Science Policy Report


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Recent Issues

2017-05-03

2017-04-19

2017-04-05

2017-03-08

2017-02-22

2017-02-08


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03 May 2017

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Congressional negotiators reach deal on government funding through September
~ Congress rejects White House approach, pursues targeted science & technology boosts
~ Science March draws thousands of participants
~ Sonny Perdue sworn in as 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
~ Executive order to promote 'ag and rural prosperity’
~ Senators urge President to appoint S&T officials
~ Societies speak out in support of federal research funding

Science News

~ Nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture
~ Road salting linked to persistent chloride concentrations in bedrock
~ Opinion: Crop insurance rules hinder soil health
~ CAST Announces Jayson Lusk as Winner of the 2017 Borlaug CAST Communication Award
~ Advancements in agriculture, good for people and the planet
~ Food and conservation groups invest in soil to sustain food production
~ Webinar: Best practices for National Institute of Food and Agriculture funding success
~ Developing climate-resilient wheat varieties
~ USDA survey released on scientific integrity
~ Soybean research may reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer
~ Edward Buckler, first recipient of the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences

International Corner

~ Farm robots ready to fill Britain’s post-EU labor shortage
~ Paris soil carbon sequestration goals called unrealistic
~ Young Africans chart new path for agriculture as climate heats up
~ Nutrient-poor farms get a vitamin boost from zinc mines
~ Marine Le Pen is a ‘terrible danger,’ French research leaders say

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ NIFA Competitive Funding Opportunity Webinar
~ Food Safety Outreach Program
~ Resident Instruction Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas
~ Distance Education Grants for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas
~ Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences Education and Literacy Initiative
~ Geophysics

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Congressional negotiators reach deal on government funding through September

Bipartisan congressional negotiators reached a critical agreement late Sunday on a massive spending bill that if approved by the House and Senate would fund the government through the end of September, senior aides from both parties told CNN. The plan would add billions for the Pentagon and border security but would not provide any money for President Donald Trump's promised border wall with Mexico. The deal was reached after weeks of tense but steady negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill and the White House, who battled over spending priorities but who were equally determined to avoid a politically fraught government shutdown. Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, were particularly wary of a shutdown on their watch. Votes in both chambers are expected by the end of the week. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Congress rejects White House approach, pursues targeted science & technology boosts

After months of waiting and weeks of negotiating, Congress has finally released the final FY 2017 omnibus funding bill – and many scientists and engineers can exhale a sigh of relief, as Congress has taken a very different path than that proposed by the Trump Administration. According to current AAAS estimates, the omnibus bill would increase federal R&D by five percent above FY 2016 levels. Some agencies and programs would receive sizable increases, perhaps most notably the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the research office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Department of Defense science and technology programs; and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Several other agencies would receive smaller increases nearer or below the rate of inflation, and there are some scattered year-over-year reductions as well. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Science March draws thousands of participants

April 22 marked the historic March for Science, in which thousands of people joined to celebrate science in hundreds of marches around the world. The main March for Science was held in Washington, D.C., but more than 300 local satellite marches we held in locations across the globe. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman, Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Ranking Member, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), both released statements on the March. The FiveThirtyEight aired a segment on the March for Science in its Politics Podcast. Listen at 13:28 for March analysis.


(TOP) ~ Sonny Perdue sworn in as 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

Sonny Perdue was sworn in as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by fellow Georgian and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas in a brief ceremony on Tuesday, April 25 at the Supreme Court building. The U.S. Senate confirmed Secretary Perdue by a vote of 87-to-11 on Monday evening. After Secretary Perdue took the oath of office, he addressed employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before getting to work on his first day. USDA launched his official Twitter handle: @SecretarySonny. See what Perdue had to say during his Senate confirmation hearing for more insight into his future policies. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Executive order to promote 'ag and rural prosperity’

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order “Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America” that will direct his new agriculture secretary to identify and eliminate what Trump says are unnecessary regulations that hurt farmers and rural communities. The order covers infrastructure, technology, economic development, taxes, energy, trade, and education. Specifically, it directs an interagency task force to submit a report addressing these issues within 180 days. The task force will seek input from stakeholders on regulatory and policy changes. As this process develops ASA, CSSA and SSSA will work to provide input on research and education needs. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Senators urge President to appoint S&T officials

