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EFSA has published a list of projects that it plans to launch by mid-2014 under its grants and procurement schemes. The calls for external support, which are part of EFSA’s scientific cooperation strategy, help the Authority to respond more effectively and flexibly to its growing workload, particularly in the areas of data collection, provision of scientific opinion or advice, and preparatory work for the evaluation of regulated products. Read full announcement
EPA is seeking grant funding applications from State governments, colleges, universities and federally-recognized tribes and intertribal consortia during FY 2014 for projects to assist state and tribal governments to encourage businesses to adopt environmental strategies and solutions that significantly reduce or eliminate waste from [from air, water and/or land]. Deadline 20 Mar. Read full announcement
The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security graduate research grant supports exceptional graduate students who are interested in developing a component of their graduate research in a developing country setting and in collaboration with a mentor from an International Agricultural Research Center (IARC) or a qualifying National Agricultural Research System (NARS) unit. U.S. citizenship is required, and applicants must be enrolled in an accredited U.S. graduate program at the time of application. Deadline 14 Apr. Read full announcement
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking initial applications proposing the creation of a National Center for Sustainable Water Infrastructure Modeling Research (Center) that facilitates technology transfer of open source water infrastructure models and shares green infrastructure tools and research advancements with local communities and stakeholders. EPA will review the initial applications based on the initial application review criteria in Section V and the submitters of the highest-ranked initial applications will be asked to submit full applications. Prior to submitting full applications, finalists will be invited to meet as a group with EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory to learn more about EPA capabilities and plans for sustainable water infrastructure models. Deadline 10 Mar. Read full announcement
The Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education, and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants (SPECA) program seeks to: (a) promote and strengthen secondary education and two-year postsecondary education in agriscience and agribusiness in order to help ensure the existence in the United States of a qualified workforce to serve the food and agricultural sciences system; and (b) promote complementary and synergistic linkages among secondary, two-year postsecondary, and higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences in order to advance excellence in education and encourage more young Americans to pursue and complete a baccalaureate or higher degree in the food and agricultural sciences. Deadline 3 Apr. Read full announcement
On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address to members of Congress and to the American people. If you missed it live, you can watch it on YouTube, Google+ and through the White House mobile apps. Today, you can continue the discussion started during the SOTU via social media. Use the hashtag #AsktheWH to raise questions about the future of the food, agriculture and natural resources enterprise on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Google+ Hangout. Then on Friday, Jan. 31, President Obama will take a virtual road trip across the country via Google+ Hangouts to discuss the issues and policies laid out in his speech with citizens joining from around the country. You can record a 60-second video question to the President and post it on YouTube or Google+ with the hashtag #AskObama2014. Be a voice for science and engage today!
House and Senate negotiators released a long-awaited farm bill agreement that would extend agriculture programs for the next five years. The bill significantly modifies the federal agricultural subsidy system and cuts food stamp spending, in addition to including a number of environmental and energy provisions. In a major win for conservationists, the bill would tie conservation requirements to federal crop insurance subsidies, while also limiting subsidies on newly tilled land. The legislation would also provide nearly $900 million in mandatory funding to renewable energy and biofuels initiatives over the next five years and extend incentives to renewable chemical manufacturers. It does not include a controversial amendment by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) that would have limited states' ability to regulate the way agricultural goods are produced. The full 41-member bicameral conference committee signed off on it, however both chambers of Congress plan to bring the bill to the floor. See the bill
House and Senate negotiators agreed on a new five-year farm bill that will eliminate or consolidate dozens of agriculture subsidy programs, expand government-subsidized crop insurance and cut about $9 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade. The bipartisan agreement, two years after lawmakers began work on the nearly $1 trillion bill, is a major step forward in reauthorizing hundreds of farm and nutrition programs that must be renewed every five years. And, at least for now, it brings to an end to the partisan fighting that stalled two previous attempts to pass the legislation. The bill would reduce spending by about $23 billion over the next 10 years. Read full article
In December, just before House members left this town for their hometown holiday fetes, Speaker John A. Boehner lost his cool. He vented his exasperation with outside conservative agitators who were opposing the Ryan-Murray budget deal even before there was a deal. Noting they were the same fomenters of the October government shutdown who had later admitted they had no hope of winning, Boehner punctuated his disdain with a vituperative bellow: “Are you kidding me?!” But the speaker could just as easily have been expressing the disgust of the entire science and technology community, for whom consistency of purpose and policy are at the heart of discovery and innovation. Read full article
