Science Policy Report


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19 October 2017

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Science Policy activities at the 2017 ASA, CSSA, SSSA Annual Meeting
~ House and Senate to move budget resolutions
~ Legislators and scientific societies rally behind high-impact energy research program
~ Societies urge House Agriculture Committee to renew FFAR in farm bill
~ Trump taps climate skeptic for top White House environmental post
~ Senators Stabenow and Ernst introduce bill to improve regional conservation efforts

Science News

~ Water conservation practices mitigate nutrient losses from turf
~ NIFA honors Land-Grant University Partners, Hall of Fame Inductees
~ NSF drops preproposals, deadlines for biologists seeking funding
~ Soil holds potential to slow global warming, Stanford researchers find
~ Creative distillers tackle food waste, redefining ‘getting trashed’
~ Can you sue a newspaper based on how the internet interprets a story?
~ Soil microbes respond similarly to forest harvest in the Pacific Northwest
~ The grain that tastes like wheat, but grown like prairie grass
~ Prairie strips yield big environmental benefits
~ Pest resistance in biotech crops surging
~ Case studies show big economic benefits of soil health practices
~ Win-win strategies for climate and food security

International Corner

~ German researchers resign from Elsevier journals in push for nationwide open access
~ EU set to delay vote on weed-killer glyphosate
~ Reforming China's agrifood sector to face economic and nutrition challenges
~ U.K. report on international research competiveness
~ Uganda removes key hurdle to GM crops
~ Frost, drought hit wine production hard in Europe

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Global Food Security Symposium 2017: Next Generation Student Delegation
~ Southern Integrated Pest Management
~ Minnesota Crop Research Grants
~ NSF Request for Information: Mid-scale Research Infrastructure
~ Western Integrated Pest Management
~ Texas NRCS Urban Conservation Project
~ Organic Farming Research Foundation Research Grants

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Science Policy activities at the 2017 ASA, CSSA, SSSA Annual Meeting

The Science Policy Office is hosting several events at the 2017 ASA, CSSA, SSSA Annual Meeting for attendees to get involved in. Graduate students are invited to attend the Science Policy Graduate Student Luncheon. The luncheon will give attendees an introduction to science policy and insight into why it’s so critical for graduate students to engage in advocacy. All attendees are welcome to register for the Science, Not Silence Advocacy Workshop were participants will learn about how to most effectively engage with policymakers. See more details on all science policy events here.


(TOP) ~ House and Senate to move budget resolutions

The Senate Budget Committee will mark up its FY 2018 budget resolution this week, while the full House of Representatives will simultaneously vote on its own budget measure. The Senate measure for FY 2018 recommends no change to the current spending caps, while the House resolution would cut nondefense spending by an additional $5 billion, or 1.5 percent, and pursue a multibillion-dollar defense boost, which would be well above what’s allowable under the current caps. However, these recommendations are essentially placeholders while Congress searches for a broader deal to raise the spending caps this fall. Instead, the primary goal of these resolutions is to fast-track the tax reform plan recently unveiled by the White House. Read the full article here.


(TOP) ~ Legislators and scientific societies rally behind high-impact energy research program

Since 2007, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program has provided funding for high-potential, high-impact energy technologies. Though ARPA-E historically has received strong Congressional support, for FY 2018 the program was zeroed out in the House Energy and Water appropriations bill. ASA, CSSA and SSSA, along with 80 other scientific organization and schools, signed on to a letter in support of the FY 2018 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which not only rejects the FY 2018 budget proposal to eliminate ARPA-E, but increases funding above FY 2017 levels. The letter also show support for the bipartisan House legislation that would to reauthorize the ARPA-E and approve increased funding through 2022. Read the letter here.


(TOP) ~ Societies urge House Agriculture Committee to renew FFAR in farm bill

A coalition of more than 100 farm, food and research groups sent a letter to House Agriculture Committee leaders urging them to reauthorize and fund the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) in the next farm bill. The letter emphasized that the Foundation, created by the 2014 farm bill, has been instrumental in coordinating and funding research on important agricultural questions. FFAR has leveraged the $200 million it was allocated by Congress to fund more than $400 million in grants, the letter argues, and therefore deserves funding in the next farm bill. Read the letter here.


