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Science Policy Report

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18 July 2012

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ The First “Global Soil Week”
~ Please don't send food foreign policy
~ Lack of information technology puts flood-prone cities at greater risk
~ Bipartisan lawmakers introduce global strategy bill
~ Senate Foreign Relations reports Global Water Bill
~ Experts eye commodities speculation, food price swings
~ International Food Security Assessment, 2012-22

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity
~ Outstanding Young Educator Award
~ Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture- Iowa
~ Food Security Learning Center
~ Water Quality Monitoring in Montana
~ DoD FY 2013 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program
~ Nitrogen: Improving on Nature
~ ADVANCE: Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in STEM Careers
~ ROSES 2012
~ Catalyzing New International Collaborations
~ DoD FY2013 DURIP- For Proposal Submission to the Army
~ FY 2013 NOAA Gulf of Mexico Bay-Watershed Education and Training

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ Federal funds for research and development: Fiscal Years 2009-11
~ No scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods
~ Improving air quality with no-till cropping
~ Greater oversight and additional data needed for key EPA water program
~ Proceedings from first America’s Grasslands Conference
~ EPA, USDA programs targeting farm and urban runoff fall short
~ Record drought conditions plague crops
~ USDA study finds wide-ranging effects of rising temperatures
~ Agricultural adaptation to a changing climate

Congressional/Administration News

~ Societies support Protect our Prairies Act
~ Societies sign pre-farm bill-markup letter to House Chairman and Ranking Member
~ House Farm Bill cuts deeper
~ Farm bill revamps conservation programs
~ Obama administration offers funding for biofuels initiative
~ Satellite woes likely leave U.S. facing years-long gap in key data
~ House Appropriations Committee passes Interior/Environment Spending Bill
~ Senate standstill
~ Sequester worries

International Corner

(TOP) ~ The First “Global Soil Week”

The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) Potsdam and its partners will host the First Global Soil Week (GSW) to take place in Berlin on 18-22 Nov 2012. The IASS's Global Soil Forum conceived the GSW as an international multi-stakeholder event on land and soils and their sustainable governance/management. It will offer a forum of interactive exchange and dialogue where stakeholders from science, government, business and civil society will come together to share their land/soil related experience and expertise and to develop plans of action for the future. The First GSW will take place within the framework of the FAO's Global Soil Partnership and will provide a platform to initiate follow-up actions on land and soil-related decisions made at the Rio+20. Get more information

(TOP) ~ Please don't send food foreign policy

A new study suggests that food aid could actually prolong conflict rather than resolve it. The team studied a sample of developing countries between 1972 and 2006, finding that there was a direct correlation between U.S. food aid and civil conflict. Every 10 percent increase in the amount of food aid delivered, they found, increased the likelihood of violent civil conflict by 1.14 percentage points. The results seem to confirm anecdotal reports that food aid is often stolen by armed groups, thus making the international donors part of the rebel logistics effort. The study’s authors are in no way suggesting that aid should not be given out, just that the U.S. should, instead, reconsider how it is given. Nancy Qian of Yale University, warns that the “often arbitrary way the United States increases aid during times of domestic agricultural surplus as particularly dangerous. When American farmers grow more food, Washington tends to give away more, regardless of need.” It’s time, she says, that we all get more selective about giving. “If you randomly assign aid to countries without considering what's going on, that's going to increase conflict," she said. The main takeaway being: if you want to stop civil wars, stop feeding the warriors. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Lack of information technology puts flood-prone cities at greater risk

According to the World Bank, half of Mozambique's population lives below the poverty line and just four of Mozambique's 10 major cities have access to online mapping tools. Mobile phone use is widespread, but governments rarely use it for emergency notifications. Only the capital city of Maputo, where the majority of 3.5 million city dwellers reside, and a handful of others even have municipal websites. The lack of access to powerful technologies, owing to uneven distribution and too few skilled technicians, puts the vulnerable country in southern Africa at a greater disadvantage in preparing for devastating floods and other hazards. In this day and age technology is increasingly critical to helping cities cope, particularly Mozambique, a country that is deeply susceptible to the impacts of climate change despite economic growth. This is in part due to unprecedented urbanization which, without good planning, can cause serious problems for the urban poor, especially in a flood prone country, where it is the poorest who must find or build homes in the least desirable, highest risk locales. Plugging the digital disparity in order to give citizens an avenue to connect with governments will be critical to the country's ability to prepare for climate impacts. 

