Science Policy Report


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21 September 2016

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Stopgap funding measure likely, but timing still unclear
~ What do the presidential candidates think about science and technology?
~ Congressional Caucus for Earth and Space Sciences gets launched
~ Researchers studying "teen sex" and flesh-eating maggots win 2016 Golden Goose Awards
~ Report urges Trump, Clinton to make room for science in the White House
~ Clinton and Trump: Where they stand on ag
~ Congressional panel battles over subpoenas of scientists

Science News

~ Unprecedented maize yield gains under Striga infestation
~ Agricultural R&D is on the move
~ New guidance allows some NIFA Industrial Hemp research
~ Bayer clinches Monsanto with improved $66 billion bid
~ EPA weighs in on glyphosate, says it likely doesn't cause cancer
~ Soil properties drive biosolids effects on winter wheat
~ Getting Iowa farmers to embrace the 'C' word

International Corner

~ China to invest $450 billion modernizing agriculture by 2020
~ Irrigation turns drought to cash for Cameroon's vegetable farmers
~ UN agrees to fight 'the biggest threat to modern medicine': antibiotic resistance
~ Wheat, one of the world’s most important crops, is being threatened by climate change
~ Brazil ratifies Paris climate deal
~ This simple Indian irrigation tech is helping farmers hit hardest by climate change and drought

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ NSF Seeks Feedback on Strategic Plan
~ Call for Authors and Technical Inputs for the Fourth National Climate Assessment Now Open
~ California Pest Management Research Grants
~ North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission
~ Southern SARE On-Farm Research Grant
~ Southern SARE Producer Grant
~ National Environmental Exchange Network Grant Program

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Stopgap funding measure likely, but timing still unclear

Political momentum is building in both chambers for a short-term stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution, that would fund the government until December. The resolution, which would extend current funding levels for all government agencies through Dec. 9, would avoid the specter of a government shutdown threat in the weeks leading up to the elections. But it won't be an easy sell. Some House conservatives want to avoid another Christmastime mammoth spending package that they say allows for excessive federal spending with little scrutiny. Instead, they want a longer-term stopgap measure that would delay all major spending decisions until a new president and Congress take office next year. The biggest sticking point – whether a Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinic in Puerto Rico would get access to federal funding to combat the Zika virus – appears mostly settled on the Senate side, but campaign finance, trucking safety and the internet domain system are among the grab-bag of other issues keeping the Senate from a final deal to stave off a government shutdown at the end of the month.


(TOP) ~ What do the presidential candidates think about science and technology?

Three of the four major candidates for U.S. president have responded to “America’s Top 20 Presidential Science, Engineering, Technology, Health and Environmental Questions.” The nonprofit advocacy group ScienceDebate.org, who has posed questions and called for a scientific debate in each of the past three presidential elections, has posted their responses online. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Jill Stein had all responded, with no responses yet from Gary Johnson. Overall, the answers seem to track ideological differences — Trump emphasizes market solutions to questions of science and technology, while Clinton emphasizes the role of the federal government in investing in scientific development and technology. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Congressional Caucus for Earth and Space Sciences gets launched

One year after federal legislation threatened to restrict funding for the Earth and space sciences, a new congressional caucus has formed to bring greater visibility on Capitol Hill to those disciplines and their impacts on science, policy, and society. The House Earth and Space Science Caucus, which launched last week, plans to support strong and sustained funding for the Earth and space sciences and the inclusion of those sciences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educational curricula, according to information from caucus organizers. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Jolly (R-Fla.) cochair the group, which also aspires to be an information resource for members of Congress and their staffs. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Researchers studying "teen sex" and flesh-eating maggots win 2016 Golden Goose Awards

Since 2012, the Golden Goose Awards have recognized quirky, federally funded research that's led to major scientific breakthroughs or had significant societal impact. Among this year's winners are researchers delving into the world of flesh-eating maggots and human teenage sexuality. The awards were created by Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee, as a response to other members of congress’ obsession with “wasteful” science. In particular, the awards act as a rebuttal to Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin who dished out the so-called Golden Fleece Awards between 1975 and 1988. These awards were given to federally funded research that he believed wasted money. The awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, Sept. 22 and can be viewed live here. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Report urges Trump, Clinton to make room for science in the White House

