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Science Policy Report

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27 August 2014

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Schedule a local meeting with your members of Congress
~ Bipartisan energy-water nexus legislation
~ Senate appropriators release Interior and Environment Bill
~ Concerns over ‘Secret Science’ Bills
~ Glickman to chair Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research
~ Societies comment on the NIFA Centers of Excellence
~ Stabenow calls on EPA, Army Corps for more Info on Waters of the U.S. rule

Science News

~ Registration open: Congress on Adapting Food Production to a Changing Climate
~ 2nd Herbicide Resistance Summit
~ Greenhouse gas report to assist producers facing climate challenges
~ Scientists are rising to the challenges of drought
~ U.S. Department of Energy and open access
~ Kellogg joins campaign to fight climate change
~ Vermont Attorney General criticizes challenge to state's GMO labeling law
~ New technology helps farmers conserve fertilizer and protect their crops
~ The problem with GMO labels
~ Soils overhead: characterizing canopy soils

International Corner

~ Deep emissions cuts needed by 2050, says UN
~ China pulls plug on genetically modified rice and corn
~ World Water Week
~ New food security program announced
~ Rising economies 'ahead on climate'

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Innovation Corps Teams Program
~ Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowship Grants Program
~ GCSAA Research Grant Program
~ Chesapeake Bay Program
~ NCR-SARE Research and Education Grant Program
~ NCR-SARE Partnership Grant Proposals
~ Graduate Research Fellowship Program
~ U.S. Borlaug Fellows Graduate Research Grant
~ Environmental System Science

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Schedule a local meeting with your members of Congress

Even though the August recess is winding down, there is still an opportunity to meet with your members of Congress. Since it’s an election year, all members of Congress will also be home during the month of October and they will be looking for opportunities to meet with constituents. Take this time to 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 how to schedule a local meeting here. Be a voice for science today!


(TOP) ~ Bipartisan energy-water nexus legislation

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Chairman Emeritus of the Committee, introduced H.R. 5189, the Energy and Water Research Integration Act. The Energy and Water Research Integration Act is a proactive measure that takes into account recent studies done by the Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute, both of which have highlighted how closely connected energy production and water usage are. This bill encourages research into energy technologies that would improve and minimize the use of water in energy production, and also establishes a mechanism for federal agencies to work with state and local governments and other stakeholders to advance our understanding of what is known as the ‘energy-water nexus.’ In addition, the bill requires a regularly updated strategic plan to guide these efforts. These provisions are important, positive steps towards using our limited resources in the most efficient and effective way possible. Read the full press release.


(TOP) ~ Senate appropriators release Interior and Environment Bill

Before leaving for the August recess, the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee released its proposed FY 2015 Interior and Environment bill. The bill, which covers the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the US Forest Service, was the lone unreleased spending bill on the Senate side. The USGS discretionary budget would reach $1.05 billion, 1.4 percent above FY 2014 levels and 2.5 percent below the request. EPA R&D would fall to an estimated $523 million in FY 2015, 2.7 percent below FY 2014 levels and 2.6 percent below the request. Lastly, Forest Service R&D would increase to $319 million, 2.6 percent below FY 2014 levels but 5.9 percent above the request.


(TOP) ~ Concerns over ‘Secret Science’ Bills

ASA, CSSA and SSSA signed on to a letter to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and one to the House of Representatives expressing concerns about the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014. The Secret Science Reform Act would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing or implementing regulations that are based on scientific data that are not publicly available or reproducible. You can read the letters to the House and Senate online. Read more about the 'Secret Science' bill here.


(TOP) ~ Glickman to chair Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research

Former US Agriculture Secretary, Dan Glickman, has been elected board chairman of the newly established Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research. Authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, FFAR will operate as a non-profit corporation seeking and accepting private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress provided $200 million for the foundation, which must be matched by non-federal funds as projects are identified and approved. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Societies comment on the NIFA Centers of Excellence

In the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) was charged with establishing Centers of Excellence, for purposes of food and agricultural research, extension, and education activities. While the Farm Bill delineates criteria for being recognized as a Center of Excellence, USDA-NIFA recently sought input from stakeholders about what the scope of a Center of Excellence should be and what stakeholders believe are the strengths and weaknesses of this model. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA, as well as many other organizations, submitted comments emphasizing specific concerns about how the composition and prioritization of being identified as a Center of Excellence may affect the scientific merit proposal review process, duplicate Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) awards which already leverage partnerships and resources, and the potential negative impact the Centers many have on early-career scientists.


