2013-2014 as part of an overall plan to enhance climate adaptation in coastal communities. This Federal Funding Opportunity includes information on how to apply for this funding opportunity and criteria for climate adaptation projects requesting a total of up to $100,000 in federal funds. Matching funds are required. Climate adaptation projects are expected to be conducted in partnership with local community governments, state and Federal agencies. Projects selected in this competition will be awarded and funded in FY 2013-2014 and should be completed by January 31, 2015. Deadline 19 Apr. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Professional Development Program Pre-proposals

The 2013 North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program’s (NCR-SARE) Professional Development Program Call for Preproposals is now available. NCR-SARE’s Professional Development Program (PDP) provides funds for professional development projects that provide sustainable agriculture training to agricultural professionals and educators in the Cooperative Extension Service (CES), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), other governmental agencies, and educators in the profit and non-profit sector serving the food and fiber system. New this year, NCR-SARE will be accepting online submissions for the Professional Development Grant Program using the online submission system. More information about the online submission system can be found in the call for preproposals. Deadline 16 May. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Food Security

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is accepting grant funding applications from public and private institutions of higher education, individuals, nonprofits, for profit organizations, and others for proposed projects that should develop and extend sustainable, integrated management strategies that reduce pre and post-harvest losses caused by diseases, insects, and weeds in crop and animal production systems, while maintaining or improving product quality and production efficiency. Proposals should aim to develop approaches for managing losses throughout the whole food system (production, harvesting, storage, processing, distribution, and consumption), and should address the social, economic, and behavioral aspects of food security. Deadline 17 Jul. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ 2013 Pacific Northwest Bay-Watershed Education and Training

The NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program is an environmental education program that supports experiential learning through competitive grant awards in specific geographic regions. Prior to 2008 NOAA B-WET programs were limited to Chesapeake Bay, California and Hawaii. In 2009, the program expanded to include New England, the northern Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest. This solicitation is for the Pacific Northwest Bay-Watershed Education and Training (PNW B-WET) program. For purposes of this solicitation, the "Pacific Northwest" includes the states of Oregon and Washington with particular emphasis on coastal communities. Deadline 23 Apr. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

(TOP) ~ Call For Nominations: ASA, CSSA, & SSSA Awards

The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America are accepting nominations for 2013 Awards and scholarships, which honors researchers, educators, professionals, and students. Nominate a colleague or student for one of the dozens of awards and scholarships. Deadlines: April 9 to initiate online nominations and April 16 for reference letters and final nomination submission: Agronomy, Crops, and Soil

(TOP) ~ Amplified greenhouse effect shifts North's growing seasons

growingA National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)- funded study shows that vegetation growth at Earth’s northern latitudes increasingly resembles more lush latitudes to the south. The team found that temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resembles those at four to six degrees of latitude further south as recently as 1982. Ranga Myneni, of Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment, said an amplified greenhouse effect is driving the changes. Models of the future show that increased temperatures in Arctic and boreal regions would be the equivalent of a 20-degree latitude shift by the end of the century, although researchers said plant growth in the north may not continue on its current trajectory. Plant growth could be slowed due to the ramifications of an amplified greenhouse effect, such as frequent forest fires, pest infestations and summertime droughts. Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more. In the North’s Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems.

(TOP) ~ Food, fuel, and plant nutrient use in the future

How well we research, plan, and implement the proper use of nutrients could shape how well we eat in the near future. This publication looks at the process shaping the current nutrient situation and the resulting requirements as world food production evolves during the next 40 years. Future food, fiber, and fuel demands will not be met by expanding cropland area; continued advances in nutrient use efficiency will moderate increased nutrient demand. With a growing population, dwindling arable land, and an increased demand for biofuels, the world cannot count on an expansion of harvested area to fill the demands of the world's growing population. The use of genetics to improve crop productivity, promote soil conservation and management, and use nutrients efficiently is necessary. Read full report

