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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.

24 April 2013

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ AIARD 2013 Future Leaders Forum application
~ Population growth set to worsen impacts of climate change in Africa
~ Pact is reached on immigration reform for U.S. farm labor
~ Nitrogen: a mixed blessing
~ Scientist works to puzzle out how tropical rainfall will change with a warming planet
~ Climate change, poor urban planning contributed to deadly Argentine flooding
~ Scientists unite to share ag data and feed the world
~ World Bank's leader pushes for action on climate, tackling extreme poverty

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program Track-3
~ Capacity Building Grants for Non Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture Program
~ Conservation Innovative Grants - Louisiana 2013
~ AgrAbility and Youth Farm Safety
~ Pulling Together Initiative 2013 Request for Proposals
~ (EC-LEDS) Clean Energy Program
~ 2013 NH Conservation Innovation Grant

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ AGU Science Policy Conference
~ Request for Proposals: Reinvest ASA
~ EPA publishes 18th annual U.S. greenhouse gas inventory
~ Planting crops more densely could raise costs of conserving forests
~ Next Generation Science Standards released
~ Tapping into Biological Horsepower to Improve Soil Health webinar
~ USDA ERS has released its latest data set
~ USGS announces new biodiversity science initiative
~ Attend the 2013 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial lecture

Congressional/Administration News

~ REI’s Sally Jewell wins confirmation as Interior secretary
~ Frank Lucas to move on Farm Bill
~ Two economists propose RFS freeze
~ USDA to roll out new climate programs in coming weeks
~ Farm bill supports homegrown innovation and congress should pass it
~ USGS science strategy circulars

International Corner


(TOP) ~ AIARD 2013 Future Leaders Forum application

The Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development administers a competitive scholarship program to provide partial financial support to students attending both: 1) the AIARD Annual Conference (June 2-4); and 2) the annual Future Leaders Forum in Washington, D.C. Scholarships are awarded on a competitive basis to students who have a demonstrated interest in international agriculture and rural development issues and their solutions. These scholarships are intended to enhance the students' understanding and appreciation of issues and opportunities in international agriculture and rural development. Get more information


(TOP) ~ Population growth set to worsen impacts of climate change in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to rising temperatures, and rapid population growth is set to exacerbate climate change's impacts. But research shows that the two issues are not often addressed in tandem by policymakers. A report presented by representatives from Population Action International (PAI) and the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., highlighted what they called the pressing need to integrate climate change policies with population policies in sub-Saharan Africa. "It looks like population and climate change are so closely linked in Africa that there are already countries that are experiencing hardships due to rapid population growth," said Eliya Zulu, AFIDEP's executive director. Read full report


(TOP) ~ Pact is reached on immigration reform for U.S. farm labor

U.S. growers, along with the United Farm Workers union and key senators have agreed in principle on immigration reform for farm laborers. This development assures the issue will be part of comprehensive immigration legislation to be unveiled. According to two officials, farm workers in the country illegally who agree to work in agriculture for an additional five to seven years would become eligible for a “green card” and permanent U.S. residence. Such workers would hold a “blue card” in the interim. The agreement would include a system for setting pay scales and would initially have a high ceiling for the number of visas allowed. After five years, the cap could be adjusted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Nitrogen: a mixed blessing

Nitrogen. Atomic number seven. Unnoticed, untasted, it nevertheless fills our stomachs. It is the engine of agriculture, the key to plenty in our crowded, hungry world. And, if we don’t watch out, this article says, agriculture could destroy our planet. Corn, wheat and rice (crops upon which humanity depends) are among the most nitrogen hungry of all plants, demanding more than nature alone can provide. Modern chemistry has come to the rescue, producing millions of tons of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Without it, our planet’s soil could not grow enough food to provide all of us with our accustomed diet. But there is a price – excess nitrogen that runs off farm fields is suffocating wildlife in lakes, contaminating groundwater, and even contributing to climate change. The article looks at the nitrogen dilemma through the eyes of China, where fertilizer has been key to increasing yields, but is taking an enormous toll on the environment. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Scientist works to puzzle out how tropical rainfall will change with a warming planet

