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Science Policy Report

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16 July 2014

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Energy-Water bill makes its way through the House
~ USGS sees funding increase in House Interior bill
~ House Science Committee targets EPA’s ‘secret science’
~ Hill hearing pushes back on anti-GMO movement
~ Bipartisan science bills pass through the House
~ Yale microbiologist picked for White House science job

Science News

~ Prized wildlife habitat may also benefit water quality
~ Composting key to soil health and climate protection, according to two new reports
~ GM labeling: dollars make a difference
~ "Tailored" water: Recipe for a greener lawn?
~ Strawberry fields forever -- with some help from mathematicians!
~ Major study documents nutritional and food safety benefits of organic farming

International Corner

~ International Congress brings together leaders in conservation agriculture
~ China, U.S. Agree to Take Baby Steps on Climate Change
~ Indian biologists welcome budget hike
~ U.S. prosecutors allege Chinese researchers stole patented corn
~ International Food Security Assessment, 2014-24
~ Indonesia surpasses Brazil in deforestation rate

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ ASA, CSSA, SSSA Graduate Student Leadership Conference
~ Instrument Development for Biological Research
~ Division of Environmental Biology
~ Collections in Support of Biological Research
~ Advances in Biological Informatics
~ Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
~ Clean, Functional Plant Protein Chemistry
~ Capacity Building Grants for Non Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture Program
~ NSF Grants Conference

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Energy-Water bill makes its way through the House

A $34 billion House Energy-Water spending bill for fiscal 2015 passed through the House late Thursday night, despite certain Democratic opposition over cuts to clean and renewable energy research and environmental policy riders. The bill provides $5.071 billion for the Department of Energy, Office of Science (SC) - $40 million below the President’s request. While the House bill maintained current funding levels for SC, appropriators reprioritized funding for SC programs, providing more funding for nuclear physics, advanced computing and fusion energy, while cutting biological and environmental research (BER) by $70 million. The Committee praised the program's biological research initiatives but remained silent on the environmental and climate research activities, and specifically provided no funding for BER's new climate modeling initiative.


(TOP) ~ USGS sees funding increase in House Interior bill

Last Tuesday, the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee passed their funding bill through the subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee approved the bill yesterday on a vote of 29-19. The bill includes $1 billion for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a $4 million increase above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. Within this amount, the bill prioritizes funding for programs dealing with natural hazards, stream gages, the groundwater monitoring network, mapping activities, and the earthquake early warning system. The bill also sets funding for the Environmental Protection Agency which received a cut of $717 million, or 9 percent, relative to current already tight spending levels. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ House Science Committee targets EPA’s ‘secret science’

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to disclose the data it uses to write regulations. The committee’s bill is intended to stop what Republicans said is widespread use at the EPA of “secret science” to make rules. Leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans also want to review the legislation, asserting that it lies under the jurisdiction of its committee. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Hill hearing pushes back on anti-GMO movement

The heated public debate over genetically modified foods shows the agricultural industry is not doing enough to communicate biotechnology's benefits to society, according to a group of witnesses hosted by the House Agriculture Subcommittee Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture last week. Witnesses included professors from Cornell University, Harvard University, and Tuskegee University, as well as a dairy farmer and mother who all emphasized how consumers, farmers and the environment have benefitted from traditional and modern applications of biotechnology. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Bipartisan science bills pass through the House

On Monday, the House approved four bipartisan science bills, the STEM Education Act, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization, the Research and Development Efficiency Act and the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act. These individual bills are small parts of H.R. 4186, Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act of 2014 (FIRST) on issues that got bipartisan support. The FIRST Act attempts to replace parts of the American COMPETES legislation. In March, ASA, CSSA and SSSA signed on to a letter that opposes the FISRT Act in its current form, but these bills are considered largely noncontroversial.  It remains uncertain whether more parts of the FISRT Act will be introduced individually in the future. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Yale microbiologist picked for White House science job

On June 26, the Senate confirmed Jo Handelsman to be Associate Directorof the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Handelsman is a microbiologist form Yale University whose research focuses on gut and soil microbial communities. Handelsman is a former SSSA member and she received the Francis E. Clark Distinguished Lectureship on Soil Biology award.  Her priorities in her new position at OSTP are STEM education, women in STEM fields and agriculture research. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Prized wildlife habitat may also benefit water quality

Already cherished as wildlife habitat, red oak bottomlands in the Mississippi River floodplain may offer another benefit to the environment and to people. These forested wetlands accrue significant amounts of nitrogen flowing downstream, says new research, indicating they could help remove nitrogen from the river and reduce the load entering the Gulf of Mexico. The study, which was recently published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal, was conducted by a team of scientists and graduate students in the College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University (MSU). Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Composting key to soil health and climate protection, according to two new reports

