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Address all comments to the Science Policy Office at:
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06 June 2012

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ Societies applaud President Obama’s support for ag in addressing global food security
~ World can feed more people more efficiently: FAO
~ Transformation of Economies in Africa
~ New Farm bill could top cost of existing program
~ Impacts of Selected Provisions of the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012”

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Climate, Nature and Communities in Guatemala
~ Interns for Student Conservation Association
~ Mangrove Rehabilitation for Sustainably-Managed, Healthy Forests
~ Capacity Building Grants for Non Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture
~ EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program Track-1
~ Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation
~ Farm Bill Assistance—San Joaquin County, CA
~ Farm Bill Assistance—Stanislaus County, CA
~ Advancing Informal STEM Learning
~ Cultivar and Plant Germplasm Development

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ Biotech Advisory Committee recommends mitigation strategy to promote coexistence
~ US and EU organic markets link
~ Study analyzes global impact of GE crops
~ U.S. Commodity Costs and Returns Data
~ Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, Nonprofits: FY 2008
~ Scientists complete most comprehensive genetic analysis yet of corn

Congressional/Administration News

~ Representatives urged to join Congressional Soils Caucus
~ Congressional briefing on Reduction of Farmers Impact to Chesapeake Bay Watershed
~ Soil Science Society of America comments before PCAST
~ Societies push Congress to reconsider federal scientist travel restrictions
~ Senate action on farm bill this week
~ House Republicans blink

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Societies applaud President Obama’s support for ag in addressing global food security

ASA, CSSA, and SSSA joined with other societies and associations to send a letter of support to President Obama for his recent remarks at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ G8 Summit where he stated that improving agriculture and nutrition is critical to fighting global hunger and should be at the “forefront of global development.” Read full letter here


(TOP) ~ World can feed more people more efficiently: FAO

The world can feed itself with less food output than previously forecast if it turns to sustainable farming, cuts waste and stops excessive consumption, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported last week. If current consumption patterns persist, the world will need to raise food output by 60 percent by 2050 from 2005-07 levels to feed a population expected to rise to 9 billion from about 7 billion now, according to FAO estimates. However, it is possible to feed the population with a smaller rise in food output than that, the FAO said in a policy report ahead of a sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro. On the production side, agricultural and food systems should reduce their negative environmental impacts, including soil and water depletion as well as greenhouse gas emissions, the report said. On the consumption side, people need to cut food losses and waste which amount to 1.3 billion metric tons (1.433 billion tons) a year, roughly one third of world food production for human consumption. "To 'beat the projections' we need to make bold policy decisions that will affect income growth patterns, changes in dietary preferences, levels of food waste and how agricultural production is used for non-food purposes," the report said. Read full Reuters’ article here


(TOP) ~ Transformation of Economies in Africa

Join the live webcast, “Transformation of Economies in Africa” on 14 June from 12:15 to 1:45 pm EDT. Africa has recently experienced impressive transformation, including economic growth of about 5-7 percent despite the global economic crisis. However, the opportunities that accompany such transformations have not been fully harnessed and significant challenges remain. Africa’s transformation process differs from other regional transformations in several ways. Many continue to live in rural areas and depend on agriculture, the industrial sector is still underdeveloped, and structural change out of agricultural employment remains limited. Lessons from the experiences of developed and emerging economies point out that the role of agriculture as a catalyst for broader economic growth is crucial. Presenters include: Chair: Shenggen Fan, Director General, IFPRI; Speakers: H. E. John Agyekum Kufuor, Former President, Republic of Ghana; Shanta Devarajan, Chief Economist, Africa Region, World Bank; Mwangi Kimenyi, Senior Fellow and Director of the Africa Growth Initiative, The Brookings Institution. Contact/RSVP: RSVP to Simone Hill-Lee - s.hill-lee@cgiar.org or 202-862-8107. Get full details here


(TOP) ~ New Farm bill could top cost of existing program

A new report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) finds that the Senate Farm Bill could greatly increase taxpayer spending on farm subsidies if commodity prices drop. The Senate Farm Bill, which ends the current system of direct payments to farmers, establishes an expanded crop insurance program that provides revenue to farmers when their income drops below 90 percent of the insured baseline. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the new bill is expected to cut the deficit by $23.6 billion over 10 years. In the report, the authors – economists Vince Smith, Bruce Babcock, and Barry Goodwin – warn that the CBO is assuming current high commodity prices. If, however, the prices take a sudden downturn, the taxpayer will pay. The new system, the authors write, could balloon costs to as much as $7.5 billion per year, much higher than CBO’s estimate of $2.6 billion per year.


