Science  17 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5460, pp. 1901

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  1. Ag Grants in Limbo

    A new $120 million pot for peer-reviewed agricultural research is facing extinction just 2 months after it was unveiled by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Dan Glickman (Science, 21 January, p. 402). Last week, the House Appropriations Committee added language to a supplemental budget bill for disasters and other items that would kill the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems by barring USDA from paying employees to run it. The move—prompted by a disagreement over the program's funding mechanism—came just 3 days after the agency published a request for proposals for applied studies in areas from crop genomics to food safety.

    The House must still vote on the bill, and ag research supporters are hoping for a save in the Senate, where budgeteers will likely begin action next week. In the meantime, program staff are “proceeding as normal,” says USDA's Cindy Huebner. Given the uncertainty, however, the agency has cancelled four workshops later this month that were meant to help scientists shape proposals for an 8 May deadline.

  2. DNA Delay

    Interior Department scientists have won some extra time to try to extract DNA from the 9300-year-old bones of Kennewick Man, ancient remains found along Washington state's Columbia River in 1996. Judge John Jelderks of the U.S. District Court in Oregon had given the government until 24 March to respond to scientists suing for access to the remains. But last week he agreed to allow 6 more months—until 24 September—for DNA tests. Some scientists hope the long-delayed tests will help resolve Kennewick's cultural affiliation, but Native American groups that claim the remains have fought them (Science, 11 February, p. 963).

    Jelderks noted that the government offered “no compelling reasons” for being so sluggish, but decided that hasty testing might create worse delays in the long run. Now the government must develop a work plan by 10 April and file monthly progress reports thereafter.