Science Policy Report


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10 October 2012

In This Issue:

International Corner

~ WTO sees tentative progress in trade talks after stalemate
~ FAO food price index up 1.4 percent in September
~ G-20 ag scientists agree to share research information

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Higher Education Challenge Grants Program
~ Acumen Fund Global Fellows program
~ Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant
~ Fall 2013 EPA Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowships
~ 2013 National Urban and Community Forestry Grant
~ Global Hunger and Food Security Research Strategy
~ Centers for Water Research: Priorities Related to a Systems View of Nutrient Management
~ FY 2013 NOAA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training (BWET)
~ Small Business Technology Transfer Program Phase I Solicitation FY-2013
~ Fall 2013 EPA STAR Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study

Conferences, Meetings and Reports

~ ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Annual Meeting to showcase sequestration petition and website
~ AAAS Federal R&D Budget Analysis program releases report on sequestration
~ USDA-ERS Economic Brief 19 has been released
~ Nominations to NRC committee to review Agriculture and Food Research Initiative
~ The PhD at Aarhus University
~ Embattled ethanol group launches defense of RFS
~ NSF report- International Investment and R&D Data Link: 2004-07

Congressional/Administration News

~ House approves six month CR, preventing government shutdown
~ OMB directs federal agencies to ignore sequester for now
~ Republicans urging farm bill action face tough re-election battles
~ Mississippi watershed challenges: USDA explores partnerships in budget crunch
~ Bipartisan group of senators writes Reid, McConnell letter on sequestration
~ Farm bill expires: what does it mean and what happens now?

International Corner


(TOP) ~ WTO sees tentative progress in trade talks after stalemate

The World Trade Organization may be beginning to break the diplomatic deadlock that derailed a decade of talks on trade liberalization last year despite growing global trade tensions. WTO's credibility suffered a serious blow last December when its member states recognized that the 10-year old Doha Round of trade talks - meant to culminate in a bold new trade liberalization deal was, if not dead, at an "impasse". The WTO's 157 members, whose ranks grew after Russia joined this year, have repeatedly lowered their sights when it comes to how much liberalization they are willing to consider and have failed to hit deadlines for agreeing new steps to open up trade. But trade negotiators have said there were now tentative signs of progress despite rising global trade tensions which have led to a rash of disputes this year, many of which have involved China, the United States, the European Union, Japan and Argentina. Read full article


(TOP) ~ FAO food price index up 1.4 percent in September

Following two months of stability, the FAO Food Price Index rose slightly in September 2012, up 1.4 percent, or 3 points, from its level in August. The Index, based on the prices of a basket of internationally traded food commodities, climbed to 216 points in September from 213 points in August. The rise reflected strengthening dairy and meat prices and more contained increases for cereals. Prices of sugar and oils, on the other hand, fell. While shrinking maize export availabilities and high maize prices have been leading cereal markets in recent months, tightening wheat supplies have also become a concern. Read full article


(TOP) ~ G-20 ag scientists agree to share research information

The agricultural chief scientists from the majority of G20 countries met in Mexico last week. The scientists reached an agreement to share information, with an overall goal of increasing the pace of agricultural research and production. They recognized that in order to feed a burgeoning world population all nations would need to make a long-term commitment to agricultural research, while also noting the risk of duplication. Catherine Woteki, chief scientist at the USDA, said, “Recent international research collaborations have been critical to meet challenges such as combating wheat rust and increasing wheat productivity, fighting aflatoxin contamination in food, and sequencing genomes of important crops. However, the group recognized that as such partnerships continue to increase, there is a risk that some partnerships may have duplicative goals or that countries and collaborative partnerships may be investing in research that is already further along at another institution which is not a member of their partnership, and both would benefit from increased efficiency and sharing of data, germplasm and results more openly.” Woteki noted that while there has been a “revitalization” of agricultural development research since the food price spikes of 2008, most developed countries’ research budgets have stagnated. China has increased its agricultural research budget, she said. The scientists agreed that they would meet annually.