(TOP) ~ Bipartisan lawmakers introduce global strategy bill

A bipartisan coalition in the House and the Senate is introducing the "Global Conservation Act of 2012", which calls for the development and implementation of a national strategy for conservation programs abroad in order to address an array of environmental issues like deforestation, coastal erosion, desertification, water pollution and biodiversity loss. Under the bill, the comptroller general of the United States would carry out an audit of current programs. An interagency working group with the advice of experts from the conservation field and nonprofits then would write a national strategy within two years. The Nature Conservancy, along with the Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund, worked with the legislators on crafting the bill, and no new funding is called for. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) said protecting forests, clean water, fish, wildlife and other natural resources in developing countries is beneficial not only for those nations, but for the U.S. economy, health and national security.

(TOP) ~ Senate Foreign Relations reports Global Water Bill

On June 19, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2011 (S.641) without amendment. The bill would help provide access to clean and sustainable drinking water for almost one billion people worldwide. The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and has wide bi-partisan support. Read more here

(TOP) ~ Experts eye commodities speculation, food price swings

José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), speaking at a high-level debate, “Food Price Volatility and the Role of Speculation,” held last week in Rome, said the world needs to take a hard look at speculation and its potential impact on food price volatility. "While there has been much analysis of food price volatility, including at FAO, more understanding is still needed, especially concerning the impacts of speculation. Excessive food price volatility, especially at the speed at which they have been occurring since 2007, has negative impacts on poor consumers and poor producers alike all over the world," he said. Read full article

(TOP) ~ International Food Security Assessment, 2012-22

A USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) report found that "the number of food-insecure people [those consuming less than the nutritional target of roughly 2,100 calories per day per person] in the 76 countries covered in the report declines from 814 million in 2011 to 802 million in 2012. The share of the population that is food insecure remains at 24 percent. Over the next decade, the share of the population that is food insecure is projected to decline from 24 percent in 2012 to 21 percent in 2022, but the number of food insecure people is projected to increase by 37 million. Regionally, food insecurity is projected to remain most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa " - The report also notes that "domestic food production performance plays the most critical role in the food security of many lower income countries, particularly in the Asian and Sub-Saharan and Sub-Saharan African regions in this report that depend primarily on local grain supplies. Conversely, the capacity to pay for imports plays a significant role for regions like Latin America and North Africa that import a relatively large share of supplies". See full report

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

(TOP) ~ Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity

NSF's role of supporting discovery research across all fields of science and engineering has become increasingly more relevant to economic development especially since national prosperity has become more dependent upon research and technology. By establishing and expanding partnerships, existing research discovery findings from institutions of higher education can be translated to innovations. This program solicitation starts with an existing sound scientific and/or engineering-based research discovery that can be translated to market-valued solutions through a partnership between academe and small technology-based businesses. The funds will provide support to an academic institution to partner with at least two small technology-based businesses that are not in direct competition with each other to carry out early translational-research activities. Deadline 12 Dec. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Outstanding Young Educator Award

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) sponsors the Outstanding Young Educator Award for preK-20 education professionals under 40-years-old who exemplify dedication to teaching. The recipient is awarded a check for $10,000, a trip for two to the ASCD Annual Conference in March 2013, and an ASCD Institutional Membership for his or her school or district. Deadline 1 Aug. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture- Iowa

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is looking for innovative ideas that will help fulfill its mission to identify and reduce negative environmental and socio-economic impacts of agricultural practices and contribute to the development of profitable farming systems that conserve natural resources. Specifics are outlined in the Leopold Center’s 2012 Request for Pre-proposals (RFP) that is part of its long-running competitive grants program. Deadline 10 Aug for submitting ideas (2-3 page concept paper). Projects selected in the process are eligible for funding beginning in 2013. Each of the Center’s four initiatives – ecology, marketing and food systems, cross-cutting (water, energy, soil and alternative farming systems) and policy – are participating in the RFP. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Food Security Learning Center

