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Plant Biology Policy Blog (PB2)
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This blog from ASPB's public affairs unit will provide updates on policy developments in Washington and other plant biology news impacting the ASPB community. Please send any news, comments, or suggestions to ASPB's public affairs director, Adam Fagen, at Policy Archives available under Group Pages.


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Top tags: Congress  appropriations  House  USDA  NSF  Senate  NIH  DOE  President Obama  Farm Bill  OSTP  biofuels  award  education  event  fellowship  international  White House  workforce  COMPETES Act  energy  GMO  grants  NSB  Alert  funding  HHMI  National Academies  New York Times  nomination 

ALERT: USDA appropriations amendments could be catastrophic to USDA research

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will be considering H.R. 2112, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012.  This is the bill that provides funding for USDA and other agencies for fiscal year 2012.

Several amendments have been proposed that would have a catastrophic impact on funding for USDA research.

In particular, an amendment (H.AMDT.428) from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) would cut $1.8 billion from USDA including a cut of $650 million from the Agricultural Research Service (a 65% cut!), $85 million from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, $43 from the Economic Research Service, and $1.04 billion from the Food for Peace Grants.

We urge you to contact your Congressional representatives IMMEDIATELY and urge them to oppose Rep. Chaffetz's amendment and any amendments that would be harmful to research.

There are several other amendments proposed that would impact funding for USDA research.  We will update this blog post with more details.

You can find contact information for your representative by entering your zip code at the top of the website for the House of Representatives.


Thank you for your calls!  Rep. Chaffetz's amendment failed on a vote of 83-338.  No other amendments passed that have any significant effect on the USDA research portfolio.

Tags:  alert  appropriations  House  USDA 

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NIGMS names Judith Greenberg as acting director

Posted By Adam Fagen, Tuesday, June 14, 2011
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has named Judith H. Greenberg as acting director upon the departure of Jeremy Berg at the end of June.

NIGMS has a $2 billion budget that primarily funds basic research in cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. The institute supports more than 4,500 research grants, which make up about 10 percent of all grants funded by NIH. NIGMS also funds a substantial amount of research training, including programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce. NIGMS supports a substantial fraction of the plant biology research funded by NIH.

A developmental biologist by training, Greenberg has directed the NIGMS Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology since 1988. In Fiscal Year 2010, the division’s budget was $566 million.

Since 1984, Greenberg has been the project officer for the Human Genetic Cell Repository, which provides cell lines and DNA samples to scientists studying genetic diseases.

She served as NIGMS acting director from May 2002 to November 2003. Greenberg’s other leadership roles at NIGMS include overseeing the development of the institute’s strategic plan issued in 2008 and its strategic plan for research training issued earlier this year. She now chairs the implementation committee for the training strategic plan.

Prior to joining NIGMS as a program administrator in 1981, Greenberg conducted research in the intramural program of what is now NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Her focus was on cell migration and differentiation in early embryonic development.

Greenberg earned a B.S. degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh, an M.A. degree in biology from Boston University, and a Ph.D. degree in developmental biology from Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

Additional information

Tags:  NIH 

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Cora Marrett finally confirmed as NSF deputy director

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, June 03, 2011
After a very long wait, Cora Marrett was finally confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 26 to serve as Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). She is the 12th deputy of the foundation. Marrett was nominated for the NSF deputy director position by President Obama on August 5, 2010, and then re-nominated in the new Congress on January 5, 201, because the previous Congress did not hold a vote on Marrett's nomination..

In a statement, NSF Director Subra Sureash was quoted as saying, "Dr. Marrett is a familiar leader at the agency, and her continued commitment to NSF's mission makes her well suited for this role.  The agency will truly benefit from her years of experience at both the federal and university levels."

Marrett has served as the senior advisor for Foundation Affairs since February 2011. She served as NSF acting director when Arden L. Bement resigned in June 2010, and before Suresh was confirmed as NSF director in October.

Previously, Marrett served as the assistant director for NSF's education and human resources (EHR) directorate from 2007-2009. While there, she led the directorate to support NSF's mission to achieve excellence in U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at all levels and in both formal and informal settings.

