Ask Your Senators to Support Public Seed in the Farm Bill

Senator Jon Tester is introducing a Farm Bill amendment next week that aims to reinvigorate classical plant breeding and public cultivar development.

Call your senators today and ask them to support Senator Tester’s Farm Bill amendment to improve seed choices for American farmers and strengthen U.S. agriculture.

What this means: Establishing classical plant breeding (or “conventional,” field-based selection) as a priority for public research is critical to the competitiveness and resiliency of U.S. agriculture. Farmers constantly face changing climate, insect, weed, and disease pressures that vary by region, and they lament reduced options in regionally appropriate seed cultivars held in the public domain. Crops must continuously be adapted to meet these changes, and the most productive approach is to have seeds adapted to the same environment as their intended use through classical plant breeding.

Find your senators here or call the Senate switchboard and they’ll connect you: (202) 224-3121.

The message is this: “As the Senate debates the 2013 Farm Bill, I urge you to support the amendment sponsored by Senator Tester that aims to reinvigorate classical plant breeding to ensure farmers have the seed they need to be successful. Developing regionally appropriate seed varieties held in the public domain is paramount to the success of U.S. agriculture.”

Classical plant breeding is cost-effective, proven, and the best source of the diverse, complex traits that allow farmers and researchers to respond to changing conditions, new challenges, and new market opportunities. It’s not controversial, it has obvious benefits for researchers and consumers, and it’s good for every American farmer, no matter what kind of crop they choose to grow.

Your call will help ensure that public research dollars deliver diverse, public seed choices to American farmers.

More talking points and background after the jump.

Classical breeding is a proven science to meeting our food and fiber needs

Classical (or “conventional”) plant breeding is our most successful approach to crop improvement, accounting for about half of our dramatic food and fiber crop yield increases throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Classical breeding is highly cost-effective and complements newer forms of breeding and fills important roles that lab-based approaches, such as genomics, are not well suited to.

In recent decades, public resources for classical plant and animal breeding have dwindled, while resources have shifted toward lab-based and molecular breeding, with a narrow focus on a limited set of major crops and breeds.

U.S. farmers face diminished seed choices to meet specific farming needs

The shift in funding priorities has restricted the diversity of regionally appropriate seed and breed choices for farmers.

Farmers in many regions of the U.S. are relying on seeds that are designed for other regions, or no longer meet the changing conditions and pest and disease pressures of their regions.

U.S. armers will be at a competitive disadvantage in the national marketplace without renewed funding for seeds and breeds adapted to regional farming needs.

Classical breeding projects improve food security for our growing population

Beyond farmer choice, the lack of seed availability and the narrowing of genetic diversity makes our food system less secure.

The maintenance and improvement of genetic diversity through classical breeding is essential for resilient food systems and the greater global food supply, both now and into the future. This is a national issue and should be addressed, at least in part, through national programs such as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

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