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Science Policy Report

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18 June 2014

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ House GOP unveils energy spending bill
~ 'Asteroids' of hunger, climate change threaten Earth
~ Senate advancing appropriations bills for USDA and NSF
~ USDA Announces Funding Availability for Turning Biomass Material into Energy
~ Congress Wants to Save Honeybees by Banning Some Pesticides
~ Graduate student member discusses the 2014 Farm Bill
~ OSTP Working Group Releases Strategic Plan for Plant Genome

Science News

~ Hurricane Sandy and the mapping of coastal soils
~ DuPont Pioneer to support universities in soil quality improvement
~ Agricultural contribution to nitrates in California groundwater
~ Lawsuit challenges Vermont's GMO labeling law
~ Overuse of nitrogen fertilizer is a bigger emissions source than previously thought

International Corner

~ European soil framework directive fails in UK
~ Kenya's GM Ban and the Future of GM Policy in Africa
~ Finland approves proposal for a legally binding 80% reduction in GHG by 2050
~ Sustainable Agricultural Development Under Climate Change
~ Extreme flooding events influence UK climate views

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ ASF Sustainable Research Program
~ Improving Alfalfa Forage and Seed Production
~ Tectonics Program
~ Sun Grant Program
~ Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research
~ The Specialty Crop Research Initiative

Policy News


(TOP) ~ House GOP unveils energy spending bill

House Republicans proposed a $34 billion energy and water budget Monday that restores almost $1 billion in White House cuts from the Army Corps of Engineers and instead takes money from renewable energy programs prized by President Barack Obama. The Department of Energy, Office of Science will receive $5.07 billion from the bill, the same as fiscal year 2014 levels. Read more here and find the latest budget news here.


(TOP) ~ 'Asteroids' of hunger, climate change threaten Earth

Last week at the annual Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) headquarters in Washington, D.C., former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman urged the agricultural community to advocate for increased funding for agricultural research - research that's needed, he said, to avoid the “asteroids” of hunger, climate change and water shortage that are threatening the Earth. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Senate advancing appropriations bills for USDA and NSF

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to move three appropriations bills, Agriculture, Commerce-Science-Justice (CJS) and Transportation, onto the Senate floor for a vote. This minibus package, would set funding for research funding programs at USDA and the National Science Foundation. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ USDA Announces Funding Availability for Turning Biomass Material into Energy

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will begin accepting applications June 16 from energy facilities interested in receiving forest or agricultural residues to generate clean energy. The support comes through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. BCAP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Congress Wants to Save Honeybees by Banning Some Pesticides

Honeybee deaths prompted the Save America’s Pollinators Act, introduced by Reps. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., which would ban four neonicotinoids, including dinotefuran, until the EPA determines they don’t harm pollinators. Researchers, however, blame a range of factors for bee declines and say isolating one variable ignores the complexity of the problem. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Graduate student member discusses the 2014 Farm Bill

Mitch Hunter, an ASA, CSSA and SSSA graduate student member at Penn State University, recently developed a new science policy resource for scientists interested in the 2014 Farm Bill. His online seminar called, The 2014 Farm Bill: Insights from the Science-Policy Nexus, helps scientists understand the policy and research implications of the most recent Farm Bill reauthorization and outlines strategies for scientists to engage with policy. Prior to entering graduate school, Hunter worked on Farm Bill in Washington, D.C. with American Farmland Trust.  See the recorded version on Youtube.


(TOP) ~ OSTP Working Group Releases Strategic Plan for Plant Genome

The Interagency Working Group on Plant Genomes (IWGPG) released the new five-year (2014-2018) plan for the National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI). There are six major objectives for the next five years of the NPGI. Objectives 1 and 2 focus on open-access data and knowledge sharing and expanding the interoperability of tools and databases, while objectives 3–6 focus on enhancing the application of genomics for agriculture, acceleration of plant breeding, improvement of the practice of agriculture, reduction of the demands on environmental resources, and addressing challenges posed by global climate change. See the full plan.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Hurricane Sandy and the mapping of coastal soils

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast. With people using the coastal areas for businesses, homebuilding, and recreation, understanding the soil on which that development is happening is crucial. Soil scientists are working to map coastal and subaquesous soils in order to better understand how vulnerable coastal areas are to erosion and storm damage. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ DuPont Pioneer to support universities in soil quality improvement

Seed company, DuPont Pioneer, has announced partnerships with eight land grant universities to generate data that will help farmers enrich soils, boost yields and prevent financial losses due to poor fertilizer management. The researchers will focus on nitrogen management practices, or the most efficient way to apply fertilizer. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Agricultural contribution to nitrates in California groundwater

Nitrogen gas makes up 80% of the air we breathe. Although nitrogen is an inert gas—it doesn’t react easily with other elements—it is essential to all life on earth. A recent study in the Journal of Environmental Quality looked at how nitrogen use in agriculture impacted the amount of nitrates in groundwater. The study found that agriculture, through losses out of crop root systems, contributes over 90% of all nitrate inputs to the large alluvial groundwater systems studied. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Lawsuit challenges Vermont's GMO labeling law

The Grocery Manufacturers Association along with the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont to overturn the State's recently passed law, Act 120, that would require labels on foods made with genetically modified organisms, effective July 1, 2016. The complaint states that the Act is unconstitutional because the "... proscriptions in [it] are beyond Vermont's power to enact. The State is compelling manufacturers to convey messages they do not want to convey, and prohibiting manufacturers from describing their products in terms of their choosing, without anything close to a sufficient justification. The State is forcing the costs of this experiment on out-of-state companies and citizens to which it is not politically accountable, and it is undermining and impeding the federal government's interest in uniform, nationwide standards for food labeling prescribed by duly authorized expert federal agencies ..." Read the article here.