On April 21, a group of eight Democratic Senators led by new Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) wrote a letter to President Trump urging him to appoint "well-qualified experts for critical science posts at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and throughout the federal government," including a director of OSTP. At this time, the Trump Administration has only made one OSTP hire (deputy chief technology officer Michael Kratsios), OSTP is a third of its size in the Obama Administration, and all of the key leadership positions (including OSTP director) remain unfilled. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Societies speak out in support of federal research funding

Even though Congress is just now wrapping up the FU2017 appropriations process, ASA, CSSA and SSSA have already begun developing our funding requests for the upcoming fiscal year, 2018. The Societies have submitted funding request letters for USDA research programs, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, Office of Science. In addition to our own letters, the Societies have signed onto multiple coalition letters supporting federal food, agriculture and natural resources research programs. See all funding request letters here.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are usually the first thing to come to mind when talking about greenhouse gases, but there is a suite of greenhouse gases of concern. One of these is nitrous oxide (N2O).  Nitrous oxide occurs naturally in the atmosphere, but levels are increasing due to human activity. This increase is concerning as N2O has more than 300 times the warming potential of CO2 and can remain in the atmosphere for over 100 years. The greatest sources of N2O from human activity include agriculture and fossil fuel combustion. Agricultural systems contribute N2O through fertilizer application, the breakdown of crop residue, and animal waste. Recent articles in the Journal of Environmental Quality and Soil Science Society of America Journal report on different aspects of N2O emissions. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Road salting linked to persistent chloride concentrations in bedrock

Road salt application for deicing has increased in the United States since the 1940s and many studies have shown its environmental impact in surface water and shallow groundwater. However, despite the dependence of many rural communities on bedrock wells as a primary water source, little has been studied on the impacts of road salting on water quality in bedrock. In an article recently published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, researchers investigated the water quality in two crystalline bedrock wells at the University of Connecticut in Storrs over a thirteen-year period, with particular emphasis on impacts of increased salt application (4x-15x) with a change in deicing practices at the university after 2009. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Opinion: Crop insurance rules hinder soil health

A hot topic among farmers is soil health; a relatively new concept that emphasizes improving not just the chemistry of soil, but its biology and physiology. Increasingly, research reveals our utter dependence on micro-organisms for the food, fuel and fiber grown on the land, so we applaud farmers considering multi-year crop rotations, planting crops without tillage, fitting cover crops in between crops, and returning to the practice of livestock grazing those covers, all demonstrated techniques to optimize soil health. This is a profound and seismic shift in the direction of agriculture. Yet, a significant barrier stands in the way related to crop insurance, which has become an absolute necessity in today’s weather extremes. To be eligible for crop insurance, farmers who use cover crops must meet specific management rules. No other agronomic practice includes such eligibility rules. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ CAST Announces Jayson Lusk as Winner of the 2017 Borlaug CAST Communication Award

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) announces that the 2017 Borlaug CAST Communication Award goes to Jayson Lusk, a consummate communicator who promotes agricultural science and technology in the public arena. Lusk uses multiple forms of media to advocate for science, as he explains how innovation and growth in agriculture are critical for food security and global progress. Lusk uses articles, editorials, and a popular blog to take complicated issues and make them accessible to all. He has published influential books and more than 180 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals on topics ranging from animal welfare to consumer interests. He also communicates through frequent television appearances, numerous radio and podcast interviews, and many well-received presentations. Various media outlets name him as one of the most prolific and cited food and agricultural economists of the past decade. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Advancements in agriculture, good for people and the planet

This Earth Day, hundreds of thousands of people marched to “defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.” The March for Science echoed in communities around the world, celebrating the many contributions science has afforded our society, but also reacting to the growing influence the denial of science is having in political discourse and domestic policymaking here in the United States. Champions of science have right to be concerned. With every step taken to censor research or dismantle protections to our clean air and water, we grow acutely aware of the impact this altered path may have on our ability to fight climate change – potentially one of the greatest threats to humankind. Now more than ever we need to embrace the power of science to help us battle the challenges related to climate change. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Food and conservation groups invest in soil to sustain food production

A national effort to enhance farm sustainability through soil health has additional backing from a major consumer foods manufacturer. Leaders from General Mills, The Nature Conservancy, the Soil Health Institute and the Soil Health Partnership announce a collaborative effort to advance soil health on America’s farms and ranches, paving the way for measurable economic and environmental gains for farmers, businesses and communities for generations to come. To help ensure soil health, General Mills has made a three-year, $2 million commitment to The Nature Conservancy, Soil Health Institute and Soil Health Partnership to support the development of tools and resources for farmers, landowners, and supply chain leaders to achieve widespread adoption of soil health practices. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Webinar: Best practices for National Institute of Food and Agriculture funding success

