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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.

09 October 2013

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ Indian farmers returning to traditional, flood-resistant rice crops
~ Global hunger down, but millions still chronically hungry
~ House democrats introduce immigration bill with little chance of a vote
~ Kenya's giant aquifer highlights groundwater's critical role
~ As shutdown continues, concerns mount over its impact on climate science

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ IPM Partnership Grants
~ Gulf of Mexico Regional Partnerships
~ Energy Frontier Research Centers
~ North Central SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Program
~ Meta-Analyses on the Impacts of 4R Nutrient Stewardship
~ Research and Demonstrations on Impacts of 4R Nutrient Stewardship
~ 4R Research Fund Issues Proposal Requests for Research on Nutrients in the Environment
~ Urban Waters Small Grants

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ IPCC confirms that human activity will further warm the Earth, report
~ Nature outlook on agriculture and drought
~ Organizations, academia salute World Food Prize for biotechnology focus
~ Keep farmland for farmers, opinion
~ ‘Symphony of the Soil’ film examines the fascinating world below your feet
~ Data collection and information sharing in plant health

Congressional/Administration News

~ Welcome to shutdown city, congressional impasse remains
~ Senate braces for debt limit bill debate
~ U.S. farm law expires again with lawmakers split on new bill
~ Reid requests conference with House on agriculture bills
~ Sequester takes uneven bite from agency budgets
~ Funding cuts ravage academic laboratories
~ Numbers don't tell the whole story of sequestration
~ Rich scientist, poor scientist
~ Twenty senators won’t support extension of direct payments

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Indian farmers returning to traditional, flood-resistant rice crops

indian farmersFarmers in the coastal Sundarbans region, on the India-Bangladesh border, are rejecting modern high-yield varieties of rice and opting for traditional seeds that have unique properties such as the ability to tolerate salinity and floods. Rising sea levels, increasing floods and greater salinity of water due to factors including climate change are threatening to convert fertile farmland into wasteland in the Sundarbans. "The switch-over was difficult, but slowly we realized that our traditional rice varieties like 'Dudheswari' has low input costs and tolerates salinity more easily than the modern ones," said farmer Uttam Maity, who lives on one of the region's islands in the Bay of Bengal. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Global hunger down, but millions still chronically hungry

Some 842 million people, or roughly one in eight, suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-13, not getting enough food to lead active and healthy lives according to a report released by the UN food agencies. The number is down from 868 million reported for the 2010-12 period, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2013), published every year by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Program (WFP). The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions, while 15.7 million live in developed countries. Read full article


(TOP) ~ House democrats introduce immigration bill with little chance of a vote

House Democrats unveiled their immigration reform bill in the midst of the government shutdown, in an attempt to pressure Republicans to act on comprehensive reform that most of them have said is dead on arrival. The bill is nearly identical to the one passed by the Senate in June in a 68-to-32 vote, with support from 14 GOP members and all Democrats. However, the House bill replaces the border security language from the Senate version that convinced many of those Republican and Democratic senators to get on board, and instead includes a measure that passed out of the House Homeland Security Committee in May. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Kenya's giant aquifer highlights groundwater's critical role

The Turkana region in Kenya is not the type of place that would come to mind when picturing a wellspring bursting with water. The area is dry and desolate. It is one of the most arid regions on this planet, with soaring temperatures that burn the earth and suck out moisture. The local people are nomads and follow water to survive. They and their livestock are often plagued by famine, thirst, and poverty. But last month, surprising news came from this oft-ignored part of the world: Below their feet, below the land that is so parched, flowed water in an aquifer that was so large, it would be able to quench the thirst of the country's 41 million people for the next 70 years. Read full article


(TOP) ~ As shutdown continues, concerns mount over its impact on climate science

In the era of the Internet, the government's decision to shut down access to websites and data sets has made research difficult for many weather and climate researchers. Take Bruce Vaughn, who runs a climate science lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His lab analyzes samples of greenhouse gases collected from around the world by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But when the shutdown hit, he was faced with losing access to the NOAA computers he needs to do his work. Vaughn also worried about the far-flung network of measurement stations that regularly take a sample of air, put it in a flask and mail it to NOAA. These stations are located in places as varied as far northern Alaska, the South Pole and Mongolia. NOAA ships out sampling flasks on a daily basis. If the stations run out of flasks before they receive new ones, there is a potential for a gap in the global measurements of greenhouse gas concentrations, which will have a negative effect on climate models. Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, it also has the potential to affect time-sensitive fieldwork.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ IPM Partnership Grants

