The relationship between seed and crop is a simple one – no seeds means no crops, bad seeds produce bad crops, and good seeds (i.e., seed bred for particular growing method, climate, etc.) produce healthy and resilient crops. For over 150 years, American farmers and land-grant institutions have been cultivating diverse and regionally adapted seeds. In recent decades, however, public seed breeding programs and the number of classical seed breeders at universities has steadily declined. As a result, innovation and growth have been stifled, and many of our nation’s farmers have struggled to access seeds that work best for their particular climate, geography, and operation type.
The Seeds for the Future Act, introduced on March 7, 2018 in the House by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Darren Soto (D-FL), will put the power of the seed back into the hands of American farmers and land-grant institutions by reinvesting in our public seed breeding and research programs, and improving coordination across the federal agencies that support these activities.
“For farm businesses to stay viable in today’s economy, they need to be able to overcome a host of obstacles, including increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather patterns, invasive pests, and previously unseen crop diseases,” said Kanika Gandhi, Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
“Seeds that are bred with today’s diverse farming systems, climate and growing challenges in mind are critical to farmers’ ability to keep their businesses, and their soil, healthy and strong. The Seeds for the Future Act will increase farmers’ access to these 21st century seeds by making much-needed reinvestments in public breeding programs and ensuring that federal agencies work together in an efficient manner,” Gandhi said.
Without robust federal investment in agricultural research and seed breeding, our agricultural industry will struggle to remain competitive with other global powers like China. In 2008, China surpassed the U.S. in total public research funding, and since 2013, China has invested double the amount that the U.S. has in public agricultural research and development.
The Seeds for the Future Act will ensure American farms can remain resilient and competitive 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 grant programs
- Encouraging commitment to seed diversification and regional adaptation
- Increasing efficiency and improving coordination across federal agencies
NSAC thanks Representatives Pocan and Soto for supporting American farmers and seed breeders by reinvesting in agricultural research and the development of 21st century seeds. We look forward to working with these and other leaders in Congress to include the provisions of the Seeds for the Future Act in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Information provided by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition