On August 15, 2013, I participated in a listening session hosted by USDA’s Plant Breeding Working Group. OSA is grateful that USDA hosted this day-long event that invited comments and discussion from different stakeholders — from public and private plant breeders, to farm groups and forest scientists. For those who couldn’t attend, USDA collected written comments through last month. If you’re wondering what’s next, the agency’s blog reports that: “this input will be valuable for USDA’s strategy on where to place ever more scarce plant breeding resources, and it will hopefully generate a forward-looking dialogue in the community that will enable it to be more responsive to future needs of plant breeding in an ever-changing and ever more populated world.”
We hope this strategy takes seriously the concerns of OSA and many in our community who believe we have fallen behind on delivering public cultivars that meet the diverse, changing, and regional needs of U.S. farmers. These concerns have led to congressional initiatives supported by 100 farm organizations, businesses, nonprofits, and scientists.
At the listening session, I appreciated Dr. Catherine Woteki’s reminder that USDA and our land grant university system both celebrated their 150th anniversary last year and that in many ways these two laws were about sowing seed. I appreciated, too, Ann Marie Thro’s comment that an unchanging goal at USDA is that having the right plant varieties is basic to national and global agricultural goals. And finally, at lunch, Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said that our public institutions have an obligation to train the next generation of plant breeders.