Science Policy Report


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Recent Issues

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20 May 2015

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Appropriations bills move forward in House and Senate
~ House to vote on America COMPETES bill
~ Senate passes congressional soils resolution
~ White House addresses the loss of pollinators in the U.S.
~ State Department science adviser speaks out on Cuba

Science News

~ Wheat rotated with pea reduces economic uncertainty for Montana growers
~ Ag has opportunities for college grads, USDA reports
~ FAA approves Yamaha ag drone
~ Purdue ready to plant legal hemp
~ EPA regulator set to release key herbicide report
~ Forests could be the trump card in efforts to end global hunger
~ Climate change's future impact uncertain on Midwest water cycle

International Corner

~ Soils acidified during Australia’s historic drought will be slow to recover
~ In Brazil, cattle industry begins to help fight deforestation
~ Nobel laureates call on European Commission to keep animal research regulations

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Renewable Resources Extension Act-National Focus Fund Projects
~ Smith-Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants Program
~ Value Added Producer Grant
~ Life Cycle Costs of Water Infrastructure Alternatives
~ Regional Conservation Partnership Program
~ Wetland Program Development Grants
~ Conservation Innovative Grants
~ Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Appropriations bills move forward in House and Senate

After passing its Energy and Water appropriations bill on May 1,the House has been moving ahead with several other appropriations bills including the Commerce, Justice, Science bill which sets funding for the National Science Foundation. Released on May 13, the bill would give NSF a 0.7% funding increase, bringing its budget up to $7.4 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2016. While NSF receives a small budget increase overall, the bill report language states that 70% of research funding must go to the “core” Directorates (BIO, ENG, CISE, MPS). Currently these Directorates make up 65% of NSF research funding, so the 5% increase would theoretically be taken from the GEO and SBE Directorates. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee has also marked up its bill, with the full Appropriations Committee voting on the bill on Thursday. Same as in the House, the Senate E&W bill also set funding for the Department of Energy, Office of Science at $5.1 billion. Finally, House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, Robert Aderholt has said that his subcommittee will likely mark up its spending bill in mid-June. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ House to vote on America COMPETES bill

The House of set to vote on the America COMPETES Act this week despite vocal opposition of the bill from the scientific community, including ASA, CSSA and SSSA. Last week, NSF released an impact statement that outlined the negative effects the COMPETES bill would have on NSF. The White House has also released a statement expressing its opposition to the bill and warning of a presidential veto if the bill is passed. House Science Committee chairman, Lamar Smith stands by the bill saying it focuses federal funding on research that advances national priorities. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Senate passes congressional soils resolution

Last week, the Senate passed S.Con.Res.10 a concurrent resolution that designates 2015 as the International Year of Soils. The House version, H.Con.Res.30, has been introduced, but has not yet been called up for a vote. Reach out to your Representative to ask them to show their support for soil resources and co-sponsor this legislation. Email your Representative here.


(TOP) ~ White House addresses the loss of pollinators in the U.S.

The White House has released the interagency Pollinator Health Task Force's National Strategy to Promote Pollinator Health and its accompanying Pollinator Research Action Plan which outline needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses, improve pollinator health, and to enhance pollinator habitat. The strategy’s broad-reaching goals are to: 1) restore colony health to sustainable levels by 2025 2) increase Eastern monarch butterfly populations to 225 million butterflies by year 2020 and 3) restore or enhance seven million acres of land for pollinators over the next five years. USDA and the Department of Interior have also issued a set of 'Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Lands', providing practical guidance for planners and managers with land stewardship responsibilities. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ State Department science adviser speaks out on Cuba

Revised travel rules are easing visits to Cuba for U.S. scientists, and the U.S. Department of Commerce now allows scientific equipment to be freely donated to Cuba, so long as it does not have potential military applications. Frances Colón, acting science and technology adviser to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, is helping shape U.S. government policy on what the rapprochement with Cuba means for U.S. scientists. Colón, a neuroscientist by training, made an official visit to Havana in April 2014. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Wheat rotated with pea reduces economic uncertainty for Montana growers