From 1992-1996, Marrett served as NSF's assistant director for social, behavioral and economic sciences (SBE).  For her leadership in developing new research programs and articulating the scientific projects of this new directorate, Marrett received NSF's Distinguished Service Award. 
Prior to returning to NSF in 2007, Marrett served as the University of Wisconsin's senior vice president for academic affairs for six years. Before that, she served as senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for four years.

Marrett holds a bachelor of arts degree from Virginia Union University, and master of arts and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, all in sociology. She received an honorary doctorate from Virginia Union University in May 2011.  She received an honorary doctorate from Wake Forest University in 1996, and was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1996.

ASPB President Nicholas Carpita (left) discusses the potential of plant biology to contribute to
the development of biofuels at the Coalition for National Science 
Funding Capitol Hill Exhibition
with Stephen Howell (Director, Division of Molecular 
and Cellular Biosciences), Cora Marrett
(Deputy Director, National Science 
Foundation), and Jane Silverthorne (Deputy Director,
Division of Integrative 
Organismal Systems).

Tags:  nomination  NSF 

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National Academies offers free PDFs

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, June 02, 2011
The U.S. National Academies, which includes the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council, has announced that it will be making PDF copies of all its reports available for free download.

Since 1994, all Academies reports have been available to read for free online on a page-by-page basis.  Many of its titles have also been available for free download worldwide, and all titles free for readers in the developing world.

As of today, however, all reports for which there are PDF versions will be available for free download from the National Academies Press website (

The National Academies publishes more than 200 books per year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and health, often offering advice to the government and the scientific community on issues of contemporary concern.

ASPB members may be especially interested in reports from the Board on Life Sciences and the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Tags:  National Academies 

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AAAS Riley Memorial Lecture to be given by ASPB member Pam Ronald

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture will focus on the role of food and agriculture in providing for a secure food supply and a sustainable economy.

The lecture will be held on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 21, 2011, at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ASPB member Pamela C. Ronald, professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Davis, will deliver the keynote address as the 2011 Riley Memorial Lecturer.  Ronald conducts research on the role genes play in plants' response to the environment, and her laboratory has genetically engineered rice for resistance to diseases and flooding. She is co-author of the book Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food, which examines the contributions of genetically engineered crops and organic farming to sustainable agriculture, and maintains the Tomorrow's Table blog. The book was praised in Science for its "clear, rational approach that presents a balance that is sorely needed in our increasing polarized world."

Following Ronald's lecture, there will be a moderated discussion moderated by ASPB member Nina V. Federoff, the current president of AAAS, Evan Pugh Professor in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State University and a distinguished visiting professor at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Saudi Arabia.  Discussants will include the following:
  • Michael T. Clegg, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine; and Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Sciences
  • John D. Hardin, Jr., Owner, Hardin Farms
  • Mark Rosegrant, Director, Environment and Production Technology Division, International Food Policy Research Institute
  • L. Val Giddings, Senior Fellow, Innovation, Research and Development, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
The event is co-sponsored by the Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation in collaboration with the World Food Prize Foundation.

Additional information about the event, including a form for registration is available at

Tags:  AAAS  event  GMO 

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U.S. immigration adds plant science to fields that qualify for Optional Practical Training extensions

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, May 18, 2011
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on May 12 that it has expanded the list of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degree programs that qualify eligible graduates on student visas for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension.  The additions are an effort by the Obama administration to fix problems in the U.S. immigration system to expand access to the nation's pool of talented high skilled graduates in the science and technology fields.

By expanding the list of STEM degrees to include such fields as Plant Science, Horticultural Science, Neuroscience, Medical Informatics, Pharmaceutics and Drug Design, Mathematics and Computer Science, the Obama administration is hoping to address shortages in certain high tech sectors of talented scientists and technology experts-permitting highly skilled foreign graduates who wish to work in their field of study upon graduation and extend their post-graduate training in the United States.