American innovation, badly damaged last year by federal budget tightening and the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, appears to be getting partial relief with the bipartisan budget deals struck last month and Monday night. The progress is praiseworthy, but it will not counteract the decades-long decline in federal funding for research and development that is so essential to our economic future and critical to accelerating treatments for today’s major health care challenges, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Federal R&D expenditures plummeted by 16.3 percent, in constant dollars, between fiscal years 2010 and 2013, and the nation’s federal investment in science as a share of the economy currently stands at roughly 0.82 percent, the lowest point in 50 years. Read full article
Under the recent FY 2014 omnibus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would receive $2.3 billion for R&D, per AAAS estimates. In nominal dollars, this represents a rough midpoint between the President's request and FY 2013 post-sequester spending: specifically, a 7.3 percent increase above FY 2013, and 7.9 percent below the request. It would also return nominal overall funding to very near FY 2012 levels pre-sequestration; inflation turns this into a 4.3 percent cut or so from FY 2012. However, this isn't quite an apples-to-apples comparison. FY 2012 USDA R&D, which stood at $2.331 billion (compared to our current estimate of $2.325 billion for FY 2014), included $40 million in mandatory funding for the Biomass R&D program. Get more information
ASA, CSSA, and SSSA have submitted testimony for the record for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, “Examining Conference and Travel Spending Across the Federal Government,” held on January 14. Read the testimony
House Republican leaders are preparing to release a set of principles to guide a House immigration overhaul, including legal status for many of the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. This would represent the first time that the House GOP leadership has explicitly endorsed allowing illegal immigrants to remain and work in the U.S. While the document will stop short of the path to citizenship approved by the Senate, it represents a step toward what immigration advocates and Democrats have long sought. They will be circulated among House Republicans for possible action this year, though timing for legislation is unclear. The one-page document is being developed by House Speaker John Boehner's office in conjunction with the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and others in the Republican House leadership. It contains few details but voices support for the major planks of the comprehensive bill that cleared the Senate last summer. That includes increased border security, stepped-up employment verification, a temporary worker program for low-skilled workers, more visas for high-technology workers and a path to citizenship for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. These measures would be considered as individual pieces of legislation, not as one big bill, though some pieces might be combined-such as enforcement and legalization. The document also expresses support for legal status for undocumented immigrants and envisions some sort of legal process by which they admit guilt and pay fines and any back taxes owed. It will also insist that no legalization provisions take effect until border security and other enforcement measures are in place, people familiar with the draft said.
With the recent announcement of Europe's carbon emissions reduction targets up to 2030, a forest group is urging the European Commission to restrict countries from counting forests and agricultural lands to help reach their goals. Since the European Union began keeping track, emissions from energy and those from land use (farming, forestry and other land-based activities) have remained separate. Ten years later, they should remain in two different accounts, said Hannah Mowat, carbon and ecosystems trading campaigner for FERN, a Brussels-based forest policy group. "Politically, it's more of a loophole for countries to reduce their emissions," Mowat said. FERN released a report to encourage the European Commission not to allow countries to use land use, land-use change and forestry to offset emissions in their targets. The FERN report, titled "Misleading Numbers," states the case for separating fossil fuel emissions and land-use emissions, the latter of which can act as either a source of emissions or a "sink." Sinks, which include forests, grasslands, soils, oceans and other bodies that can absorb the carbon emitted through burning fossil fuels, are an important part of carbon accounting. However, the science of how well sinks absorb carbon is still evolving, said the report's authors. See the summary
Western Kenya's smallholder farmers are using improved farming techniques to benefit both themselves and the environment. Their incentive: carbon credits. They are the world's first credits to be issued under the World Bank BioCarbon Fund's sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) carbon accounting methodology. "The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP) is the first project to use this methodology and actually get its carbon credits approved for agricultural land management practices," said Ellysar Baroudy, coordinator of the BioCarbon Fund and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in the Carbon Finance Unit at the World Bank. KACP, implemented in Kenya by Swedish group Vi Agroforestry, is made up of 60,000 farmers who had struggled for years to cultivate enough food for their families due to land degradation. Now they are using an array of methods that will improve organic matter in soil to boost crop yields, enhance farm productivity, increase food security and make agriculture more resistant to climate change. Baroudy said the new farming techniques are raising their productivity by 15 to 20 percent, according to initial measurements on the ground. To receive credits under the Verified Carbon Standard, the farmers use the new agricultural land management practices to sequester carbon in the soil. So far, KACP farmers have reduced almost 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of one year's worth of emissions from more than 5,000 cars, and earned $65,000 in credits.