(TOP) ~ Trump taps climate skeptic for top White House environmental post

President Trump tapped Kathleen Hartnett-White, a former chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to head a key White House office that coordinates environmental and energy policies across the government. The nomination of Hartnett-White to chair the administration’s Council on Environmental Quality is not entirely surprising — she previously had been considered to head the Environmental Protection Agency — but nevertheless is sure to infuriate environmental advocates. Like other members of the Trump administration, she has long questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-fueled climate change and has criticized the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Senators Stabenow and Ernst introduce bill to improve regional conservation efforts

Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Joni Ernst are pushing legislation to bolster the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) by providing more flexibility for producers and other participating groups and by increasing reporting requirements. The bipartisan pair of Senate Agriculture Committee members said their goal is to augment the program's resources and expand its reach. The RCPP, established in the 2014 farm bill, provides funding and assistance to farmers, conservation groups and other organizations within a given region to develop and implement locally driven plans to address environmental issues. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Water conservation practices mitigate nutrient losses from turf

A dense and healthy lawn is capable of retaining properly-applied nitrogen fertilizer with minimal nutrient loss to the environment.  In Texas and much of the southern United States, urban water conservation strategies often include reduced irrigation programs which can diminish the health and density of residential lawns temporarily. In the July-August issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, researchers report on a two-year field study which utilized specially-designed runoff plots to estimate the effects of water-conserving irrigation practices on runoff volume and nutrient losses from turf. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ NIFA honors Land-Grant University Partners, Hall of Fame Inductees

NIFA honored several Land-Grant University partners during its annual Day of Appreciation ceremony. Those honored were recognized for supporting NIFA's mission to advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve significant societal challenges. The 2017 NIFA Partnership Awards were presented in three different categories to institutions whose work with NIFA support has resulted in exceptional impacts. The agency also inducted four individuals into NIFA’s Hall of Fame, established in 2011 to recognize exceptional contributions to NIFA’s mission at the local, regional, national, or international level and have made a positive impact on humans. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ NSF drops preproposals, deadlines for biologists seeking funding

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will no longer require biologists applying for grants to submit preproposals and to adhere to an annual deadline for submissions. The changes pull the plug on a 5-year pilot project in two NSF divisions—and mark the agency’s latest attempt to reduce the burden of the grant review system on its staff and outside researchers without lowering its standards. The results of the pilot were analyzed in a recently released report. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Soil holds potential to slow global warming, Stanford researchers find

If you want to do something about global warming, look under your feet. Managed well, soil’s ability to trap carbon dioxide is potentially much greater than previously estimated, according to Stanford researchers who claim the resource could “significantly” offset increasing global emissions. They call for a reversal of federal cutbacks to related research programs to learn more about this valuable resource. Stanford-led research finds that reduced tillage and other land management practices could increase soil’s carbon storage enough to offset future carbon emissions. The work, published in two overlapping papers in Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics and Global Change Biology, emphasizes the need for more research into how soil – if managed well – could mitigate a rapidly changing climate. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Creative distillers tackle food waste, redefining ‘getting trashed’

Sam Chereskin and Whit Rigali want to redefine what it means to get trashed. The pair discovered that the sugars in almost-stale bread, bagels and cakes destined for the landfill could be distilled into premium vodka, turning imbibing into an act of social responsibility. The pair launched Misadventure Vodka this past summer with the dual goals of producing that vodka and reducing food waste. The southern California distillery makes all of its liquor from discarded starches, collecting up to 1,200 pounds of aging bakery products from the local food bank each week. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Can you sue a newspaper based on how the internet interprets a story?

In 2015, Eric Lipton, a two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter, published a long expose on the front page of the New York Times that delivered on its headline: “Food Industry Enlisted Academics in GMO Lobbying War, Emails Show.” The story was published in the wake of an academic arms race, of sorts, that occurred between the organic food and agricultural biotech industries as they prepared for the fight over GMO food labels. Both industries had “aggressively recruited” independent academic researchers, Lipton wrote, in a bid to influence public opinion and policy. Lipton’s piece sparked a backlash on social media—mostly against Team GMO. One scientist in particular, University of Florida molecular biologist Kevin Folta, bore the brunt of the wrath. And Folta is the one who has decided to sue Lipton and the Times. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Soil microbes respond similarly to forest harvest in the Pacific Northwest

Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), a historically dominant species in the Pacific Northwest, is the primary tree harvested and re-planted throughout forested regions of Oregon and Washington. Stands are typically in their second or third rotation, but it remains poorly understood how soil microbial communities respond to conventional timber harvest and subsequently drive biogeochemical cycling between rotations. In a paper recently published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal, researchers report on the short-term microbial response to conventional timber harvest, sampling from nine managed, second-growth sites across western Oregon and Washington. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ The grain that tastes like wheat, but grown like prairie grass

Kernza is sometimes called a “perennial wheat.” It has been touted it as “the wheat of the future,” but it’s a separate species. Chestnut-colored, skinnier, and more irregular in size than wheat berries, Kernza yields a little under a third as much in the field as conventional wheat. But it has one major advantage over the grain that helped launch human civilization: a long life span. Wheat is an annual; it dies every year after it sets seeds, and farmers have to replant it again and again. Kernza lives on, season after season. While Kernza has the taste of a cereal, it has the habits of a prairie grass. It sinks 15-foot-long roots into the soil and banks nutrients and carbon as organic matter. It produces edible grain for five years, during which time it requires little or no tilling and less fertilizer than wheat does. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Prairie strips yield big environmental benefits