A new report on how the next U.S. president should manage the nation’s science portfolio, was developed by former Clinton science adviser Neal Lane and colleagues at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Its explicit message is simple: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the position of the president’s science adviser should be retained. Left unspoken is the fear that Republican standard-bearer Trump, unlike Democrat Hillary Clinton, may decide to dismantle the present structure, which has existed for decades under both Democratic and Republican presidents. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Clinton and Trump: Where they stand on ag

It’s been a long election season all across the country, and as presidential candidates have answered questions from voters and media, very few of those questions have centered on the food supply. As the election nears, Penton Agriculture sought to engage the candidates in a discussion about agriculture, including their plans, potential farm bills, trade and more. A set of questions were posed to both candidates, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. Read the candidates responses.


(TOP) ~ Congressional panel battles over subpoenas of scientists

A sharply divided U.S. House of Representatives panel on science debated its own investigatory powers, notably its probes aimed at scientists, at a Sept. 14 hearing. The hearing’s purpose, according to Science, Space & Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), was to determine the panel’s subpoena powers and “affirm” the legitimacy of the committee’s ongoing inquiries. Those probes have often focused on climate change science and scientists. As chair, Smith, who rejects the notion of the U.S. acting to curb greenhouse gas emissions, has sole authority to issue committee subpoenas. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Unprecedented maize yield gains under Striga infestation

Maize is a food security crop in West Africa threatened by Striga hermonthica infestation. A recent article in Crop Science reports the findings of a study conducted in West Africa to determine genetic gains in grain yield of 56 extra-early maturing cultivars developed during three breeding eras, 1995-2000 (era 1), 2001-2006 (era 2) and 2007-2012 (era 3) under Striga-infested and Striga-free conditions. Under Striga infestation, the gain in yield was associated with increased plant height while under Striga-free conditions it was associated with increased plant height and decreased root lodging. Researchers concluded that considerable improvement has been made in breeding for high yielding, Striga resistant/tolerant extra-early maize cultivars during the past two decades. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Agricultural R&D is on the move

The geographical distribution of food and agricultural research and development (AgR&D) is changing. Our analysis of more than 50 years of data indicates that the governments of middle-income nations are investing more than those of high-income ones for the first time in modern history. The numbers also suggest that, globally, private-sector spending on AgR&D is catching up with public-sector spending. Meanwhile, the gap between spending by high-income and low-income countries is widening. Investments in R&D are inextricably intertwined with growth in agricultural productivity and food supplies. But it takes decades, not months or years, for the consequences of these investments to be fully realized. Today's R&D investment decisions will cast shadows forward to 2050 and beyond, making the trends we report here especially significant for the future of food production. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ New guidance allows some NIFA Industrial Hemp research

A Federal Register notice provided information on how federal law applies to activities associated with industrial hemp that is grown and cultivated in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill. The guidance indicates that NIFA is authorized to support industrial hemp research projects in some circumstances, where such activity complies with state law and is consistent with program priorities. NIFA has developed multiple assurances of grantee compliance with state and federal regulations. For detailed information and eligibility requirements, visit https://nifa.usda.gov/industrial-hemp


(TOP) ~ Bayer clinches Monsanto with improved $66 billion bid

German drug and crop chemical maker Bayer clinched a $66 billion takeover of U.S. seeds company Monsanto on Wednesday, ending months of wrangling with a third sweetened offer that marks the largest all-cash deal on record. The $128-a-share deal, up from Bayer's previous offer of $127.50 a share, has emerged as the signature deal in a consolidation race that has roiled the agribusiness sector in recent years, due to shifting weather patterns, intense competition in grain exports and a souring global farm economy. Grain prices are hovering near their lowest levels in years amid a global supply glut, and farm incomes have plunged. But the proposed merger will likely face an intense and lengthy regulatory process in the United States, Canada, Brazil, the European Union and elsewhere. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ EPA weighs in on glyphosate, says it likely doesn't cause cancer