Wheat growers who grow both pea and wheat in their fields are likely to lessen the economic risks of farming while maintaining the same level of profits as those who grow only wheat or leave a field fallow, according to a group of Montana State University scientists. The research team performed an analysis of six cropping systems when high and low rates of commercial nitrogen fertilizer were applied at seeding. Their research showed pea is an agronomic and economic benefit to wheat cropping systems, for several reasons. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Ag has opportunities for college grads, USDA reports

There are plenty of opportunities in agriculture for college graduates, according to a new report produced by Purdue University with funding from the Agriculture Department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. During the next five years, U.S. college graduates will find good employment opportunities if they have expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, or the environment. Between 2015 and 2020, we expect to see 57,900 average annual openings for graduates with bachelor’s or higher degrees in those areas. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ FAA approves Yamaha ag drone

Almost a year after Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA applied for permission to operate its RMAX drone for commercial agricultural purposes, it finally received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration in the form of a so-called 333 exemption dated May 1.  According to Yamaha’s petition, the RMAX is capable of providing “a wide-array of essential agricultural spraying services, including watering, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.”  The drone can also be equipped with sensors to provide information on the status of crop needs, such as irrigation or fertilizer. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Purdue ready to plant legal hemp

Ronald Turco has conducted critical research in his 30 years at Purdue University but his current project is the first to be vetted by federal drug agents. An agronomist, Turco has spent months clearing hurdles to begin the first legal production of industrial hemp in decades in Indiana. Facing questions from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was just one of many steps in getting the cannabis seeds into the ground. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ EPA regulator set to release key herbicide report

The Environmental Protection Agency has wrapped up its review of the world's most widely used herbicide and plans to release a much-anticipated preliminary risk assessment no later than July. The EPA review of the health and environmental impacts of glyphosate comes at a time of intense debate over the safety of the chemical, and after the World Health Organization's cancer research unit declared in March that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans." Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Forests could be the trump card in efforts to end global hunger

About one in nine people globally still suffer from hunger with the majority of the hungry living in Africa and Asia. The world's forests have great potential to improve their nutrition and ensure their livelihoods. In fact, forests and forestry are essential to achieve food security as the limits of boosting agricultural production are becoming increasingly clear. That's according to the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date on the relationship among forests, food and nutrition launched in New York at a side event of the United Nations Forum on Forests. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Climate change's future impact uncertain on Midwest water cycle

A potential consequence of climate change is significant modification of the water cycle in farming areas, such as the Midwest. Multiple studies have investigated the response of surface air temperature and precipitation to climate change across the Midwest and United States, but few studies have examined the response of soil moisture and still fewer have assessed soil moisture using a combination of model simulations and regional observations. Soil moisture is a key indicator of the water cycle, reflecting dynamics of precipitation, evaporation, plant transpiration and runoff. Read the full article.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Soils acidified during Australia’s historic drought will be slow to recover

In the years 2007 to 2010, at the end of Australia’s Millennium drought, previously submerged lake beds in the large, Ramsar-listed wetlands of Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert in South Australia became exposed. Overall, more than 20,000 ha of fertile, irrigated farmland and ecologically diverse wetlands in the lower Murray-Darling Basin quickly turned into dried-out wastelands of cracked soil and mud. Following the drought’s break in 2010, floodwaters inundated the oxidized and severely acidified acid sulfate soils, returning subaqueous soil conditions to the whole area. However, the apparent pristine water surface hides a problem that hasn’t gone away. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ In Brazil, cattle industry begins to help fight deforestation

Cattle ranching has been the primary driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, as huge swaths of rainforest are cleared to make way for agriculture. But “zero-deforestation agreements” signed by some of Brazil’s big beef industry players appear to be helping reduce the destruction, a new study concludes. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Nobel laureates call on European Commission to keep animal research regulations

16 Nobel laureates have released an open letter calling on the European Commission to oppose the Stop Vivisection European Citizen's Initiative (ECI). This ECI is asking the European Commission to repeal a 2010 directive that regulates animal research and replace it with legislation that would phase out animal experimentation. The European Commission has until June 3 to decide how it will respond to the ECI, and must explain its reasoning in a public communication. Read the full article.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Renewable Resources Extension Act-National Focus Fund Projects