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Higher Education Challenge Grants Program

NIFA requests applications for the Higher Education Challenge Grants Program (HEC) for fiscal year (FY) 2013 to stimulate and enable colleges and universities to provide the quality of education necessary to produce baccalaureate or higher degree level graduates capable of strengthening the Nation’s food and agricultural scientific and professional workforce. NIFA anticipates that the amount available for support of this program in FY 2013 will be approximately $4.77 million. Deadline 8 Feb 2013. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Acumen Fund Global Fellows program

The Global Fellows Program is a one-year fellowship program designed to train the next generation of social impact leaders. Fellows undergo two months of leadership training in New York and then spend nine months with one of Acumen Fund’s investee companies in India, Pakistan, East or West Africa providing on the ground management assistance and strategic support to help scale the business. The Global Fellows Program is distinct from the East Africa and Pakistan Fellows Programs in that the Global Fellows Program is a full-time rather than part-time program, accepts candidates from any country, and does not require fellows to be driving a social change initiative prior to joining the program. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant

This notice announces the availability of EPA grant funds for projects from eligible entities to facilitate community involvement and conduct research, training and technical assistance necessary to develop area-wide plans and implementation strategies to facilitate brownfields assessment, cleanup, and subsequent reuse. Brownfields area-wide planning grant funding must be directed to specific areas affected by a single large or multiple brownfield sites, such as a neighborhood, downtown district, city block or local commercial corridor. The grant funding will result in an area-wide plan, including implementation strategies, for the brownfields-affected area. The brownfields area-wide plan will inform the assessment, cleanup and reuse of brownfields properties and promote area-wide revitalization. Deadline 30 Nov. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Fall 2013 EPA Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowships

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellowships program, is offering undergraduate fellowships for bachelor level students in environmental fields of study. Eligible students will receive support for their junior and senior years of undergraduate study and for an internship at an EPA facility during the summer of their junior year. The fellowship provides up to $20,700 per academic year of support and $8,600 of support for a three-month summer internship. Deadline 5 Dec. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ 2013 National Urban and Community Forestry Grant

The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council supports urban and community forestry projects that have national or multi-state application and impact through the U.S. Forest Service’s competitive Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Cost-Share Grant Program. The Council is seeking innovative grants proposals for program development, research, and collaboration to address the following two strategic priority issues: demonstrate the connection between the personal benefits of urban forests and quality of life within a community through community engagement; and design an urban forestry recruitment program and retention strategies that support existing urban forestry academic curriculum. Organizations, local governments, tribal agencies, and partnerships are encouraged to submit proposals that will demonstrate the reach, resources, and expertise needed to address the two priority issues in ways that will lead to meaningful, replicable results. Deadline 3 Dec. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Global Hunger and Food Security Research Strategy

Agricultural research investments figure prominently in the Feed the Future initiative, and these investments link agricultural productivity, climate change, nutrition, enabling policies, economic growth, poverty reduction and sustainable natural resources management. This RFA focuses on climate resilience, nutrition, and policy objectives under the Research Strategy, and welcomes applications in the following specific Program Areas: High-Yielding, Climate-Resilient Legumes (two distinct opportunities: soy and other legumes), High-Yielding, Climate-Resilient Cereals, Increased Livestock Productivity through Climate Resilience and Disease Resistance (two distinct opportunities: vaccine development and breeding/genomics approaches), Small-Scale Irrigation Technologies and Agricultural Water Management Practices, Reduced Post-Harvest Losses and Food Waste, and Food Security Policy. Deadline 21 Dec. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Centers for Water Research: Priorities Related to a Systems View of Nutrient Management

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program is seeking applications to establish a Center to conduct water research and demonstration projects that are innovative and sustainable using a systems approach for nutrient management in the Nation’s waters. This RFA is soliciting proposals that take a systems view of nutrient management. These may involve societal and technological considerations and may include, but are not limited to: local resources, prevailing land uses, watershed health, manure management, energy costs, municipal wastewater treatment, in-building water reuse, or nutrient resource recovery. A systems view would also consider valuation of monetized and non-monetized possible co-benefits and consequences (e.g., decreased sediment runoff, improved recreational value) which may be part of a nutrient management program. Deadline 15 Jan 2013. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ FY 2013 NOAA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training (BWET)

B-WET Chesapeake is a competitive grant program that supports existing, high quality environmental education programs, fosters the growth of new, innovative programs, and encourages capacity building and partnership development for environmental education programs throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. Successful projects advance the goals of the NOAA Education Strategic Plan and the Mid Atlantic Elementary and Secondary Environmental Literacy Strategy by providing hands-on environmental education about issues affecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed for students, related professional development for teachers, and/or capacity building for watershed education. These Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) integrate field experiences with classroom activities and instruction in NOAA-related content. Letters of intent are due 30 Oct. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Small Business Technology Transfer Program Phase I Solicitation FY-2013