A long-term research project at Iowa State University is marking a major milestone by publishing 10 years of data on the various benefits provided by planting strips of prairie among corn and soybean fields. STRIPS, which stands for Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips, is a group of scientists researching the benefits that may be derived from integrating prairie into crop production systems. The team published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed academic journal, outlining a wide range of findings, including how a relatively small amount of prairie on certain farmland can deliver major environmental benefits. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Pest resistance in biotech crops surging

In 2016, farmers worldwide planted more than 240 million acres (98 million hectares) of genetically modified corn, cotton and soybeans that produce insect-killing proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. These Bt proteins kill some voracious caterpillar and beetle pests, but are harmless to people and considered environmentally friendly. While organic farmers have used Bt proteins in sprays successfully for more than half a century, some scientists feared that widespread use of Bt proteins in genetically engineered crops would spur rapid evolution of resistance in pests. Researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona have taken stock to address this concern and to discover why pests adapted quickly in some cases but not others. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Case studies show big economic benefits of soil health practices

Soil health practices such as cover crops and no-till can result in an economic return of over $100 per acre, according to a set of case studies jointly released by the National Association of Conservation Districts and Datu Research, LLC. Cover crops and no-till can limit soil loss, reduce run-off, enhance biodiversity, and more. Naturally, farmers who are considering adopting these practices are keen to know how they will affect their farm’s bottom line. During the three-year study period, corn-soybean farmers experimented with cover crops and/or no-till, and quantified the year-by-year changes in income they attributed to these practices compared to a pre-adoption baseline. They found that while planting costs increased by up to $38 per acre. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Win-win strategies for climate and food security

Climate policies that target agriculture and forests could lead to increased food prices, but reducing deforestation and increasing soil carbon sequestration in agriculture could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while avoiding risk to food security, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.   As countries look to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, many see potential in their forests and farms. The land-use sector, which includes agriculture and forestry, contributes approximately 25% of the human-caused greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change. At the same time, vegetation, including natural as well as agricultural lands, take up CO2 from the atmosphere and can store it in biomass and the soil. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ German researchers resign from Elsevier journals in push for nationwide open access

Five leading German scientists have resigned from their editorial positions at journals published by Elsevier, the latest step in a battle over open-access and subscription policies between the Dutch publishing giant and a consortium of German libraries, universities, and research institutes. The researchers want Elsevier to accept a new payment model that would make all papers authored by Germany-based researchers open access. The five are only the first of many ready to step down, warn leaders of the consortium, called Projekt DEAL. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ EU set to delay vote on weed-killer glyphosate

Health experts from European Union countries are expected to discuss whether or not to extend the license for herbicide glyphosate, but will only vote on the issue later this year. Europe has been debating for two years whether to allow the weed-killer, used in Monsanto’s Roundup, with no clear majority of countries for or against a license extension and concerns that it is carcinogenic. The EU granted an 18-month extension in July 2016 pending further scientific study after failing to agree on a proposed 15-year license renewal. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Reforming China's agrifood sector to face economic and nutrition challenges

There are major emerging challenges facing China's agrifood sector. The agricultural industry's push to produce more food has increased the pressure on scarce farmland and natural resources. About 40 percent of arable land is degraded, in part due to overuse of subsidized fertilizers, while agriculture accounts for 65 percent of the country's water consumption. At the same time, agricultural activities are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including rising temperatures and extreme weather events, which affect crop yields, prices, and trade flows. To address these challenges and provide sustainable, safe and nutritious food, supply-side reforms are critical. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ U.K. report on international research competiveness

The government of the United Kingdom (U.K.) released a report assessing the performance of the U.K. research base compared with that of other research-intensive and fast-growing nations. Although the U.K. punches above its weight in key research outputs, the report warns that the country is “losing ground” and may not be able to sustain its leadership position in the long term. The U.K.’s R&D intensity remained broadly flat at 1.7 percent over the period 2010 to 2014, and its share of global articles was relatively unchanged during this time. Read the full report.