Floods continue to affect Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, and surrounding areas, where the number of displaced people grew to more than 130,000. During the last week, major rains have let floodwaters into the second floors of houses in certain parts of Jakarta. Government officials have opened almost 200 schools, city buildings, mosques and tents to serve as evacuation centers for residents. One disaster agency spokesman estimated this year's floods have caused more than $80 million in damage and killed at least seven people. Last January, flooding caused losses of around $600 million, although the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce said the losses totaled almost $3 billion because factories had to temporarily shut down production. Floods are a yearly problem in the huge city, partly because of its clogged waterways and development that has reduced open space while gradually sinking parts of Jakarta below sea level. Read full article
Climate change is affecting the steep plateaus of the Andes in Peru. The changes (less rain, more wind, and bigger differences in temperatures between the cold morning and hot afternoon) are making it harder for the farmers to survive. "The changes impact the life of shepherds, despite them being used to extreme conditions. There is no longer enough water to keep the pasture in a decent state all year round nor to allow subsistence crops. With shorter, more violent showers, the degraded soil no longer stores the moisture," said Victor Bustinza Urviola, the deputy coordinator of the Climate Change Adaptation Program. Peru's National Meteorology and Hydrology Service has forecast that the eastern part of the Cusco region may see a decline of 15 percent to 30 percent in its rain by 2030, making it one of the worst-hit places in the country in terms of precipitation loss. Read full article
While Coca-Cola has always focused more on its economic bottom line than on global warming issues, it is increasingly viewing climate change as an economically disruptive force. Jeffrey Seabright, Coke’s vice president for environment and water resources, said, “Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years,” are disrupting the company’s supply of sugar cane and sugar beets, as well as citrus for its fruit juices. “When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats,” he added. The company reflects a growing view among American business leaders and mainstream economists that global warming will contribute to lower gross domestic products, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains, and increased financial risk. Read full article
To feed the world's burgeoning population while saving it from exhausting natural land resources, the United Nations issued a report for policymakers, "Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption With Sustainable Supply," published Jan. 24 by the International Resource Panel of the United Nations Environment Program. "Over the past 30 years, we've been increasing production on agricultural land, but scientists are now seeing evidence of reaching limits," says Robert W. Howarth, Cornell's David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology and a lead author of the United Nations report. "We need to stop over-consuming land-based products. For example, one of our key challenges is overusing agricultural land for growing meat. There is just not enough land on Earth for everyone in the world to eat like Americans and Europeans," says Howarth. Read full article
'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 purpose is to share experiences and views on how to collect, store and disseminate information on plant health at national, regional and international levels. This Workshop is addressed to National Plant Protection Organizations (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). Registration deadline 15 Feb. Get more information
One of the most commonly used pesticide types plays a role in the size of individual bees, according to scientists. A study by researchers at Royal Holloway University of London published in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that exposure to pyrethroid pesticides reduced the size of individual bees produced at a colony. Gemma Baron, a researcher from the university, said in a statement that scientists have found that smaller bees have a harder time gathering resources, making it more difficult for them to survive. "We know we have to protect plants from insect damage, but we need to find a balance and ensure we are not harming our bees in the process," Mark Brown, a professor of evolutionary ecology and conservation at Royal Holloway University, said in a statement. Despite the drop in size, the study noted that the scientists didn't observe any other changes in the bees, and the pesticide didn't change the rate at which the bees reproduced. Pyrethroid pesticides have generally received less scrutiny in recent years than their newer cousins, neonicotinoid pesticides. The European Union has issued a moratorium on three types of neonicotinoid pesticides in the wake of new research showing that the chemicals may play a role in bee deaths, but the pesticides remain in wide use in other areas, including the United States.