(TOP) ~ Stabenow calls on EPA, Army Corps for more Info on Waters of the U.S. rule

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Ag, stated that farmers need more clarity on the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineer's proposed Waters of the United States definition. The clarity, a letter Stabenow and 12 other Senators sent to the EPA and Army Corps said, would help farmers make sure the "waters" rule doesn't have unintended effects on agriculture and on conservation efforts. The Waters of the U.S. regulation is intended to clarify which waters are regulated under the Clean Water Act, though many farm groups say the definition expands the scope of the EPA's jurisdiction. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Registration open: Congress on Adapting Food Production to a Changing Climate

The Renewable Natural Resources Foundation Congress delegates will discuss the consequences of a changing climate on agricultural production and identify tactics and priorities for sustaining global productivity. The congress will feature discussions on domestic and international policies, agronomic and technical solutions, economics, food security, and distribution. It will conclude with a discussion of the future of international agricultural and food institutions. The primary goals of this meeting are to identify specific strategies and tactics to sustainably adapt food production to a changing climate and explore the multi-disciplinary and global scale of this challenge. Learn more about the Congress and register here.


(TOP) ~ 2nd Herbicide Resistance Summit

The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) announced the agenda for a national scientific summit on herbicide resistant weeds on September 10 in Washington, D.C. Building on the insights and perspectives that were established from the 2012 Herbicide Resistance Summit, one of the outcomes expected from Herbicide Resistance Summit II will include a more unified understanding of the issues across the country, understanding of differences of viewpoints, and approaches to solutions. WSSA plans to offer the event as a live webcast for those unable to attend in person. Learn more and register here.


(TOP) ~ Greenhouse gas report to assist producers facing climate challenges

The USDA released a report that, for the first time, provides uniform scientific methods for quantifying the changes in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and carbon storage from various land management and conservation activities. The report, titled Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture and Forestry: Methods for Entity-Scale Inventory, will help USDA evaluate current and future greenhouse gas conservation programs, as well as develop new tools and update existing ones to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners participate in emerging carbon markets. Multiple society members contributed to the report including lead author, Paul R. Adler, of USDA-ARS. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Scientists are rising to the challenges of drought

Scientists from around the world convened in Sacramento for the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting to discuss cutting-edge research for a sustainable future. The meeting comes at a pivotal time for California, as the three-year drought drags on. According to the latest Drought Monitor report, more than 58 percent of the state is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the most severe classification, characterized by extreme water shortages and crop loss. This is a big problem for the nation’s top agricultural state, where the value of agricultural products exceeds $40 billion a year. To achieve this remarkable productivity, California agriculture uses well over half of the state’s managed water. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ U.S. Department of Energy and open access

What are the consequences when you take something of value and give it away for free? Does it hurt the quality and reliability of the product? Can the product be produced at all? We are about to find out, and in an area that is critically important to U.S. competitiveness and innovation: science. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a plan to require free public access to science journal articles on a broad scale within 12 months of publication.  The DOE plan resulted from a February, 2013 directive on open access to the results of federally funded research from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Kellogg joins campaign to fight climate change

Cereal giant Kellogg is joining General Mills in promisingindustry-leading steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its agricultural supply chains. Among other things, the maker of Corn Flakes and Keebler Cookies said it will for the first time establish targets to reduce “Scope 3” greenhouse gas emissions, where most of the company's value chain climate pollution occurs, largely from agricultural production. Scope 1 and 2 cover direct emission sources, such as fuel used in company vehicles, while Scope 3 covers all indirect emissions due to an organization's activities, including emissions from both suppliers and customers. Kellogg also pledged to join Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) by Sept. 30. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Vermont Attorney General criticizes challenge to state's GMO labeling law

