Science Policy Report
Address all comments to the Science Policy Office at:
23 September 2015
In This Issue:
Policy News~ Domestic programs rally for relief from sequestration
~ House Republicans plan to call for action on climate change
~ Societies voice concerns over open access legislation
~ State legislatures urge federal support of GMOs
~ House Science Committee hearing on NEON
~ U.S. to sell rice to no. 1 user: China
~ It's time to get serious about reducing food waste, feds say
Science News~ Do soils and geology always protect groundwater from pathogens?
~ New report addresses environmental research and education
~ How researchers are trying to grow an unusual urban crop: rice
~ Congressman Lamar Smith: The Science Teacher
~ Study of U.S. farm data shows loss of crop diversity
~ Water markets would pay farmers for cleaner streams
~ The hunt for antibiotics in soil
~ Agricultural carbon markets get yet another boost
~ Will EPA limit use of 76 pesticides following court ruling?
~ Most scientists in this country are Democrats. That's a problem.
~ Extreme weather and food shocks
International Corner~ Can the Chinese government get its people to like GMOs?
~ Australia gets a new science minister
~ Cities across China and U.S. announce deep carbon cuts
~ Europe should launch satellite to monitor faint glow of plants, panel says
~ France bolsters ban on genetically modified crops
Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities~ Golf Course Superintendent Associate of America Research Grant Program
~ CSSA-USAID Travel Grant to attend Pan African Grain Legume Research Conference
~ Advancing Soil Health, Conservation and Outreach on Grazing Lands
~ Registration open: Congress on Sustaining Western Water
(TOP) ~ Domestic programs rally for relief from sequestration
Federal research agencies and other discretionary government programs got a two-year reprieve from the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration in late 2013. Unfortunately, it was just a short-term fix and sequestration cuts are set to go back into full effect starting October 1, 2015. Last week, NDD United, a coalition of more than 2,500 national, state and local organizations, including ASA, CSSA and SSSA, sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to avoid the impending fiscal crisis and come to an agreement that ends sequestration. While both sides of the aisle agree that sequestration is bad policy, there have been no negotiations for a larger budget deal that would address sequestration. Follow the hashtag #RaiseTheCaps to see more of the action and read a recap here. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ House Republicans plan to call for action on climate change
A coalition of House Republicans is gearing up to make waves by calling for action to fight climate change on the eve of Pope Francis’s visit to Capitol Hill. Ten Republicans have so far signed onto a resolution affirming that human activity contributes to climate change and endorsing action to respond to the threat of Earth’s changing climate. Rep. Chris Gibson, a New York Republican, led the charge in crafting the resolution and convincing other Republicans to speak out in support. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Societies voice concerns over open access legislation
In July, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs passed the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act which would require U.S. science agencies to make the peer-reviewed research papers they fund freely available to the public. ASA, CSSA and SSSA voiced their concerns with the bill in a letter signed by nearly 80 other scientific societies and publishers. In its present form, the bill would significantly harm the system of peer-reviewed scholarly communication and the ability of publishers to invest in education, research, and digital platforms that advance and help ensure the quality and integrity of science. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ State legislatures urge federal support of GMOs
While Chipotle and Whole Foods are moving away from the use of genetically engineered ingredients, some Western States are getting vocal about their support of the crops. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) took to the U.S. House floor earlier this week to introduce into the congressional record a resolution passed by the Texas House of Representatives supporting "the use of sound science to study and regulate such modern agricultural technologies as crop protection chemistries, genetically engineered or enhanced traits, and nutrients" and opposing any efforts restrict those technologies. Lawmakers in Wyoming, meanwhile, are weighing their own resolution that would urge Congress to pass Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo's voluntary GMO labeling bill. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ House Science Committee hearing on NEON
The House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology held an oversight hearing last week entitled NEON Warning Signs: Examining the Management of the National Ecological Observatory Network. The Network is funded by the National Science Foundation, which recently announced reducing NEON's scope through eliminating a major aquatic research component. At the hearing, NSF told the congressional panel that it has set a deadline of Dec. 1 for NEON Inc., the Boulder, Colorado–based group overseeing the multisite project, to get back on track or risk losing the contract. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ U.S. to sell rice to no. 1 user: China
U.S. rice producers are about to get access to China, the world’s largest market for the grain, after 15 years of lobbying. USDA and rice producers were optimistic that a deal could be approved in time for an official ceremony this week during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Washington, but, as of yet, no deal had been finalized. China is the biggest producer and importer of rice. While it’s still largely self-sufficient, its imports have gradually climbed in recent years, representing a significant opportunity for U.S. rice producers. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ It's time to get serious about reducing food waste, feds say
Word that Americans throw away about one-third of our available food has been getting around. Now there's an official goal aimed at reducing that waste. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency — along with many private-sector and food-bank partners — announced the first ever national target for food waste. Currently, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food is wasted each year. And if that's hard to fathom, picture this: "It's enough to fill the Sears Tower 44 times," Vilsack says. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Do soils and geology always protect groundwater from pathogens?
