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Science Policy Report

Address all comments to the Science Policy Office at:
sciencepolicy@sciencesocieties.org

22 May 2013

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ Over half world's population could depend on imported food by 2050
~ Food aid reform stalls: senators want food for peace program left alone
~ NSAC adopts immigration reform principles
~ Fewer rain forests mean less energy for developing nations, study finds
~ Unusual tropical rainfall patterns increasing, study
~ At trade talks, U.S., E.U. ready for fight on genetically modified crops
~ Freezing the footprint of food
~ New report urges a US global food security focus on science, trade, and business

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Specialty Crop Block Grant Program-Farm Bill
~ USAID Ghana Trade and Agriculture Activity, DRAFT Program Description
~ FY13 Region 9 Wetland Program Development Grants
~ Conservation Innovation Grant – WY
~ FY13 and FY14 Region 06 Wetland Program Development Grants
~ USDA NRCS Vermont Conservation Innovation Grants 2013
~ FY13 Region 7 Wetland Program Development Grants
~ REDD+ Stakeholder Engagement in Support of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ ASA, CSSA, SSSA seeking Senior Science Policy Manager in Washington, DC
~ USDA funds research to study the effects of climatic variability on cattle
~ Agriculture emissions rose 13% over 2 decades
~ Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K-12 STEM Education; now available
~ Agriculture’s supply and demand for energy and energy products
~ Hidden winter habitat threatened as snow cover shrinks
~ The hidden world under our feet
~ Nominations for Presidential Awards for Excellence
~ World Food Prize seeks nominations for Norman Borlaug Award

Congressional/Administration News

~ Interior appoints new climate change advisory committee
~ Farm, conservation groups ink 'historic' deal linking stewardship to crop insurance
~ Food stamps, not crop subsidies, highest hurdle for farm bill
~ Lawmakers vote to boost STEM education in immigration bill
~ Bipartisan legislation introduced to establish U.S. science laureate
~ Agriculture secretary Vilsack unveils vision for U.S. organic agriculture

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Over half world's population could depend on imported food by 2050

A new study by Marianela Fader from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, and colleagues, calculated the growing capacity of every country in the world and compared it with food requirements, both now and projected forward to 2050. They used the data to assess what proportion of its food a country could produce. The model found that very few countries could maintain the same diet and be food self-sufficient, even if they wanted to. "Today, 66 countries are not able to be self-sufficient due to water and/or land constraints," Fader said, which means 16 percent of the world’s population depends on food imported from other countries. The countries most dependent on imports were found in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central America. Food security will be a big issue in the coming decades, the researchers say, and improving agricultural productivity could play a key role in addressing the issue, as could a change in diet toward more seasonal and vegetarian food. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Food aid reform stalls: senators want food for peace program left alone

The Obama administration proposal that would shift some of the U.S. foreign food aid from buying domestic commodities to direct cash purchases overseas is stumbling in Congress. The chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee both expressed their displeasure with the proposal, saying they were flat-out unwilling to go along with it. Commodity groups and merchant marines have formed a coalition to block any such changes, while food aid advocates are divided on the issue. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), the ranking member, said he believes such changes are short sighted. "I happen to think Food for Peace has been a cornerstone of America's humanitarian assistance since the mid-'50s and plays a vital role in linking our farmers with the developing world and is the largest and most consistently supported food and agricultural development assistance program we provide,” he said.


(TOP) ~ NSAC adopts immigration reform principles

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) adopted a statement of Principles for Immigration Reform and Agriculture. NSAC says while it is encouraged that both chambers of Congress are pursuing immigration reform, some of the current proposals are headed in the wrong direction. An agricultural immigration policy that treats workers as indentured servants and not as members of families and social networks, cannot, writes NSAC, be sustainable. Instead, NSAC proposes a new approach in which all farm workers have full labor rights and all farm workers have legal status. NSAC supports legalization of all current undocumented individuals, as well as a path to citizenship for those who continue to work in the U.S. Labor law standards for farm workers should be enforced. NSAC said it opposes industry-specific guest worker programs. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Fewer rain forests mean less energy for developing nations, study finds

deforestationThe loss of tropical rain forests is likely to reduce the energy output of hydroelectric projects in countries like Brazil that are investing billions of dollars to create power to support economic growth. That is the conclusion of a group of experts whose findings run counter to the conventional understanding of deforestation’s impact on watersheds. For years, scientists and engineers have noted an increase in river flows when the trees along streams are removed. The water in the soil, which would otherwise have been taken up by the tree roots and sent into the atmosphere, instead moves directly into streams and rivers. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Unusual tropical rainfall patterns increasing, study

