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Science Policy Report

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02 July 2014

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Senate pulls appropriations bills from floor
~ Energy-Water Appropriations stalls on committee floor
~ Meet with your members of Congress during the August recess
~ Agriculture Research Board Faces Full Slate of Issues
~ Update on House DOE reauthorization bill
~ USDA release strategic plan

Science News

~ The Soil Renaissance strategic plan released
~ New framework reveals full ecological value of cover crops
~ Climate Change Creates New Farming Risks
~ Fertilizer Industry Round Table establishes award recognizing innovative technologies
~ New Consumer Reports poll shows consumer demand for federal standards for GE food
~ Study links pesticides to autism, developmental delays
~ National Science Foundation toolkit highlights impact of NSF investments

International Corner

~ Development of New Wheat Varieties Recognized
~ Germany to propose law regulating GMO crops
~ Scientist republishes controversial GMO-rat study in new journal

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ The Good Growth Plan Grant Contest
~ Research in Sustainable Solid Waste Management
~ Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships
~ Impacts of Drought on Water Quality
~ Research Grants for US Small Businesses Related to Agriculture
~ NSB seeks nominations for 2015 honorary awards
~ Advancing Understanding of Cellular and Biomolecular Processes

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Senate pulls appropriations bills from floor

Senate majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pulled the $126.2 billion spending package that would combine three appropriations bills, Agriculture, Commerce-Science-Justice (CJS) and Transportation, from the floor Thursday after Republicans and Democrats could not reach a deal on amendments. The measure was expected to be the first appropriations bills passed through the Senate and the change has put into serious question as to how far the appropriations process will proceed this fiscal year. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Energy-Water Appropriations stalls on committee floor

In another blow to the Senate appropriations process, the markup for the usually non-contentious Energy and Water appropriations bill was postponed. Among other things, the E&W bill funds the Department of Energy, Office of Science, which saw a small increase from the Senate, bringing its funding level to $5.068 billion, about $20 million above current spending levels. The measure was pulled because of an expected amendment from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that would effectively block the EPA’s recently announced carbon standards for existing power plants. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Meet with your members of Congress during the August recess

The ASA, CSSA and SSSA Science Policy Offices is encouraging members to schedule a local meeting with their members of Congress while they are at home during the month of August. Tell Congress about the important and exciting research being done in their own backyards and ask for their support during the fiscal year 2015 budget process. Learn more about the August Challenge and register to schedule a meeting here.


(TOP) ~ Agriculture Research Board Faces Full Slate of Issues

Agriculture officials will soon name a board of directors for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research that Congress created in this year’s farm bill and launch a program they hope will draw more money into the kind of basic scientific study that made the United States an agriculture powerhouse. The bill authorized $200 million in mandatory spending to attract matching amounts from the private sector to finance research. ASA, CSSA and SSSA Director of Government Relations, Karl Anderson, comments on the Foundation in the full article.


(TOP) ~ Update on House DOE reauthorization bill

Last week the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Energy failed to markup a bill to reauthorize the Department of Energy's (DOE) R&D programs. The DOE Research and Development Act of 2014 would provide guidance to DOE’s research programs, which are the major source of funding for the U.S. physical sciences and energy studies. Its controversial provisions include sharp cuts to climate change research and restrictions on how findings from that research can be used to shape federal environmental policies. At the same time, it proposes a 5.1% spending increase next year for DOE’s Office of Science, well above the administration’s 0.8% request for 2015. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ USDA release strategic plan

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released their 2014-2018 Strategic Plan last week. The plan serves as a roadmap for USDA policy development and program implementation and guides budget and resource allocation decisions. The research themes focus on soil health, climate adaptation, the development of new plant varieties to combat agricultural challenges and support for biotechnology. Theses continue to be areas that USDA is heavily invested. See the full plan.

Science News


(TOP) ~ The Soil Renaissance strategic plan released

The Soil Renaissance Strategic Plan was released at the 6th annual World Congress on Conservation in Agriculture this week in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Strategic Plan articulates a vision for the immediate challenges in addressing healthy soils. The Soil Renaissance's goal of making soil health the cornerstone of land use management decisions will take many individuals and organizations--all committed to healthy soils--working together to address the diverse and complex challenges. SSSA Past-President, David Lindbo served on the Soil Renaissance working group in developing the Strategic Plan. Read the full release here and read an op-ed on the Soil Renaissance here.


(TOP) ~ New framework reveals full ecological value of cover crops

In a recent study, a group of Penn State scientists developed a framework for evaluating multiple ecological benefits of cover cropping (or other farm practices) simultaneously, and how those benefits change through time. The framework can be easily adopted by farmers, conservation groups, policy makers, and others to make decisions about the types of ecosystem services they’d like to see accrue in their regions, the farm practices that can offer those services, when they can expect those benefits to accrue during the year, and the tradeoffs that may be involved. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Climate Change Creates New Farming Risks

Farmers may disagree over the cause of climate change, especially whether it’s caused by humans, but it’s difficult to dismiss the extreme weather patterns that have developed in recent years. Last month’s conference on climate change put on by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, included a panel of several farmers and ranchers speaking on the issue of climate change and food production. The think tank published a report distributed at the conference concluding that climate change is cutting into productivity gains in the United States and throughout the world. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Fertilizer Industry Round Table establishes award recognizing innovative technologies

The Fertilizer Industry Round Table (FIRT) recently announced a new program to recognize those advancing the fertilizer industry and agriculture through innovative technologies. The award recognizes outstanding achievements in research, extension and/or education that centers on fertilizer technology. Those interested in applying can visit here.


