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Science Policy Report

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14 June 2017

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Agriculture Research Caucus established in House of Representatives
~ Trump withdraws U.S. from Paris climate agreement
~ A group representing $6.2 trillion of the US economy says they're 'still in' the Paris climate agreement
~ Former DOE officials, industry leaders urge Congress to protect agency’s research budget
~ Op-Ed - Keep the lights on: Science funding must be a national priority

Science News

~ Mitigating nitrous oxide emissions from an irrigated cropping system
~ Call for Community Input: Science Breakthroughs 2030 Food and Agriculture
~ Reclaiming strip-mine sites for biofuel crop production
~ Farmers report shift in GMO plantings
~ Conservation coursework for agriculture students
~ National Academies release review of draft climate science report
~ Wasted food adds up to wasted nutrients
~ New way to detect Palmer amaranth in contaminated seedlots
~ Opinion: FFAR is a new model for food and ag research

International Corner

~ For first time, China and EU to join forces on climate
~ French President Macron said US climate researchers should come to France
~ German breeders develop ‘open-source’ plant seeds
~ New tool could help predict, prevent surging waters in flood plains

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Composting Council Young Investigator Scholarship
~ Biomass Research and Development Initiative
~ NIFA Seeks Research Topics from Commodity Boards for FY 2018 AFRI Program
~ Request for Information: Clean Water Technologies
~ Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Agriculture Research Caucus established in House of Representatives

U.S. House of Representatives members Jimmy Panetta and Rodney Davis, establish the bipartisan Congressional Agriculture Research Caucus. The caucus will focus on topics related to agriculture research, innovation, and mechanization efforts, with the hope to educate and engage other members of Congress on these issues. As Congress prepares for the 2018 Farm Bill, the Caucus will provide a platform for Reps. Panetta and Davis to elevate challenges facing agricultural producers across the country. Help develop new champions for agriculture research by asking your Representative to join the Agriculture Research Caucus today!


(TOP) ~ Trump withdraws U.S. from Paris climate agreement

President Trump announced on June 1 that he will withdraw the United States from participation in the Paris climate accord, but he will stick to the withdrawal process laid out in the Paris agreement. That could take nearly four years to complete, meaning a final decision would be up to the American voters in the next presidential election. Advocates have worried that U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement would encourage other countries to pull out. That does not appear to be happening. Both the European Union and China have reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement. Even India, which faces intense pressures to use any energy source available to develop, said it remains committed to the agreement. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ A group representing $6.2 trillion of the US economy says they're 'still in' the Paris climate agreement

A coalition of US economic, education, and local government leaders announced they will continue to abide by the Paris agreement regardless of America's withdrawal, forming the We Are Still In movement.  The coalition represents 120 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the US economy. In total, the group includes 125 cities, 9 states, 902 businesses and investors, and 183 colleges and universities. Over 20 of the businesses who signed on are Fortune 500 companies. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Former DOE officials, industry leaders urge Congress to protect agency’s research budget

Former Republican officials, oil executives and business leaders are warning Congress and Energy Secretary Rick Perry that proposed budget cuts would have a devastating impact on national security and the economy. In a letter, 14 energy and economic heavy hitters urged appropriators to fund the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and research and development programs to ensure that the United States maintains its competitive edge. The letter comes on the same day that all seven of the former assistant secretaries who led the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from 1989 to 2017 sent separate letters to appropriators and Perry warning that proposed DOE budget cuts could slash jobs and stall advances in areas like grid reliability. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Op-Ed - Keep the lights on: Science funding must be a national priority

Close your eyes and imagine an America blazing with innovation — a nation crisscrossed by a network of “idea factories” humming with inquiry and industry, where some of our most creative and dogged thinkers develop practical solutions to our most pressing problems in medicine, energy, defense, transportation, agriculture and more. Now open your eyes and see that these places already exist. For well over a century, innovations by America’s research universities have made America stronger. Congress has shown us that our research universities are something all Americans can be proud of, regardless of our political stripes. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Mitigating nitrous oxide emissions from an irrigated cropping system

Agricultural production in the western U.S. is an important part of the global food supply. However, due to concerns over impacts of agricultural greenhouse gasses on the global climate, there is a need to test potential mitigation strategies, especially for nitrous oxide (N2O) from irrigated cropping systems in semiarid environments. In a paper recently published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal, researchers report N2O emissions from a dairy forage rotation (silage corn-barley-alfalfa) in south-central Idaho that received various nitrogen sources, including conventional granular urea and an enhanced-efficiency fertilizer. During corn production, the team found that cumulative N2O emissions were 53% lower with enhanced-efficiency fertilizer when compared with granular urea, and crop yields were unaffected. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Call for Community Input: Science Breakthroughs 2030 Food and Agriculture

Over the course of the next six months, the Science Breakthroughs 2030 study will explore novel scientific approaches suggested by members of the scientific community, with special attention to those ideas empowered by insights and tools from disciplines of science and engineering not typically associated with food and agriculture. Based on community input, the study committee will ultimately produce a report describing ambitious and achievable scientific pathways to addressing major problems and creating new opportunities for the food and agriculture system. Share your ideas on the “IdeaBuzz” challenge website—a discussion platform where you will be asked to post your perspectives and ideas for innovative scientific approaches and research concepts. Submit Input on IdeaBuzz.