(TOP) ~ U.S. Bioenergy Statistics

The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has released its latest data set which provides a source of information on biofuels intended to present a picture of the renewable energy industry and its relationship to agriculture. ERS analysts track U.S. ethanol and biodiesel production, consumption, and trade. They also monitor and analyze U.S. bioenergy policy and events that affect the domestic and international biofuel and feedstock markets. View dataset

(TOP) ~ Support for sodsaver

The Council of Economic Advisors released the annual Economic Report of the President with reference to protecting native lands. It says, “adding provisions that make lands that have not previously been used to grow crops ineligible for crop insurance or other Federal benefits would help protect the nation’s prairies and forests from being converted into marginal cropland.” The report also discusses conservation easements, including donations. It includes a couple of sections on conservation issues (like overuse of nitrogen) and programs. It goes on to cover a bit about policy direction and the farm bill. A fair amount of information and data on long term trends in the agriculture/rural sectors. Review Chapter 8 of report

(TOP) ~ AAAS R&D update FY 2013 funding levels

AAAS released an analysis of the final FY 2013 "hybrid" appropriations bill for federal R&D, including the impact of sequestration to the final funding levels.  It includes a detailed table and figures. According to initial AAAS estimates, federal R&D investment will amount to approximately $130.9 billion in FY 2013, a drop of $9.6 billion or 6.9 percent from FY 2012. Nearly all of this decline is due to sequestration, as Congress appeared to hold several R&D accounts nearly flat and trimming only $506.6 million from R&D expenditures in the final bill. However, there is some considerable variation agency-by-agency. Nondefense research agencies also are subject to some variation. For instance, the National Science Foundation received an overall R&D boost of $152 million or 2.7 percent, which would leave the agency's R&D budget only 2.4 percent below FY 2012 levels after including sequestration. See full report

(TOP) ~ NOAA predicts a warm spring, followed by floods

A return to above-normal temperatures will come next month to most of the United States, offering little relief for states in serious drought conditions. In addition, landowners in North Dakota should prepare for "moderate to major" flooding along the Red and Souris rivers, said Laura Furgione, deputy director of the National Weather Service. Devils and Stump lakes in the northeast part of the state have a 50 percent chance of rising about 2 feet, affecting about 20,000 acres of farmland. The wetter-than-normal weather around the Great Lakes is good news, said Furgione, but dry heat from the Rockies through Texas will exacerbate the already arid conditions. Despite the current cold front, the center of the country is still experiencing varying levels of moderate to exceptional drought. The cold has led to ground too frozen and hard to absorb the snow and rain from large storms, creating a "hidden drought". Above-normal temperatures are expected across the Southwest, the southern and western Great Plains, and Alaska. The Pacific Northwest and northern Great Plains will experience lower-than normal temperatures. Late-season snow is melting in much of the Midwest, and rainfall will continue to raise the chance of minor to moderate flooding in the upper Mississippi River Basin and many of its tributaries.

Congressional/Administration News

(TOP) ~ Fiscal 2013 spending package averts additional sequester cutbacks

In the fiscal 2013 appropriations package passed last week, Congress reduced spending levels enough to avoid an additional $7.8 billion in automatic across-the-board cuts beyond the existing sequester that began March 1. The bill’s $1.043 trillion discretionary-spending total reflects small across-the-board rescissions, ranging from 0.1 percent to 2.5 percent, in order to reduce security and non-security funding to their fiscal 2013 cap levels. However, that spending total is being reduced this year to $984 billion as a result of separate across-the-board reductions resulting from the $85 billion fiscal 2013 sequester. In its score of the bill, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the legislation would spend $684 billion on security and $359 billion on non-security or domestic programs before sequester, meeting the discretionary caps in the 2011 debt limit law. The earlier stopgap spending bill, set to expire March 27, included $6.8 billion more spending on security and $1 billion more on non-security than the caps allow. Meeting those caps would eliminate the need for any additional automatic spending cuts, which otherwise would take place March 27. However, it is up to the White House Office of Management and Budget to make the final calculation on whether the legislation complies with spending limits.

