Science Policy Report

Address all comments to the Science Policy Office at:

17 July 2013

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ The Aspen Institute launches food security strategy group
~ Overlapping models reveal climate hot spots
~ 20th World Congress of Soil Science, Korea
~ 2001-2010, a decade of climate extremes
~ Costa Rica finding inventive ways to eliminate agricultural emissions
~ Environment Committee advocates promoting advanced biofuels
~ Coalition for Agricultural Development: feed the future sign on letter

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Food and Farms Communication Fund
~ Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
~ Wallace Genetic Foundation
~ National Center for Innovation in Small Drinking Water Systems

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ National appointment
~ Meeting the science needs of the nation in the wake of hurricane Sandy
~ Adoption of genetically engineered crops in the U.S.
~ EPA programs that affect agriculture and rural communities
~ USGS study links land use, farming with poor biological health of streams
~ Webinar: crop rotations on diversified farms
~ National Research Council Committee seeks input

Congressional/Administration News

~ ASA, CSSA, SSSA August Challenge
~ Farm bill, agriculture programs separated from nutrition programs
~ Moniz outlines DOE science and technology priorities
~ U.S. corn acreage up for fifth straight year
~ In a tight budget environment, NOAA walks fine line between weather and climate duties
~ House passes bill to fund DOE and Army Corps, maintains steep clean energy cuts
~ National sustainability policy should be established
~ Bipartisan bill aims to boost research

International Corner

(TOP) ~ The Aspen Institute launches food security strategy group

On June 15-17 in Marrakech, Morocco, nearly 40 preeminent thought-leaders on hunger, global food markets, climate change, and population convened for the launch of a new Food Security Strategy Group at the Aspen Institute. This Strategy Group was launched in parallel to the annual Aspen Ideas Festival, a gathering of some of the most interesting thinkers and leaders from around the world to discuss their work, the issues that inspire them, and their ideas. A major focus within the festival is on the social, economic, cultural political, and geopolitical aspects of the Middle East, and its role in our collective fate, a key piece of our global food security challenge. Get more information

(TOP) ~ Overlapping models reveal climate hot spots

The combined impacts of climate change will create "hot spots" of especially vulnerable areas in the Amazon, East Africa and the Mediterranean, a study has found. By overlapping models that predict climate change impacts on water availability, agricultural yields, malaria occurrence and changes in animal and plant life, 34 researchers collaborated to find world regions that would feel the greatest consequences, in an effort to better understand how these different impacts interact. Previous studies on impacts relied much more on pure climate indicators, like temperature increases and precipitation patterns. The most prominent hot spot was the southern Amazon Basin, where three of the four factors (agricultural yields, water resources and shifts in forests and animal life) are expected to change greatly. Southern Europe, from northern Spain to the Black Sea, will experience big changes in at least two sectors, and many parts of Ethiopia will experience impacts in at least three overlapping sectors. These impacts could cause a domino effect in society. The effort is called the Intersectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP). It isn't often that an agricultural modeler will collaborate with a wildlife expert or an economic development analyst with a hydrologist for climate change models. This can limit the understanding of what a future world will look like.

(TOP) ~ 20th World Congress of Soil Science, Korea

We are pleased to announce that the 20th World Congress of Soil Science will be held at the International Convention Center Jeju (ICC Jeju) on Jeju Island, Korea, from June 8th to 13th, 2014. The theme of the conference is Soils Embrace Life and Universe, and the congress is also a celebration of 90 years IUSS. We cordially invite you to join us and be part of the 20th World Congress of Soil Science. We hope that you will take this chance to explore one of the most exciting and wonderful countries in the world. We are looking forward to seeing you on Jeju Island. Get more information

(TOP) ~ 2001-2010, a decade of climate extremes

climate graphMore national temperature records were reported broken during 2001-2010 than in any previous decade, according to a report by the U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The report analyzed global and regional temperatures and precipitation, as well as extreme events. The average land and ocean-surface temperature for the decade 2001-2010 was estimated to be 14.47°C, or 0.47°C above the 1961–1990 global average and +0.21°C above the 1991–2000 global average (with a factor of uncertainty of ± 0.1°C). The 2001-2010 decade was the second wettest since 1901. See press release