The Food Security Learning Center should be designed to create and maintain a national, web-based clearinghouse of information on community food security concerns and common community problems related to the underlying causes of hunger and poverty, including the loss of farms and ranches, rural poverty, welfare dependency, hunger, food access issues, the need for job training, and the need for self-sufficiency by individuals and communities. The FSLC will: operate a national information clearinghouse on innovative means, including Community Food Projects, for addressing food security and common community problems in the areas outlined above; provide information and guidance to other targeted entities on innovative programs that offer constructive, community-based or grassroots solutions to hunger, community food insecurity, and poverty; and contribute in-kind resources toward implementation of the grant. Deadline 9 Aug. Read full announcement here


(TOP) ~ Water Quality Monitoring in Montana

Opportunity submitted under the Bureau of Land Management, whose goal is to support ongoing statewide water quality monitoring and stimulate additional monitoring in areas potentially affected by BLM management. Deadline 12 Aug. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ DoD FY 2013 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program

This announcement is for submission to the Navy. The Department of Defense (DoD) announces the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), a part of the University Research Initiative (URI). DURIP is designed to improve the capabilities of U.S. institutions of higher education to conduct research and to educate scientists and engineers in areas important to national defense, by providing funds for the acquisition of research equipment. Deadline 28 Sep. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Nitrogen: Improving on Nature

For the majority of crop plants, nitrogen availability has been increased through the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers. However, application of artificial fertilizers is costly, limited in developing countries, and the process by which these fertilizers are produced is energy-intensive and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The ultimate aim of this Ideas Lab between the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in the UK is to help meet the challenge of sustainably producing enough food for a growing population while reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. US researchers may submit preliminary proposals online via FastLane for participating in the Ideas Lab in which a set of multidisciplinary ideas will be developed. These will be submitted as full proposals. Alternatively, US researchers who cannot or do not desire to participate in the Ideas Lab can submit full proposals directly via FastLane or in response to this solicitation. Collaboration among researchers from USA and UK is strongly encouraged in the full proposals. The link to the BBSRC announcement is here. Deadline Feb 1 2013. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ ADVANCE: Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in STEM Careers

For many decades, an increasing number of women have obtained STEM doctoral degrees, however, women, particularly women of color, continue to be significantly underrepresented in almost all STEM academic positions. While the degree of underrepresentation varies among STEM disciplines, women's advancement to senior professorial ranks and leadership roles is an issue in all fields. Thus, the goal of the ADVANCE program is to develop systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers. For this solicitation, PAID proposals will be accepted in 2012; IT and IT Catalyst proposals will be accepted in 2013.Special populations of women, for the purposes of the ADVANCE Program, include women of diverse characteristics and backgrounds including, but not limited to: race, ethnicity, disability status and sexual orientation. Deadline 8 Nov. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ ROSES 2012

"Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences - 2012 (ROSES-2012)," will be available on or about February 14, 2012, by opening the NASA Research Opportunities homepage and then linking through the menu listing "Solicitations" to "Open Solicitations." This NASA Research Announcement solicits proposals for supporting basic and applied research and technology across a broad range of Earth and space science program elements relevant to one or more of the following NASA Research Programs: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Planetary Science, and Astrophysics. Organizations of every type, domestic and foreign, Government and private, for profit and not-for-profit, may submit proposals without restriction on the number or teaming arrangements. Proposal due dates are scheduled starting on May 4, 2012, and continue through March 22, 2013. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ Catalyzing New International Collaborations

The Catalyzing New International Collaborations program supports the participation of U.S. researchers and students in activities intended to catalyze new international collaborations. Deadline 31 Dec. Full Proposal Deadline: Proposals accepted anytime. Applicants are advised to submit proposals at least nine months prior to the expected date of the proposed activity. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ DoD FY2013 DURIP- For Proposal Submission to the Army

The Department of Defense (DoD) announces the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), a part of the University Research Initiative (URI). DURIP is designed to improve the capabilities of U.S. institutions of higher education conduct research and to educate scientists and engineers in areas important to national defense by providing funds for the acquisition of research equipment. Deadline 28 Sep. Read full announcement here

(TOP) ~ FY 2013 NOAA Gulf of Mexico Bay-Watershed Education and Training

The National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Region is seeking proposals under the Gulf of Mexico B-WET Program. The Gulf B-WET program is an environmental education program that promotes locally relevant, experiential learning in the K-12 environment. Funded projects provide Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) for students, related professional development for teachers, and help to support regional education and environmental priorities in the Gulf of Mexico. This program addresses NOAA's Long-Term Goal of "Healthy Oceans: Marine fisheries, habitats, and biodiversity are sustained within healthy and productive ecosystems" and NOAA's Engagement Enterprise Objective for "An engaged and educated public with an improved capacity to make scientifically informed environmental decisions". Deadline 19 Oct. Read full announcement here

