Federal Key Issues

ASTA’s mission is to enhance the development and movement of quality seed worldwide. Better seeds produce better crops for a better quality of life. The seed industry is committed to helping growers succeed through improved productivity and quality, production efficiency and reduced risk.

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US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service Funding

In 2007, the 750 ASTA member companies invested nearly 20% of seed sales in the US in research and development which totaled over $2 billion. However, private investment alone can’t secure the United States position as the world’s leading crop producer. The plant breeding process is a continual one and diverse genetic resources from other countries, crop ancestors, and related species are a critical input. Federal investments to maintain these genetic resources are fundamental to the success of agriculture in the US.

National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS)

The NPGS is an active collection of 540,000 plants stored in USDA facilities across the country. Plant breeders turn to the collections to find genetic traits to help develop new varieties to address threats from evolving diseases and pests and changing climates.

Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM)

GEM is an international collaboration among USDA-ARS, university, and private seed company researchers and a model for future public-private research endeavors. GEM focuses on adapting exotic corn germplasm for use in the U.S. and identifying useful genetic traits in exotic landraces to develop new hybrids. Demand for maize germplasm will continue to increase in the future due to the need for new traits in the face of changing climates, the desire to continue to increase yields sustainably and the growing use of corn seeds and crop residues as a fuel feedstock. Private industry provides over $625,000 of in kind support annually for this effort and industry germplasm contributions to GEM are currently valued at over $3 billion.


National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) Website
Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) Website

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Biotechnology Labeling

ASTA supports establishing a responsible federal policy framework that protects consumers, facilitates informed consumer choices and ensures that farmers, processors and food and beverage manufacturers can continue using GM technology to produce safe, abundant and affordable food. Federal legislation would eliminate the confusion and uncertainty of a 50 state patchwork of GMO safety and labeling laws. It would advance food safety by requiring the FDA to conduct a safety review of all new GMO traits before they are introduced in the marketplace. ASTA has also joined the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food to partner with other industry organizations in advocating for the continued safe and effective use of biotechnology.

ASTA Supports Science Based Policies
GMO Answers Top 10
GMO Answers

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Ratification of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources

To develop new crop varieties, breeders and researchers require access to a broad spectrum of “genetic raw material” containing key traits such as immunity to virulent pests and diseases. Nations are dependent on each other for access to genetic material. A stable legal framework for international germplasm exchanges is needed. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture benefits both research and commercial interests in the U. S.

The treaty creates a specialized, global system for the management and exchange of plant genetic resources.
Over 125 countries including Japan and EU have ratified the treaty. The U.S. is a signatory, but ratification in the U.S. Senate is pending. The treaty is consistent with U.S. practices and may be implemented under existing U.S. authorities without changes to current laws.

ASTA is seeking ratification of the treaty by the Senate during the 213th Congress. Although the treaty passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 211th Congress it was not brought up for a vote in the full Senate, so it must return to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for approval.

The Time is Right to Ratify

ASTA Letter of Support


The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Website

ISF Position

Updates on Pending Treaties

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USDA Cooperator Programs

American agriculture and American workers continue to face increasingly strong foreign competition supported by government sponsored activities. Exports are a vital part of the U.S. economic engine, and agricultural exports continue to be its strongest component. The forecast for agricultural exports for FY13 is estimated to be approximately $142 billion, which would surpass the all-time record level of $137.4 billion achieved in FY11.

The Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) are a public-private partnership designed to promote exports of US products. We strongly urge that MAP and FMD be reauthorized and funded at no less than $200 million and $34.5 million annually, which are the same levels as in the current Farm Bill. MAP has been funded annually at this level since 2006 and FMD at its level since 2002. Over 50 year, resources from MAP and FMD have been critical to ASTA’s ability to provide international leadership working with trading partners to resolve technical barriers to the movement of seed.

2014 Letter in Support of Funding for MAP & FMD

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The health of pollinators is crucial to agricultural production in the U.S. and globally. ASTA and the seed industry play a role in supporting thriving bee populations through stewardship and sound science. Through efforts like the Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship, membership in Honeybee Health Coalition and as a supporter of the Pollinator Partnership, ASTA is focused on supporting healthy pollinators in the U.S. ASTA believes that policies that support the use of high quality, affordable seed mixes incorporating regionally adapted non-native and native species are key to pollinator success.

NRCS Pollinator Site
Presidential Memorandum on Pollinator Health

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The Farm Bill

The 2014 Farm Bill was signed into law February 7, 2014. ASTA supported the signing of the five year bill as it funds important programs to supply farmers with a safety net and authorizes critical conservation, research and trade promotion programs.


House Ag Committee
Senate Ag Committee

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Additional Resources

Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM)

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS)

Association of Official Seed Analysts
AOSA is an organization comprised of member laboratories staffed by certified seed analysts. Such seed testing facilities include official state, federal, and university seed laboratories across the United States and Canada.

Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies
The AOSCA establishes minimum standards for genetic purity and identity and recommends minimum quality standards for classes of certified seed. It also standardizes seed certification regulations and procedures as well as operational procedures in inter-agency seed certification.

Association of American Seed Control Officials
AASCO is an organization of seed regulatory officials from the United States and Canada.

National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders
Plant breeders play a leading role in the fight against world hunger through research and development of new plants and new varieties. NCCPB is one of the key organizations in this quest.

National Genetic Resources Program
Find out more about the use of germplasm for food and agricultural production through this educational program provided by the USDA.

National Plant Germplasm System
The NPGS is a cooperative effort by public and private organizations to preserve the genetic diversity of plants. The world’s food supply is based on intensive agriculture, which relies on genetic.

National Seed Storage Laboratory
The NSSL documents, preserves, and maintains viable seed of diverse plant germplasm in long-term storage, develops and evaluates procedures for determining seed quality of accessions, and distributes seed, when not available from the active collections, for crop improvement throughout the world. It preserves the base collection of the National Plant Germplasm System and conducts research to develop new technologies for preservation of seed and other propagules of plant genetic resources.

Seed Regulatory and Testing Branch, U.S. Department of Agriculture
This branch enforces interstate commerce provisions of the Federal Seed Act and provides seed testing service under the Agricultural Marketing Act. The web site provides links to key regulatory and policy documents related to seed.

Society of Commercial Seed Technologists
The purpose of this society is to maintain and encourage the highest proficiency and professional standards among its members, to promote the best interests of the seed industry and to encourage cooperation between the Official Seed Analysts and the commercial agencies.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

U.S. Department of State on Biotechnology
This site covers global issues in biotechnology with links to key science and policy documents.