For scientist Shang-Ping Xie, there is a good reason to research how climate change will alter weather patterns in the tropics, even if, to most of us, tropical regions seem remote. "What happens in the tropics," Xie, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, "is highly influential on mid-latitude climate." Rainfall and temperatures here can be greatly influenced by tropical climate phenomena like El Niño and La Niña. So it's in our interest to understand what the tropics are up to. Most of the world's population lives in the tropics. And much of the farming that goes on in tropical regions relies heavily on seasonal rainfall which may shift or change as the climate changes. Xie and his colleagues proposed a way to reconcile two different views of how tropical rainfall will change as the climate changes. The first, known as the "rich get richer" hypothesis, posits that tropical areas that already get a lot of rain will get even more as the world warms, and dry subtropical areas will get less. The second hypothesis is called "warmer get wetter” which is that ocean temperatures are going to increase, but not in a uniform way. The places where the ocean's surface gets warmer will, as in the other scenario, have more moisture and thus get more rainfall. But where this ocean warming is going to happen is unknown at this point, Xie said, and is another focus of his research.


(TOP) ~ Climate change, poor urban planning contributed to deadly Argentine flooding

floodOn April 1, record torrential rains dumped more than 6 inches of water onto the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires in less than two hours, according to reports from the Buenos Aires Central Observatory. The next night through April 3, a second storm poured more than 7 inches near the airport in the city of La Plata. Argentina's official rainy season spans from December to March, with an average of 100 millimeters of rain a month. But in the last couple of years, the development of big offseason storms is becoming something of a new normal. Although torrential storms aren't uncommon in the Buenos Aires region, the issue is that they are becoming more frequent. Yet climate change is only partly to blame. The amount of water would have probably flooded even the best-drained city. But the situation becomes much worse when such downpours take place over large urban areas combined with poor planning, as is the case for Buenos Aires or La Plata. The two cities stand in the flood-prone depressed Pampa region, which historically has been filled with small rivers and streams draining into the La Plata River basin. The problem is that many of these natural runoff systems have been covered up or "tubed" in favor of urban expansion. With nowhere to go (and no streams to drain through) water from heavier-than-usual storms begins to accumulate, causing flooding.


(TOP) ~ Scientists unite to share ag data and feed the world

In the United States, we haven’t worried about food security since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930′s. In fact, our farmers have become so productive we have a thriving food export sector that has returned a positive effect on our economy for over 40 years. Unfortunately, many other countries cannot make that same claim. Read full article


(TOP) ~ World Bank's leader pushes for action on climate, tackling extreme poverty

The World Bank has wrapped up the most climate change-focused meeting of development and financial leaders in the institution's history. Amid talk of currency wars, global economic growth and unemployment, President Jim Yong Kim maintained a heavy focus on the impact that climate change could have on the world's poorest, along with efforts to steer bank resources toward delivering clean energy, putting a value on clean air and water, and encouraging countries to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels. At the center of Kim's agenda at this year's annual spring meetings was a goal he outlined earlier this year to end extreme poverty by 2030. Specifically, his aim is to reduce the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 per day to less than 3 percent, a steep challenge that Kim and other world leaders nevertheless argued is achievable. Doing so while addressing climate change, he said, is a parallel goal. U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual said the organization is a "phenomenal example" of public and private sectors joining forces "with a very focused approach on how to get energy to people that don't have it."

