NEPC2011 Meeting Index

The Sector and Other Reports Session began immediately after lunch at 1:30 PM with Jim Cropper, Executive Director presiding. Rob DeClue gave the Public Sector report that is described under the Public Sector Breakout Session on page 41. Rachel Gilker gave the Private Sector report that is described under the Private Sector Breakout Session and also gave the Private Sector research list of priorities listed under the Private Sector Breakout session.

Dr. Frank Boteler, Assistant Director, Institute of Bioenergy, Climate, and Environment, representing the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) spoke to the participants via speaker phone with a presentation displayed by our visual aids technician. Frank talked about the new agency’s mission:

  1. Focus on a societal challenge (New Biology).
  2. Scale work to make a difference through supporting transdisciplinary work—often across disciplines and institutions.
  3. Focus + Scale = Impact

(Result of focus and scale is impact on societal challenge.)

NIFA is refocusing the outcomes of NIFA-sponsored activities around societal challenge areas:

  1. Climate change
  2. Bioenergy
  3. Food safety
  4. Nutrition and childhood obesity
  5. Global food security

Under the Director of NIFA there are six institutes and offices, food production and sustainability; bioenergy, climate, and environment; food safety and nutrition; youth, family, and community; grants and financial management; and information technology. Under each of these six units are 2 to 4 divisions. The Institute of Food Production and Sustainability is charged with enhancing global food security through productive and sustainable agricultural systems. It has 4 divisions: animal systems, plant systems-production, plant systems-protection, and agricultural systems.

The Institute of Bioenergy, Climate, and Environment is charged with ensuring energy independence through clean, bio-based systems and ensuring sustainable and adaptive agro-ecosystems in response to climate change. It has 3 divisions: bioenergy, global climate change, and environmental systems. The Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition is charged with ensuring a safe food supply, improving citizens’ health through nutrition, reducing childhood obesity, and improving food quality. This Institute has 2 divisions: food safety and nutrition. The Institute of Youth, Family, and Community is charged with enabling vibrant and resilient communities, preparing the next generation of scientists, enhancing science capacity in minority-serving institutions. and enhancing youth development. This Institute has 3 divisions: community and education, Youth and 4-H, and family and consumer sciences.

The Center of International Programs is a separate entity under the NIFA Director that is not an office or institute. It is charged with leveraging the knowledge and commitment of U.S. talent to enhance the lives of those in developing countries.

The Office of Grants and Financial Management has 3 divisions: awards management, policy and oversight, and financial operations. The Office of Information Technology also has 3 divisions: application, operation and administrative systems, and information policy, planning, and training.

The 2008 Farm Bill authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a new competitive grant program to provide funding for fundamental and applied research, extension, and education to address food and agricultural sciences called the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI supersedes the National Research Initiative. AFRI Grants shall be awarded to address priorities in United States agriculture. In 2010 fiscal year there were 5 challenge areas that were funded by AFRI.

They were:

  1. Childhood Obesity Prevention: \$25 M
  2. Climate Change: \$40 M
  3. Global Food Security: \$13 M
  4. Food Safety: \$20 M
  5. Sustainable Bioenergy: \$32 M

As an example, AFRI Climate Change RFA Programs are(subject to appropriation):

In FY 2010:

  • Cropping systems: cereal production systems (e.g., corn, barley, wheat, rice, oats)
  • Animal systems: swine or poultry production systems
  • Forest systems: southern conifers

In FY 2011:

  • Cropping systems: legume production systems, forage production systems
  • Animal systems: ruminant livestock production systems, dairy production systems
  • Forest systems: western conifers
  • Grassland, pastureland, and rangeland systems

In FY 2012:

  • Cropping systems: food and non-food horticultural production systems, fiber production systems
  • Animal systems: farmed aquaculture and specialty livestock
  • Forest systems: deciduous hardwoods and mixed forests

Agroecosystems that provide ecosystem services (e.g., provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural services identified under the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment)

The foundational program of AFRI was funded at 65 million dollars in fiscal year 2010 in six broad categories:

  1. Plant Health and Production and Plant Products
  2. Animal Health and Production and Animal Products
  3. Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
  4. Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment
  5. Agriculture Systems and Technology
  6. Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities

Frank’s suggestions to AFRI applicants were to:

  • Be on time with your letter of intent.
  • Apply early!
  • Look for collaborators that will enable your team to effectively advance the science and have impact. These may be outside the college of Ag, at another university/ institute or federal lab.
  • The successful integration of research, education and extension is best accomplished at the onset of development of the proposal—in the framing.
  • Engage stakeholders. This is the hallmark of successful integrated applications and Coordinated Agricultural Projects.
  • Build on your strengths and look for synergy within the team.

Other NIFA Programs of Interest to NE Pasture Consortium:

  1. SARE
  2. Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
  3. 406 Water Quality Program
  4. Organic Program

He concluded his presentation by suggesting that for more information, see the NIFA Webpage at: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/.

Dr. Evert Byington gave an abbreviated Agricultural Research Service (ARS) report so that Ray Bryant, Research Leader of the Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit at University Park, PA could speak to the group. Ev said that production research was back in vogue after having emphasized profitability since 2000. The Conservation Effects Assessment Program (CEAP) is extremely important to ARS range and pasture researchers. ARS is addressing climate change with a program called GRACEnet (Greenhouse gas Reduction through Agricultural Carbon Enhancement network). The primary objective of GRACEnet is to identify and further develop agricultural practices that will enhance carbon sequestration in soils, promote sustainability, and provide a sound scientific basis for carbon credits and trading programs. ARS is also concerned about economically viable agriculture systems. They want to reach out to partners to do the economic analysis since they have few economists in ARS.

