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Science Policy Report

Address all comments to the Science Policy Office at:
sciencepolicy@sciencesocieties.org

16 May 2018

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Science funding gets boost in opening round of appropriations bills
~ In House, ‘a lot of undecideds’ on farm bill
~ White House releases $15 billion rescission package
~ Secretary Perdue commits to prioritizing food waste solutions

Science News

~ ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Annual Meetings
~ Harvesting winter rye cover crops
~ Plant breeders balance shared innovation, revenue
~ Undergraduate soil science education trends
~ Opinion: Are you anti-GMO? Then you’re anti-science, too.
~ Great Plains precipitation gradient changes with latitude
~ As lab-grown meat advances, U.S. lawmakers call for regulation
~ NSF's National Science Board announces new leadership for 2018-2020

International Corner

~ European Commission proposes €100 billion research spending plan
~ What are the political drivers for GMOs in developing countries?
~ Australian scientists welcome boosts in new federal budget
~ Scientists in China race to edit crop genes, sowing unease in U.S.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Affordable and Sustainable Energy Crops
~ BioEnergy Engineering for Products Synthesis
~ Process Development for Advanced Biofuels and Biopower
~ Western SARE Research and Education Grants
~ Southern SARE Research and Education Grants
~ EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Science funding gets boost in opening round of appropriations bills

Science funding is in good shape as the House Appropriations Committee began releasing FY 2019 spending bills last week. The House appears to be doubling down on the historic R&D funding levels of FY 2018. While only the first step in a lengthy process, it’s a good sign that House appropriators are using the limited increase in overall FY 2019 funding to bolster federal science agencies. NSF is funded at $8.2 billion – $408 million above the FY 2018 enacted level. DOE Office of Science is slated to receive $6.6 billion for research – an increase of $340 million above the 2018 enacted level. There is $325 million for ARPA-E – a decrease of $28, but, in FY 2018 the House zeroed out ARPA-E. USDA agricultural research programs (ARS, NIFA, ERS and NASS) are funded at $3.101 billion – $72 million above FY 2018. ARS would receive $1.259 billion – $56 million above FY 2018. AFRI is up $15 million to $415 million. Hatch is funded at $259 million, a nearly $16 million increase, and $315 million is provided for extension, a $15.5 million increase. This is the first time in years that formula funds and extension have been slated for increases. The Senate Appropriations Committee has also released a markup schedule for FY 2019. See more budget details here.


(TOP) ~ In House, ‘a lot of undecideds’ on farm bill

While ready to move on the farm bill, House Republican leaders are giving Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway time to persuade “a lot of undecideds” to vote for tougher work requirements for SNAP recipients and looser subsidy rules for farmers. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy listed the farm bill for consideration this week but placed it last of three bills for debate. The House Rules Committee, the gatekeeper for floor action, says it will spend two days — Tuesday and Wednesday — deciding terms of debate for the bill, which could mean no discussion on the floor before Thursday. Democrats are solidly against the bill, so the GOP must rely on its members to back the bill en bloc. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ White House releases $15 billion rescission package

The White House sent a $15 billion in proposed spending cuts to Congress, challenging lawmakers to cut money that has been sitting unspent in accounts across the government. Unlike regular spending bills, a presidential rescissions package is given fast-track authority in both chambers. That means the proposal is one of the rare spending-related bills that is able to bypass the 60-vote threshold in the Senate. The GOP-dominated House is expected to easily clear the rescissions package, but even White House officials are less confident about its fate in the Senate. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Secretary Perdue commits to prioritizing food waste solutions

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hosted a food waste roundtable with Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and David Young (IA-3), food industry leaders, and non-profit groups at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today. This roundtable, the first of many USDA public events on food waste, serves as an opportunity to raise awareness while discussing solutions with leaders throughout the entire food supply chain. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Annual Meetings

The 2018 ASA & CSSA Annual Meeting will be held in Baltimore, MD on November 4-7. Submit your abstract by May 22 for the best pricing. Opening and closing keynote speakers have been announced: Meagan Schipanski, Colorado State University and Wayne Hanna, University of Georgia, respectively. Registration and hotel reservations are open so reserve today! The 2019 SSSA International Soils Meeting has now opened registration, abstract submission, and hotel reservations. The Soil Science Society of America will be joined by the Canadian Society of Soil Science and the Mexican Society of Soil Science in San Diego, CA on January 6-9, 2019. Learn more about each meeting here: ASA-CSSA Meeting and SSSA Meeting.