(TOP) ~ Impacts of Selected Provisions of the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012”

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry approved the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012” on April 26, 2012. This report examines the possible consequences of several key provisions in the proposed legislation: 1) The elimination of the current Direct and Countercyclical Payment (DCP) and Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) programs; 2) The establishment of the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX); 3) The reduction in the acreage cap for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from the current 32 million acres to 25 million acres by 2017. Models maintained by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri (FAPRIMU) are used to estimate possible impacts of these proposed policy changes. Results are presented relative to a baseline prepared in early 2012 that assumes a continuation of existing farm policies. The analysis uses a stochastic approach that considers 500 possible future outcomes for agricultural commodity markets to examine the consequences of continued market volatility. Read full report here 

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Climate, Nature and Communities in Guatemala

This Request for Application (RFA) provides the basis for applicants to consider creating partnerships, alliances or a consortium with local organizations to implement the activities of the Climate, Nature and Communities in Guatemala (CNCG) program and obtain the desired results. This is a program that will comprehensively address the key issues of biodiversity and forest conservation and sustainable management, both of which are important to address climate change in general and more specifically mitigation, as well as adaptation and connections with food security. Additional components may also include environmental certifications and commercialization for income generation. Deadline 9 Jul. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ Interns for Student Conservation Association

This award to The Student Conservation Association is to provide 28 college level student interns to the National Parks between the span of June 11th - December 31, 2012. Deadline 31 Dec. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ Mangrove Rehabilitation for Sustainably-Managed, Healthy Forests

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in The Philippines, representing its Office in the Pacific Islands (Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea), is seeking applications for a Cooperative Agreement in support of a five-year project entitled “Mangrove Rehabilitation for Sustainably-Managed Healthy Forests (MARSH)” as more specifically described below. The successful Recipient will be responsible for ensuring achievement of the objectives as described herein. Questions are due June 13, 2012. Deadline 10 Jul. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ Capacity Building Grants for Non Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture

NLGCA Institutions may use the funds: (a) to successfully compete for funds from Federal grants and other sources to carry out educational, research, and outreach activities that address priority concerns of national, regional, State, and local interest; (b) to disseminate information relating to priority concerns to interested members of the agriculture, renewable resources, and other relevant communities, the public, and any other interested entity; (c) to encourage members of the agriculture, renewable resources, and other relevant communities to participate in priority education, research, and outreach activities by providing matching funding to leverage grant funds; and (d) through: (1) the purchase or other acquisition of equipment and other infrastructure (not including alteration, repair, renovation, or construction of buildings); (2) the professional growth and development of the faculty of the NLGCA Institution; and (3) the development of graduate assistantships. Deadline 6 Jul. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program Track-1

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is designed to fulfill the mandate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote scientific progress nationwide. The EPSCoR program is directed at those jurisdictions that have historically received lesser amounts of NSF Research and Development (R&D) funding. Thirty one jurisdictions, including twenty-eight states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam and the U. S. Virgin Islands are currently eligible to participate. Through this program, NSF establishes partnerships with government, higher education and industry that are designed to effect sustainable improvements in a state's or region's research infrastructure, R&D capacity, and hence, its national R&D competitiveness. Deadline 3 Oct. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation

The LSAMP program assists universities and colleges in diversifying the STEM workforce through their efforts at significantly increasing the numbers of students successfully completing high quality degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Particular emphasis is placed on transforming STEM education through innovative recruitment and retention strategies and experiences in support of groups historically under-represented in STEM discipline: African-Americans, Alaskan Natives, American Indians, Hispanic Americans, Native Hawiians, and Native Pacific Islanders. The knowledge generation portfolio of LSAMP supported activities contributes to the body of literature on successful practices in student recruitment, retention, persistence, and attainment of STEM undergraduate and graduate degrees, especially for the previously mentioned populations underrepresented in STEM disciplines. Deadline 28 Aug. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ Farm Bill Assistance—San Joaquin County, CA

Applicants will be responsible for working in conjunction with NRCS in San Joaquin County, CA to provide technical assistance and outreach to private landowners (producers) to strengthen, increase, and encourage the voluntary approach and participation in USDA Farm Bill Programs administered by NRCS as well as facilitate program execution and conservation delivery. Work performed under this agreement will focus on accelerating implementation of conservation practices by participants in USDA Farm Bill Programs and administrative support and coordination related to program execution. It will involve direct contact with landowners and land managers. The successful applicant will work in conjunction with NRCS staff to perform field visits and carry out a follow-up schedule for applying soil conservation practices in accordance with plans developed by professional planning technicians. Work will also include, in cooperation with NRCS staff, planning and delivering of community outreach events. NRCS expects to award one cooperative agreement based on proposals submitted and benefits derived for the current fiscal year. The funding ceiling available for the current fiscal year is: $55,000. Deadline 22 Jun. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ Farm Bill Assistance—Stanislaus County, CA