Composting reduces waste and builds healthy soil to support local food production and protect against the impacts of extreme weather, from droughts to heavy rainfall. That’s the message of two new reports from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR): State of Composting in the U.S.: What, Why, Where & How and Growing Local Fertility: A Guide to Community Composting. Compost is valued for its ability to enhance soil structure and quality. It adds organic matter to soil, improves plant growth and water retention, cuts chemical fertilizer use, and stems stormwater run-off and soil erosion. It also protects the climate:  it sequesters carbon in soil and it reduces methane emissions from landfills by cutting the amount of biodegradable materials disposed. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ GM labeling: dollars make a difference

Consumers say in polls they want GM labels, but are they willing to pay more for food? Spend much time on the internet – and particularly within social media – and it's tempting to believe all the world hates GMOs, Monsanto, RoundUp and the food industry. Also, that everyone wants organic food, non-GM food, and they don't care what it costs. But Jayson Lusk, Oklahoma State University ag and food economist, says real life doesn't play out in quite the same way. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ "Tailored" water: Recipe for a greener lawn?

In Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and other big New Mexico cities, nearly every public golf course is watered today with treated city wastewater rather than precious potable water. And across the U.S. Southwest as a whole, more than 40% of golf courses receive treated wastewater. Irrigating turf with recycled water is a key step on the path toward sustainability. But a giant leap is what New Mexico State University turfgrass expert, Bernd Leinauer, now has in mind. In a paper published July 9 in Crop Science, he and co-author Elena Sevostianova detail their recipe for a “greener” lawn: fertigation, drip irrigation, and decentralized water treatment. Read the full story.


(TOP) ~ Strawberry fields forever -- with some help from mathematicians!

The Pajaro Valley and the nearby Salinas Valley produce nearly half of the strawberries grown in the United States yearly. But, the water source for the valley is a confined underground aquifer that is slowly being depleted. An NSF-funded conference grant brought together mathematicians and industry professionals to work on a variety of sustainability problems, one of which was water management. From the conference, the team has made significant progress in the creation of a virtual farm model to study alternative crop management strategies and their effect on water usage and profit. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Major study documents nutritional and food safety benefits of organic farming

The largest study of its kind has found that organic foods and crops have a suite of advantages over their conventional counterparts, including more antioxidants and fewer, less frequent pesticide residues. The study looked at an unprecedented 343 peer-reviewed publications comparing the nutritional quality and safety of organic and conventional plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, and grains. The study team applied sophisticated meta-analysis techniques to quantify differences between organic and non-organic foods. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ International Congress brings together leaders in conservation agriculture

Advocates of conservation agriculture from around the world exchanged insights on using conservation ag to feeding a growing world population during a global agricultural conference held June 22-25. The 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture (WCCA) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, focused on practical conservation applications and techniques that will help conserve soil, water and other natural resources, as well as provide economic returns. Farmers, researchers, educators, agricultural company representatives, government representatives and others from 47 countries shared ideas on the opportunities and challenges they face in conservation agriculture. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ China, U.S. Agree to Take Baby Steps on Climate Change

Chinese and US officials, meeting in Beijing, decided to do more to fight climate change, but the specific steps they settled on were far from ambitious. The two countries agreed to adopt tougher fuel efficiency standards, look at ways to make industrial boilers more efficient, and conduct demonstration projects on carbon capture and smart electricity grids. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Indian biologists welcome budget hike

Clean water, biotechnology, and higher education are among the winners in the Indian budget presented by the new government in the lower house of Parliament here on July 10. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government requested $300 billion for the 2014 to 2015 fiscal year, roughly $20 billion more than last year. The Ministry of Science and Technology fared quite well: it is in line for a 7.1% increase, to $1.045 billion. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ U.S. prosecutors allege Chinese researchers stole patented corn

Several employees of the Chinese agricultural company Dabeinong Technology Group Co. (DBN) and a subsidiary are accused of stealing patented seed corn from fields in Iowa and Illinois and shipping it to China to try to reproduce its traits. Over a span of years, the associates allegedly came up with various ways of stealing coveted seed lines developed by agricultural giants DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto, and LG Seeds. Six suspects were initially named in December, but this past week Mo Yun, a researcher with a “PhD in an animal science field” and the wife of DBN chairman, was also charged in the case. Read full article.


(TOP) ~ International Food Security Assessment, 2014-24

This report assesses and projects food security of 76 low- and middle-income countries based on two key determinants: food production and import capacity. Between 2013 and 2014, food insecurity for the 76 countries analyzed is projected to improve. The number of food-insecure people is projected to fall 9 percent, from 539 million in 2013 to 490 million in 2014. Read the full report.


(TOP) ~ Indonesia surpasses Brazil in deforestation rate

A new study shows that the rate of deforestation has increased so much that Indonesia has for the first time surpassed Brazil in the rate of its clearance of tropical forests. Palm oil plantations and other farming developments are the primary drivers of the deforestation, which researchers say has led to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and a loss of biodiversity. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ ASA, CSSA, SSSA Graduate Student Leadership Conference

Submit your application by July 31 to be one of 50 students to take part in the inaugural Graduate Student Leadership Conference, held on Nov. 1 and 2 as part of the 2014 ASA, CSSA, SSSA Annual Meeting. The purpose of the conference is to provide professional and leadership development to graduate students, and the conference will include sessions on networking, professional etiquette, leadership, and oral and written communication.