(TOP) ~ Harvesting winter rye cover crops

One barrier to the use of cover crops may be the cost. While there are long-term ecological benefits, farmers are influenced by the dollars they are spending in the short term. If funds are limited, the cost of planting and managing a cover crop may be difficult to justify. However, if cover crops can come with a short-term, tangible payout, the potential to be harvested and sold, this could expand their use. Winter rye has the potential to do double duty as a cover crop and a source of income. The seed is relatively inexpensive, plants survive the cold Midwestern winters, and it performs well as a cover crop. To investigate the potential role for winter rye in the Corn Belt, researchers conducted a modeling study that was recently published in Agricultural & Environmental Letters. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Plant breeders balance shared innovation, revenue

Public-sector plant breeders (for example, at public universities) have developed crops for better productivity. As a result, more food is available to feed a growing population. This research and innovation requires funding. But funding—and revenue from the crops developed—is increasingly hard to obtain. Intellectual property rights can protect crop varieties. And licensing can provide revenue to support further developments. But certain types of intellectual property rights can restrict plant breeders from sharing plant materials. That can limit innovation across the board. Finding a balance between these needs is tricky; it’s also important. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Undergraduate soil science education trends

There was considerable concern about the direction of soil science education in the USA at the beginning of the 21st century, particularly in regards to declining enrollment. However, there is very little work looking at enrollment trends in individual classes or evaluating the academic majors of students who are taking soil science coursework. In the March-April issue of the Soil Science Society of America Journal researchers report on trends in total student enrollment and enrollment by academic major for the 2009 to 2013 academic years at 10 universities in the USA that offer degree programs that prepare students to work as soil scientists. The team found that overall enrollment had increased in all classes investigated except soil physics. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Opinion: Are you anti-GMO? Then you’re anti-science, too.

Kind. Barilla. Triscuit. Del Monte. Nutro. The companies that produce these brands are guilty of crimes against rationality. All advertise on their packaging, in one way or another, that they don’t contain GMOs — genetically modified organisms. Walking down the aisle of my supermarket, I could have picked many other examples. Some food companies seem to be saying that GMO ingredients are not even fit for your dog. My boycott is rooted in the fact that there is no reputable scientific evidence that direct genetic modification — instead of slower genetic modification through selective breeding — has any health effects of any kind. None. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Great Plains precipitation gradient changes with latitude

Annual precipitation varies greatly from east to west across the semi-arid US Great Plains where precipitation is the primary factor affecting yield. Dryland farmers would have a better means of understanding the applicability of cropping systems research done in one part of the Great Plains to their specific location if they were aware of the rate of change of precipitation with east-west direction at their latitude. In a paper recently published in Agricultural & Environmental Letters, David Nielsen presents the quadratic relationship between latitude and the east-west rate of change in precipitation for the U.S. Great Plains. That rate of change is nearly constant between 31N and 38N. Further north, however, the east-west gradient increases curvilinearly. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ As lab-grown meat advances, U.S. lawmakers call for regulation

Lab-grown chicken, beef, and duck products are edging toward the U.S. market—despite enduring confusion about how they’ll be regulated. But language buried in a draft spending bill released by a U.S. House of Representatives appropriations panel this week suggests some lawmakers are eager to get rules in place. A one-sentence proposal in the bill would put the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in charge of regulating products made from the cells of livestock or poultry, and instructs the agency to issue rules about how it will oversee their manufacture and labeling. But just what USDA’s responsibilities are when it comes to lab-grown meat aren’t clear. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ NSF's National Science Board announces new leadership for 2018-2020

The National Science Board (NSB, Board), the governing body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a new chair and vice chair to lead the Board for the next two years. The Board elected Diane Souvaine, professor of computer science and adjunct professor of mathematics at Tufts University as its new chair and Ellen Ochoa, director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center as vice chair for the 2018-2020 term.  Souvaine replaces former chair Maria Zuber, who rotates off the Board after serving six years and Ochoa replaces Souvaine. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ European Commission proposes €100 billion research spending plan

The European Commission proposed spending €100 billion on research from 2021 to 2027 under its next continent-wide science funding program. That is less than some research groups had hoped for. Still, they say it is a good—but not great—opening bid in what are expected to be lengthy negotiations with the European Parliament and the European Union’s member states on a final spending plan. The €100 billion proposal, which the commission says represents a 50% increase compared with the previous period, includes €97.6 billion for Horizon Europe, the follow-on to the current Horizon 2020 multiyear spending initiative, and €2.4 billion for the nuclear research program Euratom. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ What are the political drivers for GMOs in developing countries?