(TOP) ~ Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has resigned

merriganIn a surprise move, Kathleen Merrigan has released a statement that she is leaving as deputy secretary of the U.S. Agriculture Department. Merrigan has been a tireless advocate for local food production and marketing, organic food and women farmers. She gave no reason or timing for her departure in the statement. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has helped USDA achieve record results over the past four years. She has played a vital role in the department-wide focus on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, as well as our efforts to achieve budget efficiencies and savings during an uncertain budget time." A USDA official told Food Safety News that Merrigan plans to stay on through the end of April. See full statement

(TOP) ~ Senate adopts budget

A divided Senate passed its budget, but the spending blueprint contains sharp differences with the House version and foreshadows the struggle Congress will face in coming up with any bipartisan agreement on fiscal issues. After more than 13 hours of nonstop votes on 70 amendments, the Senate adopted its fiscal 2014 budget resolution by the narrowest of margins, 50-49. The Senate plan agrees with the House blueprint, that the government should spend more money in each of the next 10 years than it will spend this year: Senate Democrats would boost spending at an annual rate of about 5 percent and House Republicans at the smaller rate of 3.4 percent a year. But beyond that, the plans diverge. The Senate budget calls for replacing the spending sequester with a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, cutting mandatory health care programs without making major structural changes to entitlements and cutting farm programs while increasing spending on infrastructure and worker-training programs by $100 billion over 10 years. The Senate budget would direct the Finance Committee to write legislation that would increase tax revenue by $975 billion over a decade. It offers a vastly different vision than the House version which calls for reducing projected spending by $4.6 trillion by cutting domestic programs, repealing the 2010 health care law, overhauling the income tax code and balancing the budget by 2023.

(TOP) ~ President Obama’s blueprint for a clean and secure energy future

The United States is on the path to a cleaner and more secure energy future. Since President Obama took office, responsible oil and gas production has increased each year, while oil imports have fallen to a 20 year low; renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources has doubled; And our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have fallen to their lowest level in nearly two decades. But even with this progress, there is more work to do. While there’s no overnight solution to address rising gas prices in the short term, President Obama today reiterated his commitment to a sustained, all-of-the-above energy strategy and urged Congress to take up common-sense proposals that will further reduce our dependence on oil, better protect consumers from spikes in gas prices, and reduce pollution. See the fact sheet

(TOP) ~ National Ag Day Resolution

The Senate passed by unanimous consent a resolution introduced by Senator Johanns commemorating the 40th National Ag Day. Cosponsors included Senators Stabenow, Cochran, Baucus, Roberts, Brown, Gillibrand, Chambliss, Klobuchar, Grassley, Bennet, Donnelly, Fischer, Thune, and Coons.  See text of resolution

(TOP) ~ Obama admin boosts resource concerns in long-awaited project guidelines

The Obama administration has released a much-anticipated update to 30-year-old guidelines for funding federal water projects that places greater weight on environmental considerations when planning and designing levees, locks, dams and other projects, but which some conservation advocates say lacks teeth. While the previous investment policy looked solely at economic returns in planning such projects, the "principles and requirements" policy emphasizes the value of healthy and resilient ecosystems and encourages "nonstructural" water management measures. "Smart investments in America's rivers, lakes, wetlands, and coasts are essential to promoting economic growth, ensuring clean drinking water, and building thriving communities," Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement. "This much needed update of the 30-year-old Principles and Guidelines will help agencies better evaluate and expedite water projects that grow our economy and are essential for protecting our communities from floods, droughts, and storms." Read the principles and requirements and Read interagency guidelines

Sources: The Columbus Dispatch; Congressional Quarterly; Congressional Research Service; Energy and Environment Daily; The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology; Climatewire; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; International Food Policy Research Institute; Meridian Institute; NASA; National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research; National Geographic; NOAA; North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program; Reuters; USDA Economic Research Service; White House Council on Environmental Quality

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.