The Northeastern IPM Center is accepting applications from public and private institutions or organizations, businesses, commodity groups, and private individuals for projects that further the mission of the Northeastern IPM Center, address or identify regional IPM stakeholder priorities, and benefit the region at large. Extension projects are encouraged. The current project types are: (1) IPM Working Groups, (2) IPM Issues, and (3) Regional IPM Communications. New IPM methods may be developed under this program, but funds for this purpose are limited. Deadline 5 Dec. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Gulf of Mexico Regional Partnerships

EPA is accepting grant funding applications for projects to address water quality monitoring and/or improvement, coastal habitat and ecosystems enhancement and/or protection, community resilience, and environmental education and outreach in the Gulf of Mexico region and its watersheds. Eligible applicants include state, local government agencies, districts, and councils; regional water pollution control agencies and entities; Indian tribal governments; State coastal zone management agencies; public and private universities and colleges; and public or private, non-profit organizations and institutions. Deadline 12 Nov. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Energy Frontier Research Centers

The Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), is seeking new and renewal applications for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) to conduct fundamental research focused on one or more grand challenges and use-inspired basic research needs identified in major strategic planning efforts by BES and the scientific community. The mission of the BES program is to support fundamental research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels in order to provide the foundations for new energy technologies and to support DOE’s mission emphases in energy, the environment, and national security. EFRCs are intended to bring together the skills and talents of multiple investigators to enable fundamental research to enhance U.S. energy security and to meet the global need for abundant, clean, and economical energy. Deadline 9 Jan. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ North Central SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Program

Farmers and ranchers have a critical insight when it comes to improving their systems. Whether they need to limit off-farm inputs, reduce erosion, create more time for family or community activities, learn marketing skills, or find other ways to enhance their livelihoods, farmers and ranchers can turn to the North Central Region SARE (NCR-SARE) for grant opportunities and information. In 1992, NCR-SARE began a competitive Farmer Rancher Grant Program exclusively to fund farmers and ranchers striving for agricultural sustainability. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Meta-Analyses on the Impacts of 4R Nutrient Stewardship

The objective of this RFP is to solicit literature reviews and syntheses on topics related to 4R Nutrient Stewardship on a national, regional, or cropping system basis utilizing meta‐analyses with stepwise regression, ANOVA, causal analysis, or other statistical methods.  The intent of the projects developed from these proposals is to utilize previous research to establish the impacts of 4R Nutrient Stewardship efforts.  This will avoid needless duplication of previous research and inform industry, academia, and agencies of knowledge gaps that need to be addressed with future research. Deadline 15 Dec. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Research and Demonstrations on Impacts of 4R Nutrient Stewardship

The objective of this RFP is to solicit proposals for field research and demonstration projects evaluating and promoting the economic, social, and environmental impacts of 4R Nutrient Stewardship. Projects must address at least one of the 4Rs in addition to rate (preferably all four) for optimal agronomic management and impact on local environmental challenges such as water body nitrate levels or P loads and eutrophication. Impact indicators measured should be scalable and include system productivity and environmental effects such as those listed in the projects requested section of this RFP.  Recognition of system and site interactions on the effectiveness of specific 4R practices will be important, including interactions among cultural practices such as rotation, genetics, tillage, nutrient-nutrient interactions, cover crops, etc. Deadline 31 Jan. Read full announcement
 


(TOP) ~ 4R Research Fund Issues Proposal Requests for Research on Nutrients in the Environment

The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Research Fund announced the release of requests for proposals (RFP) to solicit literature reviews and syntheses on nutrient stewardship on a national, regional, or cropping system basis, and to solicit field research and demonstration projects. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Urban Waters Small Grants

Under this announcement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting proposals from eligible applicants for projects that will advance EPA’s water quality and environmental justice goals. Note that, for this grant cycle, projects proposed for funding must take place entirely within and focus on one of 18 specific Eligible Geographic Areas, as listed in Section I.A and illustrated on the Urban Waters Small Grants program mapping website (http://www2.epa.gov/urbanwaters/urban-waters-small-grants-mapping). Deadline 25 Nov. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports


(TOP) ~ IPCC confirms that human activity will further warm the Earth, report

Impact of human activities on the climate system is clear, according to the conclusion of a report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which confirms that it is extremely likely (95-100% probability) that most of the warming since 1950 has been due to human influence. The report notes that warming in the climate system is unequivocal and many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia. See press release and Read full report