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

(TOP) ~ Federal funds for research and development: Fiscal Years 2009-11

This report provides detailed tabular data on the research and development obligations and outlays of federal agencies. Obligations are provided by character of work (basic research, applied research, development, and R&D plant), agency, field of science or engineering (for research only), geographic area, and performer. These data, collected by the Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development, are the primary source of information about federal funding for R&D. See full report

(TOP) ~ No scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods

“Voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education" according a final policy statement adopted on June 20, 2012 by the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association. The policy statement also "supports mandatory pre-market systematic safety assessments of bioengineered foods and encourages: (a) development and validation of additional techniques for the detection and/or assessment of unintended effects; (b) continued use of methods to detect substantive changes in nutrient or toxicant levels in bioengineered foods as part of a substantial equivalence evaluation; (c) development and use of alternative transformation technologies to avoid utilization of antibiotic resistance markers that code for clinically relevant antibiotics, where feasible; and (d) that priority should be given to basic research in food allergenicity to support the development of improved methods for identifying potential allergens". The policy statement was provided to Food Industry Environmental Network by the AMA Media Relations Office and will be available on the AMA website soon.

(TOP) ~ Improving air quality with no-till cropping

Studies by USDA scientists show some no-till management systems can lower atmospheric levels of PM10—soil particles and other material 10 microns or less in diameter that degrade air quality—that are eroded from crop fields via the wind. These findings could help Pacific Northwest farmers reduce erosion from their fields and assist communities in complying with federal air quality regulations. This research, conducted by ARS, supports the USDA priorities of promoting international food security and responding to climate change. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Greater oversight and additional data needed for key EPA water program

A report released by the US Government Accountability Office found that "EPA oversight and measures of effectiveness of states' programs to reduce nonpoint source pollution - such as runoff from farms or construction sites have not consistently ensured the selection of projects likely to yield measurable water quality outcomes as EPA has not provided its 10 regions with guidance on how to oversee the state programs. Also, EPA’s primary measures of program effectiveness may not fully demonstrate program achievements". The report also notes that "USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program is the key agricultural conservation program that can complement EPA efforts to reduce nonpoint source pollution, but certain conservation practices can adversely affect water quality if not properly implemented, for example, by transporting polluted runoff from nutrient-laden fields into nearby water bodies”. See report highlights or See full report

(TOP) ~ Proceedings from first America’s Grasslands Conference

America’s grasslands and the species that depend on them are declining at alarming rates, but opportunities exist to protect and restore them, according to the Proceedings of the 1st Biennial Conference on the Conservation of America’s Grasslands, released by the National Wildlife Federation and South Dakota State University. America’s Grasslands Conference: Status, Threats, and Opportunities was held in Sioux Falls, SD from August 15-17, 2011. The landmark conference brought together more than 250 biologists, policy experts, ranchers, federal and state agency staff, representatives of elected officials, and conservationists to discuss the latest information on the status, threats and opportunities related to North American grasslands in order to raise the national profile of this endangered ecosystem and inform those interested in developing a roadmap for its conservation. Read more here

(TOP) ~ EPA, USDA programs targeting farm and urban runoff fall short

The government programs in place to address nonpoint source pollution don't always deliver due in part to bad weather, staff turnover, or lack of access to desired properties, according to the Government Accountability Office. A survey of state-selected projects to reduce nonpoint source pollution – such as runoff from farms and construction areas -- that received U.S. EPA grant funding found that 28 percent did not achieve all the objectives initially proposed, the GAO has reported. GAO said that the depth of EPA review of state work plans varied widely among EPA's 10 regions and that headquarters had not provided guidance to regions on how to oversee the programs. However, EPA's annual grants to states under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act to combat nonpoint source pollution have helped restore more than 350 impaired water bodies since 2000, the report said. This year, the program received $165 million. Oversight for the grants falls to EPA's 10 regional offices, which are tasked with ensuring that the state projects can be feasibly implemented. The Department of Agriculture's Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a complementary program designed to combat farm pollution, has also achieved successes, GAO said.