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program Track-3

nsf logoThe National Science Foundation (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) provides significant investment in 28 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Territories of US Virgin Islands and Guam. Building on that investment, EPSCoR seeks to catalyze novel and innovative mechanisms to promote scientific progress nationwide. Key to the improved academic research competitiveness in each EPSCoR jurisdiction has been the increased attention to both innovation and broadening participation. Continued progress can be catalyzed by connecting the multiple sectors of society that influence and/or benefit from the engagement of diverse communities in scientific discovery and economic development. Deadline 10 Jul. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Capacity Building Grants for Non Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture Program

NLGCA Institutions may use the funds: (a) to successfully compete for funds from Federal grants and other sources to carry out educational, research, and outreach activities that address priority concerns of national, regional, State, and local interest; (b) to disseminate information relating to priority concerns to interested members of the agriculture, renewable resources, and other relevant communities, the public, and any other interested entity; (c) to encourage members of the agriculture, renewable resources, and other relevant communities to participate in priority education, research, and outreach activities by providing matching funding to leverage grant funds; and (d) through: (1) the purchase or other acquisition of equipment and other infrastructure (not including alteration, repair, renovation, or construction of buildings); (2) the professional growth and development of the faculty of the NLGCA Institution; and (3) the development of graduate assistantships. Deadline 30 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Conservation Innovative Grants - Louisiana 2013

The Louisiana NRCS requests applications for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Louisiana NRCS anticipates that the amount available for support of this program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 will be $150,000. Funds will be awarded through a statewide competitive grants process. Deadline 3 Jun. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ AgrAbility and Youth Farm Safety

AgrAbility and Youth Farm Safety programs focus on increasing the likelihood that farmers, ranchers, farm workers, or farm family members with disabilities experience success and that those working with or teaching youth have access to comprehensive educational resources in the area of youth farm safety and certification. Applications for the National AgrAbility Project (NAP) and SRAPs eligible for continuation awards will be solicited separately. Deadline 8 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Pulling Together Initiative 2013 Request for Proposals

The Pulling Together Initiative seeks proposals that will assist in the control of invasive plant species (terrestrial and aquatic), primarily through the work of public/private partnerships such as Cooperative Weed Management Areas. PTI grants provide an opportunity to initiate working partnerships and demonstrate successful collaborative efforts such as the development of permanent funding sources for Weed Management Areas. To be eligible, a project must prevent, manage, or eradicate invasive and noxious plants through a coordinated program of public/private partnerships; and increase public awareness of the adverse impacts of invasive and noxious plants. Deadline 17 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ (EC-LEDS) Clean Energy Program

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Regional Contracting Office in Tbilisi, Georgia is seeking applications from qualified Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Public International Organizations (PIOs), Educational Institutions and other qualified organizations for a Cooperative Agreement to implement a program entitled “Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategies (EC-LEDS) Clean Energy Program.”. The purpose of the four year program is to support Georgia’s efforts to increase climate change mitigation through energy efficiency and clean energy. The broader goal is to enable more responsible management and development of Georgia’s natural endowments. Deadline 13 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ 2013 NH Conservation Innovation Grant

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Applications will be accepted from State of New Hampshire. NRCS anticipates that the amount available for support of this program in FY 2013 will be up to $59,300. Applications are requested from eligible governmental or non-governmental organizations or individuals for competitive consideration of grant awards for projects between 1 and 3 years in duration. Deadline 17 May. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports


(TOP) ~ AGU Science Policy Conference

The American Geophysical Union will be hosting its 2nd annual Science Policy Conference, on Monday, 24 June to Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D. C. In attendance will be hundreds of Earth and space scientists, students, policymakers, and industry professionals who will discuss key Earth and space science topics that address challenges to the economy, national security, environment, and public safety. This meeting will focus on the science that helps inform policymakers’ decisions related to energy, natural hazards, technology and infrastructure, climate, oceans, and the Arctic. Get more information


(TOP) ~ Request for Proposals: Reinvest ASA

Do you have an idea that with some seed money, could have a real impact on the future of the American Society of Agronomy? We invite proposals of these ideas for the Reinvest ASA Program, submitted as self-nominations through the ASA online Awards Program by May 30. Reinvest ASA is a program to fund ASA activities to enhance our value to members and those it serves. Funds are an additional allocation targeted to specified needs beyond the operating budget. The Reinvest ASA Committee will rank the proposals and present their recommendations for funding to the ASA Board. Funding for approved proposals will be available immediately following the decision, and funding is available for the 2013 Annual Meetings, if applicable. Get more information


