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 quality, productivity, and quality, production efficiency and reduced risk.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service Funding
- Biotechnology Labeling
- Ratification of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources
- Trans-Pacific Partnership
- USDA Cooperator Programs
- U.S. Patent System
U.S. 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 U.S. ASTA recommends increasing funding of ARS to $1.192 billion.
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. ASTA recommends increasing funding to $72 million in order to sustain the germplasm collections and increase understanding of the materials housed within them.
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. ASTA recommends increasing funding of the GEM to $2.7 million.
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.
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 114th213th Congress. Although the treaty passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 11th211th 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 U.S. seed sector is a thriving science-based industry with an estimated $15 billion market value. With an export value of over $1.6 billion it is both the largest market for seed in the world and the largest global exporter of seeds. ASTA supports a strong trade agenda as an effective means of eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers and expanding global trade. The TPP will expand our opportunities to reach key markets.
Key provisions for the seed industry include:
- Intellectual Property Rights;
- Modern Agriculture Biotechnology; and
- Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS).
ASTA urges Congress to take swift action to pass the agreement.
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 FY15 is estimated to be approximately $140.5 billion. While below the all-time record level of $152.5 billion set in FY14, this would still be the third highest record level for U.S. agricultural exports.
The Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) are a public-private partnership designed to promote exports of US products.. ASTA supports the funding of MAP and FMD at no less than $200 million and $34.5 million respectively for FY16, as authorized by the 2014 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.
U.S. Patent System
Agricultural innovation depends upon clear, predictable and enforceable patent rights. Without this, new products will be more costly to develop. Currently, it can take a decade or longer and more than $100 million to commercialize a single product. Strong patents are critical to ensure a return on research and investments, which supports future investments in the industry that directly benefits American agricultural producers.
ASTA urges Congress to carefully consider the impact of any changes to the patent system on the agricultural community.