(TOP) ~ Costa Rica finding inventive ways to eliminate agricultural emissions

Four years ago, Costa Rica declared that it would become the world's first carbon-neutral nation by 2021, and the country is forging ahead in eliminating one of its costliest emissions sources: agriculture, which represents 37 percent of its emissions. One of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture is nitrous oxide from synthetic fertilizers, something Costa Rican farmer Maria Luisa Jimenez is avoiding altogether through a low-carbon soil management system she calls "organoponics." Instead of conventional fertilizer, organoponics uses a mixture of dried rice husks, coconut fiber, composted cow manure and biochar, a charcoal-like material made from agricultural waste that traps carbon in the soil and helps hold water and nutrients. At the government-owned Los Diamantes Experimental Station, scientists are working with a suite of low-carbon alternatives for big livestock producers, starting with waste. The farm is using what's known as a biogas digester. Instead of escaping into the air, the gas is used as fuel for various parts of the farm. Other low-tech solutions in the mix include planting trees in the place of fence posts and seeding pastures with new varieties of grass that cause less gas when cows eat them.

(TOP) ~ Environment Committee advocates promoting advanced biofuels

European Parliament has approved draft legal measures to cap traditional biofuel production and accelerate the switchover to a new generation of products from other sources, such as seaweed and or certain types of waste. These measures aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to the growing use of farmland to produce biofuel crops. Member states must ensure that renewable energy sources account for at least 10% of transport fuel use by 2020. The share of first-generation biofuels, produced from food and energy crops, must not exceed 5.5% of total energy consumption for transport purposes by 2020. Advanced biofuels produced from other sources, such as seaweed or certain types of waste, must account for no less than 2% of consumption by 2020. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Coalition for Agricultural Development: feed the future sign on letter

The Coalition for Agricultural Development (CFAD), along with the Soil Science Society of America, as a group of concerned organizations, have written to express broad support for sustained funding for global agricultural development and food security programs in FY 2014. Read full letter and Read CFAD issues paper

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

(TOP) ~ Food and Farms Communication Fund

The fund (a collaboration between the Grace Communications Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, and the McKnight Foundation) has announced a call for Letters of Inquiry for a second round of funding to expand the communications capacity of sustainable food and agriculture education and public policy organizations. Grants of up to $100,000 will be awarded for projects that advance a specifically targeted innovative media/communications effort, assist in removing the "roadblocks" to better communications efforts aimed at affecting consumers and public opinion, and/or that focus on media and communications campaigns that address specific public policy issues. Deadline 1 Sep. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

The purpose of the Partnership Grant program is to support agricultural service providers who work directly with farmers to do on-farm demonstrations, research, marketing, and other projects that will add to our understanding of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is understood to be agriculture that is profitable, environmentally sound, and beneficial to the community. Partnership projects can address a variety of topics, including the development of beneficial insect habitat, alternative crops or animals, practices that make use of biological cycles for improved soil, plant, and pest management, marketing, adding value, grazing, energy, tool or technology development, agroforestry, farm management, farm labor, or water quality. Proposals should be relevant to farming and sustainability issues in the Northeast, and should offer both research and outreach components so that results will be available to the wider farm community. Deadline 13 Nov. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ Wallace Genetic Foundation

The Wallace Genetic Foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations nationwide that believe in the long-term conservation of the soil and of the environment, rather than exploitation of natural resources for temporary profits. Specific areas of interest include the following: sustainable agriculture, protection of farmland, conservation of natural resources, biodiversity protection, reduction of environmental toxins, and global climate issues. Grants generally range from $25,000 to $40,000. Requests may be submitted throughout the year. Application guidelines and forms are available on the Foundation’s website. Deadline 1 Nov. Read full announcement


The U.S. Forest Service is providing leadership and funding on behalf of a USDA, multiagency, Wood-To-Energy Initiative by offering a Request for Proposals for projects that support collaborative, statewide wood energy teams that advance the installation of commercially viable wood energy systems. Public-private statewide teams are invited to seek funding to support the development of geographic or business sector-based clusters of wood energy projects. Activities may include, but are not limited to, workshops and assistance that provide technical, financial, and environmental information; preliminary engineering assessments; and community outreach needed to support development of wood energy projects in both the public and private sectors. Deadline 5 Aug. Read full announcement

(TOP) ~ National Center for Innovation in Small Drinking Water Systems

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications for a National Research Center that will: identify, develop, demonstrate and facilitate widespread acceptance and applicability of novel and innovative technologies and approaches to measure or treat groups of microbiological or chemical contaminants, or their precursors; apply novel new information technology systems; and improve the sustainability of small drinking water systems. Deadline 21 Aug. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