Under the OPT program, foreign students who graduate from U.S. colleges and universities are able to remain in the U.S. and receive training through work experience for up to 12 months. Students who graduate with one of the newly-expanded STEM degrees can remain for an additional 17 months on an OPT STEM extension.

Additional information:

Tags:  DHS  immigration 

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Group of Democratic Senators calls for full AFRI funding

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, May 12, 2011
A group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chair Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Ranking Member Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in support of USDA research funding.  The senators asked that the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) be funded at $324.6 million, the level requested by President Obama for fiscal year (FY) 2012 and a $60 million increase over FY2011 levels. 

"We appreciate the constraints you face in allocating scarce dollars for discretionary programs at USDA," the senators wrote. "However, investing in research is investing in America's future. If America is going to be competitive in the global economy in the coming decades, we have to address long-term challenges by making strong investments in agricultural research today. We urge you to make AFRI a priority as you make your Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations decisions."

The senators especially singled out biomass feedstocks as a critical contribution of USDA research:

We are especially encouraged that AFRI has made biomass feedstock development a high priority for its upcoming grant awards.  Meeting our national Renewable Fuels Standard goal of producing 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 will require a substantial investment in the production of high-quality, cost-effective feedstocks for advanced biofuel production.  Developing these feedstocks, and the most sustainable methods of growing them, presents exciting economic development opportunities in America's rural communities, but only if we act today to make the necessary research investments.

Joining Sen. Franken on the letter were Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Additional Information:

Tags:  appropriations  Senate  USDA 

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DOE releases strategic plan

Posted By Adam Fagen, Monday, May 09, 2011
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued its 2011 Strategic Plan, which outlines the broad, cross-cutting and collaborative goals that stretch across our complex. It is to serve as a blueprint for DOE to help address the nation’s energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.

The plan outlines that DOE's mission is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.  The report identifies four overarching goals:
  1. Catalyze the timely, material, and efficient transformation of the nation’s energy system and secure U.S. leadership in clean energy technologies.
  2. Maintain a vibrant U.S. effort in science and engineering as a cornerstone of our economic prosperity with clear leadership in strategic areas.
  3. Enhance nuclear security through defense, nonproliferation, and environmental efforts.
  4. Establish an operational and adaptable framework that combines the best wisdom of all Department stakeholders to maximize mission success.

Among the specific targeted outcomes is "Develop cellulosic ethanol technologies by 2012 that can facilitate mature production costs less than $2.00/gallon."

In the area of bioenergy, DOE will continue to develop biotechnology solutions for energy, the environment, and carbon sequestration, with particular emphasis on Basic science research translates into cost-effective technologies for next-generation production of biofuels.

The Department will support research in the discovery, design, and synthesis of biomimetic and bioinspired functional approaches and energy-conversion processes based on principles and biological concepts. The emphasis is the creation of robust, scalable, energy-relevant processes and systems that work with the extraordinary effectiveness of processes from the biological world.  Areas of particular focus include the following:
  • Understand, control, and build complex hierarchical structures by imitating nature’s self- and directed-assembly approaches.
  • Design and synthesize environmentally adaptive, self-healing multicomponent systems that demonstrate energy conversion and storage capabilities found in nature.
  • Create functional systems with collective properties not achievable by simply summing the individual components.
  • Create biomimetic and/or bioinspired routes for the synthesis of energy-relevant materials.
  • Develop science-driven tools and techniques for the characterization of biomolecular and soft materials.

Genomics-based systems biology research, agronomic strategies, and fundamental understanding of biological and chemical deconstruction of biomass are particularly important elements of these activities. Research supported in this area will have impacts beyond bioenergy, underpinning technologies such as batteries and fuel cells, catalysis, hydrogen generation and storage, and membranes for advanced separation.

The targeted outcome is to apply systems biology approaches by 2015 to create viable biofuels processes and greatly increase

Additional Information:

(Thanks to Toby Smith, Energy Sciences Coalition)

Tags:  DOE 

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On-line consultation on Feed the Future

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, May 06, 2011
From May 9-27, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) will be coordinating a major on-line consultation, focusing on the research strategy of the U.S. Government’s new Feed the Future (FTF) Initiative. It will be a chance for researchers and other stakeholders to consider and provide input to the US government on FTF’s research priorities, and to discuss how best to support and engage with this important new program. 