(TOP) ~ Uganda removes key hurdle to GM crops

Biotech researchers here are celebrating the long-awaited passage of a bill this week that clears the way for large-scale field tests and commercial release of genetically modified (GM) crops. Uganda, with several engineered varieties waiting in the wings, is expected to join a handful of other African nations moving quickly to bring homegrown GM foods to the market. Introduced in parliament in 2013, Uganda’s National Biosafety Act lays out a framework for regulating biotechnology, including the creation of a national scientific committee to oversee GM research. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Frost, drought hit wine production hard in Europe

Hail, frost and droughts have hit Europe's grape harvest hard, making it the smallest in 36 years. The quality of the wines, though, is expected to be excellent. The European Union's Copa-Cogeca farm union said Tuesday that the extreme weather means the harvest is expected to be down 14 percent, with some areas seeing a drop of as much as one third. That will cut wine production to a level not seen since 1981 at 145 million hectoliters. In France, production will be down 18 percent, and in Italy, the biggest wine producer in Europe, it will have sunk by 26 percent compared with last year. Sicily was hit by a decline of 35 percent. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Global Food Security Symposium 2017: Next Generation Student Delegation

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is now accepting applications from students to participate in the Global Food Security Symposium 2017 Next Generation Delegation. Convened annually, the Global Food Security Symposium addresses the US government's and international community’s progress on addressing global food and nutrition security. The Next Generation Delegation program, launched in 2013, provides an opportunity for promising students to engage in symposium discussions and to interact with policy, civil society, and business leaders working on agriculture, food, and nutrition issues. Deadline, November 5. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Southern Integrated Pest Management

The Southern Region IPM Center requests applications for the IPM Enhancement Grants Program, to enhance the development and implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in the southern region of the United States. Proposals are being accepted for IPM Documents, Working Groups, Seed Projects, and Capstone Projects. Eligible applicants include private individuals and institutions, faculty and qualified staff of four-year universities, businesses, commodity organizations, and governmental and non-governmental organizations. Deadline, November 3. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Minnesota Crop Research Grants

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced $1.5 million available to applicants for applied Crop Research Grants through the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Program. Crop Research projects must focus on improving agricultural product quality, quantity, and value. Projects must benefit Minnesota farmers and the state's economy in the next three to five years. Farmers, institutions of higher education, research institutions, nonprofit organizations, agricultural cooperatives, and agricultural businesses with research capabilities are encouraged to apply. Deadline, November 22. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ NSF Request for Information: Mid-scale Research Infrastructure

The purpose of this RFI is to assess the needs for mid-scale research infrastructure from the US-based NSF science and engineering community in order to develop a strategy, in accordance with the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA). The AICA requires NSF to "evaluate the existing and future needs, across all disciplines supported by the Foundation, for mid-scale projects" and "develop a strategy to address the needs." This RFI focuses on mid-scale research infrastructure projects with an anticipated NSF contribution of between $20 million and $100 million towards construction and/or acquisition. After the submission period ends, and the information is analyzed, NSF will summarize the high-level insights drawn from this analysis for the science community and internal NSF use. Please note that funding for mid-scale RI projects in this range of investment has not been identified; nor does this RFI imply an intent on the part of NSF to issue a call for proposals. In addition, responses to this RFI do not constitute any commitment on behalf of the submitters or their institutions to submit a proposal or carry out an RI project. Deadline, December 8. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Western Integrated Pest Management

The Western IPM Center annual grants competition is open, for one-year grants in the following categories: 1) Project Initiation, which begins new integrated pest management (IPM) research; 2) Work Groups, which bring collaborators together; 3) Outreach & Implementation, which directly promotes IPM adoption; and 4) IPM Planning Documents, which creates crop profiles and pest management strategic plans. As a regional program, Western IPM Center grants stress multi-state collaborations. Deadline, December 8. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Texas NRCS Urban Conservation Project

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for its “Texas NRCS Urban Conservation Project” that works hand-in-hand with the people of Texas for the purpose of helping bring about the conservation and sustainable use of land, water, wildlife, and related resources. The overall intent of this solicitation is to solicit partnerships to help enhance the implementation of key conservation objectives and priorities including 1) Provide learning experiences in natural resources conservation to urban communities; 2) Address food deserts; 3) Create urban gardening projects that develop urban properties into vegetable production sites; 4) Improve access to healthy, affordable food at a local level; and 5) Leverage non-Federal resources to achieve positive natural resources conservation outcomes. Deadline, December 15. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Organic Farming Research Foundation Research Grants

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is accepting proposals for 2018 research projects on organic farming and food systems from applicants in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. OFRF encourages farmers, ranchers, graduate students, early career researchers, veterans, and Extension personnel to consider applying for funding. Priority areas are soil health, innovative weed control, management of emerging insect and disease issues, and livestock health. Deadline, December 15. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; AAAS; ScienceInsider; Senate Agriculture Committee; Politico; Washington Post; Stanford News; NPR; Slate; The Nation; Iowa State News; Kearney Hub; International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis; National Association of Conservation Districts; New York Times; Reuters; International Food Policy Research Institute; UK Government; The Chicago Council

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.



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