Science Policy Report


Address all comments to the Science Policy Office at:

22 April 2015

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ House science committee releases controversial draft of America COMPETES bill
~ House Appropriations Committee Releases FY 2016 Energy & Water appropriations bill
~ Reach out to Congress about the International Year of Soils
~ Republicans look to lift spending caps
~ Statement on scientific conference travel
~ Congress works to finish its budget outline
~ U.S. submits emissions reduction plan to U.N.
~ Federal R&D in the FY2016 budget

Science News

~ Conserving soil and water in world's driest wheat region
~ Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative announced
~ Roundup and risk assessment
~ New report identifies possible next steps in U.S. energy development
~ Lowe's says it will stop selling neonics
~ Chicago Council report on agriculture and global nutrition

International Corner

~ E.U. faces a fresh battle over next-generation plant-breeding techniques
~ India to strike own path in climate battle
~ Science in U.K. election, on camera
~ Head of Portuguese science foundation leaves under cloud
~ E.U. Parliament up in arms against raid on research funds

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Conservation Partners Program
~ Dairy Digester Research and Development
~ Climate CoLab
~ Renewable Natural Resources Foundation Awards
~ Conservation Innovative Grants
~ ASF Sustainable Research Program
~ 1890 Facilities Grants Program
~ Research in Sustainable Solid Waste Management

Policy News

(TOP) ~ House science committee releases controversial draft of America COMPETES bill

House Science Committee chairman, Congressman Lamar Smith (R, TX-21), last week introduced H.R. 1806, the latest version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. The bill reauthorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), research at the Department of Energy (DOE), and federal science education programs, recommending funding levels for these programs for the next two years. While the bill increases funding by five percent overall, this increase goes to specific programs at the expense of others. The proposed cuts that would be of most interest to our community are listed below. In response, the Democrats on the House Science Committee have released their own version of COMPETES, HR 1898. ASA, CSSA and SSSA have signed on to several letters opposing the bill: Coalition for National Science FundingGeopolicy Working Group and the Energy Science Coalition. The Science Committee is marking up the bill today. Read the full article for more details.

NSF GEO Directorate: 8% cut
NSF National Graduate Research Fellowship Program: $50 million cut
DOE, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program: 7% cut

(TOP) ~ House Appropriations Committee Releases FY 2016 Energy & Water appropriations bill

The House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2016 Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill last week. The legislation provides annual funding for national defense nuclear weapons activities, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. The Office of Science is funded at $5.1 billion, which is essentially flat funding for FY2016. The full House Appropriations Committee is marking up the bill today. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ Reach out to Congress about the International Year of Soils

Through a joint effort by the Soil Science Society of America and the National Association of Conservation Districts, a concurrent resolution designating 2015 as the International Year of Soils has been introduced in both the House and Senate. Reach out to your members of Congress to ask them to show their support for soil resources and co-sponsor this legislation. Email your Representative here and email your Senators here.

(TOP) ~ Republicans look to lift spending caps

GOP congressional leaders are racing to approve a budget blueprint for the coming year that abides by strict spending limits, determined to show that the party can maintain fiscal discipline. But some rank-and-file Republicans are already expressing interest in a much bigger deal that would adjust those caps, sweep away the still-developing blueprint and ease the budgetary pressure on the Pentagon — and, grudgingly, domestic programs if necessary. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ Statement on scientific conference travel

Over 126 professional societies, trade groups and universities, including ASA, CSSA and SSSA, signed on to a letter expressing concern over regulations that restrict federal scientists from attending scientific conferences. The letter outlined the importance of participation in scientific conferences and urged Congress to work with federal agencies and the scientific community to ensure federal scientists can fully participate in these important events. Congressman Dan Lipinski (D, IL-3) is considering offering an amendment to the America COMPETES bill in support of scientific conference travel, which ASA, CSSA and SSSA also endorsed. See the letter here.

(TOP) ~ Congress works to finish its budget outline

House of Representatives and Senate Republican leaders are working to reconcile their versions of a largely symbolic, but politically sensitive budget plan. In general, the scientific community is leery of the spending blueprints approved last month by the House and Senate. That’s because they would, if implemented, squeeze federal funding for civilian research over the long term. But they are also hoping any final plan—if lawmakers can agree on one—will retain some language they like, including provisions that promote a funding boost for biomedical research and call on officials to respond to the threat of climate change. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ U.S. submits emissions reduction plan to U.N.

The Obama Administration committed once again to reduce its emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025, and submitted its plan to achieve this goal to the United Nations (U.N.). The plans largely depend on the Environmental Protection Agency regulations that would restrict carbon emissions from power plants. Mexico made a similar commitment, which the U.S. has already endorsed in a formal joint statement. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ Federal R&D in the FY2016 budget

For more than 40 years the American Associate for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has worked with more than 30 leading science societies and other organizations in the science and innovation policy realm to develop the AAAS Report. Each year, the report analyzes R&D in the President's budget request to Congress, by agency or discipline. This year the ASA, CSSA and SSSA Science Policy Office contributed to Chapter 26 on Agriculture and Natural Resources. See the full report here. 