Applicants will be responsible for working in conjunction with NRCS in Stanislaus County, CA to provide technical assistance and outreach to private landowners (producers) to strengthen, increase, and encourage the voluntary approach and participation in USDA Farm Bill Programs administered by NRCS as well as facilitate program execution and conservation delivery. Work performed under this agreement will focus on accelerating implementation of conservation practices by participants in USDA Farm Bill Programs and administrative support and coordination related to program execution. It will involve direct contact with landowners and land managers. The successful applicant will work in conjunction with NRCS staff to perform field visits and carry out a follow-up schedule for applying soil conservation practices in accordance with plans developed by professional planning technicians. Work will also include, in cooperation with NRCS staff, planning and delivering of community outreach events. NRCS expects to award one cooperative agreement based on proposals submitted and benefits derived for the current fiscal year. The funding ceiling available for the current fiscal year is: $75,000. Deadline 22 Jun. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ Advancing Informal STEM Learning

The Advancing Informal STEM Learning program invests in research and development of innovative and field advancing out of school STEM learning and emerging STEM learning environments. Deadline 14 Jan. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ Cultivar and Plant Germplasm Development

Approximately $100,000 per year will be available to support the development of cultivars and other plant germplasm, and for which rights are or will be assigned to WARF. A committee with representation from WARF, WCIA, CALS, and CALS Departments of Agronomy, Horticulture, and Plant Pathology will evaluate the proposals for germplasm to be developed, the development tasks, and the amount of payment. Development tasks may be carried out by WCIA as appropriate. Deadline 3 Aug. Contact: Gene Amberson, WCIA, wcia@mailplus.wisc.edu or (608) 262-1314. Read full announcement here

Conferences, Meetings and Reports


(TOP) ~ Biotech Advisory Committee recommends mitigation strategy to promote coexistence

The Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21), a committee made up of growers, academic experts, and representatives from biotechnology companies, agreed this week that there is a need for a U.S. Department of Agriculture education initiative and mitigation strategy to address the risk of economic losses related to unintended presence of genetically engineered material. The group did not, however, reach a consensus on the need for a compensation mechanism to cover such losses, but tentatively agreed to support a recommendation of using a crop insurance approach should there be a compensation mechanism. Committee members also agreed on the need to ensure seed purity, and reduce the drift of biotech material at the farm level. The committee hopes to have a final report to USDA Secretary Vilsack by September 30. 


(TOP) ~ US and EU organic markets link

On 4 Jun, the USDA announced that organic products certified in the United States or the European Union may now be labeled and sold in either market as organic. In reality the agreement is a paperwork burden reduction; according to the trade agreement producers wishing to sell their organic products in both markets will no longer have to fill out two sets of paperwork and pay separate fees for certification. The agreement will especially benefit small- and medium-sized producers, USDA said. According to the agreement, producers are required to follow certain shipping and labeling requirements. Because of differences between U.S. and E.U. antibiotic standards, it excludes all products that use antibiotics for any reason. USDA said the two governments will continue to update the partnership; later this year, they'll examine whether organic wine should be included. 


(TOP) ~ Study analyzes global impact of GE crops

The seventh such annual report shows another year of delivering considerable economic and environmental benefits to the farmers and citizens of countries where biotechnology is used. “Over the 15 year period covered in the report, crop biotechnology has consistently provided important economic and production gains, improved incomes and reduced risk for farmers around the world that have grown GM crops” said Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics, co-author of the report. “The environment in user countries is benefiting from farmers using more benign herbicides or replacing insecticide use with insect resistant GM crops. The reduction in pesticide spraying and the switch to no till cropping systems is also resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these benefits are found in developing countries”. Read full report here


(TOP) ~ U.S. Commodity Costs and Returns Data

The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has updated its data set containing estimates of annual production costs and returns for corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, peanuts, oats, barley, milk, hogs, and cow-calf which are 'historical' accounts based on the actual costs incurred by producers and uses surveys conducted every 4-8 years for each commodity as part of the annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), and methods that conform to standards recommended by the American Agricultural Economics Association (AAEA). View Commodity Costs and Returns data sets here


(TOP) ~ Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, Nonprofits: FY 2008

The data presented in these tables cover all categories of direct federal science and engineering (S&E) support to institutions of higher education in the United States for S&E activities. The 19 agencies listed in these tables provide virtually all federal funding for S&E research and development (R&D) at U.S. universities and colleges. Data are also reported on these agencies' obligations to nonprofit institutions.  The FY 2008 data in this report were submitted by 19 federal agencies, covering the period October 1, 2007, through September 30, 2008. Because of space constraints, data for 10 agencies are often combined and reported in an "other" category in tables that show funding by agency. The 10 agencies are the Agency for International Development; Appalachian Regional Commission; Departments of Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor and Transportation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Justice Programs; and Social Security Administration. View full data set here