APLU is inviting interested individuals to participate in this consultation. You can register at

Feed the Future is an ambitious new initiative to reduce global hunger and alleviate poverty, using a country-driven approach. It seeks to be a "whole of government" effort, marshaling the significant resources of the United States government in the pursuit of progress on some of the most vexing of all human challenges. A framework research strategy guiding global agricultural research investments under the initiative was released on May 3. The strategy was undertaken to help focus research under the initiative in ways that most effectively advance the goals of reducing poverty and hunger. Research investments in the broad areas of productivity gains, production systems, and nutrition and food safety are emphasized. 

If FTF research investments are to achieve real success, they must draw on the creativity, insights, and energies of the various communities of researchers working on agricultural development and hunger alleviation. To that end, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering with APLU and the Board on International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) to convene a consultative process for engaging the U.S. and international research communities to respond to the strategy and to identify research opportunities that support FTF’s research goals. There will be an open Forum June 21-23 in Washington, DC to discuss and refine the e-consultation outcomes.

Participants in the e-consultation will work to define a set of ten to twenty research challenges under the FTF research strategy. From there, participants will develop sets of actionable research questions and projects that collectively support each challenge and, overall, FTF’s goal In addition, the consultative process will identify opportunities for coordination of efforts through innovative partnerships across institutional and disciplinary boundaries and for enhancement of the impacts of research through human and institutional capacity development.

We seek participation and input from a wide cross-section of researchers concerned with agriculture, hunger alleviation, and human development, and all others interested in commenting on and engaging with FTF’s research strategy. Please also share this invitation with colleagues and networks that you think would like to be involved.

Additional Information:

Tags:  APLU  Feed the Future  USAID  USDA 

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Roger Beachy to step down as NIFA director

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, April 29, 2011
A memo to staff at USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) issued today by USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics Catherine Woteki announced that founding NIFA director Roger Beachy (at right) would be stepping down effective May 20, 2011.

The memo said that "We understand that Dr. Beachy’s first priority must be to the needs of his family, and he will be returning to St. Louis, Missouri, to spend more time with his wife, his children and his grandchildren."

Dr. Beachy is a long-term member of ASPB.  He was the founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.  Earlier in his career, he headed the Division of Plant Biology at The Scripps Research Institute and was on the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis.  His work led to the development of the world's first genetically modified food crop, a variety of tomato that was modified for resistance to virus disease.  His technique to produce virus resistance in tomatoes has been replicated by researchers around the world to produce many types of plants with resistance to a number of different virus diseases.

Dr. Beachy is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and in 2001 received the Wolf Prize in Agriculture.  He is a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, the National Academy of Science, India, and the Academy of Science of St. Louis.  He was honored with ASPB's Dennis R. Hoagland Award in 2000.

USDA is initiating an "aggressive search" to identify and recruit a distinguished scientist to serve as the next NIFA director.  Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young (at right), director of the Office of the Chief Scientist, has been named as acting director of NIFA.

Additional information:

Tags:  USDA 

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NIH makes cuts in research grants, increases stipends

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a notice on implementing the final fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget, which cuts about 1% from NIH's budget.

Non-competing (i.e., continuing) research grants from NIH institutes and centers other than the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are reduced 1% below the FY 2010 award level.  NCI research grants will be reduced by 3%.  The cuts do not affect Career Awards, SBIR/STTRs, and Ruth L. Kirschstein-National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Fellowships & Institutional Training Grants.

It is estimated that NIH will support approximately 9,050 new and competing Research Project Grants (RPGs).

The news is not all down, however.  NRSA awards for undergraduate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral trainees will see a 2% increase in stipends.  Specifically, predoctoral stipends will increase to $21,180 and beginning postdoc stipends will increase to $37,740.

Additional information:

Tags:  funding  NIH 

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NIH names working group on the future biomedical workforce

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established a working group that will examine the future of the biomedical research workforce in the United States.  The working group will make recommendations to the Advisory Committee to the Director to ensure a diverse and sustainable biomedical and behavioral research workforce.

Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman was previously announced as a chair of the working group; the other members were announced today:
  • Shirley Tilghman (co-chair), President, Princeton University
  • Sally Rockey (co-chair), Deputy Director for Extramural Research, NIH
  • Sandra Degen, Vice President for Research, University of Cincinnati
  • Laura Forese, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Medical Officer, and Senior Vice President, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center
  • Freeman Hrabowski, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • James Jackson, Professor of Psychology and Director, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
  • Leemor Joshua-Tor, Professor and Dean, Watson School of Biological Sciences, and HHMI Investigator, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Richard Lifton, HHMI Investigator, Yale School of Medicine
  • Garry Neil, Corporate Vice President, Corporate Office of Science & Technology, Johnson & Johnson
  • Naomi Rosenberg, Dean, Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University School of Medicine
  • Bruce A. Weinberg, Professor, John Glenn School of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University
  • Keith Yamamoto, Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine, Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, and Vice Chancellor of Research, University of California, San Francisco

Previous posts:

Tags:  NIH  workforce 

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FY 2011 budget cuts largely spare science

Posted By Adam Fagen, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Details about the budget deal worked out in the last hours before a planned federal government shutdown last Friday are beginning to emerge.

And although the deal for the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget cuts $38.5 billion from the FY 2010 spending levels that the government had been operating under, most of the science agencies are spared big cuts.  First, all non-defense discretionary spending would be reduced by 0.2% across the board.  Here's the rundown from the agencies of most interest to ASPB members:

Department of Agriculture

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture would receive XXX, a reduction of $126 million below FY 2010 levels, with the cuts mostly in earmarked programs.  The competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative would receive $265 million, which is actually a slightly increase (~1%) over FY 2010 levels.

The Agricultural Research Service would receive $1.135 billion, a reduction of $44 million from FY 2010 levels.

Department of Energy

The Department of Energy's Office of Science would receive $4.884 billion in the final FY 2011 appropriations bill, a reduction of $25 million below the FY 2010 enacted level.

This is $866 million above the level proposed earlier by the House.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would receive $180 million.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH would receive $30.7 billion in the final FY 2011 appropriations bill.  This represents a cut of $260 million (0.8%) from FY 2010 levels.  $210 million would be cut from research funding and $50 million from buildings and facilities at NIH's Bethesda, MD, campus.

This is much less than the $1.6 billion cut originally passed by the House.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF would receive $6.874 billion, which is $53 million (0.8%) below the FY 2010 level.  The Research & Related Activities account would be funded at $5.575 billion, which is $43 million (0.8%) below FY 2010, and the Education & Human Resources account would be funded at $862.8 million, which is $10 million (1.2%) below FY 2010 levels.

Additional information:

Tags:  appropriations  Congress 

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Shutdown looms

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, April 08, 2011
It's Friday afternoon and there's no agreement yet on a Continuing Resolution or final fiscal year 2011 budget.  That means that all non-essential federal government services and offices are scheduled to shut down at midnight tonight.

Several federal agencies have issued guidance on operations during a funding hiatus:
The National Institutes of Health has not issued any formal guidance but ScienceInsider covered the 'secret plans.'

For other agencies, please see the links from the Office of Management and Budget.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress 

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First Farm Bill field hearing will be at Michigan State on April 9

Posted By Adam Fagen, Tuesday, April 05, 2011
The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will hold its first field hearing on the next Farm Bill on April 9, 2011, on the campus of Michigan State University (MSU) in Lansing.  The hearing, "Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill," will focus on the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill, examining agriculture as well as energy, conservation, rural development, research, forestry and nutrition policies that affect Michigan.  The Farm Bill provides oversight for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Committee Chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will convene the hearing at MSU's Kellogg Center at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 9.  Ranking Member Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is also expected to participate.

