The U.S. has fallen behind in federal agriculture research and seed breeding investment: China has surpassed the country in spending since 2008. To combat low spending, Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Darren Soto (D-FL) introduced the Seeds for the Future Act to the House earlier this year.
“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,” says Kanika Gandhi, policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “The Seeds for the Future Act will increase farmers’ access to these 21st century seeds by making much-needed investments in public breeding programs.”
Funds will focus on helping create seed varieties that take into account the growing challenges farmers deal with today, such as climate, disease, soil and other varying detractors.
The Seeds for the Future Act ensures:
Federal investments support farmers and researchers who are developing seeds to work for a diverse set of farming operations and locations
Priority for “farmer-ready” cultivar development in federal grant programs
Commitment to seed diversity and regional adaptation
Increased efficiency and coordination within federal agencies
More specifically, the Act requires at least $50 million annually to develop farmer-ready public cultivars, with priority for projects based on geographical needs. This effort should lead to regionally adapted choices for farmers.
Funds will be available through a competitive grant program. Grants will be no less than five years in length to “ensure that researchers can create enough progress on farmer-ready cultivars to most effectively use public funds,” according to the Act.
All progress will be reported to USDA to be shared across agencies. This will include public-ready cultivars as well as high priority research, gaps in research and assessments of developed cultivars.
This Act was introduced in early March, 2018 under H.R. 5208.