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.

Resources:

Letter in Support of ARS FY 2014 Appropriations
The ASTA NPGS and GEM FY 2014 Appropriations Request
National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) Website
Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) Website


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Ratification of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources

To develop these 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. Each nation—including the United States—is dependent on many other nations for access to that genetic material. A stable legal framework for international germplasm exchanges is needed. This Treaty benefits both research and commercial interests in the United States.

The centerpiece of the Treaty is the establishment of a “Multilateral System” for access to, and benefit-sharing regarding certain plant genetic resources to be used for research, breeding and training for food and agriculture. The scope of the Treaty’s coverage currently encompasses genetic resources of 64 crops and forages that are maintained by International Agricultural Research Centers or that are under management and control of national governments and in the public domain. Access to covered germplasm is granted through a Standard Material Transfer Agreement, a contract that defines the terms of access and benefit –sharing. Furthermore, the Treaty provides a mechanism for enabling developing countries to acquire the capacities needed to conserve and sustainably use plant germplasm essential for food security.

The Treaty entered into force in 2004 and now has 120 Parties. The United States signed the Treaty in 2002. The Treaty is consistent with existing U.S. practice and may be implemented under existing U.S. authorities. No statutory changes are needed.

We are 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. Now, it must return to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for approval.

ASTA Letter of Support October 2009

Resources:

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


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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.

2013 Letter in Support of Funding for MAP & FMD in Farm Bill


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The Farm Bill

With a membership of approximately 750 companies involved in seed production, distribution and plant breeding for all crops in all 50 states, the Farm Bill is critical to our members and our customers. Congress must pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before current farm programs expire in September, 2013.

Resources:

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.