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Science Policy Report

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sciencepolicy@sciencesocieties.org

08 May 2013

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ Agriculture innovations and investments critical to meeting future food demand
~ Submit your ideas to present at 2013 Chicago Council’s Global Food Security Symposium
~ Genebank Standards for Plant Genetic Resources, a major accomplishment
~ G-8 international conference on open data for agriculture
~ JPAC public review of the first 20 years of NAFTA and the NAAEC
~ Diplomats try for different, more flexible climate agreement for 2015

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ 2013 Conservation Innovation Grant
~ WRP Wetland Restoration Assistance
~ Conservation Easement Boundary Survey Assistance
~ Smith-Lever Special Needs Program
~ Conservation Innovation Grant for North Dakota
~ FY2013 New Mexico CIG Program
~ Pulling Together Initiative 2013
~ Supplemental and Alternative Crops Competitive Grants Program

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ ASA, CSSA, SSSA seeking Senior Science Policy Manager in Washington, DC
~ AGree releases two background reports
~ After objections to drought report, NOAA issues clarifying 'FAQ'
~ Agriculture, climate change team to fill Erie with killer algae
~ USDA and EPA release new report on honey bee heath
~ U.S. food production shifting north, along with infrastructure to move it
~ Researchers find hotter wildfires are not necessarily worse for soil
~ Meeting Notice of the NAREEE Advisory Board

Congressional/Administration News

~ Senate confirms Burwell as OMB director
~ Bipartisan senators introduce bill aimed at protecting prairies
~ U.S. crop safety net policy: overarching considerations and the current farm bill debate
~ Lucas looks ahead to markup: commodity program similar to last year's proposal
~ USDA launches site to open wealth of scientific, climate data
~ Scuse to be agriculture acting deputy secretary, Karsting to head FAS
~ Help wanted: The STEM workforce shortage

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Agriculture innovations and investments critical to meeting future food demand

ag innovationsThe Chicago Council on Global Affairs released a report that examines the implications of the increasingly influential roles of global business, Brazil, China, and India in agricultural research and the limited national research capacity of developing countries. It makes the case that greater international collaboration and investment in research is needed to safeguard productivity gains made over the past half century and meet future food demand. The independent study concludes that most Sub-Saharan African countries could potentially access at least 25 times their locally produced agricultural knowledge by adapting and adopting scientific breakthroughs produced in other countries. Read full report


(TOP) ~ Submit your ideas to present at 2013 Chicago Council’s Global Food Security Symposium

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is inviting innovators to apply to present ideas that demonstrate how science can be mobilized to increase food security at our global food security symposium on May 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. As part of the symposium, selected applicants will be invited to showcase innovations in science to meet future food demand in a lightning presentation. Get more information


(TOP) ~ Genebank Standards for Plant Genetic Resources, a major accomplishment

FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has adopted new international standards to help genebanks worldwide conserve in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. The Genebank Standards are voluntary but have a universal value and utility in guiding genebank management for seeds, for germplasm maintained in field collections, as well as conserved through cryopreservation and in vitro culture. They were developed in response to the new technical advances and the increased coverage of plant diversity collections. A systematic application of these standards will require mobilization of financial resources for upgrading professional skills in developing countries. Read full article


(TOP) ~ G-8 international conference on open data for agriculture

As a result of a commitment made by G-8 leaders in 2012, an international conference on Open Data for Agriculture was held recently in Washington, DC. The goal of the conference was to develop options for the establishment of a global platform to make reliable agricultural information available to African farmers, researchers, and policymakers, taking into account existing agricultural data systems. At the conference, plans of action, developed by several countries, to make agricultural data streams available to users in Africa and worldwide, were publicly released. Implementation of the action plans will begin with each of the entities opening existing government-funded data sets to the public, while also supporting further research that will be made publicly available in accessible, machine-readable formats. The end goal of a global platform is to spur innovation in the agriculture sector, and, ultimately, support a sustainable increase in food security and promote adequate nutrition around the world. Get more information