(TOP) ~ Nature outlook on agriculture and drought

Climate change means the coming decades are likely to bring more frequent episodes of severe drought, with potentially devastating impact on the world's ability to feed a growing population. This Outlook examines the issue of drought around the world, and its impact on sustainable agriculture. It will cover sources of water and its efficient use; how crops will change as scientists and agronomists develop them; and as what governments in each region should be focusing on to ensure that all these efforts are sustainable. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Organizations, academia salute World Food Prize for biotechnology focus

As opponents take pot shots at the highly-respected World Food Prize for recognizing scientists who have helped feed millions around the globe through advancements in biotechnology, a large group of farm, food and academic organizations is fighting back. One hundred organizations signed a letter today, commending Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation on his organization's theme for this year's prize, “The Next Borlaug Century: Biotechnology, Sustainability and Climate Variability” and for recognizing three pioneers of modern agricultural biotechnology: Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Keep farmland for farmers, opinion

In this opinion piece, Lindsey Lusher Shute and Benjamin Shute, farmers in the Hudson Valley and co-founders of the National Young Farmers Coalition, write that a new report produced by their coalition found that one-quarter of the land trusts that oversee conservation easements have seen protected land go out of farm production. Conserved farmland, they write, is open to all buyers, and many buyers are non-farmers. In New York, once well-off city residents purchase farmland, the land’s farming days are numbered: “After they’ve added an air-conditioned home, a heated pool and an asphalt drive, the value increases so much that no working farmer can afford it. The farm, and its capacity to feed a community, is lost,” they write. Read full article


(TOP) ~ ‘Symphony of the Soil’ film examines the fascinating world below your feet

soil in hands“It’s like Times Square on New Year’s Eve all the time,” Elaine Ingham says in the recent film “Symphony of the Soil” by Deborah Koons Garcia. Ingham, a well-known soil microbiologist, is excited about the teeming masses of creatures in the soil (bacteria, fungi and others) that make all life on Earth possible. And Koons Garcia manages to devote 101 minutes to the living soil without letting any of that excitement flag. Read full article and See film website


(TOP) ~ Data collection and information sharing in plant health

'Data Collection and Information Sharing in Plant Health' is the title of a joint European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)-European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) Workshop scheduled for April 1 through 3, 2014 in Parma, Italy. The focus is to exchange experience and reflect together on how to collect, store and disseminate plant health information at national, regional and global level. This Workshop is addressed to National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPOs), national and international risk assessment bodies, international organizations, research institutes, agriculture extension services, stakeholders (e.g. growers’, manufacturers’ and trade associations), or any other person interested in information aspects of plant health (it is NOT intended during this Workshop to cover issues related to plant protection products/pesticides/control methods , but essentially only ‘plant quarantine’ data issues will be discussed). Get more information

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ Welcome to shutdown city, congressional impasse remains

Most government offices remain closed after federal spending authority expired for the first time in 17 years on October 1, following a day of finger-pointing and blame shifting that ended with the House and Senate no closer than they have been all year to enacting new appropriations legislation. House Republicans spent the day refusing to back away from their demands for substantial changes to President Obama's landmark health care law, all the while attempting to blame their Democratic counterparts in the Senate for refusing to negotiate policy concessions in exchange for continued government funding. Both chambers adjourned with no spending legislation in place. With the spending debate stuck, it remains to be seen how lawmakers will address the upcoming and even more consequential fight over the debt ceiling, where Republicans are seeking a laundry list of policy concessions, including approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and an end to U.S. EPA climate rules. Lawmakers have offered little public guidance for how long the shutdown will last. Meanwhile, an even more fraught fiscal showdown is waiting in the wings. Congress must increase the debt ceiling by Oct. 17 to prevent a default. Most government agencies have released contingency plans that describe their operating procedures during the shutdown. Get more information


(TOP) ~ Senate braces for debt limit bill debate

sen reidSenate Democratic leaders are expected to begin moving legislation to raise the debt ceiling, perhaps until after the next election in 2014, amid fresh warnings from Wall Street and the housing industry about the consequences of a default. The debt limit measure appears likely to be unveiled by midweek and would allow for increases in the debt ceiling, at least through late 2014, with the possibility of a series of votes to disapprove of the increases along the way, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide. It’s unclear if the measure has enough support to overcome a filibuster, which would require at least six Republicans to join with Democrats to get the 60 votes needed. Republicans in both the House and Senate are seeking concessions such as spending cuts or revisions to the Affordable Care Act as part of an agreement to raise the ceiling. “We have lots of great amendments if Sen. Reid tries to move a ‘clean’ debt ceiling increase,” said Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas. A similar dispute over adding such provisions to a must-pass continuing resolution has led to a government shutdown that began Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. The impasse has raised concerns that the government could default on its debts by failing to act to boost the debt limit by Oct. 17 when the Treasury Department expects the nation to hit its borrowing cap, a scenario economists have warned would likely deal a significant blow to the world economy.


