Innovation drives yield and yield drives farmer profitability. When research plummets, so does innovation—and the U.S. is trailing.
China has surpassed the U.S. in federal agriculture research and seed breeding investment since 2008. Ag stakeholders have taken notice of this trend and to combat low spending, Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Darren Soto, D-Fla., introduced the Seeds for the Future Act in 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 creating seed varieties that take into account climate, disease, soil and other detractors.
The Seeds for the Future 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 March 2018 under H.R. 5208.