Vermont's Attorney General William Sorrel has drawn a line in the sand on GMO labeling, questioning claims from several food and manufacturing groups regarding the constitutionality of the state's GMO labeling law, Act 120. The labeling law, which was approved earlier this year, requires labeling of GM foods sold in Vermont retail outlets as "produced with genetic engineering." The bill also stipulates that GM foods may not be labeled as "natural," "naturally grown," "all natural" or other similar phrases. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, along with the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers, filed the suit to overturn the law on June 12. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ New technology helps farmers conserve fertilizer and protect their crops

Nitrogen is essential to our existence, a required nutrient for the plants we eat. It is the broad swath at the bottom of our own human food pyramid and it is applied by farmers to agriculture fields all over the world. From there, much of it is lost to the atmosphere, as a greenhouse gas 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Still more of it leaches into waterways, creating dead zones, like the ones that inevitably creep up in the Gulf of Mexico, decimating fish populations. Researchers at Cornell University are hoping they’ve created the beginnings of a solution. Adapt-N, a software program developed after years of research, aims to help farmers simultaneously save money and mitigate these environmental impacts by giving them the information they need to determine how and when to apply nitrogen fertilizer to their fields. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ The problem with GMO labels

Americans are spending a lot of time worrying about what is in their food. This is understandable, given that so much of it is laden with sugar, highly processed flour, and saturated fat. In polls, an overwhelming majority of respondents say they want foods with genetically engineered ingredients to be labelled, and most people add that they would use those labels to avoid eating such foods. Dozens of bills have been put before the legislatures of more than half the states. Vermont and Connecticut have already enacted labelling laws, and many more are likely to follow. GMO labels may be a political necessity, but they make no scientific sense. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Soils overhead: characterizing canopy soils

When you tell people to look at the soil around them, most will look down toward their feet. But in some forests, it would also be appropriate to look up – into the trees. Up in those trees is another type of soil, one unseen and unnoticed by most people. It’s called canopy soil. Canopy soils develop when epiphytes, plants that grown on other plants but are not parasitic, start to decompose. The canopy soils, also called arboreal soils, can then provide nutrients and water to the epiphytes, such as ferns and moss. Even the host trees themselves can draw from the canopy soils directly by growing roots called canopy roots. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Deep emissions cuts needed by 2050, says UN

Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions of 40 to 70 percent by mid-century will be needed to avert the worst of global warming that is already harming all continents, a draft U.N. report showed. The report sums up three U.N. scientific reports published over the past year as a guide for almost 200 governments which are due to agree a deal to combat climate change at a summit in Paris in late 2015. It says existing national pledges to restrict greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, a U.N. ceiling set in 2010 to limit heatwaves, floods, storms and rising seas. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ China pulls plug on genetically modified rice and corn

China’s Ministry of Agriculture has decided not to renew biosafety certificates that allowed research groups to grow genetically modified (GM) rice and corn. The permits, to grow two varieties of GM rice and one transgenic corn strain, expired on 17 August. The reasoning behind the move is not clear, and it has raised questions about the future of related research in China. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ World Water Week

World Water Week is organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and takes place in Stockholm, Sweden on August 31 – September 5. It has been the annual focal point for the globe’s water issues since 1991. It is a platform for over 200 collaborating organizations to convene events about water and development issues. Individuals from around the globe also present their findings at the scientific workshops. Learn more here.


(TOP) ~ New food security program announced

At the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, D.C., $7 billion in new commitments from U.S. and African companies were announced for the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  The program was initiated in 2012 to leverage private sector investment for promoting agricultural development and easing poverty and hunger in Africa. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Rising economies 'ahead on climate'

Four of the world's emerging economies have claimed that they are far ahead of developed countries in their efforts to slow climate change. Brazil, South Africa, India and China are known as the BASIC bloc in international climate negotiations. They have also accused developed nations of keeping their carbon emission cuts ambitions at a low level. Developed countries have long argued that shares in global carbon emissions from fast emerging economies like China and India were huge and yet they were not committed to making cuts. The two sides have been at loggerheads for years, presenting hurdles to a deal on climate change. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Innovation Corps Teams Program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) seeks to develop and nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon fundamental research to guide the output of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society. In order to jumpstart a national innovation ecosystem, NSF has established the NSF Innovation Corps Teams Program (NSF I-Corps Teams). The NSF I-Corps Teams purpose is to identify NSF-funded researchers who will receive additional support - in the form of mentoring and funding - to accelerate innovation that can attract subsequent third-party funding. Deadline, 15 September. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowship Grants Program