Nations in tropical zones have reported changes in their rainfall cycles, with many concerned about a wet season that almost refuses to arrive. According to a study published in Nature Climate Change, climate change will likely make such irregularities worse. Looking at 80 years of rainfall data from around the world, researchers found that rain patterns in certain regions have been changing and becoming more unpredictable. This becomes particularly important when considering how these shifts can affect the ecosystems in the region, including the livelihoods of people who subsist on rain-fed agriculture. In the tropics, rainfall patterns have created different ecosystems, from dry forests to open woodlands to savannas. Regions such as northeast Brazil, western and central Africa, and northern Australia, for example, undergo cycles of intensely wet and dry periods to which local people, plants and animals have become adapted. While the debate over the impacts of climate change often focuses on changes in average temperature and annual amounts of rain, the study showed changes in the seasonal distribution of rain are just as important, if not more so.


(TOP) ~ At trade talks, U.S., E.U. ready for fight on genetically modified crops

Opposition in Europe to U.S. agricultural practices is threatening to become a major battle in discussions starting next month that could sweep away trade barriers between the United States and Europe, according to a Washington Post news story. It reports that few involved in the discussions expect European concerns over genetically modified products to endanger the entire trade pact, but analysts say the brouhaha could limit the extent to which agriculture is part of the final agreement. The story notes that European regulators tend to be far more cautious, focusing more on what they might not know than on what they do know. Even if European trade negotiators agree to loosen restrictions on U.S. genetically modified crops, they are likely to demand the labeling of products with genetically modified ingredients. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Freezing the footprint of food

In this opinion piece, Dr. Jason Clay, the senior vice president for market transformation of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), says one of the most pressing conservation issues of the 21st century is how and where we will feed everyone in 2050, when another two billion people call Earth home. Already, 70 percent of the planet’s available surface is used to grow food. Clay argues that we need to freeze the footprint of food – or find ways to double the productivity of farming, so we can produce twice as much on the same amount of land. WWF has identified eight steps, which, when taken together, could produce enough food for all and still maintain a living planet. Read full article


(TOP) ~ New report urges a US global food security focus on science, trade, and business

Leaders from science, government, business and civil society are convening at The Chicago Council’s Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, DC to urge US leadership in mobilizing science, increasing trade, and capitalizing on the power of business to meet future food demand. The Chicago Council is releasing a new report at the symposium that puts forward four broad policy recommendations, composed of 21 specific actions to define the next steps for US global food security policy. Read full report

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Specialty Crop Block Grant Program-Farm Bill

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is seeking applications from State departments of agriculture solely to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops pertaining to the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry: increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops; improving efficiency and reducing costs of distribution systems; assisting all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain in developing “Good Agricultural Practices,” “Good Handling Practices,” “Good Manufacturing Practices,” and in cost-share arrangements for funding audits of such systems for small farmers, packers and processors; investing in specialty crop research, including research to focus on conservation and environmental outcomes; enhancing food safety; developing new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops; pest and disease control; and development of organic and sustainable production practices. Deadline 10 Jul. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ USAID Ghana Trade and Agriculture Activity, DRAFT Program Description

usaid logoUSAID/Ghana is designing a follow on Trade and Agricultural (GTA) activity as part of the Feed the Future initiative (FtF). This program will follow the present FtF value chain project (ADVANCE) Program as the primary mechanism for value chain support under USAID/Ghana’s Feed the Future strategy, with the objective of developing sustainable, private sector driven agricultural transformation that will increase rural household incomes. USAID is seeking the public as well as the larger development community to review and comment on the attached DRAFT Program Description. These comments will be helpful as we finalize this program description. Deadline 24 May. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ FY13 Region 9 Wetland Program Development Grants

Wetland Program Development Grants 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. Implementation of wetland protection programs is not an eligible project under this announcement. Deadline 10 Jun. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Conservation Innovation Grant – WY

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture, is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. For fiscal year 2013, funds will be awarded through a statewide competitive grants process. 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. This notice identifies the objectives for CIG projects, the eligibility criteria for projects, and associated instructions needed to apply to CIG. Deadline 28 Jun. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ FY13 and FY14 Region 06 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. Implementation of wetland protection programs is not an eligible project under this announcement. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ USDA NRCS Vermont Conservation Innovation Grants 2013

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Vermont (VT) is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. NRCS anticipates that the amount available for support of the Vermont State CIG competition in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 will be approximately $196,000. Funds will be awarded through a statewide competitive grants process. Only projects to be implemented within the state of Vermont will be considered. Deadline 7 Jun. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ FY13 Region 7 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. Implementation of wetland protection programs is not an eligible project under this announcement. Deadline 26 Jun. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ REDD+ Stakeholder Engagement in Support of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility

The purpose is to support work on the ground to enhance and scale-up ongoing stakeholder engagement in developing tropical forest countries that are participants in the global Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). This engagement, which is in addition to the global and regional consultations already carried out by the FCPF, will help individual FCPF countries fill gaps in support for additional stakeholder engagement requested of them before grants can be signed, and to implement components of their REDD+ readiness strategies. 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 (acsessjobs@gmail.com). ACSESS is an EOE. Get more information


(TOP) ~ USDA funds research to study the effects of climatic variability on cattle

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded $19.5 million to support research, education and Extension activities associated with climate solutions in agriculture aimed at these impacts. The University of Wisconsin (UW) in Madison, Wisconsin, received $9.9 million over five years to study the environmental impact of various dairy production systems and develop best management practices for producers to implement at the farm level. Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater, Oklahoma, received $9.6 million over five years to better understand vulnerability and resilience of Southern Great Plains beef in an environment of increased climate variability, dynamic land-use and fluctuating markets. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Agriculture emissions rose 13% over 2 decades

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture increased 13 percent between 1990 and 2010, the Worldwatch Institute says in a recent report. But emissions growth was outpaced in that period by agricultural production, suggesting the sector improved energy efficiency. Worldwatch found agriculture released 4.69 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2010, compared to 6.76 billion tons released by the transportation sector and 12.48 billion tons from electricity and heat producers. The think tank says it used country-specific greenhouse gas emissions data available from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to reach the report's conclusions. The report says methane accounted for nearly half of global agricultural emissions in the time period studied. The digestion of organic materials by livestock was the largest source of agriculture emissions globally and rose 7.6 percent globally during the two decades with Africa and Asia contributing the largest increases. The study also found that manure left on fields, in storage systems and applied to soils contributed 23 percent of agriculture's total emissions through the release of nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide emissions, which are released when nitrogen is broken down in soil, in all accounted for a little more than a third of total agricultural emissions. Carbon dioxide released from soils accounted for 14 percent. Read report abstract


(TOP) ~ Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K-12 STEM Education; now available

Following a 2011 report by the National Research Council (NRC) on successful K-12 education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Congress asked the National Science Foundation to identify methods for tracking progress toward the report's recommendations. In response, the NRC convened the Committee on an Evaluation Framework for Successful K-12 STEM Education to take on this assignment. The committee developed 14 indicators linked to the 2011 report's recommendations. By providing a focused set of key indicators related to students' access to quality learning, educator's capacity, and policy and funding initiatives in STEM, the committee addresses the need for research and data that can be used to monitor progress in K-12 STEM education and make informed decisions about improving it. Get more information


(TOP) ~ Agriculture’s supply and demand for energy and energy products

“Agriculture's Supply and Demand for Energy and Energy Products” is the title of a report released by the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) which found that U.S. farmers have adapted to rising energy prices and evolving policies by adjusting their use of energy based agricultural inputs, altering energy-intensive production practices, and growing more energy feedstock crops. See full report


(TOP) ~ Hidden winter habitat threatened as snow cover shrinks

During winter, when snow falls thickly on the northern forests and fields, a hidden habitat exists beneath. A narrow, warm space forms beneath the snow, creating a refuge for species that can't migrate away from the chill. Ecologists from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have recently dubbed this space "the subnivium". Climate change is causing the slow decline of this shallow but important winter habitat. A new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment shows how the massive decline in snow cover extent and duration will likely spell trouble for the many plant, animal and insect species that depend on the subnivium to survive the winter. The insulation provided by the subnivium allows healthy microbial activity that decomposes plant matter to continue through the winter months. It also prevents frost from penetrating the soil and killing dormant seeds and roots. Because snow cover duration is becoming much shorter and it's become much more variable over time, subnivium conditions have become colder, more variable and less hospitable. "Winter air temperatures have progressively increased in the Upper Midwest of the U.S., but winter soil temperatures have decreased, likely because of reduced snowpack thicknesses and persistence of snow cover," the report states. "Ultimately, despite warming ambient winter air temperatures, the subnivium will gradually change to a colder and more thermally variable environment."