(TOP) ~ JPAC public review of the first 20 years of NAFTA and the NAAEC

The Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is seeking comments for its public review of the first 20 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), which is intended to foster the protection and improvement of the environment throughout North America. After reviewing the information and comments received, JPAC will hold an open public meeting on the first 20 years of the NAAEC and NAFTA in Washington, DC, on 17–18 October 2013. The meeting will feature presentations and facilitated discussions among experts and members of the public who contributed information and comments, as well as open discussions involving all participants. Submit comments


(TOP) ~ Diplomats try for different, more flexible climate agreement for 2015

Diplomats trying to prepare a new global climate change agreement are closing in around the idea of a fluid pact that would eliminate the need for future endless rounds of negotiations. Speaking in Bonn, Germany, where negotiators for nearly 200 countries closed out the year's first round of global warming discussions, U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said support is building for a 2015 emissions plan that allows countries to cut more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as fresh scientific data and new technologies unfold. "If there's news from science that tells you have to do more, you should be able to react quickly instead of having long negotiations about the next negotiating round," Artur Runge-Metzger, lead negotiator for the European Commission, said. Countries have twice agreed to sign an agreement in 2015 that will demand all countries unilaterally cut greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2020. It will essentially take the place of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which called for only industrialized countries to cut carbon and allowed developing countries to make voluntary cuts. At the same time, at the insistence of small island nations and other vulnerable countries, negotiators are pressing for wealthy countries to do more before 2020.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ 2013 Conservation Innovation Grant

The NRCS, an agency under the USDA, is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Applicants will be accepted from South Dakota. NRCS anticipates that the amount available for support of this program in FY 2013 will be up to $150,000. Applications are requested from eligible governmental or non-governmental organizaitons or individuals for competitive consideration of grant awards for projects between one and three years in duration. Deadline 17 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ WRP Wetland Restoration Assistance

nrcsRequesting proposals to provide implementation of restoration activities on eligible Wetland Reserve Program properties. Applicants will be responsible for assistance to NRCS and landowners in implementing WRP restoration plans. Performance may include any part or all operations necessary to construct, provide inspection, and/or provide management activities for various wetland restorations, enhancement and creation practices; and other related conservation practices that meet NRCS standards and specifications. Deadline 31 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Conservation Easement Boundary Survey Assistance

The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa is requesting applications to provide procurement services for legal land surveys on Wetlands Reserve Program easements, Emergency Watershed Program – Floodplain Protection Easements and Grassland Reserve Program easements. Applicants will be responsible for assisting NRCS and landowners by providing assistance necessary to procure services for legal land surveys on new easement applications and retracement of existing easements. Performance may include any part or all operations necessary to procure a legal boundary survey that meets NRCS specifications. Deadline 24 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Smith-Lever Special Needs Program

Within the states and territories, the Cooperative Extension System has repeatedly served as the trusted community organization that has helped to enable families, communities, and businesses to successfully prepare for, respond to and cope with disaster losses and critical incidents. Once a disaster has occurred, the local extension outreach includes: 1) Communicating practical science-based risk information, 2) Developing relevant educational experiences and programs, 3) Working with individuals and communities to open new communication channels, and 4) Mitigating losses and facilitating recovery. NIFA intends to fund Special Needs projects to implement applied scientific programs that serve public needs in preparation for, during and after local or regional emergency situations. Deadline 31 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Conservation Innovation Grant for North Dakota

The purpose of CIG is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging the Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production. CIG projects are expected to lead to the transfer of conservation technologies, management systems, and innovative approaches (such as market-based systems) into NRCS technical manuals, guides, and references or to the private sector. CIG does not fund research projects. It is a vehicle to stimulate the development and adoption of conservation approaches or technologies that have been studied sufficiently to indicate a likelihood of success, and to be candidates for eventual technology transfer or institutionalization. Deadline 1 Aug. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ FY2013 New Mexico CIG Program