(TOP) ~ Reclaiming strip-mine sites for biofuel crop production

Strip mines are so common in rural Pennsylvania that many people are unfazed by the sight of rock-filled piles of dirt and tracts of barren land. Researchers at Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences saw that switchgrass shows promise in reclaiming strip mine fields. It's a hardy, deep-rooted, perennial grass that's known for its ability to grow despite poor soil quality, drought, or flood. Switchgrass has many environmental and commercial benefits, such as providing shelter and food for wildlife, soil conservation, livestock feed, animal bedding, mulch, and landscaping. Switchgrass also has the potential to serve as a renewable energy source — its biomass can be condensed into fuel pellets for heating, and it also can be used to make ethanol, an alternative to gasoline. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Farmers report shift in GMO plantings

In May 2016 and May 2017, the Farm Journal Pulse asked farmers: “What percentage of your corn acres this year will be planted to GMO hybrids?” Comparing the back-to-back year data, there appears to be a shift. A smaller percentage planted 100% GMO technology. And a larger percentage have planted non-GMO seed. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Conservation coursework for agriculture students

Undergraduate students who plan to pursue careers in agriculture take courses focused on crop production, animal science, and agricultural economics. However, when these students become practicing professionals, their actions will have broad environmental impacts. Ryan Sharp and Adam Ahlers, who are faculty in the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University, wondered how students perceived these broader impacts of agriculture. To better understand student perceptions, Sharp and Ahlers conducted a survey of undergraduate students within the College of Agriculture at a Midwestern land grant university. The results were recently published in Natural Sciences Education. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ National Academies release review of draft climate science report

A 'Review of the Draft Climate Science Special Report' has been released by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report assesses whether the draft CSSR accurately presents the scientific literature in an understandable, transparent and traceable way, whether the CSSR authors handled the data, analyses, and statistical approaches in an appropriate manner and the effectiveness of the report in conveying the information clearly for the intended audience. This report provides recommendations for how the draft CSSR could be strengthened. The CSSR is a technical report that details the current state-of-science relating to climate change and its physical impacts and is intended to focus on climate change in the United States. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Wasted food adds up to wasted nutrients

Foods that wind up in the trash contain many of the same nutrients that Americans are missing in their diets, suggests a new study. About 30 to 40 percent of food produced in the United States is wasted - the equivalent of 1,250 to 1,400 calories per person per day. Also being tossed out is the equivalent of one quarter of the recommended daily fiber intake for most women, for example, or enough fiber to meet the full requirement for 74 million women, the authors point out. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ New way to detect Palmer amaranth in contaminated seedlots

Last summer, farmers in the Midwest got an unwelcome surprise after planting native seed on Conservation Reserve Program acres. Palmer amaranth, the aggressive and hard-to-kill weed, had established in droves. As a possible solution, some states declared Palmer a noxious weed, which prohibits its sale and transport. The typical testing method involves growing a sample of seeds until the plants are large enough to be identified, but this is a slow and potentially unreliable process. Pat Tranel, molecular weed scientist at the University of Illinois, and graduate student Brent Murphy developed a way around these issues. Their low-cost method can identify Palmer amaranth DNA from within a mixed sample without having to grow the plants. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Opinion: FFAR is a new model for food and ag research

A few years ago, a huge shift occurred in global leadership when China overtook the United States in public agricultural R&D. By 2013, according to the USDA, they had a 2-to-1 advantage over the U.S. If a similar change occurred in defense spending, our nation would have responded with all hands on deck. Then, in the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress took a bold step by establishing the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) with bipartisan support. Designed with a public-private partnership model meant to deliver bigger bang for the buck, FFAR is perfectly positioned to put America back on top as a global leader by accelerating problem solving on behalf of U.S. agriculture. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ For first time, China and EU to join forces on climate

The European Union and China will issue a statement declaring climate change "an imperative more than ever" in the face of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The statement is the first-ever bilateral agreement on climate change between the European Union and China. It will be backed by all 28 E.U. member states, including the United Kingdom. It also called the Paris Agreement a "historic achievement" and "proof that with shared political will and mutual trust, multilateralism can succeed in building fair and effective solutions to the most critical global problems of our time." Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ French President Macron said US climate researchers should come to France