(TOP) ~ The hidden world under our feet

hidden worldThe world’s worrisome decline in biodiversity is well known. Some experts say we are well on our way toward the sixth great extinction and that by 2100 half of all the world’s plant and animal species may disappear. Yet one of the most important threats to biodiversity has received little attention, though it lies under our feet. Scientists using new analytical techniques over the last decade have found that the world’s ocean of soil is one of our largest reservoirs of biodiversity. It contains almost one-third of all living organisms, according to the European Union’s Joint Research Center, but only about 1 percent of its micro-organisms have been identified, and the relationships among those myriad life-forms is poorly understood. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Nominations for Presidential Awards for Excellence

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring is a Presidential award established by the White House. The award is to recognize U.S. citizens, or permanent residents, and U.S. organizations that have demonstrated excellence in mentoring individuals from groups that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce. The PAESMEM program is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Nominations, including self-nominations, are invited for individual and organizational awards. Deadline 5 Jun. Get more information


(TOP) ~ World Food Prize seeks nominations for Norman Borlaug Award

The $10,000 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation recognizes exceptional, science-based achievement in international agriculture and food production by an individual under 40 who has clearly demonstrated intellectual courage, stamina, and determination in the fight to eliminate global hunger and poverty. The award honors an individual who is working closely and directly "in the field" or at the production or processing level with farmers, animal herders, fishers or others in rural communities, in any discipline or enterprise across the entire food production, processing, and distribution chain. Nominations are due June 30 for the 2nd annual award, which will be presented at the World Food Prize events in October. Learn more

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ Interior appoints new climate change advisory committee

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Climate Change Adaptation Science Initiatives has announced the twenty-five members of the newly created Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science that will provide guidance about the operations of the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and the eight regional Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers [CSCs]. Members represent Interior and other federal agencies; tribal, state, and local governments; nongovernmental organizations; academic institutions; and the private sector. The CSCs provide scientific information, tools and techniques that land, water, wildlife and cultural resource managers and other interested parties can apply to anticipate, monitor and adapt to climate and ecologically-driven responses at regional-to-local scales. See the press release


(TOP) ~ Farm, conservation groups ink 'historic' deal linking stewardship to crop insurance

The nation's leading farm groups have agreed to support linking conservation requirements to crop insurance for the first time as part of an agreement with conservation groups. Under the deal, conservation groups have agreed to oppose any further amendments that would limit the ability of farmers to enroll in the federal insurance program. "In the spirit of compromise and in the interest of completing a 2013 Farm Bill, each of the groups has committed to not support amendments beyond this compromise that might weaken the crop insurance program or amendments that might not link conservation compliance with crop insurance premium assistance," the organizations wrote to the Senate Agriculture panel. The American Farm Bureau Federation and trade groups for the top commodity crops have all agreed to the deal, along with the National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and National Association of Conservation Districts. Supporters of the deal are hailing it as groundbreaking. Read more


(TOP) ~ Food stamps, not crop subsidies, highest hurdle for farm bill

As lawmakers begin debate on the new U.S. farm bill, the biggest obstacle is likely to be the billions spent mostly in urban areas. According to analysts, the make-or-break issue will be the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, the biggest Agriculture Department program, at an estimated $79 billion this year. Pat Westoff, the director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), a think tank at the University of Missouri, said food stamps "is the key to getting a final farm bill done. Not that there won't be plenty of other fights.” Republicans are demanding much deeper cuts that Democrats will likely entertain. "On food stamps, they're going to be 10 miles apart," said a farm lobbyist. The Senate bill is aiming for $4 billion in food stamp cuts over 10 years, while the House is angling for $20 billion in savings. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Lawmakers vote to boost STEM education in immigration bill

Good news for STEM fans: There's even more federal resources for science, mathematics, engineering and technology in the big, comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill making its way through the U.S. Senate. The Senate Judiciary committee, which is holding a markup of the bill, voted unanimously to take money collected on fees for labor certifications under the bill and direct the money towards STEM education at the U.S. Department of Education. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Bipartisan legislation introduced to establish U.S. science laureate

rep hironoSenators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), along with Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), introduced bipartisan companion legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives that promotes science education and celebrates scientific achievement by establishing an official Science Laureate of the United States. The Science Laureate would be a nationally renowned expert in their field who would travel around the country to inspire future scientists. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Agriculture secretary Vilsack unveils vision for U.S. organic agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed his vision for U.S. organic agriculture and USDA efforts to ensure its continued success during remarks to the Organic Trade Association. Vilsack announced a number of changes and new initiatives to support the continued growth of organic agriculture, including that the USDA's Risk Management Agency's (RMA) federal crop insurance program will increase coverage options for organic producers this year and provide even more options in 2014, including a contract price addendum as well as new premium price elections for organic crops. Read full article

Sources: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Climatewire; Economic Research Service; Education Week; Environment & Energy Daily; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; Meridian Institute; National Institute of Food and Agriculture; National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; New York Times; Reuters; US Department of the Interior; Washington Post; Worldwatch Institute; World Wildlife Fund

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.