Friday, October 24, 2008

Integrated Nitrogen Committee Workshop

Last week, the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Integrated Nitrogen Committee (INC) held a workshop to review the committee white paper, “Selected Recommendations and Findings from the Integrated Nitrogen Committee”, on integrated nitrogen management. Laura Murphy, the Science Policy Intern, attended the preliminary and breakout group reporting sessions of the workshop.

The breakout group focus areas for this workshop included:
1: NOx Emissions from Combustion
2: Managing Ammonia Emissions
3: Urban and Aquatic Nr Discharge
4: Agricultural Aquatic Discharge
(Co-chaired by ASA-CSSA-SSSA member Dr. Ken Cassman)
5: Impacts of Land Use on Accumulation & Effects of Reactive Nitrogen in the Environment
6: Integrated Reactive Nitrogen Policies
7: Agroecosystems, Food Security, and Bioproducts
8: Energy and the Cascading Costs of Reactive Nitrogen

Overall the groups collectively submitted that more support is needed in several areas in terms of both funding and policy to realize national integrated nitrogen management. The following statements represent the overarching needs:

Long-term research is essential.
In the US, funding for monitoring has not been prioritized; although it is critical for natural resource science, exposing trends and aiding evaluation of new policies or practices. National, integrated monitoring networks will be critical to advancing the understanding and management of N, as well as other pollutants. Data must be accessible to researchers to answer scientific problems, and the scientific analysis must be timely and available for decision-makers to use in setting policies and priorities.

It is necessary to educate both policy-makers and the public about N in the environment.
Education should include timely scientific information about health concerns and discuss the true costs of nutrient management practices (i.e. full life-cycle assessments, benefit of ecosystem services).

Managers need regionally adaptable decision-making frameworks.
These decision-making frameworks must be informed by science from field to farm to regional and national scales. No one rule will apply to all landscapes, and a regional perspective is very important to informing on-farm practices. Multi-scale thinking will link field to farm to watershed and airshed scales, and ultimately identify the scale of the “problemshed”.

Management and policy must take a ‘systems-based approach’.
A systems approach takes into account landscapes, ecosystems, all forms of N and other potential pollutants. In contrast, a regulatory approach would establish limits on one aspect of N, potentially resulting in a trade-off with another pollutant or degradation of another area.

Policies must encourage education, training and persuasion.
Even—perhaps especially—in the case of agriculture, where pollutants have historically been less regulated than the industrial or municipal sectors, an educational/training approach is warranted.

Some breakout groups also identified data gaps, which should be prioritized to support the research which will ultimately inform and support the policy on integrated nitrogen management. These data gaps included:
• N use (especially at farm scale)
• Fluxes and loads
• N losses from farms
• Nutrient balances
• Links between N and C, water, climate change, etc.
• N storage in soil
• N transformations, transport, etc. in ‘no-till’ systems, medium term
• Dry deposition of N across landscapes at various scales
• High-resolution short-range models
• National monitoring networks (with consistent funding/support)
• Improved understanding and monitoring of feedback loops – both on the landscape and in the socio-political-production realm

For more information about the INC, visit HERE

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Comment by October 29th: What role can higher education play in agricultural development in Africa?

What role can higher education play in agricultural development in Africa?

The Africa-US Higher Education Initiative is currently hosting a web-based consultation, open to anyone, about what role higher education can play in agricultural development in Africa.

The dialogue began on Oct 20th and will close on Oct. 29th.

In mid-November, there will be a call for proposals for planning grants. Watch for details in the October 29th Science Policy Report.

See the Africa-US Higher Education Initiative website:

Discuss the role of higher education in agricultural development here:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Comments on Farm Bill REAP due Friday, October 24

The Farm Bill Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is currently open for comments. This program has been discussed at recent meetings of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture (NCSA) Committee on Renewable Energy.Scientists working in areas related to bioenergy may wish to add to the draft comments (access them by clicking here) by the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), or submit their own.

If you would like to submit comments on the ELPC draft, please send them to Laura Murphy at and I will compile comments from ASA-CSSA-SSSA scientists and submit them jointly to the ELPC.

If you would like to submit independent comments, I will connect you with John Moore at ELPC, who will gladly help you coordinate their filing with USDA.

The following background is from ELPC: USDA's public comment period for REAP and the other new programs in the Farm Bill Energy Title ended on September 19. However, we know that USDA is still 6-12 weeks away from issuing this year's notice of funds availability (NOFA) for REAP. Since for the first time it includes Energy Audits/Technical Assistance, we think it's especially important to give USDA guidance on how to best implement the program. Our draft comments therefore focus on the energy audit program, together with comments on improving the existing REAP grant and loan guarantee program. The primary reason why we are submitting these comments (which are similar in the main to ELPC's first comments) is that comparatively few entities submitted comments on REAP on September 19. So we think it's especially important for more ag, rural development, energy and other organizations to weigh in now so that USDA gets the rules right - which is much better than trying to undo poorly-designed rules.