The purpose of the grant program is to provide funds for pilot projects that: (1) Address emerging forest and rangeland resource issues, (2) Have national or regional relevancy, or (3) Develop new and innovative projects that can be replicated at other institutions. Deadline, June 1. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Smith-Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants Program

Within the states and territories, the Cooperative Extension System has repeatedly served as the trusted community organization that has helped to enable families, communities, and businesses to successfully prepare for, respond to and cope with disaster losses and critical incidents. Once a disaster has occurred, the local extension outreach includes: 1) Communicating practical science-based risk information, 2) Developing relevant educational experiences and programs, 3) Working with individuals and communities to open new communication channels, and 4) Mitigating losses and facilitating recovery. NIFA intends to fund Special Needs projects to implement applied scientific programs that serve public needs in preparation for, during and after local or regional emergency situations. Deadline, June 8. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Value Added Producer Grant

The VAPG program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the goals of this program. You may receive priority if you are a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or rancher cooperative, or are proposing a mid-tier value chain. Grants are awarded through a national competition. Deadline, July 2. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Life Cycle Costs of Water Infrastructure Alternatives

One of the high-priority research areas identified by the EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) is stormwater runoff. Under the 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act (CWA), the EPA established a program to address storm water discharges including the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program which regulates point sources such as pipes and sewers that discharge directly into surface waters. Under the CWA, communities need to address stormwater management requirements as they consider their aging water infrastructure systems, rate payer expectations, and other considerations important to the community. Green infrastructure is an emerging technology with much potential to help many communities. Research is needed to assist communities throughout the United States in evaluating whether to invest in green infrastructure that can improve stormwater management in multiple ways, including reducing the volume of stormwater entering the sewer system to decrease the costs of grey infrastructure updates, and by managing stormwater runoff as a resource, not a waste, to enhance scarce water supplies. Deadline, July 2. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Regional Conservation Partnership Program

NRCS is the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) conservation agency working with farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners nationwide to identify and address natural resource objectives in balance with operational goals in order to benefit soil, water, wildlife, and related natural resources locally, regionally, and nationally. NRCS works in partnership with other entities to accelerate getting conservation on the ground. Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), NRCS seeks to co-invest with partners in innovative, workable and cost-effective approaches to benefit farming, ranching, and forest operations, local economies, and the communities and resources in a watershed or other geographic area. RCPP partners develop project applications, as described in this notice, to address specific natural resource objectives in a proposed area or region. Pre-proposal deadline, July 8. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Wetland Program Development Grants

Wetland Program Development Grants (WPDGs) provide eligible applicants an opportunity to conduct and promote the coordination and acceleration of research, investigations, experiments, training, demonstrations, surveys, and studies relating to the causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction, and elimination of water pollution. WPDGs assist state, tribal, local government agencies and interstate/intertribal entities in building state/tribal/local programs which protect, manage, and restore wetlands. The primary focus of these grants is to build state and tribal wetland programs. A secondary focus is to build local (e.g. county or municipal) programs. All proposals submitted under this RFP must be for projects that build or refine state/tribal/local government wetland programs. Deadline, July 17. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Conservation Innovative Grants

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is announcing availability of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Proposals will be accepted from the following several states. See the links for full announcement details and deadlines.

South Carolina

Pennsylvania

Caribbean Area


(TOP) ~ Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships

The Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) awards Postdoctoral Fellowships to recent recipients of doctoral degrees to carry out an integrated program of independent research and education. The research and education plans of each fellowship must address scientific questions within the scope of EAR disciplines. The program supports researchers for a period of up to two years with fellowships that can be taken to the institution of their choice (including facilities abroad). The program is intended to recognize beginning investigators of significant potential, and provide them with research experience, mentorship, and training that will establish them in leadership positions in the Earth Sciences community. Because the fellowships are offered only to postdoctoral scientists early in their career, doctoral advisors are encouraged to discuss the availability of EAR postdoctoral fellowships with their graduate students early in their doctoral programs. Fellowships are awards to individuals, not institutions, and are administered by the Fellows. Deadline, January 12, 2016. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; NRCS; EPA; AAAS; ScienceInsider; The Hill; The White House Blog; The Associated Press; Forbes; Goshen News; Agri-Pulse; Reuters; Science News; EurekaAlert;

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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