(TOP) ~ National appointment

ISU agronomy professor and ASA, CSSA, and SSSA member Matt Liebman has been appointed to the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council’s Committee on a Framework for Assessing Health, Environmental and Social Effects of the Food System.  The ad hoc expert committee will develop a systematic approach to determine the positive and negative effects associated with the ways in which food is grown, processed, distributed and marketed in the United States. Get more information

(TOP) ~ Meeting the science needs of the nation in the wake of hurricane Sandy

hurricane sandyThis science plan was developed immediately following Hurricane Sandy to coordinate continuing USGS science activities with other agencies and to guide continued data collection and analysis to ensure support for recovery and restoration efforts. The data, information, and tools that are produced by implementing this plan will: further characterize impacts and changes; guide mitigation and restoration of impacted communities and ecosystems; inform a redevelopment strategy aimed at developing resilient coastal communities and ecosystems; improve preparedness and responsiveness to the next hurricane or similar coastal disaster; and enable improved hazard assessment, response, and recovery for future storms along the hurricane prone shoreline of the United States. See full report

(TOP) ~ Adoption of genetically engineered crops in the U.S.

A USDA Economic Research Service report summarizes the adoption of herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant crops since their introduction in 1996. Tables are provided for corn, cotton, and soybeans and were obtained by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in the June Agricultural Survey for 2000 through 2013. View the data

(TOP) ~ EPA programs that affect agriculture and rural communities

The EPA Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC) has scheduled a public teleconference meeting for August 8, 2013. The meeting notice did not provide an agenda for the meeting noting only that the Committee provides policy advice, information, and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities and that Committee members are to discuss specific topics of relevance for consideration by the Committee in order to provide advice and insights to the Agency on environmental policies and programs that affect and engage agriculture and rural communities. Get more information

(TOP) ~ USGS study links land use, farming with poor biological health of streams

A study released July 11 by the U.S. Geological Survey said that four in five of the nation's streams found in agricultural and urban areas are showing poor biological health. Poor biological health of streams is closely associated with urban and agriculture areas where streams and rivers have been dammed or altered, vegetation has been removed, and fertilizers and pesticides have been applied extensively, the study said. At the same time, the USGS found that “nearly one in five streams in agricultural and urban areas was in relatively good health, signaling that it is possible to maintain stream health in watersheds with substantial land and water-use development.” The report, 'Health of U.S. Streams Reduced by Streamflow Modifications and Contaminants,' provides a national assessment of stream health based on the condition of biological communities in relation to the degree of changes made to streams and the concentrations of nutrients and other pesticides that have made their way into the waters. See full report

(TOP) ~ Webinar: crop rotations on diversified farms

Participate in this training to learn about the many variables to consider when developing crop rotations on diversified operations. Emphasis will be placed on considerations for weed, pest, and nutrient management, based on examples and input for farmers. This webinar will focus on material available in Crop Rotations on Organic Farms. Join us for an overview of how crop rotation can be used as a multi-functional management technique to address pests and weeds in diversified systems. Get more information

(TOP) ~ National Research Council Committee seeks input

The National Research Council has appointed a committee to perform an independent assessment of the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). As part of its information gathering, the committee is conducting a web-based solicitation to seek input broadly from researchers, academic and extension leaders, reviewers, and users and beneficiaries of AFRI. Please provide your input by August 15, 2013. Get more information and complete questionnaire

Congressional/Administration News

(TOP) ~ ASA, CSSA, SSSA August Challenge

August means one thing in the policy world: members of Congress returning home! This summer, ASA, CSSA & SSSA are challenging our members to schedule 50 meetings during the month of August, one in every state. To prepare new advocates for this challenge, the Science Policy Office has launched a new Advocacy Toolkit, where we provide informational materials and talking points that you can use in your meetings to show Congress just how valuable food, agriculture and natural resources research is. We will also be hosting a series of webinars on the basics of science policy and how to schedule and lead a Congressional meeting. Get more information

(TOP) ~ Farm bill, agriculture programs separated from nutrition programs

capitolOn a vote of 216 to 208, the US House of Representatives approved with no amendments, HR 2642, which would “provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2018, and for other purposes.” Read full article

(TOP) ~ Moniz outlines DOE science and technology priorities

On June 18, 2013 the Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing to discuss the Department of Energy’s (DOE) science and technology priorities. Testimony was heard from the newly appointed Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz. Moniz emphasized the DOE’s commitment to the President’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, as well as interest in natural gas and carbon capture and sequestration technology.  DOE plans to evaluate natural gas exporting permits as quickly as possible, and expects to begin issuing permits within the calendar year. DOE is also working to lower the cost of renewable energy, and continuing to support research and development efforts in carbon capture and sequestration. Opening statements and witness testimony, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing, are available from the committee website. See the video