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), New Mexico State Office, hereby announces availability of the New Mexico State Component of the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate on-the-ground adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Applications for the state component are accepted from applicants in New Mexico. NRCS anticipates that the amount available for support of this program in FY 2013 will be approximately $150,000. 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 1 Jun. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Pulling Together Initiative 2013

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. Deadline 17 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Supplemental and Alternative Crops Competitive Grants Program

The Supplemental and Alternative Crops Competitive (SACC) Grants Program will support the development of canola as a viable supplemental and alternative crop in the United States. The goal of the SACC program is to significantly increase crop production and/or acreage by developing and testing of superior germplasm, improving methods of planting, cultivation, and harvesting, and transferring new knowledge to producers (via Extension) as soon as practicable. Extension, education, and communication activities related to the research areas above must be addressed in the proposal. Deadline 14 Jun. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports


(TOP) ~ ASA, CSSA, SSSA seeking Senior Science Policy Manager in Washington, DC

The Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies (ACSESS) is seeking candidates for a Senior Manager level position within the Washington, D.C. Science Policy Office. The Senior Science Policy Manager will support and lead efforts to increase federal legislative and funding opportunities related to agronomy, crop and soil science. Key responsibilities: leadership and guidance in the development and analysis of policy positions relating to the agronomic, crop and soil science fields, federal budget and appropriations activities, outreach to Congressional members and staff, and leadership on efforts related to federal regulation and rulemaking. Interested candidates should submit a resume, cover letter describing your interest in the position, and list of three references electronically to Karl Anderson at: (kanderson@sciencesocieties.org). Applications must be received by May 15, 2013. ACSESS is an EOE. Get more information


(TOP) ~ AGree releases two background reports

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 are releasing two background reports on aspects of federal agricultural policy. The first “Agricultural Conservation & Environmental Programs: The Challenge of Measuring Performance” summarizes the challenges of measuring environmental outcomes and reviews differing types of performance measures and their utility in measuring the effectiveness of practices, programs, and policies. See full report The second report, entitled “Assessing the Impacts of Federal Farm Bill Programs on Rural Communities” summarizes the impact of federal farm and food programs on rural communities in the United States. The report focuses on five areas: farm commodity programs; farm risk management, insurance, and disaster programs; agricultural conservation programs; food and nutrition programs; and rural development programs. See full report


(TOP) ~ After objections to drought report, NOAA issues clarifying 'FAQ'

On April 11, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report on the 2012 Great Plains summer drought, accompanied by a media phone call explaining the report. An immediate focus of questions was whether the drought could be attributed to climate change. The report authors' response was, in a word, no, and most headlines highlighted this fact. The report triggered criticism from one respected climate scientist in particular, Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who characterized its analysis of climate change's role in the drought as incomplete and said it "asked the wrong questions." In the summer, Trenberth said, the weather systems are smaller and depend more on local conditions. The report authors ignored how such local factors like low snowpack in the Rockies and low soil moisture, potentially climate change-related, could have affected Great Plains weather patterns, he said. Now, NOAA has issued a "Frequently Asked Questions" page to help clarify some of the questions about climate change and its drought report. View FAQ page


(TOP) ~ Agriculture, climate change team to fill Erie with killer algae

Heavier rains and changing agricultural practices appear to be driving up instances of harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie, endangering the health of the humans and wildlife that depend upon it, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation and the University of Michigan. The report shows that heavier precipitation in the spring and summer months during the last decade and a half have been followed by explosions in the lake's levels of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, which produce a toxin that is harmful to the liver and digestive organs of fish, birds and mammals. Rainfall patterns in the region do appear to be changing along with seasonal temperatures in ways that contribute to increased runoff with warmer temperatures in the early spring boosting the number of rain-on-snow events. But climate change is not the only shift that is helping to fill Lake Erie with phosphates, spurring algae bloom, the report said. Climate and changing farming practices were packing a "one-two punch" to the lake's ecosystem. See full report