(TOP) ~ Instrument Development for Biological Research

The Instrument Development for Biological Research (IDBR) Program supports the development, production, and distribution of novel instrumentation that addresses demonstrated needs in biological research in areas supported by NSF Biology programs. These systems would benefit a broad user community through mass distribution of the technology. Interdisciplinary collaborations are strongly encouraged, as are partnerships with U.S. industries that can facilitate knowledge transfer, commercialization and broad utilization in the research community. Deadline, 25 July. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Division of Environmental Biology

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) supports fundamental research on populations, species, communities, and ecosystems. Scientific emphases range across many evolutionary and ecological patterns and processes at all spatial and temporal scales. Areas of research include biodiversity, phylogenetic systematics, molecular evolution, life history evolution, natural selection, ecology, biogeography, ecosystem structure, function and services, conservation biology, global change, and biogeochemical cycles. Research on organismal origins, functions, relationships, interactions, and evolutionary history may incorporate field, laboratory, or collection-based approaches; observational or manipulative experiments; synthesis activities; as well as theoretical approaches involving analytical, statistical, or computational modeling. Full proposal deadline, 4 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Collections in Support of Biological Research

The Collections in Support of Biological Research (CSBR) Program provides funds: 1) for improvements to secure, improve, and organize collections that are significant to the NSF BIO-funded research community; 2) to secure collections-related data for sustained, accurate, and efficient accessibility of the collection to the biological research community; and 3) to transfer collection ownership responsibilities. Full proposal deadline, 11 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Advances in Biological Informatics

The Advances in Biological Informatics (ABI) program seeks to encourage new approaches to the analysis and dissemination of biological knowledge for the benefit of both the scientific community and the broader public. The ABI program is especially interested in the development of informatics tools and resources that have the potential to advance- or transform- research in biology supported by the Directorate for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation.  The ABI program accepts three major types of proposals: 1) Innovation awards that seek to pioneer new approaches to the application of informatics to biological problems, 2) Development awards that seek to provide robust cyberinfrastructure that will enable transformative biological research, and 3) Sustaining awards that seek to support ongoing operations and maintenance of existing cyberinfrastructure that is critical for continued advancement of priority biological research. Full proposal deadline, 12 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

This Request for Applications solicits applications from eligible entities for grants and/or cooperative agreements to be awarded pursuant to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan. This RFA is EPA’s major competitive grant funding opportunity under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for fiscal year 2014 and is one of several funding opportunities available through federal agencies under the GLRI. Applications are requested for projects within the following three categories: Invasive Species Control; Watershed Management Implementation; Sediment Reduction Projects in Priority Watersheds. Deadline, 25 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Clean, Functional Plant Protein Chemistry

NineSigma, representing a Fortune 500 Packaged Foods Company, seeks proposals for plant proteins and protein combinations that deliver on nutrition, clean taste, and functionality for beverage and baked snacks applications. The goal is to use plant proteins in new applications. The sponsor seeks to understand the protein chemistry and the contributing factors to negative sensory attributes (e.g. off flavors, bad aftertaste, texture) with the aim to improve overall product acceptability. Deadline, 29 August. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Capacity Building Grants for Non Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture Program

The USDA NIFA is seeking applications from NLGCA institutions for its program (a) to successfully compete for funds from Federal grants and other sources to carry out educational, research, and outreach activities; (b) to disseminate information relating to priority concerns to interested members of the agriculture, renewable resources, and other relevant communities, the public, and any other interested entity; (c) to encourage members of the agriculture, renewable resources, and other relevant communities to participate in priority education, research, and outreach activities by providing matching funding to leverage grant funds; and (d) through: (1) the purchase or other acquisition of equipment and other infrastructure; (2) the professional growth and development of the faculty of the NLGCA Institution; and (3) the development of graduate assistantships. Deadline, 5 September. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ NSF Grants Conference

The first National Science Foundation Grants Conference of fiscal year 2015, will be hosted by George Washington University on October 6-7, 2014. Key officials representing each NSF program directorate, administrative office, Office of General Counsel, and Office of the Inspector General will participate in this two-day conference. The conference is considered a must, particularly for new faculty, researchers, educators and administrators who want to gain insight into a wide range of important and timely issues at NSF including: the state of current funding; the proposal and award process; and current and recently updated policies and procedures. Register here.

Sources: USDA; NSF; EPA; The Hill; AGI: Geoscience Policy Monthly Review; ScienceInsider; Politico; Institute for Local Self-Reliance; Farm Progress; EurekaAlert; Ag Professional; Wall Street Journal; AAAS; BBC

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.