(TOP) ~ New Consumer Reports poll shows consumer demand for federal standards for GE food

According to a new national poll by Consumer Reports released last week, an overwhelming majority of U.S. consumers think that before genetically engineered (GE) food is sold, it should be labeled accordingly (92% of consumers) and meet long-term safety standards set by the government (92%). The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) currently does not require labeling or pre-market safety assessments of GE food. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Study links pesticides to autism, developmental delays

Mothers exposed to farm pesticides during pregnancy are more likely to have children with autism-related disorders and developmental delays, a new study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, finds. In a decade-long investigation, researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that children with disorders on the autism spectrum were 60 percent more likely to have mothers who lived within 1.25 kilometers (0.78 miles) of organophosphate applications during pregnancy. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ National Science Foundation toolkit highlights impact of NSF investments

Today the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a robust toolkit that includes new videos, infographics, fact sheets and brochures that describe NSF investments in fundamental research and how they contribute to the nation's science and engineering enterprise. See the toolkit here

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Development of New Wheat Varieties Recognized

Last week, the 2014 World Food Prize Awarded was to Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram of India and Mexico who developed 480 varieties of wheat (that have been released in 51 countries on six continents) to provide nutritious grains resistant to rust disease and adaptable in a vast array of climates to feed more people. Dr. Rajaram conducted the majority of his research in Mexico at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). His work there led to a prodigious increase in world wheat production – by more than 200 million tons during the 25-year-period known as the 'golden years of wheat' – building upon the successes of the Green Revolution. Dr. Rajaram has been an ASA and CSSA member for more than 30 years. Read the full release.


(TOP) ~ Germany to propose law regulating GMO crops

Germany's agriculture minister will propose a draft law regulating cultivation of crops with genetically modified organisms, he said in a newspaper interview published last week. Minister Christian Schmidt had supported a European Union initiative approved on June 12 giving member states the freedom to prohibit GMO crops, saying this opened the way for a ban in Germany even if crops had been approved by the bloc for EU-wide cultivation. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Scientist republishes controversial GMO-rat study in new journal

A paper on the toxicity of genetically engineered corn to rats has been republished in another journal, after the original version was retracted for being "inconclusive." The original paper was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology in 2012, and was retracted a year later following accusations from scientists that the experiment contained major flaws. The paper had been republished in Environmental Sciences Europe, a little-known journal, but critics say it’s still flawed. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ The Good Growth Plan Grant Contest

Last fall, Syngenta launched The Good Growth Plan, a program to help sustainably address the global food security challenge. As part of The Good Growth Plan Grant Contest, Syngenta is seeking ideas to support  one or more of the 6 challenge areas: make crops more efficient, rescue more farmland, help biodiversity flourish, empower smallholders, help people stay safe, and look after every worker. Deadline 14 July. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Research in Sustainable Solid Waste Management

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation seeks research proposals related to sustainable solid waste management practices, including waste minimization; recycling; waste conversion to energy, biofuels, chemicals, or other useful products; strategies to promote diversion to higher and better uses and landfilling. Desirable aspects of the above topics, in addition to or as part of hypothesis driven applied research, also include economic or cost/benefit analyses; feasibility studies for untested technologies or management strategies; life cycle analysis or inventory, and analyses of policies that relate to the above. Deadline 15 July. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships

The Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) within the National Science Foundation, awards Postdoctoral Fellowships to recent recipients of doctoral degrees for research and training in topics relevant to Earth sciences. The fellows must develop and implement 1) research projects that seek to address scientific questions within the purview of EAR programs and 2) plans to broaden participation in Earth sciences. Deadline 18 July. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Impacts of Drought on Water Quality

EPA is seeking grant funding applications that take a systems view to investigate how drought (seasonal and prolonged), exacerbated, by climate change, may impact surface water and groundwater quality and availability. EPA is interested in characterizing and predicting water quality as it relates to drought and subsequent drought-related events, such as changes in surface runoff and wildfire. The Agency is also seeking information on changes in water quality that are driven by other variations in the hydrologic cycle (extreme events or climate change). Deadline 5 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Research Grants for US Small Businesses Related to Agriculture

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is seeking grant funding applications for high-quality research or research and development applications containing advanced concepts related to important scientific problems and opportunities that could lead to significant public benefit. Projects dealing with agriculturally related manufacturing and alternative and renewable energy technologies are encouraged across all SBIR topic areas. Deadline 2 October. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ NSB seeks nominations for 2015 honorary awards

Each year, the National Science Board (NSB) honors leaders with remarkable contributions and public service in science and engineering through its Vannevar Bush and Public Service Awards. Nominations for the 2015 honorary awards are now open. The award honors life-long leaders who have made exceptional contributions toward the welfare of humankind and the nation through public service activities in science, technology, and public policy. Nominations due by Oct. 1, 2014. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Advancing Understanding of Cellular and Biomolecular Processes

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is seeking grant funding proposals under its Biotechnology, Biochemical, and Biomass Engineering (BBBE) program which supports fundamental engineering research that advances the understanding of cellular and biomolecular processes and eventually leads to the development of enabling technology for advanced manufacturing and/or applications in support of the biopharmaceutical, biotechnology, and bioenergy industries, or with applications in health or the environment. Deadline 5 November. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; EPA; Roll Call; ScienceInsider; Politico; Farm Journal; AAAS; Consumer’s Union; CNN Blogs; The Guardian; Reuters; The World Food Prize; TIME

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.