Science News

(TOP) ~ Conserving soil and water in world's driest wheat region

In the world's driest rainfed wheat region, Washington State University researchers have identified summer fallow management practices that can make all the difference for farmers, water and soil conservation, and air quality. Wheat growers in the Horse Heaven Hills of south-central Washington, USA, farm with an average of just 6-8 inches of rain a year. Wind erosion has caused blowing dust that exceeded federal air quality standards 20 times in the past 10 years. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative announced

The Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today recognized four collaborative landscape partnerships across the country where Federal agencies will focus efforts with partners to conserve and restore important lands and waters and make them more resilient to a changing climate. Building on existing collaborations, these Resilient Lands and Waters partnerships – located in southwest Florida, Hawaii, Washington and the Great Lakes region – will help build resilience in regions vulnerable to climate change and related challenges. They will also showcase the benefits of landscape-scale management approaches and help enhance the carbon storage capacity of these natural areas. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ Roundup and risk assessment

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, issued a report that classified glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, as a “probable” cause of cancer. Glyphosate is the most heavily used herbicide on earth. In 2012, at least 283.5 million pounds were sprayed on American farmlands, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Although the patent has now expired, Roundup was developed in 1974 by Monsanto and is often used in conjunction with crops like corn and soybeans that the company genetically modified to resist it. This allows farmers to kill weeds but not their crops. Although the herbicide has many other uses, its association with G.M.O.s has caused food activists to condemn it for years. Even so, farmers, biologists, and home gardeners throughout the world use glyphosate. The I.A.R.C. report should change none of that. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ New report identifies possible next steps in U.S. energy development

The U.S. energy portfolio changes over time. Scientific and technologic advances related to hydraulic fracturing have dramatically increased the supply of U.S. oil and gas; because of this, a methane economy - in which natural gas provides the leading share of primary energy consumption - is now a possible scenario for U.S. energy development. In a report released by the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), the social, political, technical and environmental components of a methane economy are identified. The report also addresses how industry, government and the public might best work together to advance common energy goals. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ Lowe's says it will stop selling neonics

Lowe's announced it will phase out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides as part of its corporate responsibility commitments for this year. In its 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, the home improvement chain said it plans to stop selling neonics – a class of pesticide used on turf and ornamental products as well as a corn and soybean seeds – within 48 months as suitable alternatives become commercially available. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ Chicago Council report on agriculture and global nutrition

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ new report, Healthy Food for a Healthy World: Leveraging Agriculture and Food to Improve Global Nutrition, was released at the Global Food Security Symposium 2015 and calls on the United States to use the power of the agriculture and food sector to reduce the reality and risks of malnutrition globally. The report was endorsed by a bipartisan group of 30 senior policy, business, scientific and civil society leaders. Read the full article.

International Corner

(TOP) ~ E.U. faces a fresh battle over next-generation plant-breeding techniques

The US plant-breeding company Cibus is proudly rolling out its first crop created with an innovative precision gene-editing technology: herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape. The crop will be planted in the United States this spring and the firm already has authorization to cultivate it in Canada. The technology switches just a few nucleotides in a plant’s DNA; the company’s webpage points out that because it works without integrating foreign genetic material, the resulting plants cannot be stigmatized as transgenic. They will, it optimistically declares, “be globally acceptable.” Cibus hopes the product find favor in the European Union (EU), where many countries vehemently oppose genetically modified (GM) crops created by transfer of specific foreign genes. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ India to strike own path in climate battle

Prime Minister Modi signaled he would not bow to foreign pressure to commit to cuts in carbon emissions, instead pledging to use more clean energy and traditional methods to lead the fight against climate change. India, the world's number 3 emitter of greenhouse gases, has come under pressure to tackle its rapidly rising emissions since the US and China committed last November to start cutting their own emissions after a "peak year.” Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ Science in U.K. election, on camera

On 7 May, the United Kingdom will have a general election, the first in 5 years. Science has not come up much in the campaigning. Hoping to change that, the British Science Association interviewed representatives from six major parties about their views on research issues and has posted the videos online. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ Head of Portuguese science foundation leaves under cloud

Biomedical researcher Miguel Seabra stepped down last week from the presidency of Portugal's science funding agency, the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), after more than 3 years in office. Although Seabra invoked “personal reasons” for his decision, scientists note that he resigned amid mounting criticism of the agency's policies. Read the full article.