The general public may attend and watch the hearing (RSVP information below) and can also submit written testimony which will be included in the official record of the hearing. Three copies of your testimony can be submitted at the hearing or can be sent to the Committee no later than April 16, 2011. You may also submit questions for possible consideration by the panel members during a limited question and answer period before April 7, 2011. Send your testimony or questions to or to US Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry, 328A Russell Senate Office Bldg, Washington, D.C. 20510.

For up-to-date information on the hearing and Farm Bill process, you can visit the Senate Agriculture Committee website at

To RSVP for the hearing, contact the Agriculture Committee Office at 202-224-2035 or email

If you go, please let us know what you think!

Additional information:

Tags:  Congress  Farm Bill  Michigan State  Senate 

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ASPB member Beth Hood testifies before House Appropriations subcommittee

Posted By Adam Fagen, Monday, March 14, 2011
ASPB Public Affairs Committee member Elizabeth Hood testified on behalf of ASPB before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies at a March 11 Outside Witness hearing.

Hood spoke in support of funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the $7.767 billion requested for fiscal year 2012.  While recognizing the difficult fiscal environment faced by the nation, Hood’s testimony emphasized that investments in scientific research will be a critical step toward economic recovery.

Hood mentioned that "the NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences is a critical source of funding for scientific research, providing 68 percent of the federal support for non-medical basic life sciences research at U.S. academic institutions.”  "Despite the fact that basic plant biology research—the kind of research funded by the NSF—underpins so many vital practical considerations, the amount invested in understanding the basic function and mechanisms of plants is relatively small when compared with the impact plants have on our economy and in addressing some of the nation’s most urgent challenges such as food and energy security.”

Among the high impact programs supported by NSF is the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP), which has laid a strong scientific research foundation for understanding plant genomics as it relates to energy (biofuels), health (nutrition and functional foods), agriculture (impact of changing climates on agronomic ecosystems), and the environment (plants’ roles as primary producers in ecosystems).  Hood asked that PGRP be restored as a separate line within the NSF budget, as in years past, and be funded at the highest possible level.

Hood also spoke in support of NSF’s career and workforce development programs—including graduate traineeships, fellowships, and career transition awards—as well NSF’s diversity programs and the research the agency supports on teaching and learning.

Hood is distinguished professor of agriculture at Arkansas State University.  ASPB’s complete written testimony may be found at

Additional information:

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  House 

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Continuing Resolution extends government operations for two more weeks

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, March 03, 2011
Yesterday, the Congress passed and the President signed a two-week extension to the Continuing Resolution (CR) funding government operations for fiscal year (FY) 2011.  This means that the federal government will not be forced to shutdown this weekend, when the previous CR was due to expire.

The vote on H.J.Res. 44 was 91 to 9 in the Senate, following a House vote of 335 to 91 on Tuesday.  President Obama signed the bill on March 2.

In addition to extending funding authority through March 18th, the bill reduces spending by $4 billion through a combination of reductions associated with funding made available in FY2010 that would have gone to earmarked projects and programs, including some in the science agencies ($2.7 billion) , and through program terminations proposed by the President in his FY2012 budget request ($1.24 billion).  None of the cuts affect programs relevant to plant biology.

It is now the intent of Senate Democrats to push for negotiations between the White House, Senate, and House Republicans on a bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY2011 rather than offer an alternative to the House-passed full-year CR, which would reduce overall federal discretionary spending by $61 billion below the FY 2010 enacted level.

The President has announced a high-level team to enter these negotiations, which includes Vice President Joseph Biden, White House Chief of Staff William Daley, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jack Lew.  Such negotiations could take well beyond the current CR, which would necessitate an additional extension (or extensions) of funding authority for federal agencies and programs.

Because the new CR only lasts through March 18, we may be in the same place in just a couple of weeks.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  President Obama 

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March 2 Washington Report now available

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, March 03, 2011
The March 2, 2011, issue of the ASPB Washington Report has now been published.