The mysterious mass die-offs of honeybees that have wiped out roughly a third of commercial colonies each year since 2006 may be linked to a rapidly mutating virus that jumped from tobacco plants to soy plants to bees, according to a new study. The research, reported in the online version of the academic journal mBio, found that the increase in honeybee deaths that generally starts in autumn and peaks in winter was correlated with increasing infections by a variant of the tobacco ringspot virus. The virus is found in pollen that bees pick up while foraging, and it may be spread as the bees mix saliva and nectar with pollen to make “bee bread” for larvae to eat. Mites that feed on the bees may also be involved in transmitting the virus, the researchers said. Their research offers one explanation for the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, in which bees have died at more than twice the usual rate since it was identified seven years ago. Read full article
Frescada lettuce, BellaFina peppers, and Beneforté broccoli are rolling out across U.S. supermarkets. These new vegetables are trademarked to Seminis, a subsidiary of Monsanto. “Grocery stores are looking in the produce aisle for something that pops, that feels different,” said Kenny Avery, an executive at Monsanto. “And consumers are looking for the same thing.” The lettuce is sweeter and crunchier than romaine; the peppers come in miniature sizes to reduce leftovers; and, the broccoli has three times the amount of a compound that helps boost antioxidant levels. Here’s the twist: these new veggies are not genetically modified (GM) at all. In fact, all were created using old-fashioned crossbreeding. While they aren’t exactly low-tech, they have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the “Frankenfoods ick factor.” Read full article
This report was produced by the Land and Soils Working Group of the International Resource Panel. It explores how the management of land-based biomass production and consumption can be developed towards a higher degree of sustainability across different scales: from the sustainable management of soils on the field to the sustainable management of global land use as a whole. See full report
The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security Program will hold its third annual Summer Institute on Global Food Security Sunday, June 8 – Saturday, June 21, 2014 on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. This two-week learning program is for graduate students who are interested in developing a holistic understanding of the conceptual challenges around global food security with a focus on cross-disciplinary problem solving of real-world development challenges. Applicants must have completed at least one semester of graduate study and be enrolled in a U.S. institution at the time of application. U.S. citizenship is not required. Get more information
In 2014, as we celebrate the centennial of Dr. Norman Borlaug's birth, we urge you to submit a nomination for the distinguished international award he created over 25 years ago - The World Food Prize. Called by many the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture," this $250,000 Prize recognizes exceptional achievements in improving the quality, quantity, and availability of food, and inspires future such accomplishments. Nominations are welcomed now through May 1, 2014. Get more information
In this article, Dan Charles of National Public Radio delves into some statistics. In particular, Charles was skeptical about statistics regarding herbicide use, soil erosion and the production of fruits and nuts. He first choose a graph showing how increases in herbicide use on soybeans, corn and cotton have mirrored the rise of genetically modified, herbicide-tolerant versions of those crops. When he used data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and broke the use down per acre, he found the trend was not quite as dramatic. Read full article
The rate of U.S. soil erosion held steady between 2007 and 2010 despite an expansion of acres planted in that period, according to a report released this week by the Department of Agriculture. Farmers planted 2 million more acres in 2010 than they did in 2007, with most of those crops on land that had been previously part of a federal program that pays landowners to keep tracts idle for conservation reasons. But USDA saw no noticeable increase in cropland soil erosion. "We expected to see an increase in the erosion, but our numbers told a different story," said Patrick Flanagan, national statistician at USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. The service says the numbers show conservation programs are working as intended. USDA runs the Conservation Reserve Program and 22 other programs for helping farmers prevent soil erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. Overall enrollment in federal farm conservation programs grew from about 17 million acres in 2007 to 40 million in 2010, the service says. "It shows us what I think we know about conservation programs, which is that they work, they're cost-effective. There's a reason why we do them," said Steve Kline, director of government relations at the nonprofit Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Sources: Climatewire; Energy and Environment Daily; Greenwire; Meridian Institute; National Public Radio; The New York Times; Roll Call; Wired
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.