(TOP) ~ U.S. farm law expires again with lawmakers split on new bill

Overshadowed by the government shutdown, the U.S. farm subsidy law expired for the second time on Oct. 1 with lawmakers still deadlocked over how to confront cuts in food assistance programs for low-income Americans. Analysts say Congress is more likely to revive the farm law for another year or two, the path it took when the law expired a year ago, than agree on a new bill "They don't even have the process in place to get it done," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a speech to United Fresh, a trade group for produce growers and processors. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Reid requests conference with House on agriculture bills

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) requested a conference committee with the House to resolve differences between the chambers’ farm bills. Reid has named seven Democratic conferees and five Republicans, all of who serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The existing farm bill expired Sept. 30 because lawmakers hadn’t reached an agreement (the government also shut down for a similar reason.) The Senate passed a bipartisan farm bill earlier this year that reduced spending by $24 billion, mostly through reforming farm subsidies into a crop insurance program. The House took an unprecedented approach by separating food assistance programs from the agriculture policy. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Sequester takes uneven bite from agency budgets

For nearly a year now, U.S. research leaders have been issuing dire warnings about layoffs and shuttered labs in the wake of the 5% budget cut, known as the sequester, that hit most federal research agencies in 2013. But as the U.S. fiscal year enters its final week, hard data on how the sequester is affecting the country’s scientific enterprise remain scarce. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Funding cuts ravage academic laboratories

According to several predictions, one of the direst impacts on science of U.S. budget sequestration will be the wide-scale layoff of lab personnel. Last spring, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins predicted that some 20,000 scientists would lose jobs as a result of sequester-related funding reductions. Science Careers reached out to lab heads and research deans at large and small research universities across the country to try and assess the damage. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Numbers don't tell the whole story of sequestration

Less research is being funded because of the sequester, which went into effect in March after Congress and the White House failed to agree on how to implement a 2011 budget agreement to reduce the federal deficit over the next decade. The 2013 budget of the largest federal research agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is down 5.5%, or $1.7 billion, to $29.15 billion. The National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) budget shrunk by 2.1%, to $6.88 billion, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science fell by 5%, to $4.63 billion. But those three key agencies, along with universities, national laboratories, and individual scientists, have also proved adept at cushioning the impact of a blow they had long anticipated. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Rich scientist, poor scientist

Adam Ruben begins a humorous article on sequestration with: “Visiting your old grad school lab is weird. It's like wandering around your childhood summer camp, reminiscing about the happy months you spent boating, hiking, and being physically assaulted by more socially successful peers. ‘There's the bench where I did my first high-pressure liquid chromatography!’ you squeal. ‘Ooh, here's the cold room where we stored temperature-sensitive reagents and beer! And hey, there's the older grad student who mentored me all those years ago! Wait, he's still here?’” Read full article


(TOP) ~ Twenty senators won’t support extension of direct payments

Twenty senators led by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., wrote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last week that they will not support a farm bill extension that includes the direct payments that crop farmers have been getting since 1996 whether prices are high or low. “With the fate of the farm bill still uncertain, we urge that any farm bill extension brought to the floor ensure the full and immediate elimination of direct payments,” the senators wrote in the September 27 letter. They also noted that the direct payments program was established in the 1996 farm bill as a temporary measure, but has been extended several times even though it is subject to criticism. Both the House-passed and Senate-passed farm bills terminate the direct payments program. “Without regard to whether we supported the Senate farm bill or opposed it, we all agree that Congress should not consider another extension of the 2008 farm bill that continues direct payments,” wrote the senators. “Such an outcome would represent a costly regression in light of the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan efforts to eliminate this multibillion dollar subsidy,” the letter said. “Recognizing those important gains, we support leaving direct payments to expire as scheduled. To that end, we again urge that any farm bill extension brought to the floor ensure the full and immediate elimination of direct payments.

Sources: Agri-Pulse; American Association for the Advancement of Science; Climatewire; Congressional Quarterly; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; The Hagstrom Report; The Huffington Post; National Geographic; The New York Times; Washington Post

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.