The Small Business Technology Transfer program stimulates technological innovation in the private sector by strengthening the role of small business concerns in meeting Federal research and development needs, increasing the commercial application of federally supported research results, and fostering and encouraging participation by socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned small businesses. These researchers, by joining forces with a small company, can spin-off their commercially promising ideas while they remain primarily employed at the research institution. The STTR research topic for this solicitation is Accelerating Sustainability using Enabling Technologies (ASET). Deadline 6 Feb 2013. Read full announcement


(TOP) ~ Fall 2013 EPA STAR Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is offering Graduate Fellowships for masters and doctoral level students in environmental fields of study. Master's level students may receive support for a maximum of two years. Doctoral students may be supported for a maximum of three years, usable over a period of five years. The fellowship program provides up to $42,000 per year of support per fellowship. Applications proposing human subjects research will not be considered for funding and will be deemed ineligible. Deadline 15 Nov. Read full announcement

Conferences, Meetings and Reports


(TOP) ~ ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Annual Meeting to showcase sequestration petition and website

With the threat of looming automatic, across-the-board budget cuts (known as sequestration), the ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Science Policy Office is taking the opportunity to not only inform and educate annual meeting participants about the issue, but also give them the chance to help stop these budget cuts to science funding. Meeting attendees will be encouraged to sign a letter to Senate and House leadership urging them to develop a balanced deficit reduction plan. In preparation for this critical action alert, ASA, CSSA and SSSA is launching a new sequestration webpage that includes state specific impacts, links to important sequestration reports, as well as tips on how to get involved and make your voice heard. See Science Policy webpage


(TOP) ~ AAAS Federal R&D Budget Analysis program releases report on sequestration

Unless policymakers in Congress can agree to a deficit reduction program by year's end, the federal government will automatically enact 8.9 percent budget cuts for all discretionary spending beginning January 3, 2013. These cuts, commonly referred to as "sequestration," were built into last summer's negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. As funding for almost all scientific agencies is classified as discretionary, the consequences of these cuts for the science and engineering community would be catastrophic. The potential impact of sequestration is laid out in detail in a new report from AAAS. The report explains how sequestration will affect each science funding agency and what these cuts will mean for current and future research initiatives. Read full report


(TOP) ~ USDA-ERS Economic Brief 19 has been released

The title of the report is “The Complementary Roles of the Public and Private Sectors in U.S. Agricultural Research and Development”. Written by John King, Andrew Toole, and Keith Fuglie of USDA’s Economic Research Service, the report examines the funding and performance of agricultural research and development (R&D) to assess the evolving roles of the public and private sectors in the U.S. agricultural research system. There is a clear long-term trend toward greater private-sector funding and performance of R&D. In 2007, the private sector performed 53 percent of total food and agricultural research in the United States and privately funded R&D has grown faster than publicly funded R&D over the long term. Read full report


(TOP) ~ Nominations to NRC committee to review Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has commissioned the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources to conduct a study to review its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program. An NRC committee will be appointed to perform an assessment of the AFRI program, including the quality and value of research funded by the program and the prospects for its success in meeting established goals and outcomes. This study is now open for committee member nominations. Nominees should have extensive technical expertise and/or experience relevant to the study tasks, an ability to work in diverse, multi-disciplinary groups, and a willingness to participate in the National Academies' study process. See full announcement


(TOP) ~ The PhD at Aarhus University

Applications are invited for admission to GSST, Graduate School of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark. The present call is aimed at students starting 1 February 2013 or later. The call is based on applicants with an academic record corresponding to at least a bachelor’s degree. A substantial number of PhD positions are available in this call. Some of the positions are associated with specific projects. Aarhus University offers an inspiring education and research environment for 40,000 students and 11,000 members of staff, ensuring results of a high international standard. Deadline 1 Nov 2012. Interested applicants should apply here


(TOP) ~ Embattled ethanol group launches defense of RFS

Ethanol groups have announced the start of a campaign aimed at highlighting the positive impacts of biofuels on communities and the economy as part of an effort to defend the renewable fuel standard. The Fuels America coalition will bring together ethanol, national security and agriculture interest groups to tout the RFS as critical to building a domestic biofuels industry. The strategy is to begin by drawing attention to the RFS in states that have been successful in building up the biofuels industry through its help. These are states that demonstrate the breadth and depth of the advanced fuel and renewable fuel industry. The Fuels America coalition has warned that a waiver or any other legislative action amending the standard would put the brakes on the fledgling advanced biofuels industry.