In developing nations across the globe, governments are grappling with questions of what role, if any, genetically modified organisms should play in helping address a range of agriculture, nutrition, and climate challenges. Concerns have been raised over the environmental and health impacts of GMOs, as well as their impact on traditional farming methods and issues around seed patents, and farmers having to be dependent on corporations. Governments of developing countries are responding to those concerns in a variety of ways with some banning GMOs outright, some embracing them, and others attempting to find balance between the concerns and needs of all sides. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Australian scientists welcome boosts in new federal budget

Scientific infrastructure and health research in Australia will both gain in the new federal budget, unveiled in Canberra. The highlight is a 12-year, AU$1.9 billion (US$1.4 billion) National Research Infrastructure Investment Plan. Details are yet to be worked out, but priorities were outlined in a road map produced by an expert group last year. The road map recommended supporting the development of advanced microscopes, new types of instrumentation, and device fabrication techniques to support research in materials science, biology, medicine, and the environment. For astronomy, the investment plan will likely cover continuing support for Australian institutions to participate in international consortia operating large optical and radio telescopes.  Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Scientists in China race to edit crop genes, sowing unease in U.S.

China is seeking a lead in editing plant genes, potentially shifting the epicenter of the emerging agricultural technology toward the East. This stokes long-running worries in the US that the forefront of agricultural science could swing from the US Farm Belt to China, where the government has encouraged the development of large-scale, Western-style farming operations to boost domestic food production, and rely less on imports. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Affordable and Sustainable Energy Crops

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announces a notice of availability of funds for financial assistance to accelerate research and development related to the production of affordable and sustainable non-food energy crops that can be used as feedstocks for the production of price-competitive biofuels and bioproducts. This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) supports EERE’s performance metrics to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, increase the viability and affordability of renewable energy technologies and processes, and spur growth in the domestic bioeconomy. Letter of Intent deadline, May 30. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ BioEnergy Engineering for Products Synthesis

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announces a notice of availability of funds for financial assistance to address gaps in current research and development (R&D) which hinder better utilizing waste streams (e.g. lignin, CO2, and biosolids), improving organic and inorganic catalysts to increase conversion efficiency and decrease costs, and creating high-value performance-advantaged bioproducts to allow for more profitable biorefineries. This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) contains six Topic Areas as follows: 1) ChemCatBio Industrial Partnerships, 2) Agile BioFoundry Industry Partnership Initiative, 3) Performance Advantaged Bioproducts, 4) Biofuels and Bioproducts from Wet Organic Waste Stream, 5) Rewiring Carbon Utilization, and 6) Lignin Valorization. Letter of Intent deadline, May 30. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Process Development for Advanced Biofuels and Biopower

The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to identify, evaluate, and select applications proposing research, development and execution plans to test engineering principles and unit operations for the production and testing of Drop-in Renewable Jet Fuel Blendstocks and Drop-In Renewable Diesel Fuel Blendstocks from eligible feedstocks. In Topic Area 3, the FOA also seeks proposals to convert wet waste feedstocks, including municipal solid wastes and biosolids, into biopower or intermediates used to produce biopower. Letter of Intent deadline, May 30. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Western SARE Research and Education Grants

The Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is accepting pre-proposals for Research & Education grants. Projects must involve both research and education and must include a minimum of three separate producers for on-farm testing, demonstration, and collaboration. Anyone that has the capability to conduct both research and outreach activities is eligible to apply. Projects may be one to three years in length. Pre-proposal deadline, June 4. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Southern SARE Research and Education Grants

The Southern region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is accepting pre-proposals for systems research-based or education-based projects through the Research & Education Grants Program. The Education grant is open to anyone in agriculture interested in conducting education and outreach activities for the benefit of the greater sustainable ag community. Non-governmental organizations are especially encouraged to apply for this grant for their education and outreach activities. Meanwhile, the central purpose of research proposals is research-based projects that aim to understand how the components of a system interact with each other and function as a whole, with an educational/outreach component involved. Pre-proposal deadline, June 1. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program

The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is designed to fulfill the mandate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote scientific progress nationwide. A jurisdiction is eligible to participate in the NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Grant Program (RII) if their most recent 3-year level of NSF research support is equal to or less than 0.75% of the total NSF Research and Related Activities (R&RA) budget. Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1 (RII Track-1) awards provide up to $20 million total for 5 years to support improvements to physical and cyber infrastructure and human capital development. EPSCoR strives for improvements that will significantly increase the R&D capacity of a jurisdiction to enable stronger competitiveness in NSF, including large scale and cross-cutting opportunities. Accordingly, EPSCoR support should increase scientific competitiveness at the national or regional level. Successful RII Track-1 proposals provide sound platforms and opportunities for enhanced academic R&D competitiveness of a jurisdiction's colleges and universities, including implementation mechanisms that have a high probability of realizing stated goals and objectives and pragmatic plans for generation of sustained non-EPSCoR support. Letter of Intent deadline, July 3. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; DOE; Successful Farming; Politico; The Washington Examiner; Morning Ag Clips; Washington Post; ScienceInsider; Devex; Wall Street Journal;

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.