No chemical used by farmers, it seems, gets more attention than glyphosate, also known by its trade name, Roundup. That's mainly because it is a cornerstone of the shift to genetically modified crops, many of which have been modified to tolerate glyphosate. This, in turn, persuaded farmers to rely on this chemical for easy control of their weeds. (Easy, at least, until weeds evolved to become immune to glyphosate, but that's a different story.) Glyphosate had been considered among the safest of herbicides. So it was a shock to many, last year, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that this chemical is probably carcinogenic. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Soil properties drive biosolids effects on winter wheat

Environmental concerns limit fall biosolids application to winter wheat in Virginia to rates too low to be feasible for biosolids applicators. It is uncertain whether or not higher biosolids fall application rates are appropriate for winter wheat production and environmental protection in a humid climate. In a recent article in the Soil Science Society of America Journal, researchers report on ten studies in the Virginia Coastal Plain and Ridge & Valley physiographic provinces where anaerobically and lime stabilized biosolids were fall applied at 50 and 100 kg of plant available N/hectare to continuous no-till fields in corn-wheat-soybean rotation. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Getting Iowa farmers to embrace the 'C' word

Iowa Public Television host Mike Pearson asked farmer Kevin Jesse a question that could be critical to the state's efforts to improve its ailing water quality: What do you say to a farmer who tried cover crops but decided they didn't live up to the hype? Growing cover crops require a "huge learning curve," Jesse told Pearson, host of "Market to Market," and about 50 farmers and service providers during a forum last week in northwest Iowa. "We deal with all these fears in agriculture — all the what-ifs. … We're working through those issues.” As Iowa ramps up its discussions on how to pay for better water quality, new initiatives are aimed at getting more farmers to aggressively embrace conservation, a word many associate with higher costs and lower production. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ China to invest $450 billion modernizing agriculture by 2020

The Agricultural Development Bank of China, one of the country's main policy lenders, agreed to loan at least 3 trillion yuan ($450 billion) by 2020 for the modernization of China's agriculture industry, state media said on Sunday. The Ministry of Agriculture and the bank, which lends in line with government policy, signed an agreement to protect national food security, support the sector doing business overseas and develop China's seed industry, according to the official Xinhua news agency. It was not immediately clear whether this commitment is separate from the bank's plan announced in May to lend 3 trillion yuan for poverty reduction via agricultural investments. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Irrigation turns drought to cash for Cameroon's vegetable farmers

Farmers in this poverty-mired region of northwest Cameroon used to watch their vegetable patches dry up and die in drought periods, even though nearby rivers and streams offered a steady flow of water. The problem? Getting the water to the fields was nearly impossible because the area's steep, rocky terrain made carrying it hugely difficult. But now a channel irrigation system is allowing farmers to access water for their fields, helping them grow vegetables throughout the year and better manage worsening drought associated with climate change. The system uses a network of farmer-built canals that rely on gravity to bring stream water to fields in Cameroon’s Akum and Santa districts. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ UN agrees to fight 'the biggest threat to modern medicine': antibiotic resistance

All 193 United Nations member states are set to sign a declaration agreeing to combat “the biggest threat to modern medicine” in Wednesday’s high-level meeting on antibiotic resistance. The agreement was reached just before the general assembly convened to discuss the threat of antibiotic resistance, which is only the fourth health issue to trigger a general assembly meeting. The declaration routes the global response to superbugs along a similar path as the one used to combat climate change. In two years, groups including UN agencies will provide an update on the superbug fight to the UN secretary general. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Wheat, one of the world’s most important crops, is being threatened by climate change

One of the biggest concerns about climate change is the effect it will have on agriculture. Many studies have suggested that rising temperatures could be harmful to farms around the world, although there’s plenty of uncertainty about how bad things will get and which food supplies we should worry about most. Now, a new study published Monday in Nature Climate Change reiterates concerns that wheat — the most significant single crop in terms of human consumption — might be in big trouble. After comparing multiple studies used to predict the future of global crop production, researchers have found that they all agree on one point: rising temperatures are going to be really bad for wheat production. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Brazil ratifies Paris climate deal