(TOP) ~ E.U. Parliament up in arms against raid on research funds

The European Parliament has thrown a spanner into the works of European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker’s plan to slash €2.7 billion from the European Union's 2014 to 2020 research budget for a new investment fund to help ramp up Europe's economy. Although E.U. member states seem happy to sign off on Juncker's proposal, the Parliament says the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) must find its money elsewhere. Talks will start on 23 April in Brussels to reconcile these opposing stances. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

(TOP) ~ Conservation Partners Program

Conservation Partners is a collaborative effort between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and other regional/initiative-specific partners. The purpose of the partnership is to provide grants on a competitive basis to increase technical assistance capacity to advance the implementation of three complementary programs--NRCS’s Landscape Conservation Initiatives, NFWF’s Conservation Priorities, and the NRCS-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnership – Working Lands for Wildlife. In order to maximize benefits to these three programs, the program also seeks to target investments in certain identified Program Priority Areas (PPAs). Pre-proposal deadline, May 12. Read the full announcement.

(TOP) ~ Dairy Digester Research and Development

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is now accepting proposals for the Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP) Phase II (Research). CDFA was appropriated $12 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to provide financial assistance for the installation of dairy digesters and research that will result in reduced greenhouse gas (methane) emissions. An estimated $500,000 in competitive grant funding will be awarded for research and demonstration projects that study and facilitate changes in manure management practices at California dairies that will directly result in greenhouse gas emission reductions: and, facilitate improved understanding of the scientific and technical aspects of dairy digesters to provide information about their economic feasibility, widespread implementation and environmental benefits. Deadline, May 15. Read the full announcement.

(TOP) ~ Climate CoLab

Climate CoLab, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Collective Intelligence, is a crowdsourcing platform where citizens work with experts and each other to create, analyze, and select detailed proposals for what to do about climate change. Climate CoLab is currently offering contests on a range of topics related to climate change. Current contests include the following: Buildings, Energy Supply, Industry, Transportation, Waste Management, Shifting Attitudes and Behavior, Adaptation, Rural Resilience, Anticipating Climate Change in the Pamir Mountains, Energy-Water Nexus, Atypical Ideas for Carbon Neutrality, Energy Solutions for Latin America, U.S. Carbon Price, Urban Energy Efficiency, and Land Use: Agriculture, Forestry, and Livestock. Deadline, May 16. Read the full announcement.

(TOP) ~ Renewable Natural Resources Foundation Awards

RNRF has three annual awards to recognize outstanding achievements in the renewable natural resources fields. The Sustained Achievement Award recognizes a long-term contribution and commitment to the protection and conservation of natural resources by an individual. The Outstanding Achievement Award recognizes a project, publication, piece of legislation, or similar concrete accomplishment. The Excellence in Journalism Award honors and encourages excellence in print journalism about natural resources. It recognizes work by an individual, group, or organization. Deadline, May 29. Read the full announcement.

(TOP) ~ Conservation Innovative Grants

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Proposals will be accepted from the following several states. See the links for full announcement details and deadlines.





(TOP) ~ ASF Sustainable Research Program

The Agronomic Science Foundation (ASF) requests proposals for innovative research projects involving cover crops and related management practices integrated into agronomic crop rotations within areas of agricultural concentration in the United States including, but not limited to, the Mississippi River Basin. The ASF Sustainable Research Program (ASF-SRP) intends to support cooperative research projects that emphasize sustainable intensification of crop production. Projects are sought that advance our knowledge of agricultural systems aimed at increasing productivity, while minimizing impact on ecosystems services and the environment. Deadline, June 1. Read the full announcement.

(TOP) ~ 1890 Facilities Grants Program

The 1890 Facilities Grant Program is intended for the acquisition and improvement of agricultural and food sciences facilities and equipment, including libraries, so that the 1890 land-grant institutions, including Tuskegee University, West Virginia State University and Central State University may participate fully in the development of human capital in the food and agricultural sciences. Deadline, June 5. Read the full announcement.

(TOP) ~ Research in Sustainable Solid Waste Management

The Environmental Research and Education Foundation is accepting applications for its Research in Sustainable Solid Waste Management program. The program supports research projects related to sustainable solid waste management practices, including waste minimization; recycling; waste conversion to energy, biofuels, chemicals, or other useful products; strategies to promote diversion to higher and better uses (e.g., organics diversion, market analysis, optimized material management, logistics, etc.); and landfilling. Desirable aspects of the above topics, in addition to or as part of hypothesis driven applied research, also include economic or cost/benefit analyses; feasibility studies for untested technologies or management strategies; life cycle analysis or inventory; and analyses of policies that relate to the above (e.g., extended producer responsibility, recycling goals, carbon legislation, bottle bills, etc). Deadline, July 15. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; EPA; NFDF; AAAS; ScienceInsider; Politico; The New Yorker; AGI; Agri-Pulse; The Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Reuters; Nature

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.