On February 23, 2017, Dr. Lee-Ann Jaykus, North Carolina State University, presented “Best practices for National Institute of Food and Agriculture funding success: A twenty year perspective” as part of the Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition (IFSN) Seminar Series. The seminar covers: 1) Understanding how to interpret Agency RFA's; 2) Producing an award-winning grant application, including planning, writing, and budgeting; 3) Putting together an effective team; and 4) Good grant management practices, including scientific, financial, and reporting aspects. Find a link to the webinar recording here.


(TOP) ~ Developing climate-resilient wheat varieties

Increases in climate variability have placed new emphasis on the need for resilient wheat varieties. Alongside demands for increased resiliency, consumer interest in healthier, more functional foods is growing. Therefore, the identification of potential breeding targets to create climate-resilient, nutritionally improved wheat varieties is of particular interest. Fructans are carbohydrates found in many plants, including wheat, which serve physiological roles in both plants and humans. Within plants, fructans are essential in conferring tolerance to stresses associated with climate variability. A paper recently published in Crop Science examines connections between fructans in wheat plants, wheat-based food products, and impacts of fructan consumption on human health. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ USDA survey released on scientific integrity

A 'Survey of USDA Scientists Regarding Scientific Integrity' has been released by the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) which found that 83 percent of scientists believed their agencies promoted a culture of scientific integrity; when compared with scientists who did not agree, those who thought integrity was promoted were generally more likely to see benefits from the USDA Scientific Integrity Policy (SIP). Most scientists have not had problems with scientific integrity in their research in recent years. Of those scientists who felt pressure to alter their research most did not report the incident because of fear of retaliation, reprimand, and reprisal. 81 percent agreed or strongly agreed that their research findings had not been altered or suppressed for reasons other than technical merit, while 9 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Soybean research may reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer

Nitrogen is a nutrient that helps plant growth, yet overuse of nitrogen fertilizers can harm the environment. Mechthild Tegeder, a biologist with Washington State University (WSU), has developed a way to increase soybean quality and yield by using the plant’s unique ability to pull nitrogen from the air. Unlike crops that rely on natural and artificial nitrogen in soil, soybeans and other legumes contain rhizobia bacterioids in their root nodules that convert nitrogen gas from the atmosphere. Tegeder’s research team created a model to increase the flow of nitrogen from specialized bacteria in soybean root nodules to the seed-producing organs. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Edward Buckler, first recipient of the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences

Edward Buckler, Ph.D., a research geneticist focused on nutrition and food security, accepted the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences on Sunday as part of the Academy’s 154th Annual Meeting in Washington. The annual $100,000 NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences was established in 2016 through support from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Buckler, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service researcher and adjunct professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, studies the connection between a crop plant’s genetic makeup and the physical traits exhibited by different strains. His work includes development of a solution to vitamin A deficiency, a life-threatening issue in the developing world. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Farm robots ready to fill Britain’s post-EU labor shortage

A new generation of farm robots is being readied to plug a labor shortage on Britain’s farms that may soon be exacerbated by Brexit. Farmers will be reluctant to invest in robots until they are convinced they are economical, but some robots have already become skilled weeders, using a sensor to identify a plant and then hoe all around it, and carriers, using trays to take strawberry plants to human pickers in vast fields. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Paris soil carbon sequestration goals called unrealistic

The goal to offset rises in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations by increasing soil carbon storage by 4 per mille (0.4%) per year is unrealistic, say scientists from The Netherlands, The United Kingdom and the United States in an opinion piece in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The plans to store more carbon in the soil ("4P1000") were launched at the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Paris. Increasing this soil organic matter stock at a rate of 4 per mille per year could, in theory, fully compensate the rise in atmospheric CO2. The problem is that the numbers don't add up. To store additional carbon in the soil, you need other nutrients, such as nitrogen. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Young Africans chart new path for agriculture as climate heats up