Last week, the newly minted French leader delivered a bruising rebuke of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord in a televised address. And in a jab at just how backward US climate politics have become, he invited American climate researchers to move to France. To court other frustrated scientists, the newly-launched website lists open positions in France, rules for eligibility, and available research grants of up to 1.5 million Euros. At the end of all that, eligible candidates are asked to upload one-page CVs and wait for responses, which are promised to come within a month. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ German breeders develop ‘open-source’ plant seeds

There's open-source software, open-source pharma research, and open-source beer. Now, there are open-source seeds, too. Breeders from Göttingen University in Germany and Dottenfelderhof agricultural school in Bad Vilbel, Germany, have released tomato and wheat varieties under an open-source license. Their move follows similar schemes for sharing plant material in India and the United States, but is the first that provides legal protection for the open-source status of future descendants of plant varieties. The idea behind the open-source license is that scientists and breeders can experiment with seeds—and improve them—unimpeded by legal restrictions. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ New tool could help predict, prevent surging waters in flood plains

A group of international scientists studying China's Yellow River has created a new tool that could help officials better predict and prevent its all-too-frequent floods, which threaten as many as 80 million people. The tool -- a formula to calculate sediment transport -- may also be applied to studying the sustainability of eroding coastlines worldwide. The Yellow River’s two identities -- as the fertile nurturer and the wanton killer -- derives from the same feature: the 1 billion tons of sediment that washes down each year from the Loess Plateau to the Bohai Sea. This huge sediment load can clog the river. When this happens, it not only floods but can change course. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Composting Council Young Investigator Scholarship

The CCREF Young Investigator Scholarship focuses on supporting undergraduate through PhD students, from a college or university in the United States, conducting research and education in the fields of composting and compost use. More specifically, the ideal candidate will have interest in improving the compost process and the application and the utilization of finished compost to increase drought tolerance, soil nutrient content, reducing erosion and water pollution, and increasing carbon storage in soils to combat climate change. The goal of the Young Investigator Scholarship is to bring assistance and attention to emerging young professionals in the field of compost research and to spark interest in the future of the composting industry. Deadline, June 30. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Biomass Research and Development Initiative

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), announce that up to $9 million in funding will be made available through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) to increase the nation’s energy independence by supporting the development of bioenergy feedstocks, biofuels, and biobased products. The projects funded through BRDI—a joint USDA and DOE program—will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products, and diversify our energy portfolio. Applicants will be permitted to address any or all of the following three legislatively mandated technical areas: (A) feedstocks development, (B) biofuels and biobased products development, and (C) biofuels development analysis. Content paper deadline, July 7. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ NIFA Seeks Research Topics from Commodity Boards for FY 2018 AFRI Program

NIFA is soliciting topics from eligible commodity board entities (federal and state-level commodity boards), which they are willing to equally co-fund with NIFA. The topics will be considered for inclusion in a future Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program. Deadline, July 25. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Request for Information: Clean Water Technologies

EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) partners with industry, small business, universities, and other stakeholders to identify and invest in emerging technologies with the potential to create high-quality domestic manufacturing jobs and enhance the global competitiveness of the United States. Through this Request for Information, EERE, on behalf of AMO, seeks feedback on technologies with the potential for early stage research and development (R&D) that if successfully advanced could impact the cost-effective and energy efficient availability of clean water processed from a variety of sources such as surface water, ground water, brackish water, seawater, wastewater and produced water for a range of applications including municipal drinking water, agricultural uses, and industrial needs. Deadline, July 28. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers

As the nation continues to expand the horizon of opportunities and possibilities through advances in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the need for a more diverse and well-prepared STEM workforce is also expanding1. The challenge of preparing citizens for the expanding workforce and the changing workplace environments calls for new innovations in STEM education2. ITEST is a research and development program that supports projects to promote PreK-12 student interests and capacities to participate in the STEM and information and communications technology (ICT) workforce of the future. The ITEST program supports research on the design, development, implementation, and selective spread of innovative strategies for engaging students in technology-rich experiences that: (1) increase student awareness of STEM occupations; (2) motivate students to pursue appropriate education pathways to STEM occupations; or (3) develop disciplinary-based knowledge and practices, or promote critical thinking, reasoning skills, or communication skills needed for entering STEM workforce sectors. ITEST projects may adopt an interdisciplinary focus that includes multiple STEM disciplines, focus on a single discipline, or focus on one or more sub-disciplines. The ITEST program supports projects that provide evidence for factors, instructional designs, and practices in formal and informal learning environments that broaden participation of students from underrepresented groups in STEM fields and related education and workforce domains. Projects that actively engage business and industry partners to better ensure that PreK-12 experiences foster the knowledge and skill-sets needed for emerging STEM occupations are strongly encouraged. Deadline, September 5. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; DOE; NAS; AAAS; ScienceInsider; Washington Post; Business Insider; The Hill; PSU News; Ag Professional; Reuters; ACES Illinois News; Agri-Pulse; Vox;

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.