Policy News from ESA’s Public Affairs Office

A Bi-Monthly Publication of the Ecological Society of America

  • ESA and AIBS provide federal Budget Analysis
  • Action Item:  Call-in to support federal funding for NSF in supplemental appropriations bill
  • Former CEQ staffer nominated as Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science
  • AGRICULTURE: Farm bill funding scramble could mean disaster for conservation programs
  • AGRICULTURE: Beekeepers push for answers to decimated bee hives

ESA & AIBS provide federal Budget Analysis

The Ecological Society of America and the American Institute of Biological Sciences teamed up to provide an analysis of the fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget request for biological and ecological sciences programs in the federal government.

The analysis, which appears as a chapter in AAAS’ Report on Research & Development in FY 2009, offers insights into recent federal policy initiatives that affect federal funding for the biological sciences. The analysis provides insights into the recent funding patterns and policy directions of six federal agencies that administer intramural and extramural research programs for the biological sciences: the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the US Geological Survey.  For more information about the federal budget visit AAAS webpage http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/fy09.htm

Action Item:  Call-in to support federal funding for NSF in supplemental appropriations bill

A grassroots effort to encourage additional funding for science in the Fiscal Year 2008 (FY08) supplemental appropriations bill that will soon be sent forward by the President and considered by the Congress.

To have the maximum impact, individuals (e.g. members of key scientific societies, business and university leaders, students and others in the scientific and research community) are encouraged to call their U.S. Representatives, U.S. Senators and the White House on: Tuesday, April 8th; Wednesday, April 9th; or Thursday, April 10th.

Specific Request:
Urge the President and your own Congressperson and Senators to support the inclusion of additional funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the FY08 supplemental appropriations bill. The amount added should equal the amount authorized in the America COMPETES Act.

Whom do I contact to make this request?
There are four important contacts you should make:

1. your Representative in the U.S. House;
2 & 3. your two U.S. Senators; and
4. the White House at 202-456-1111.

How do I find out the names and phone numbers of my Representative and Senators?
In order to verify the name of your local Representative and which Senators represent your state, enter your home zip code in the Project Vote Smart Web page (http://www.votesmart.org/).  The Web site will give you their names and telephone numbers for their district/state and Washington, D.C. offices.  Calls can be made to either their Washington or district/state offices.

To whom should I ask to speak?
Discuss your concerns with the person who answers the phone. You may want to ask to speak with the congressional staff person that deals with science and technology or appropriations matters. For the White House, register your concerns with the person who answers the phone.

Former CEQ staffer nominated as Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science

President Bush announced his intention the week of March 24 to nominate Kameran Onley, a former staffer at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), to a senior position at the Interior Department.

Onley, who served as Special Assistant to the CEQ Chairman, would become Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science. She has held that job since July, while also serving as Assistant Deputy Secretary since January 2006.

Onley led the policy group that produced Bush’s Ocean Action Plan, an interagency effort to enhance leadership and coordination on ocean management.

At Interior, Onley has led the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and co-chaired the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. She also served as the lead Interior official in the management of the new Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii.

AGRICULTURE: Farm bill funding scramble could mean disaster for conservation programs

Farmland conservation advocates are fighting to hang on to proposed funding increases for the next farm bill that could be on the chopping block as lawmakers look to fund other priorities.

The farm bill’s conservation title could lose billions of dollars from proposed spending levels, as negotiators juggle programs and shift spending to try to squeeze an array of priorities into a smaller overall spending number for the bill.

House and Senate negotiators have yet to agree on a final framework for how to allot funding in the farm bill. They have agreed to limit spending increases to $10 billion over the farm bill’s 10-year baseline — significantly less spending than in either the House or Senate-passed farm bill proposals from last year.

A funding framework that key lawmakers circulated before the two-week congressional recess would increase conservation program by almost $5 billion over the next decade. But a more recent draft would cut $1 billion from conservation in favor of a bigger disaster title. It would also cut increases in energy programs from $1 billion to $900 million.

The baseline spending increases for conservation would not all go to expanding programs or starting new conservation contracts. Part of the problem for the conservation title is that two programs are expiring under the current bill — the Wetlands Reserve Program and the Grasslands Reserve Program. About $2 billion is needed over the next five years just to continue the popular wetlands conservation program.

Conservation advocates say funding for their programs is all the more important as crop prices reach record highs and farmers put more land in soybean, wheat and corn rotations to try to keep up with growing demand for food and biofuels feedstocks.

Farm bill negotiations are heating up in April as lawmakers return from their break and attempt to meet a looming deadline to complete work on a new bill in the next three weeks. The most recent extension of the current farm bill expires April 18, and President Bush has recommended Congress either finish a new bill by that date or turn to a longer-term one-year extension to give farmers certainty on what they can expect from farm programs for the next year.

AGRICULTURE: Beekeepers push for answers to decimated bee hives

Farmers and beekeepers are pushing for more research into colony collapse disorder (CCD), which in the past few years has decimated commercial bee colonies that are transported around the country to pollinate crops.

The U.S. Agriculture Department has earmarked money for researching CCD because it says one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination.

Researchers with the Agricultural Research Service within USDA are chasing various theories about CCD.  Among the possible causes are parasites, a virus or pesticides or a combination of several factors.

Robert Whannell, who cultivates 25 acres of cranberries south of Astoria, Oregon, said a beekeeper from Washington who usually brings bees to pollinate his crop lost 4,000 hives’ worth of bees this winter out of 13,000 total hives.

Without the extra bees to pollinate his cranberries, Whannell said his production would probably drop 70 percent to 80 percent.

Sources: Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, and Land Letter

Send questions or comments to Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs, Nadine@nullesa.org or Colleen Fahey, Science Policy Analyst, Colleen@nullesa.org

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