Young Africans are increasingly seeking to transform agriculture by using new technologies while contributing to food security and employment. Their innovations were showcased at the MasterCard Foundation’s Young Africa Works Summit 2017, held in Kigali, aimed at putting young people at the center of a “green revolution” for Africa that can help equip agriculture to thrive amid climate change. Young people are uniquely poised to understand the problem, and to use new methods to make farming sustainable, efficient and profitable even as the planet warms, the foundation believes. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Nutrient-poor farms get a vitamin boost from zinc mines

Without zinc in their diets, people are prone to diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria, and crops are stunted. But farmland in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America is increasingly zinc deficient. In response, sales of zinc-infused fertilizers are growing. Farmers are trying to boost yields by reviving soils deprived of nutrients by overuse and a changing climate. Injecting an industrial zinc back into the ground could prove a boon for farmers and miners alike. Zinc is used mostly to reduce corrosion in iron and steel, but it is also needed in trace amounts to keep humans and plants healthy. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Marine Le Pen is a ‘terrible danger,’ French research leaders say

The French science and higher education community appears virtually united in its opposition against Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate who could become France’s next president during the second round of elections on 7 May. In an unprecedented letter issued yesterday, the directors of nine major public research institutes describe Le Pen’s candidacy as a “terrible danger” and call on voters not to support her. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ NIFA Competitive Funding Opportunity Webinar

This webinar provides an overview of the NIFA’s competitive grant programs in order to enhance the application success rate of eligible institutions. 2-part informational webinar is meant to enhance the application success rate of all, with a focus on tips for minority serving institutions. Thursday, May 25 11-2pm EDT. Learn more and register here.


(TOP) ~ Food Safety Outreach Program

The Food Safety Outreach Program will complement and expand the national infrastructure of the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Competitive Grants Program. The Food Safety Outreach Program will build upon that national infrastructure, with a sustained focus on delivery of customized training to members of the target audiences. Awardees will develop and implement food safety training, education, extension, outreach and technical assistance projects that address the needs of owners and operators of small to mid-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially-disadvantaged farmers, small processors, or small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers. Grant applications will be solicited directly from those in local communities - to include those from community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, food hubs, farm cooperatives, extension, and other local groups. Deadline, June 6. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Resident Instruction Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas

The purpose of this program is to promote and strengthen the ability of Insular Area Institutions to carry out teaching and education programs within a broadly defined arena of food and agricultural sciences-related disciplines. By strengthening institutional educational capacities in instruction and curriculum and enhancing the quality of teaching and learning, NIFA intends that this program will help Insular Area Institutions meet their unique needs. Deadline, June 15. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Distance Education Grants for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas

The purpose of this program is strengthen the capacity of Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas to carry out resident instruction, curriculum, and teaching programs in the food and agricultural sciences through distance education technology. The Distance Education Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas (DEG) is a NIFA-administered competitive grants program focused on improving formal, postsecondary agricultural sciences education. Deadline, June 16. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences Education and Literacy Initiative

The AFRI Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences Education and Literacy Initiative (ELI) focuses on the professional development of secondary school teachers and educational professionals as well as the training of undergraduate students, and predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows. The goal of the AFRI ELI Program is to develop the next generation of research, education, and extension professionals in the food and agricultural sciences. In FY 2017, the AFRI ELI RFA invites applications in four areas: professional development opportunities for K-14 teachers and education professionals; training of undergraduate students in research and extension; fellowships for predoctoral candidates; and fellowships for postdoctoral scholars. Single-function Research Projects, Education Projects, and Extension Projects, multi-function Integrated Projects, and Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) Grants are expected to address one of the Program Areas. Deadline, June 28. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Geophysics

The Geophysics Program supports basic research in the physics of the solid earth to explore its composition, structure, and processes from the Earth's surface to its' deepest interior. Laboratory, field, theoretical, and computational studies are supported. Topics include (but are not limited to) seismicity, seismic wave propagation, and the nature and occurrence of geophysical hazards; the Earth's magnetic, gravity, and electrical fields; the Earth's thermal structure; and geodynamics. Supported research also includes geophysical studies of active deformation, including geodesy, and theoretical and experimental studies of the properties and behavior of Earth materials. Proposals accepted at any time after July 24. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NIFA; NSF; AAAS; FFAR; ScienceInsider; CNN; FiveThirtyEight; Politico; Wisconsin State Farmer; The White House; CAST; The Hill; Agri-Pulse; Farm Forum; Washington State University News; Reuters; Financial Times; Physics.org; Bloomberg;

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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