(TOP) ~ USDA and EPA release new report on honey bee heath

Honey bee colony decline is the result of multiple factors, including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure, according to a scientific report on honey bee health released by the USDA and EPA. The report notes that the most pressing pesticide research questions relate to determining actual pesticide exposures and effects of pesticides to bees in the field and the potential for impacts on bee health and productivity of whole honey bee colonies. The Colony Collapse Steering Committee, comprised of members from both USDA and EPA, and formed in response to a sudden and widespread disappearance of adult honey bees from beehives, will consider the report's recommendations and update the CCD Action Plan which will outline major priorities to be addressed in the next 5-10 years and serve as a reference document for policy makers, legislators and the public and will help coordinate the federal strategy in response to honey bee losses. See full report


(TOP) ~ U.S. food production shifting north, along with infrastructure to move it

America's breadbasket isn't where it used to be. The epicenter of agricultural production has moved north and west over the past half-century, and that trend will likely continue at an accelerated pace due to global warming, a new study finds. Published in the online version of the journal Nature Climate Change, the study depicts how such a shift could put new strains on U.S. infrastructure, as rails and trains replace riverboats as the primary mode of agricultural transportation. "You're definitely going to need to expand loading and export facilities and bolster the strength of your rail lines from North Dakota west and east," said Bruce McCarl, a regents professor with the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University. "This is a 50-year expansion we're talking about." The agricultural sector already places significant demand on the nation's transportation infrastructure, making up 22 percent of all transport tonnage. Of that total, grain holds the largest share. Yet even that could change, as evaporating temperature barriers allow corn production to expand in the rich soils of Minnesota and the Dakotas. Acre for acre, corn yields are three times as heavy as wheat. "That means you're moving three times the volume," McCarl said. "That puts new demand on the infrastructure to move it."


(TOP) ~ Researchers find hotter wildfires are not necessarily worse for soil

fire soilsIt might seem paradoxical to say that hotter wildfires pose less risk to the lands they burn. Indeed, it has been the long-standing consensus among soil scientists that soil degradation and sterilization increase with the intensity of a fire. But those beliefs may be biased, in part, by the limited size and homogeneity of past experiments. New research from Cornell University suggests that, given a wider area with more diverse terrain, many more variables (the moisture content and density of the vegetation, as well as interaction of multiple fire fronts, to name a few) come into play. In some instances, the researchers found that an intense fire left the ground in better condition than a slow, smoldering burn. When you have variable topography, fire can vary as well. As the scientists monitored the fire's progress and soil temperatures in the experiment plot, a counterintuitive finding emerged: The more densely vegetated regions spawned hotter fires, as would be expected, but the soil beneath them remained relatively cool compared with more sparsely covered areas upslope. A key factor appears to be the moisture content of the underlying vegetation.


(TOP) ~ Meeting Notice of the NAREEE Advisory Board

The USDA National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board has scheduled a public meeting for May 28 through 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. The meeting will include a briefing on ethical behavior for federal advisory committee members, briefings regarding the USDA's Research, Education, and Economics Mission Area, a discussion on the role of the Board in advising the Secretary of Agriculture, Land Grant Institutions and Congress, a discussion on how to most effectively organize the work of the Board and its Committees, a discussion related to the international programs related to the Research, Education, and Economics Mission Area, and updates from each of the agencies of the Mission Area. See federal register notice

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ Senate confirms Burwell as OMB director

burwellThe Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the next director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. With a 96-0 vote, Burwell becomes the first permanent OMB chief since now-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew left to be President Obama's chief of staff in January 2012. In statements praising the confirmation, Obama and Senate Democrats emphasized the importance of Burwell's role as the federal government continues to operate under sequestration levels. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Burwell's previous experience in the Clinton administration, as well as with the Walmart Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, demonstrated her capability for leading OMB. "Given our nation's fiscal challenges, particularly as sequestration takes effect, it is up to the administration and Congress to work together to regain control of our budget and put this country's fiscal house in order," Carper said. "We also need a strong leader who can work with Congress to tackle this enormous challenge. Sylvia Mathews Burwell knows what it takes to get our nation back on a sound fiscal path at this critical point in time."


