New Bill Would Revitalize Public Plant Breeding and Invest in American Farmers

Washington, D.C. – March 8, 2018— Yesterday Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Darren Soto (D-FL) introduced The Seeds for the Future Act, legislation that would help American farms meet future challenges by reinvesting in our public plant breeding programs with a focus on regional adaptation.
Historically, our nation’s state land-grant universities have worked directly with farmers in their region to ensure access to diverse plant varieties that are adapted to specific farming systems, soils, climates, and consumer demands. But over the last several decades, the number of public cultivars available to farmers has been shrinking because public plant breeding programs are underfunded. This is an alarming trend – farmers need access to new and improved seed options that deliver on yield and other production traits, are regionally adapted, and meet diverse market demands. Investing in public cultivar development in a diversity of crops and regions will ensure American farmers, and their regions, are competitive.

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) has been a longstanding champion of measures to revitalize public plant and animal breeding activities, with a focus on developing “farmer-ready” seeds and animal breeds that are regionally adapted.

“We are greatly encouraged by the leadership that Representatives Pocan and Soto are providing by introducing this bill. This legislation will increase the resiliency and competitiveness of American farms by providing farmers with access to seeds that are adapted to their specific soil, pest, and
disease challenges,” says Steve Etka, Policy Director for the National Organic Coalition. “Organic and conventional farmers alike would benefit greatly from having access to seeds that are adapted to their local and regional conditions.”

The Seeds for the Future Act will give farmers access to 21 st century seeds by:

  • Ensuring that federal investments are sufficient to support farmers and researchers in developing seeds that work for a diversity of farming systems and locations.

  • Prioritizing “farmer-ready” public cultivar development in federal agricultural research grant programs.

  • Encouraging commitments to seed diversification and regional adaptation.

  • Increasing efficiency and improving coordination across different USDA competitive grant research programs.

The goal of the bill sponsors is to have the provisions incorporated into the larger Farm Bill, which is up for reauthorization this year.

“The decline in public cultivar development in recent years is making our food system more vulnerable,” says Kiki Hubbard, Director of Advocacy and Communications for the Organic Seed Alliance. “We need more genetic diversity, not less, to address future food and fiber needs and to combat challenges related to our changing climate and increased disease and pest pressures.”

NOC looks forward to working with members of Congress in the Farm Bill process to reinvest in agricultural research, the development of 21st century seeds, and to advance organic agriculture. NOC thanks Representatives Pocan and Soto for their leadership and commitment to farmers.

Lea Kone