(TOP) ~ EPA publishes 18th annual U.S. greenhouse gas inventory

EPA has released the 18th annual report of overall U.S. [GHG] emissions showing a 1.6 percent decrease in 2011 from the previous year. EPA notes that recent trends can be attributed to multiple factors including reduced emissions from electricity generation, improvements in fuel efficiency in vehicles with reductions in miles traveled, and year-to-year changes in the prevailing weather. The inventory tracks annual GHG emissions at the national level and presents historical emissions from 1990 to 2011 and also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere through the uptake of carbon by forests, vegetation, soils, and other natural processes. See full report


(TOP) ~ Planting crops more densely could raise costs of conserving forests

It seems logical enough: If one can grow more crops on less land, it will leave more acres available for forests, grasslands and natural vegetation to provide clean water, slow down climate change and stimulate biodiversity. This logic has driven a lot of national policies to push for agricultural intensification, which shrinks the land footprint of farming. But throw in some basic economic principles, and things can get tricky. A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that intensifying agriculture production could give croplands a higher monetary value, thus driving up the costs to governments to preserve more land for conservation. "As land becomes more profitable because of intensification, small-scale farmers can potentially buy a tractor, for example, they can adopt new technologies," said Jacob Phelps, the lead author of the paper and a graduate student at the National University of Singapore. "While that facilitates intensification, it also facilitates expansion of agricultural land." There is very little incentive not to increase one's agricultural output, as long as a farmer can get a loan from a bank. In response, incentives for an ecological benefit, like clean water or air, must also increase to ensure the desired outcome.


(TOP) ~ Next Generation Science Standards released

ngss logoThe Next Generation Science Standards are now available. Twenty-six states and their broad-based teams worked together with a 41-member writing team and partners throughout the country to develop the standards. They are rich in content and practice and arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education. Get more information


(TOP) ~ Tapping into Biological Horsepower to Improve Soil Health webinar

Participate in this webinar to learn about managing the biological herd under the soil surface to build soil health. As the coordinator/field representative for the North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, and a rancher, conservationist, and Certified Educator of Holistic Management, Joshua Dukart will share experiences and observations from his family's ranch and other ranches he has the opportunity to work with. By focusing on soil health, great ecological and financial strides have been made on these ranches. This webinar is sponsored by the USDA NRCS Central National Technology Support Center. Get more information


(TOP) ~ USDA ERS has released its latest data set

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. See full data set


(TOP) ~ USGS announces new biodiversity science initiative

The USGS has announced the launch of BISON – the Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation effort. The program was developed and run through the Core Science System program in USGS. It makes finding the locations (and more) of U.S. species a lot easier and is the only system of its kind. Its size is unprecedented, offering more than 100 million mapped records of nearly every living species nationwide and growing. And the vast majority of the records are specific locations, not just county or state records. Check it out


(TOP) ~ Attend the 2013 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial lecture

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) invites you to attend the 2013 Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture on June 25th at AAAS headquarters (1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC). Dr. Stephen P. Long, Gutgesell Endowed University Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, will present keynote remarks on the role that food, agriculture and natural resources play in providing for a secure food supply and a sustainable economy. The Lecture will be followed by a panel discussion with representatives from agricultural production, agribusiness, academia, and government and by a reception. Get more information

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ REI’s Sally Jewell wins confirmation as Interior secretary

By a vote of 87 to 11, the Senate approved Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) chief executive Sally Jewell as the next Interior secretary. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told his colleagues that Jewell had demonstrated “the kind of leadership” that could reconcile the competing environmental and energy interests any Interior secretary must manage. A former oil engineer and commercial banker who has spent several years at the helm of REI, the 56-year-old Jewell has never served in public office. But Wyden said she boasts the “professional track record of actually bringing people together on these sorts of issues.” While Republicans have frequently criticized the Obama administration’s environmental policies (and the officials who have carried them out) Jewell won praise for her business background and openness to working with different constituencies.