(TOP) ~ Record drought conditions plague crops

Drought conditions in the continental United States are at 56 percent, the highest level in the past 12 years, the National Weather Service has said. The new record tops the previous record of 55 percent, set in August 2003. Meteorologists said the drought has not been going on long enough for it to rank alongside the Dust Bowl of the 1930s or another dry stretch in the 1950s. According to NWS, the dry spell is taking a "significant toll" on food supplies. In states with corn and soybean crops, 22 percent of the crops are in poor or very poor condition. Additionally, 43 percent of the nation's pastures and rangelands and 24 percent of the sorghum crop are in bad shape. "This year, the high temperatures have certainly played into the drought," Agriculture Department meteorologist Brad Rippey said. Despite cooler temperatures and rain predicted for mid-July, the drought is expected to persist in the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, the Corn Belt region, the Mississippi Valley and the Great Plains. Read more here

(TOP) ~ USDA study finds wide-ranging effects of rising temperatures

Climate change is likely to cost the Corn Belt between $1.1 billion and $4.4 billion a year, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. The study focused on long-term averages and found overall that climate change will have complex effects on production that vary from region to region and from crop to crop. The complexity ranges from increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, influencing pest distributions, changing soil fertility and increasing the frequency of extreme weather events. According to the report, which studied only the largest commodity crops, corn and soybeans will likely see the biggest impacts. Climate change will likely decrease crop yields, shift production and increase prices by up to 22 percent for soybeans and 6 percent for corn. At the same time, the yields of several other crops, including cotton, could increase. The report found that climate change will increase the number of agricultural acres in the United States by 0.2 to 1 percent as farmers adapt by expanding acres and switching crops.

(TOP) ~ Agricultural adaptation to a changing climate

Global climate models predict increases over time in average temperature worldwide, with significant impacts on local patterns of temperature and precipitation. Study findings suggest that, while impacts are highly sensitive to uncertain climate projections, farmers have considerable flexibility to adapt to changes in local weather, resource conditions, and price signals by adjusting crops, rotations, and production practices. Such adaptation, using existing crop production technologies, can partially mitigate the impacts of climate change on national agricultural markets. Adaptive redistribution of production, however, may have significant implications for both regional land use and environmental quality. See full report

Congressional/Administration News

(TOP) ~ Societies support Protect our Prairies Act

A farm bill provision introduced by Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-MN) would enact a nationwide “sodsaver” protection to reduce taxpayer funded incentives to destroy critical grassland resources. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA along with other scientific organizations joined together in support of the sodsaver provision in order to provide wildlife habitat, flood mitigation, erosion control, and ranching and recreational opportunities. Read letter here

(TOP) ~ Societies sign pre-farm bill-markup letter to House Chairman and Ranking Member

ASA, CSSA, and SSSA have signed a letter along with other scientific societies encouraging the House Agriculture Committee and Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) to work in a bipartisan fashion to move their farm bill to the floor in a timely manner. The current farm bill expires 30 Sep.  Read letter here

(TOP) ~ House Farm Bill cuts deeper

The House Agriculture Committee leadership rolled out its vision of a new five-year farm bill on 5 July; the 557-page draft builds on the Senate passed-plan but makes deeper cuts from food stamps while restoring target prices sought by Southern growers. The action begins a long uphill climb for Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) who must contend with tepid support from the top GOP brass and a fractious class of Republican freshmen who have never been through a farm bill debate before. But with President Barack Obama campaigning in Iowa next week, farm issues can no longer be ignored this presidential year, and the draft bill offers both real savings and some certainty for an important segment of the economy, now faced with a Sept. 30 deadline when the current farm program expires. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Farm bill revamps conservation programs

Like the Senate version of the farm bill passed last month, the House Agriculture Committee draft released on 5 July could cut the number of conservation programs from 23 to 13, but unlike the Senate version, the House bill provides no mandatory funding for energy programs that help farmers and ranchers make energy efficiency improvements and plant biofuel crops. The consolidation of conservation programs is intended to save more than $6 billion over the next decade.  While the House draft would maintain the current funding levels of EQIP, it would also eliminate a 5 percent earmark for wildlife habitat projects that was included in the Senate-passed version. Overall, the draft farm bill would reduce direct spending by $35.1 billion over the next decade which is $12 billion more than the estimate for the Senate version with the bulk of additional cuts coming out of the national food stamp program. The House draft also includes a provision known as "sodbuster" that limits crop insurance subsidies to farmers who have planted newly converted natural prairie land.