Brazil has become the latest country to ratify the Paris climate agreement. The country’s president, Michel Temer, formally joined the deal on Monday during a ceremony in Brasilia, the Press Association reports. Brazil becomes one of the largest greenhouse emitters to join the deal, which has countries create and work toward non-binding carbon reduction targets. The country is the sixth largest single emitter of greenhouse gases, contributing 2.48 percent of global emissions, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI). As part of the deal, Brazil has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent, from 2005 levels, by 2025 and 43 percent by 2030. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ This simple Indian irrigation tech is helping farmers hit hardest by climate change and drought

Across much of India, farmers are struggling to adapt as their crops fail season after season as a result of increasingly unpredictable weather: floods and droughts. In June, like many people in the parched state of Maharashtra, Suraj Patil was hoping for the skies to open up and ease the state’s poorest rainy season in 40 years. So when a few showers fell in mid-July in Latur, one of the hardest-hit areas, the 47-year-old ran outside to plant pulses and sweet potatoes, scattering seeds, and pushing vines into the moistened earth.  Curiously, during these hard times, farmers in Gujarat, another state in western India prone to drought, were using harvested rainwater for irrigation through an indigenous technology developed by Biplab Paul, called Bhungroo. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ NSF Seeks Feedback on Strategic Plan

The National Science Foundation is preparing to launch its next strategic plan, a process the agency goes through every four years, and thus is seeking feedback on the current strategic plan. The deadline for comments is September 27. In addition, NSF recently issued a Dear Colleague letter with an update on its approach to managing large facilities, noting that it has implemented 4 of 13 recommendations in a 2015 National Academy of Public Administration report and plans to address all of them at least partially by the end of the year. Comments due September 27. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Call for Authors and Technical Inputs for the Fourth National Climate Assessment Now Open

Development of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) is underway, and nominations for regional and sectoral chapter lead authors, and contributing authors with relevant subject matter expertise, are now open. Details on chapter topics can be found at the bottom of the federal register notice. Author nominations must be submitted by September 30, 2016. Technical inputs on sectoral, regional, and cross-cutting topics, which will serve as part of the foundation for NCA4 along with special assessments and other literature, can also be submitted at this time. All scientific and technical inputs must be submitted by January 15, 2017. To provide author teams more time to consider inputs, please submit by November 1, 2016. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ California Pest Management Research Grants

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Description California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) established its Pest Management Research Grant Program to develop practices that reduce the use of and risk from pesticides that are of human health or environmental concern in California. This year, the Pest Management Research Grant Program will allocate $500,000 to fund projects that develop effective alternatives to agricultural fumigants, as well as projects that develop IPM to reduce risks associated with high-risk pesticides. Concept paper deadline, September 30. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission

The Agricultural Products Utilization Commission supports the development of new and expanded uses of North Dakota's agricultural products through a grant program. A maximum of 15 qualifying applicants present funding proposals on a quarterly basis for the following grant categories: Basic and Applied Research, Marketing and Utilization, Farm Diversification, Technical Assistance, Nature Based Agri-Tourism, Prototype Development & Technology. Deadline, October 1. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Southern SARE On-Farm Research Grant

Agriculture professionals in Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service, universities, NGOs, and government and non-government organizations who regularly work with farmers/ranchers are invited to apply for a grant that affords them the opportunity to conduct on-farm research in sustainable agriculture. Applicants must work with at least one farmer/rancher on the project. Deadline, November 18. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Southern SARE Producer Grant

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) is accepting proposals for Producer Grants up to $10,000 for an individual producer or $15,000 for a producer organization. These grants support sustainable agriculture research projects that solve agricultural production challenges farmers face and develop information on what works and what doesn’t so that other farmers and ranchers facing those same challenges can benefit from the results of the funded project. Deadline, November 18. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ National Environmental Exchange Network Grant Program

The Exchange Network Grant Program provides funding to states, territories and federally recognized Indian tribes to support the development of the Environmental Information Exchange Network (EIEN). The primary outcome expected from Exchange Network assistance agreements is improved access to, and exchange of, high-quality environmental data from public and private sector sources. Applications should demonstrate support for and results toward EIEN program priorities. Deadline, November 18. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; EPA; SARE; ScienceInsider; Washington Post; EOS; Smithsonian Magazine; Farm Futures; Chemical & Engineering News; Reuters; Nature; The New York Times; NPR; Science; The Des Moines Register; NSF News; The Guardian; The Hill; Forbes;

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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