Dr. Ray Bryant addressed the group next, announcing that he was stepping down as research leader at University Park. John Schmidt was taking over the duties of research leader. Ray wanted to go back to doing research work on a full-time basis while John was interested in pursuing an administrative career. The Rodale grant (earmark) was \$350,000 for fiscal year 2010 provided by Congressman Tim Holden. For Matt Sanderson’s position as research agronomist to be refilled permanently, this earmark money would have to become permanent. Howard Skinner has become the CRIS leader for the CRIS Matt Sanderson had been the leader. Todd White a postdoc from New Zealand is currently working as a research agronomist to fill-in for the loss of Matt Sanderson.

Ray Bryant was thanked for his efforts as research leader of the Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit and received grateful applause from those in attendance.

Dr. Terrell Erickson, Director of Ecological Sciences Division of Natural Resources Conservation Service was the last speaker of the Reports Session. She had braved some bad weather and tentative flight schedules to arrive at the meeting before noon. She discussed 5 topics of interest to the Consortium:

  1. What is happening with ranch and farmland in the U.S. today
  2. USDA NRCS landscape response
  3. Chesapeake Bay Initiative
  4. Streamlining
  5. Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP)

State of the Nation’s Agricultural Lands from the National Resource Inventory (NRI) shows that from 1982-2007, the lower 48 States lost 14 million acres of prime farmland and 40 million acres of land was developed during that period bringing the total amount of developed land to 111 million acres. This was a stunning increase in developed land of 56% in that 25 year period. The result of this is production pressure is growing on the lands remaining as agricultural land.

Grassland, rangeland, and pasture make up 26% of the remaining agricultural land. This puts this category ahead of cropland that makes up 19% of the US agricultural land.

The Pastureland National Resources Inventory is being conducted in ten eastern states as a pilot with 4 of them being in the Northeast, PA, MA, NJ, and OH. It is expected to go nation-wide soon. It will provide statistically valid numbers on Nation’s pasturelands plant species composition and host of other important data.

There is an acceleration of developing forage suitability groups across the US by NRCS. This will enhance conservation planning of forage lands. They describe interactions among soil, vegetation, & land management. They provide a common framework for communication from state to state currently lacking.

Science-based conservation is key to managing landscapes. It provides food security by achieving sustainable production systems. It also ensures that ecosystem services such as water quality and soil quality are functioning properly. USDA voluntary conservation programs focus on planning and implementing practices that landowners and operators feel are beneficial. USDA also believes in an all lands approach to conservation. This is all land uses and ownerships and across eco-regions. It provides improved collaboration between departments and agencies at the federal and state levels. An example of this is the Chesapeake Bay Initiative. It covers 6 states. There are 3 showcase watersheds in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. There is 2.8 million dollars in Conservation Innovation Grant money being spent there. There will also be a CEAP report coming forth from this Initiative to show conservation practice effectiveness on improving water quality to the Bay.

Another issue of concern to many NRCS clients is being addressed with the Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative (CDSI). Helping get conservation on the ground by having technicians spending more time in the field and less time at the computer. Grazing Lands is developing a test module. Common interface on all software so that files can be used in all modules where appropriate.

It will provide useful and easily understood results for producers.

Proposed fiscal funding for GLCI in 2011 by state was:

State Funding
Connecticut \$68,995
Delaware 75,502
Maine 164,154
Maryland 153,968
Massachusetts 68,536
New Hampshire 80,570
New Jersey 75,917
New York 446,745
Ohio 492,695
Pennsylvania 557,584
Rhode Island 66,534
Vermont 266,342
West Virginia 416,607
Total 2, 934,149

Evaluation is an important step for NRCS and conservation. Conservation Effects Assessment Program (CEAP) is a new way we evaluate our conservation practices. CEAP Reports completed for: Cropland, Wildlife, Wetlands, and Rangelands. Pastureland will be completed this year (2011). Forestlands is pending. Pasturelands CEAP primary findings for Forage Harvest Management conservation practice:

  1. Optimize yield and quality at desired levels
  2. Promote vigorous re-growth
  3. Maintain stand life
  4. Manage for desired species composition
  5. Use forage biomass as nutrient uptake tool
  6. Control insect, diseases, and weeds
  7. Maintain and/or improve wildlife habitat

Pasturelands CEAP primary findings for Pasture, Forage, and Biomass Planting conservation practice:

  1. Establishment times vary by species
  2. Right plant/right purpose
  3. Monitor for water stress
  4. Proper legume inoculation is important
  5. Monitor for development
  6. Plant for ecosystem services
  7. Seeding rate should be state recommended rate

Pasturelands CEAP primary findings for Prescribed Grazing conservation practice:

  1. Improve/ maintain desired species and vigor
  2. Improve/maintain forage & animal performance
  3. Improve/maintain water quality and watershed function
  4. Reduce erosion and improve soil
  5. Improve wildlife food and cover

Pasturelands CEAP primary findings for Nutrient Management conservation practice:

  1. Budget & supply nutrients for plant production
  2. Properly use manure & organic by-products as nutrients
  3. Minimize non-point source pollution
  4. Protect air quality by reducing N emissions and particulates
  5. Maintain/improve soil condition

The Pastureland CEAP summary provides general assessment, research needs, education needs, and policy recommendations.

Terrell closed with saying NRCS has for 75 years helped people help the land.