(TOP) ~ Obama administration offers funding for biofuels initiative

The Obama administration is pressing forward with its controversial defense biofuels program, announcing $62 million in government funding opportunities, even as legislation to block the initiative works its way through Congress. The opportunities are the first major ones to be put forward as part of a $510 million joint effort among the departments of Energy, Agriculture and the Navy aimed at building a domestic, commercial-scale biofuels market using a defense procurement law. Under a funding opportunity announcement, companies can compete for a share of $30 million in federal funds to help ramp up to commercial-scale production. Industry must match that investment on at least a 1-to-1 basis. The Department of Energy also unveiled plans to make $32 million in new investments in early-stage biofuels research. There is increasing debate on Capitol Hill over the military's portion of the programs. The House moved to block the Navy's part of the effort in May, including a provision in its 2013 defense authorization bill that would prevent the Navy from purchasing commercial quantities of biofuels that are at a higher price than traditional petroleum. Read funding opportunity announcement

(TOP) ~ Satellite woes likely leave U.S. facing years-long gap in key data

The Government Accountability Office has warned that rising costs and problemswith the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's partner agencies threaten to undo the progress NOAA has made to keep its Joint Polar Satellite System on track. The program, a pared-down survivor of an earlier, more ambitious effort to develop weather and climate satellites to service NOAA and the Air Force, has long struggled with cost overruns, organizational problems and funding skirmishes. NOAA pledged last fall to limit the satellite program's lifetime budget to $12.9 billion, but new estimates suggest its true cost is $14.6 billion, leaving NOAA with difficult decisions, including halting development on some climate sensors to cut the extra $1.7 billion. The consequences of any data gap could be brutal for the nation's weather forecasting and climate monitoring capabilities. It is noted however, that NOAA successfully launched its newest polar-orbiting satellite, Suomi NPP, in October and has completed 60 to 85 percent of work on sensors for JPSS-1. 

(TOP) ~ House Appropriations Committee passes Interior/Environment Spending Bill

The House Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2013 Interior/Environment appropriations bill which now awaits floor action. The bill includes R&D funding for the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Forest Service, and would cut research at all three agencies significantly. According to AAAS estimates, the bill would fund R&D at the Department of Interior at approximately $740 million, which is $122 million, or 14.2 percent, below the President’s budget request and $56 million, or 7.1 percent, below FY 2012 levels. Read full article

(TOP) ~ Senate standstill

Hindered by partisan differences over discretionary spending levels, the Senate appears increasingly unlikely to take up any fiscal 2013 spending bills as stand-alone measures. The top Senate Democrat on Tuesday July 10 indicated that he may not bring up any appropriations bills because of a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over the top-line discretionary spending level for fiscal 2013. Democrats say the level was set by last year’s deal to the raise the debt ceiling (PL 112-25) and should be $1.047 trillion, while Republicans are pushing for a cap that would be $19 billion less ($1.028 trillion) and match the House-adopted budget resolution (H Con Res 112). “The House refused to go by the law that we have in this country,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. “We passed, last August, legislation that is now law that set forth the spending for this country during the next fiscal year. They refuse to adhere to that. So that makes it hard to do these appropriation bills.” Asked if he was ruling out calling up any spending bills, Reid of Nevada said, “until the Republicans get real we can’t do that because they have refused to adhere to the law that guides this country.”

(TOP) ~ Sequester worries

Diverse interest groups, from education advocates to defense hawks, are ramping up warnings about automatic budget cuts due early next year and are pressuring the administration for more details about how the sequester would be executed. A nationwide survey of more than 1,000 school administrators, released Tuesday by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), revealed that nine out of 10 school administrators expect that their states and school districts would be unable to absorb or offset the drop in funding. A separate analysis, also released on Tuesday by the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the country, found sequestration would roll back Education Department funding to pre-2003 levels, affecting between 8.9 million and 9.4 million students. The union projects potential job losses to be between 74,600 and 80,500. The White House estimates that cuts associated with sequestration will range between 8 percent and 9 percent, which would reduce funding for the Education Department by about $4 billion.

Sources: AAAS; American Geosciences Institute; ClimateWire; Congressional Quarterly; Environment and Energy Daily; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Food Industry Environmental Network; GreenWire; The Huffington Post; Joint Research Centre; Meridian Institute; New York Times; USDA Economic Research Service

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.