Check it out for a variety of news information from the nation's capital.  Here's the Table of Contents for the current issue:

ASPB In Washington
  • ASPB Addresses the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
  • ASPB Signs on to Letters Supporting Funding for Research
  • ASPB Issues Statements about State of the Union and FY2012 Budget Request 
  • ASPB Participates in Meetings with Congressional Staff

Capitol Hill
  • Congressionally-Directed Spending: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Announces a No Earmark Policy for FY2011 and FY2012
  • State of the Union: President Obama Highlights Research and Innovation
  • Congressional Hearing: House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Tackles Federal Research Budget in First Hearing

Federal Agency Update
  • President’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Released
  • President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Focuses on USDA and NSF
  • White House: Administration Launches Effort to Reduce Burden of Federal Regulatory Process

Funding Opportunities
  • USDA: NIFA releases FY 2011 AFRI Foundational Solicitation
  • NSF-JST: Metabolomics for a Low Carbon Society
  • NSF: Advancing Theory in Biology
  • NSF: Research Coordination Networks
  • NSF: Fostering Interdisciplinary Research on Education
  • Human Frontier Science Program: International Collaborative Grants
  • International Research: NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter Detailing Next PIRE Competition’s Focus on SEES
  • International Science: USAID/NSF Preparing Joint Funding Opportunity to Catalyze International Scientific Collaboration

Click here to download the complete issue.

Tags:  Washington Report 

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Amendment to House CR proposes to eliminate funds for DOE biological and environmental research

Posted By Adam Fagen, Wednesday, February 16, 2011
One of the 500+ House amendments offered on the Continuing Resolution (CR) that would cut $100B from the federal budget would eliminate funding for biological and environmental research (BER) within the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), reads as follows:

Amendment No. 304: At the end of the bill (before the short title) insert the following new section:

Sec. 4002. None of the funds provided by this Act under the heading ``Department of Energy, Science'' shall be available for biological and environmental research authorized under subtitle G of title IX of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 16311 et seq.).

Rep. McClintock has offered a second amendment (no. 305) that removes the funding that would otherwise be appropriated to BER under the CR.  Rep. McClintock represents the 4th district of California, which includes the northeast corner of the state, including most of the state north and east of Sacramento.

We believe that Rep. McClintock has offered his amendment in order to eliminate climate change research.  But BER also supports a significant amount of research unrelated to climate change, including fundamental and applied research in support of DOE's energy, environment, and basic research missions, such as the development of biofuels.

Among the programs that could be shuttered if these cuts are enacted would be the three Bioenergy Research Centers: BioEnergy Science Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, and Joint BioEnergy Institute at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  It could also mothball a number of BER user facilities including the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, Atmospheric Radiation Measurement, and the Joint Genome Institute.

ASPB urges you to add threats to DOE's biological and environmental research portfolio to your talking points when you contact your Congressional representative.

Additional information:

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  DOE  House 

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House Continuing Resolution for FY2011 contains $100 billion in cuts

Posted By Adam Fagen, Monday, February 14, 2011
On Friday evening, the House Appropriations Committee released its bill to fund the government through the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2011.  The bill would cut $100 billion from President Obama's proposed budget for FY2011, including catastrophic cuts for the science agencies that support research in plant biology.

See ASPB's Urgent Action Alert for more information about the proposed cuts.

ASPB members and others are encouraged to reach out to their Representatives and Senators to ask them to support research funding and oppose cuts to the budgets for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the DOE Office of Science, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  House members will be voting on these proposed cuts this week, and the final budget bill will have to be passed by the Senate as well.  You can find your Representative’s contact information on the House of Representatives website and your Senators’ contact information on the Senate website.

When calling the offices, ask to speak with the science or appropriations staffer or to leave a message.  Simply ask them to support funding for science agencies, explaining that basic research and science education are vital to maintaining America’s competitiveness and give examples of how cuts would impact your research activities.  Remind them of the critical role that science has in fostering innovation, which leads to jobs and a healthy economy—these cuts will not only have dire short-term consequences but will hurt our long-term success for years to come.  You could also point out that federal support for research leads to jobs in local communities, including the talented graduate students, postdocs, and other personnel in your own labs and institutions working to address vital priorities in areas like food and energy security.

The House is expected to debate the continuing resolution this week, so please call as soon as possible.

Tags:  appropriations  Congress  House 

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