(TOP) ~ Bipartisan senators introduce bill aimed at protecting prairies

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation they said would help protect the nation's grasslands from overfarming and overgrazing. The "Sodsaver Prairie Protection Act" from Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) would restrict crop insurance premium assistance for insured crops grown on native sod converted to cropland. The goal of the so-called sodsaver bill is to do more to protect native grasslands. "Our sodsaver legislation makes common-sense changes to crop insurance saving taxpayers nearly $200 million," said Thune, citing a 10-year cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. "This bill in no way prohibits a producer's right to convert sod or long-standing grasslands to cropland; instead, it simply prevents the less productive converted native sod from being insured the same as land that has been improved and farmed for several years." The legislation could also be worked into a five-year farm bill. A similar bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) earlier this year. Agriculture and environmental groups backed the bill and have said it is a top priority as the Senate Agriculture Committee considers the farm bill.


(TOP) ~ U.S. crop safety net policy: overarching considerations and the current farm bill debate

This article examines some of the considerations that will underpin the debate over the new farm bill, and thus frame the details of the crop safety net. It takes an in-depth look at how acreage realignment, the elimination of annual acreage set-asides, and the distribution of spending by program type among crops will affect the final outcome. In the article’s summary observations, the author, Carl Zulauf, a farm policy expert at The Ohio State University, notes that crops most affected by the loss of direct payments will be trying to find ways to retain their share of farm safety net spending. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Lucas looks ahead to markup: commodity program similar to last year's proposal

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said his new farm bill will cut $38 billion over 10 years, with $20 billion coming from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the remaining from other titles in the bill. He has scheduled markup of the bill for May 15. Lucas’s bill cuts $3 billion more than his 2012 bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to cut $23 billion over 10 years. In an interview, Lucas said he is matching the cuts proposed by the White House, although President Obama made no cuts to SNAP, while recommending cuts to crop insurance, something Lucas does not plan to offer. Lucas said this year’s commodity title would retain the same basis as last year, meaning the elimination of direct payments. Read full article


(TOP) ~ USDA launches site to open wealth of scientific, climate data

Ever yearn to know when a Kenyan cow's milk production may peak? Or how well soybeans grew in Brazil last year? The Agriculture Department has made it easier to view agricultural data from around the world, in a wider effort to improve data sharing. USDA launched a channel to provide an easy portal to acquire data. The intent of the effort is not new, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. The announcement comes at a time when the sequester is threatening to compromise data collection in climate change research and monitoring. The agriculture niche on data.gov will allow data from existing programs, some of which have remained in "vaults and back rooms" and not on the website, to be found in one place, Vilsack said. Relatively few funds will go to new research or programs. "This actually is a consequence and a way of coping with budget challenges more efficiently, more effectively, by sharing information rather than siloing it," Vilsack said. "In doing so, I think we could get to a better place more quickly, by saving money and saving time." Take a look


(TOP) ~ Scuse to be agriculture acting deputy secretary, Karsting to head FAS

The White House has named Michael Scuse as Agriculture acting deputy secretary effective May 4, replacing Kathleen Merrigan, who is leaving the USDA. Scuse has been serving as undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services and as a member of the board of directors of the Commodity Credit Corporation since being confirmed to that post a year ago. Before joining the Obama administration, he was Delaware agriculture secretary and served as president of the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture. Philip Karsting has been named as the new administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service. He most recently served as the chief of staff for Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and has experience in the agriculture appropriations process.


(TOP) ~ Help wanted: The STEM workforce shortage

Small businesses are the backbone of the United States’ economy and hold the key to its recovery. And among American small businesses, high-tech firms that engage in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math hold the most promise to jump start growth and forge a lasting, competitive rebound. That’s because while Washington focuses reflexively on imperfect indicators like the unemployment rate, the dirty little secret is that all jobs are not created equal (not by a long shot) and policymakers should stop pretending they are. Read full article

Sources: AGree; The Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Climatewire; Energy and Environment Daily; Environmental Protection Agency; Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; Meridian Institute; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Politico; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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.