Countless ways exist for water-borne bacteria to die or get stuck in soil and geologic sediments. This is why scientists tend to assume that a thick layer of these materials will keep pathogens in surface-applied manures from seeping down into groundwater. University of Guelph geologist Emmanuelle Arnaud and her colleagues thought so, too—until they conducted the work that appears in the September-October issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality. To their surprise, they detected E. coli bacteria in groundwater one week after an application of liquid swine manure on a farm field, even though 12 meters of soil and glacial sediments lay in between. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ New report addresses environmental research and education
The nation is at an environmental crossroads, states a report released today by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC-ERE): America's Future: Environmental Research and Education for a Thriving Century: A 10-year Outlook. Climate change in the Arctic, urban growth in Phoenix, West Coast fisheries affected by El Niño, land-use change in New England, nutrients in watersheds in the Midwest--the report finds society is facing a wide array of environmental challenges. This report shows once again that NSF wants to engage in food, agriculture and natural resources research and support our sciences. Review the report and the newly released Science Frontiers and consider submitting a white paper on a research topic on the Food-Water-Energy Nexus. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ How researchers are trying to grow an unusual urban crop: rice
There is a new project based on rice where, instead of growing rice it in the familiar paddies, they are conducting a three-year study in growing rice just as you’d raise wheat or eggplant or apples: that is, on dry land. They’re doing it on a farm connected with one of the country’s smallest land-grant universities, and the only one based in a city. The goal: to produce a nutrient-dense crop that can be grown in urban areas. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Congressman Lamar Smith: The Science Teacher
For Rep. Lamar Smith—who’s in his second term as chairman and has served on the committee since he came to the Hill—working for the Science, Space, and Technology Committee isn’t just part of the congressional daily grind but rather the natural outcome of a lifelong interest in the panel’s jurisdiction. In high school, he won the Bausch & Lomb science award. In college, he took physics and astronomy. When he was in law school, he obtained his private pilot’s license. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Study of U.S. farm data shows loss of crop diversity
U.S. farmers are growing fewer types of crops than they were 34 years ago, which could have implications for how farms fare as changes to the climate evolve, according to a large-scale study by Kansas State University, North Dakota State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Less crop diversity may also be impacting the general ecosystem. The scientists used data from the USDA’s U.S. Census of Agriculture, which is published every five years from information provided by U.S. farmers. The team studied data from 1978 through 2012 across the country’s contiguous states. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Water markets would pay farmers for cleaner streams
Farmers make a living by raising and selling crops. But what if they could also earn money by taking steps to improve water quality? That’s the idea behind a government effort to create markets for clean water. It’s an example of an environmental market -- making the land do more than just grow corn or soybeans. It can also sequester carbon, filter pollutants out of water, and give wildlife a place to live. These markets are becoming a more common way for state and federal regulators to approach pollution controls from utilities, industry, and agriculture. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ The hunt for antibiotics in soil
Slava Epstein feels a reverence for soil. In January, the Northeastern University microbiologist and his colleagues at NovoBiotics unveiled teixobactin—one of the most promising antibiotics of the last decade. But for Epstein, the key is how they found it, in a soil sample from a Maine field. If he’s right, teixobactin may mark a new era in antibiotic discovery. Epstein’s work ranges from identifying the microbes that live on human teeth to deciphering the microbial ecology of a lake in Greenland. He’s also deeply intrigued by the mystery of why so few microbes can be grown in the lab. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Agricultural carbon markets get yet another boost
In the past three months, three new revenue opportunities have emerged for growers. In June, the first ever carbon offset protocol for crop-base agriculture in a cap-and-trade market was approved for U.S. rice growers by the California Air Resources Board (ARB). The “rice protocol” announcement was followed shortly after by approval of a voluntary grasslands protocol, which rewards farmers for avoiding the conversion of grasslands to cropland. And now, USDA has demonstrated its interest in and support of another market-based approach for growers: increasing fertilizer use efficiency. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Will EPA limit use of 76 pesticides following court ruling?
The power struggle over blaming pesticides and specifically the neonicotinoid class as the reason pollinator populations have been in a recession continues to escalate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has come forward against the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed prohibition of 76 pesticide ingredients being sprayed when honeybee hives are brought to farms under pollinator contracts. The EPA proposal has not been enacted and requires a cost-benefit analysis before it could be implemented. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Most scientists in this country are Democrats. That's a problem.
It is no secret that the ranks of scientists and engineers in the United States include dismal numbers of Hispanics and African-Americans, but few have remarked about another significantly underrepresented group: Republicans. No, this is not the punch line of a joke. A Pew Research Center Poll from July 2009 showed that only around 6 percent of U.S. scientists are Republicans; 55 percent are Democrats, 32 percent are independent, and the rest "don't know" their affiliation. Reda the full article.