(TOP) ~ U.S. corn acreage up for fifth straight year

U.S. farmers planted 97.4 million acres of corn, up slightly from 2012 and the highest acreage planted to corn since 1936, according to the Acreage report released by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). For corn, producers planted 90 percent of their acreage with seed varieties developed using biotechnology, up 2 percent from 2012. Farmers also planted a record-high 77.7 million acres of soybeans this season, up 1 percent from last year. Producers planted 93 percent of the 2013 soybean acreage to herbicide resistant seed varieties, unchanged from 2012. All wheat planted area for 2013 is estimated at 56.5 million acres, up 1 percent from last year. Read news release

(TOP) ~ In a tight budget environment, NOAA walks fine line between weather and climate duties

With Congress pulling the nation's purse strings tight, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has had to jettison climate science programs as it focuses on the immediate need to predict severe weather. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said past cost overruns of NOAA's polar orbiting satellite program had the program heading toward "catastrophe," and one of the solutions was cutting the program's climate sensors and moving them over to NASA. Kathryn Sullivan, acting NOAA administrator, affirmed that the move was part of an effort to narrow the agency's scope and get the satellites launched on time. "At this point in time, the focus is on operational weather satellites.” At the same time, Sullivan acknowledged that NOAA has a big role to play in the push from the president to address climate change, highlighting a new drought forecasting product the weather service just rolled out. Superstorm Sandy and other severe weather events, including last year's Midwestern drought and an ongoing active Western fire season, have focused Congress' attention on the need for improved weather forecasting, particularly of extreme weather. Since the data from the polar orbiting satellites play a key role in predictive weather models, Mikulski has pressed NOAA to ensure they stay on budget and on schedule, which is one of the reasons for dropping the climate sensors.

(TOP) ~ House passes bill to fund DOE and Army Corps, maintains steep clean energy cuts

The House has approved a bill to fund the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers and related agencies following a second marathon day of debate. The $30.4 billion bill remained largely unchanged as the gavel fell on the final 227-198 vote. Of 66 amendments that came to a vote, about a third were adopted, most of which aim to block or encourage various policy changes. Eight amendments succeeded in shifting about $114 million in spending authority within the bill, mostly in increments of less than $20 million. Over two days of debate, Democrats offered a handful of big-ticket amendments seeking to undo the steep cuts proposed to clean energy, science and research accounts by shifting funds away from weapons programs that were funded in excess of the Obama administration's requests. But they failed along largely party-line votes. Debate on amendments featured further Republican efforts to limit the Obama administration's promotion of renewable energy sources in addition to the underlying spending reductions in the bill that cut DOE programs in those areas by more than half.

(TOP) ~ National sustainability policy should be established

A National Sustainability Policy should be established for the United States in order to encourage federal agencies to collaborate on sustainability challenges that demand the expertise of many agencies, such as improving disaster resilience and managing ecosystems, according to a report released by the National Academies National Research Council. It notes that currently, the government is generally not organized to deal with the complex, long-term nature of sustainability challenges. The report offers a decision-making framework that can help agencies identify and enlist other agencies and private stakeholders that should be involved and identifies four challenges of national importance that should be top priorities: [1] Connections among energy, food and water; [2] Diverse and healthy ecosystems; [3] Resilience of communities to natural disasters and other extreme events; [4] Human health and well-being. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Bipartisan bill aims to boost research

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the House and the Senate are seeking to boost funding for research on crop diseases and other agricultural issues. Legislation introduced today in both chambers would amend the tax code to allow for the creation of charitable partnerships between universities and private entities for agricultural research. The new tax-exempt agricultural research organizations would be similar to medical research organizations that have been in place since the 1950s. Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced the bill, S. 1280, in the Senate. In the House, Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) introduced the legislation, H.R. 2671. The lawmakers said the bill would transfer private funding from donors to agricultural research and would help fund traditionally underfunded areas such as specialty crops and specific diseases. "In the current tight budget environment, Congress needs to enact innovative legislation, such as this bill, which will encourage private donors to help meet shortfalls in agriculture research funding," Thune said.

Sources: American Geosciences Institute; Climatewire; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Science Daily; USDA; US Geological Survey; United Nations World Meteorological Organization

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.