This grant program supports: (1) training students for Master's and doctoral degrees in food, agricultural and natural resource sciences, and; (2) Special International Study or Thesis/Dissertation Research Travel Allowances (IRTA) for eligible USDA NNF beneficiaries. Awards are specifically intended to support traineeship programs that engage outstanding students to pursue and complete their degrees in USDA mission areas. Applicants provide clarity about the philosophy of their graduate training, and relevance to USDA mission sciences, NIFA priorities and national science education policies and statistics. Applications are being solicited from institutions that confer a graduate degree in at least one of the following Targeted Expertise Shortage Areas: 1) animal and plant production; 2) forest resources; 3) agricultural educators and communicators; 4) agricultural management and economics; 5) food science and human nutrition; 6) sciences for agricultural biosecurity; and 7) training in integrative biosciences for sustainable food and agricultural systems. Deadline, 30 September. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ GCSAA Research Grant Program

Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) is excited to offer funding, through the Environmental Institute for Golf, for new research projects that will benefit the golf course superintendents and the golf courses they manage.  The Chapter Cooperative Research program is an important program for the association, university scientists and the golf course industry.  We encourage chapters and superintendents to work with university scientists to submit proposals for applied agronomic, environmental and regulatory research. Deadline, 1 October. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Chesapeake Bay Program

EPA is accepting grant funding applications to provide the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) non-federal partners with technical and programmatic support related to implementation of the agricultural components of the Chesapeake Bay watershed jurisdictions' watershed implementation plans (WIPs). Proposals should specifically address the need to assist and support efforts by the state, regional, and local partners and other non-federal stakeholders to build the institutional and programmatic capacity for accelerated implementation of agricultural conservation programs. This work should provide expanded technical, coordination, and logistical support to the CBP Partnership Water Quality Goal Implementation Team’s Agriculture Workgroup. Deadline, 8 October. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ NCR-SARE Research and Education Grant Program

The North Central Region SARE (NCR-SARE) Research and Education Grant Program is a competitive grant program for researchers and educators involved in projects that explore and promote environmentally sound, profitable, and socially responsible food and/or fiber systems. Research and Education projects include a strong outreach component and significant farmer/rancher or other end user involvement from inception of the idea through implementation of the project. Deadline, 23 October. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ NCR-SARE Partnership Grant Proposals

The 2015 North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture (NCR-SARE) Research and Education Program Partnership Grant program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Examples of appropriate projects include:  developing a curriculum about food storage for farmers and processors, on-farm testing of cropping system strategies or grazing systems, cooperative efforts to develop new marketing approaches, or investigations into new approaches to processing and/or adding value to sustainably produced farm products. Deadline, 30 October. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science and engineering. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering. Life Science and Geosciences deadline, 4, November. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ U.S. Borlaug Fellows Graduate Research Grant

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, 10, November. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Environmental System Science

The Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) of the Office of Science (SC), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hereby announces its interest in receiving research applications for environmental system science. The goal of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to improve the representation of terrestrial ecosystems and subsurface processes appropriate for advancing Earth system model capabilities, thereby improving the quality of climate model projections and providing the scientific foundation needed to inform DOE?s energy decisions. The FOA will consider applications that focus on measurements, experiments, modeling or synthesis to provide improved quantitative and predictive understanding of terrestrial ecosystems that, in turn, influence atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and thereby affect the greenhouse gas forcing of climate. The emphasis of this FOA is to understand non-managed terrestrial ecosystems in the context of a changing climate. Applicants should pose their research applications in the context of representing terrestrial ecosystem and/or subsurface processes appropriate for improving the predictability of climate based on Earth system models. Deadline, 2 December. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; EPA: DOE; ScienceInsider; AAAS; Farm Progress; The Hill; Salon; The Sacramento Bee; The Washington Post; Agri-Pulse; The Guardian; The New Yorker; BBC News; Christian Science Monitor

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.