(TOP) ~ Frank Lucas to move on Farm Bill

frank lucasHouse Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said that he will move ahead a farm bill markup May 15 despite pressure from the Republican leadership to take more time first and consider tougher changes in the food stamp program to win over conservative votes. Lucas said that he was fully prepared to hold listening sessions first with the Republican whip’s office over the next month. But he wants to keep to his schedule and produce a bipartisan bill together with his ranking Democrat, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson. Asked if the farm bill markup would go ahead in May, he said: “Mr. Lucas is working on it.” Read full article


(TOP) ~ Two economists propose RFS freeze

As the tug of war over biofuels continues on Capitol Hill, a pair of agricultural economists are calling for a two-year freeze in the renewable fuel standard's requirements. Scott Irwin and Darrel Good of the University of Illinois say a freeze would let policymakers figure out how to address the various RFS issues and allow for modest growth in the market for gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, E15. "We believe our proposal to freeze RFS mandates in 2014 and 2015 at 2013 levels represents a pragmatic way forward," Irwin and Good wrote in Farmdoc Daily, an online University of Illinois agriculture publication. The RFS requires refiners and other parties to blend 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol into the nation's motor fuel supply this year. In the following two years, the standard increases that level to 18.15 billion gallons and 20.5 billion gallons. A two-year delay in the expansion of the federal biofuel mandates would give some policymakers some breathing room and allow them to develop a biofuels policy that is "mutually agreeable" to the various industry groups involved, Irwin and Good said.


(TOP) ~ USDA to roll out new climate programs in coming weeks

The Department of Agriculture will unveil a series of programs in the next several weeks focused on addressing climate change and expanding related research opportunities. The new focus comes following last year's crippling U.S. drought. Secretary Tom Vilsack testified that drought mitigation and adaptation also will be a priority this year, and for as long as he's at USDA. "We obviously take this issue of drought, and for that matter, extreme weather conditions, very seriously," Vilsack said. USDA plans to ramp up weather forecasting and encourage more sustainable farming practices to mitigate climate impacts on farmers and ranchers. The department also plans to boost climate research and is exploring the creation of regional hubs to study impacts. Vilsack said the same resources available for farmers to deal with drought last year will be made available this year and that the department will continue to search for new ways to help if needed. According to its fiscal 2014 budget request, the department provided a record $16 billion for 2012 losses from widespread drought conditions.


(TOP) ~ Farm bill supports homegrown innovation and congress should pass it

In this opinion piece, Lloyd Riter, the co-director of the Agriculture Energy Coalition, notes the U.S. agricultural sector, despite a global economic downturn, has been remarkably resilient, and is one of the few sectors boasting a trade surplus. The one-year extension of the farm bill does not, however, do enough to ensure the sector’s continued growth, Riter says. One reason agriculture has been so successful is due to the willingness of American farmers to diversify and innovate. The expansion of renewable energy and the emerging bioeconomy are examples of this diversification. The new five-year farm bill, Riter argues, must include a robust energy title and clear a regulatory path for companies bringing innovative technologies to farmers. Read full article


(TOP) ~ USGS science strategy circulars

United States Geological Survey has released seven strategy circulars that were published this week and have been posted on the USGS’s publications web site. The following is a list of the seven USGS circulars which outline the science strategies for the Survey’s seven focus areas: climate and land use, core science, ecosystems, energy and minerals, environmental science, natural hazards, and water.

Sources: American Geophysical Union; The Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development; Climatewire; Energy and Environment Daily; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; The Huffington Post; Meridian Institute; National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Natural Resource Conservation District; Politico; Reuters; United States Geological Survey

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.