(TOP) ~ NSF report- International Investment and R&D Data Link: 2004-07

This report summarizes newly developed data from a project linking research and development and international investment data sets from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Census Bureau, and Bureau of Economic Analysis. The combined data sets provide information on the R&D activities of U.S. multinational companies (MNCs) and of foreign MNCs with U.S. activities, information that was previously unavailable from the original surveys. The project also produced benefits for participating agencies through improvements in survey frame, sampling, and data quality. See full report

Congressional/Administration News


(TOP) ~ House approves six month CR, preventing government shutdown

The U.S. House has approved H.J.Res.117, the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government until March 27, 2013. The temporary funding measure continues funding at the current rate of operations for federal agencies, programs and services. The bill makes minimal changes to fiscal year 2012 spending levels, except in cases that would cause catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, and to ensure good government and program oversight. See press release


(TOP) ~ OMB directs federal agencies to ignore sequester for now

The White House is ordering federal agencies to plan for spending in the coming fiscal year as if Congress will undo the looming scheduled automatic budget cuts known as the sequester. This message came as part of a document OMB routinely issues each year in late September detailing how federal agencies should operate under stopgap continuing resolutions (CR). The CR, which President Obama signed into law on Sep 28, covers almost all federal operations and does so for six months, a far longer period than most CRs. With the notice to agencies on the fiscal 2013 CR, OMB also repeated the Obama administration’s demand that Congress pass a “balanced package of deficit reduction” so that the automatic, across-the-board cuts built into last year’s debt-limit accord can be replaced with a more deliberate approach to budget cutting. Unless Congress acts to block the sequester, OMB in January will need to trigger the actions needed to make $109 billion in cuts for the fiscal 2013 accounts of most federal programs. Yet, it remains far from clear that Congress will be able to reach a compromise on the sequester after the November election.


(TOP) ~ Republicans urging farm bill action face tough re-election battles

As it became clear that House leadership would punt work on the farm bill until after the election, 11 Republicans added their names to a discharge petition that would have forced a vote on the legislation. Some of the Republicans who signed the discharge petition clearly had political considerations for doing so -- and even a symbolic House vote on the farm bill would have served their electoral interests more than simply letting the current farm bill expire. In several races, challengers have already pointed to the lack of progress on the farm bill as a prime example of the partisan gridlock that has gripped Congress this year, and they have blamed the incumbents for not stepping up enough on the issue. Facing the criticism at home, several of the Republicans signing the discharge petition stepped up their messaging and action over the past few weeks in an attempt to persuade House GOP leaders to allow a floor vote on the bill. Some Republicans have been criticized by their race competition for not working harder to bring the bill to the floor.


(TOP) ~ Mississippi watershed challenges: USDA explores partnerships in budget crunch

Speaking at the America’s Great Watershed Initiative Summit held this week in St. Louis, Missouri, Ann Mills, the deputy undersecretary for natural resources and the environment at USDA, said that with the federal debt continuing to grow, her agency is looking at the most effective ways to address conservation challenges in the Mississippi River watershed. The America’s Great Watershed Initiative is a collaboration that includes state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and others, all working to address demands on the watershed. Mills said that in order to improve watersheds on a larger scale, there is a need to incentivize more farmers to get involved in conservation. Read full article


(TOP) ~ Bipartisan group of senators writes Reid, McConnell letter on sequestration

On Sep 21, a group of six, bipartisan senators sent a letter to Senators Reid and McConnell calling for a “bipartisan, balanced approach” to deficit reduction. The group tells the Senate leaders, they “are committed to working together to help forge a balanced bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid damage to our national security, important domestic priorities, and our economy.” The senators also urge McConnell and Reid to “press between now and November the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation to score any bipartisan proposals forwarded to them so that Congress may evaluate these plans,” suggesting that new revenues could be on the table. See the full letter


(TOP) ~ Farm bill expires: what does it mean and what happens now?

In this blog post, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) notes it has received numerous questions about the meltdown of the new farm bill, particularly with regard to the fact that the current farm bill expired at midnight on Sunday, September 30. To answer those questions, NSAC’s post is in the form of frequently asked questions. Some of the questions are: What happens if we were to revert to the 1949 Farm Bill?; What about conservation programs?; Do these program expirations really matter?; What is the relationship between the farm bill and the Continuing Resolution?; and, What is the best path forward? Read full article

Sources: AAAS; Association of Ecosystem Research Centers; E&E Daily; Congressional Quarterly; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Food Industry Environmental Network, LLC; Greenwire; Meridian Institute; National Science Foundation; National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; Reuters

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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