(TOP) ~ Scientists complete most comprehensive genetic analysis yet of corn

A team, led by researchers at Cornell University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), this week published the most comprehensive analysis to date of the corn genome. The team expects the achievement to speed up development of improved varieties of one of the world's most important agricultural commodities. The results should boost international efforts to increase yields, expand areas where corn can be cultivated and produce. Read full story here

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ Representatives urged to join Congressional Soils Caucus

On 16 May, Congressional Soils Caucus (Caucus) co-chairs—Reps. Tom Latham (D-Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Jim Costa (D-California) and Bruce Braley (D-Iowa)—sent a Dear Colleague (a letter sent by a member(s) of a legislative body to all fellow members, usually describing a new bill and asking for cosponsors or seeking to influence the recipients' votes on an issue), urging their colleagues to join the Congressional Soils Caucus (CSC). In the Dear Colleague, Caucus co-chairs wrote that they “believe that in order to preserve U.S. agriculture and safeguard America’s economic prosperity, Members of Congress and their staffs must be better educated on the importance of our nation’s soils, soil science, and research.” View Dear Colleague here


(TOP) ~ Congressional briefing on Reduction of Farmers Impact to Chesapeake Bay Watershed

On 30 May, ASA, CSSA, SSSA and the Council on Food Agricultural and Resource Economics organized a Congressional education briefing, “Nutrient Management & the Chesapeake Bay Experience:  Economic and Environmental Considerations,” focused on the science behind, realities associated with developing and implementing, and economics surrounding nutrient management planning. Responding to the office of Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pennsylvania), whose district/state is facing the possibility of mandatory nutrient management planning, we quickly organized the hour-long educational briefing for which we pulled together a panel including University of Maryland Soil Scientist and ASA-SSSA member Josh McGrath; Pennsylvania Certified Crop Adviser Eric Rosenbaum; Luke Brubaker, a Southeastern Pennsylvania dairy and chicken farm operator; and Penn State University Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Economics Dr. James Shortle. More than 90 Congressional staffers attended the briefing. View briefing one-pager and presentations here


(TOP) ~ Soil Science Society of America comments before PCAST

On May 25, 2012, SSSA presented comments to the White House President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. These comments emphasized the idea that technologies and innovations stemming from soil science research will play a key role in maintaining our food, energy and environmental security. Read the full comments here and View public comment session here.  Also Learn more about PCAST here 


(TOP) ~ Societies push Congress to reconsider federal scientist travel restrictions

On 21 May, ASA, CSSA, and SSSA joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and other organizations on a letter to both Senate and House leaders regarding legislation that would place severe restrictions on the ability of government employees to attend meetings and conferences. Read full letter here


(TOP) ~ Senate action on farm bill this week

Despite the good news, southern Senators and commodity groups vow to filibuster the five-year authorizing legislation which would dedicate $969 billion in farm program spending over the next decade. Said Senate Agriculture Committee chair, Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), "This is the week we begin the process on the farm bill, and we're ready to go." Stabenow added that she has the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture (the only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter, and thereby overcome a filibuster). The proposed farm bill would eliminate direct farm payments and instead shift the focus of the farm subsidy system to one that is more insurance-based. A total of $23.6 billion in cuts would occur to the current farm bill's authorization. Farm conservation programs would be consolidated and take a hit of $6 billion, while energy programs would receive $780 million more than they would under continuation of the current law, according to the latest score from the Congressional Budget Office. Learn more about the Senate farm bill here


(TOP) ~ House Republicans blink

Apparently there is increasing interest by House Republicans in avoiding the so-called “fiscal cliff” in that members are considering extending several expiring tax and budget policies for a year, thus punting major and challenging budget decisions, including a deal with a tax code overhaul and reducing the nation’s long-term debt, to the next Congress. Leading the charge is House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) who hopes to seek a full-year extension or more of not only the Bush-era tax cuts but other tax and budget measures set to expire in January. His proposal would also extend expiring or expired provisions, including a law that shields 30 million taxpayers from the reach of the alternative minimum tax and a periodically renewed “fix” that prevents scheduled cuts in reimbursements to physicians who treat Medicare patients. Not included in his proposal is a delay in $109 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that are set to hit Jan. 2 as a result of a special congressional committee’s inability to agree on a deficit-reduction plan last year. 

Sources: : Bloomberg BNA Daily Environment Report; ClimateWire; Congressional Quarterly; Environment and Energy Daily; Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri (May 2012); Food Industry Environmental Network; The Hill; Meridian Institute; Reuters

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.