(TOP) ~ Extreme weather and food shocks
Recent events highlight concerns about the risks to global food security posed by changing patterns of extreme weather affecting the world’s “breadbasket” regions such as the American Midwest, South America’s southern cone, the Black Sea and the Yangtze River valley. In 2012, the worst drought to hit the U.S. Midwest in half a century sent international maize and soybean prices to record levels. In 2011, wheat prices nearly doubled after an unprecedented heat wave devastated the Russian harvest. The global food price crisis of 2007-8 had its roots in a run of poor harvests in previous years. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Can the Chinese government get its people to like GMOs?
In China, which has one-fifth of the world’s population but just seven percent of the world’s arable land, food security is a national obsession. As a result, the government has begun to invest heavily in research on GM crops. But many plant geneticists in China have yet to see their experiments on wheat, rice, or corn move beyond the lab or the greenhouse. For all of the government’s investment, GM food faces zealous public opposition and is largely banned from the marketplace. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Australia gets a new science minister
Australia has a new science minister Christopher Pyne, a lawyer and veteran politician who has been serving as the conservative government’s education minister, was sworn in to his new post today as part of a reshuffle by new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Many Australian researchers say they hope Pyne’s appointment will mark a turn in policy under Turnbull, who ousted former Prime Minister Tony Abbott on 15 September after an internal party uprising. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Cities across China and U.S. announce deep carbon cuts
At a U.S.-China joint summit on climate change yesterday in Los Angeles, California, leaders from Beijing to Boston signed on to a raft of commitments meant to accelerate the pace of reductions promised at a summit last November. The bilateral agreement comes just 3 months before global climate change talks in Paris and on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the United States from 22 to 28 September. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ Europe should launch satellite to monitor faint glow of plants, panel says
An advisory panel has recommended that the European Space Agency (ESA) launch a satellite that would measure the faint fluorescent glow of plants. The Fluorescence Explorer, or FLEX, was endorsed as ESA’s next Earth Explorers mission by the agency’s Earth Science Advisory Committee, following a user consultation meeting held last week in Krakow, Poland. Measuring chlorophyll fluorescence would help Earth scientists understand global fluxes of carbon dioxide in a warming world. Read the full article.
(TOP) ~ France bolsters ban on genetically modified crops
France is to use a new European opt-out scheme to ensure a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops in the country remains in place, it said on Thursday. The European Union's largest grain grower and exporter has asked the European Commission for France to be excluded from some GM maize crop cultivation under the new scheme, the farm and environment ministries said in a joint statement. Read the full article.
Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities
(TOP) ~ Golf Course Superintendent Associate of America Research Grant Program
GCSAA invites you to submit a proposal to the to the 2015 Research Grant Program. This program is dedicated to funding applied agronomic, environmental and regulatory research that will benefit golf course superintendents and the golf courses they manage. Deadline, Oct. 1. Read the full announcement.
(TOP) ~ CSSA-USAID Travel Grant to attend Pan African Grain Legume Research Conference
This CSSA-USAID travel grant is intended to allow ten graduate students to attend the Pan African Grain Legume Research Conference, the premier scientific event during the International Year of the Pulse. Funds provided by USAID and administered by CSSA seek to identify suitable candidates that have a passion to improve pulse crop productivity and share their research efforts with the world pulse community. This program will provide travel grants up to $3500 each to ten crop science graduate students presenting papers (oral or poster) at the Pan African Grain Legume Research Conference 28 February to 4 March 2016 in Livingston, Zambia. Deadline, Nov. 15. Read the full announcement.
(TOP) ~ Advancing Soil Health, Conservation and Outreach on Grazing Lands
The National Grazing Lands Coalition’s mission is to promote ecologically and economically sound management of all private grazing lands for all their adapted uses and multiple benefits to society. The NatGLC recognizes grazing lands as a major source of watershed filtration, ground water recharge, and carbon sequestration, providing improved soil, water and air quality. The purpose of these grants are to facilitate the following: (1) demonstration of how improved soil health affects grazing lands sustainability (2) establishment of conservation partnerships, leadership, and outreach, (3) education of grazing land managers, professionals, youth and the public, (4) enhancement of technical capabilities, and (5) improvement in the understanding of the values and multiple services that grazing lands provide. Projects must include soil health as it relates to grazing lands sustainability and include at least one of the following components: demonstration projects; field days; workshops; or publication and/or media development and distribution. Deadline, Oct. 5. Read the full announcement.
(TOP) ~ Registration open: Congress on Sustaining Western Water
The Renewable Natural Resources Foundation Congress delegates will assess the challenges of managing scarce water resources within the economic and regulatory framework of the western states. The congress will feature discussion of methods and opportunities to sustain water resources including water transfers, land-use policy tools, and future scenario planning. The importance of conserving water for forests, wildlife and ecosystems will be addressed as well. Learn more about the Congress and register here. Dec.1-2, Washington, DC.
Sources: NSF; RNRF; AAAS; ScienceInsider; The Hill; The National Journal; Greeley Tribune; NDD United; Bloomberg; NPR; The Washington Post; Ag Professional; Harvest Public Media; EDF Blogs; Slate; The New York Times; Reuters; The New Yorker
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.