(TOP) ~ Overuse of nitrogen fertilizer is a bigger emissions source than previously thought

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says helping farmers around the globe apply more precise amounts of fertilizer nitrogen can combat climate change. In the paper, researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) provide an improved prediction of nitrogen fertilizer's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural fields.The study uses data from around the world to show that emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in soil following nitrogen addition, rise faster than previously expected when fertilizer rates exceed crop needs. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ European soil framework directive fails in UK

You would expect farmers to try to protect their soils, which are the foundations of their livelihood, and many do. But across large areas of land, short-termism now triumphs over common sense. Many are growing crops that are simply incompatible with protecting the soil. Some don't seem to know very much about soil erosion and why it happens. This month a draft directive developed to outline basic soil protection guidelines in the UK was dismissed. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Kenya's GM Ban and the Future of GM Policy in Africa

Currently, growing genetically modified (GM) crops - those bred using modern transgenic methods rather than conventional ones - is only legal in three African countries, South Africa, Sudan, and Burkina Faso. By the end of the year, Kenya may join those ranks. In January 2014, Kenya's Education, Science, and Technology Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi announced plans to legalize the import and commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops by the end of the year. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Finland approves proposal for a legally binding 80% reduction in GHG by 2050

Finland's Government approved on June 6 the proposal for an act on climate change. The "Climate Change Act" will require an emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050 and, if enacted, will increase the efficiency of the public sector in achieving the emissions reduction targets and building a low-carbon society without imposing new obligations on businesses or other operators. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Sustainable Agricultural Development Under Climate Change

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released a report which highlights case studies in 'climate-smart agriculture' from around the globe showing that many rural communities are already successfully making the transition to new forms of farming better suited to the rigors of a warmer world which will not only help prevent future food security crises but holds the promise of sparking economic and agricultural renewal in rural areas where hunger and poverty are most prevalent. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Extreme flooding events influence UK climate views

Researchers found that British people perceived heatwaves had become less common in their lifetimes, while flooding had become more common. People's experience of flooding "significantly contributed to climate change beliefs," the study reported. These results suggest that warnings about future impacts may not be heeded if they only focused on heat. See the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ ASF Sustainable Research Program

The Agronomic Science Foundation (ASF) announces a new endeavor to annually award $100,000 in research grants for innovative research projects involving cover crops and related management practices integrated into agronomic crop rotations within areas of agricultural concentration in the U.S. including, but not limited to, the Mississippi River Basin. Projects are sought that advance our knowledge of agricultural systems aimed at increasing productivity, while minimizing impact on ecosystems services and the environment. Deadline 1 July. Read full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Improving Alfalfa Forage and Seed Production

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is seeking grant funding applications for its research program to address one or more of the following priorities: (1) Improving alfalfa forage and seed yield through better nutrient, water and/or pest management; (2) Improving persistence of alfalfa stands by lessening biotic or abiotic stresses; (3) Improving alfalfa forage and seed harvesting and storage systems to optimize economic returns; (4) Improving estimates of alfalfa forage quality as an animal feed to increase forage usage in animal feeds; and/or (5) Breeding to address biotic and abiotic stresses that impact forage yield and persistence and the production of seed for propagation. Deadline 7 July. Read full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Tectonics Program

The Tectonics Program within the NSF Earth Science Division, supports a broad range of field, laboratory, computational, and theoretical investigations aimed at understanding the formation, evolution, and deformation of continental lithosphere through time. Proposals to elucidate the processes that act on the lithosphere at various time-scales and length-scales, either at depth or the surface, are encouraged. Deadline 7 July. Read full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Sun Grant Program

The purpose of this program is to provide a consortium of universities made up of a university from each of the sun grant regions and subcenter region with a grant to support a North-Central, Southeastern, South-Central, Western, and Northeastern Sun Grant Center and a Western Insular Pacific Subcenter. A Sun Grant Center or Subcenter will use 75 percent of grant funds to provide competitive grants within each region that are multi-institutional and integrated, multistate research, extension, and education programs on technology development and technology implementation and address bioenergy, biomass, or bioproducts research priorities. Deadline 9 July. Read full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is designed to fulfill the mandate of NSF to promote scientific progress nationwide. Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1: (RII Track-1) awards provide up to $4 million per year for up to 5 years to support physical, human, and cyber infrastructure improvements in research areas selected by the jurisdiction's EPSCoR steering committee as having the best potential to improve future R&D competitiveness of the jurisdiction. Letter of intent deadline, 8 July, full proposal deadline, 5 August. Read full announcement.


(TOP) ~ The Specialty Crop Research Initiative

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program (CDRE) seeks to award grants to eligible entities to conduct research and extension activities, technical assistance and development activities to: (a) combat citrus diseases and pests, both domestic and invasive and including huanglongbing and the Asian citrus psyllid, which pose imminent harm to United States citrus production and threaten the future viability of the citrus industry; and (b) provide support for the dissemination and commercialization of relevant information, techniques, and technologies discovered pursuant to research and extension activities funded through SCRI/CDRE and other research and extension projects targeting problems caused by citrus production diseases and invasive pests. Deadline 29 September. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; The Guardian, DuPont Pioneer: Agri-Pulse; Politico; NPR; USA Today; Global Business; Roll Call; Huffington 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.