June 8, 2012
Over 50 agricultural businesses and organizations, including NSAC, joined 50 scientists on a letter to the Senate encouraging them to support Senator Tester’s (D-MT) amendment to the Senate Farm Bill. The Tester amendment seeks to enhance research funding for classical plant and animal breeding, sometimes referred to as the “Seeds and Breeds” amendment.
Classical breeding research projects aim to give farmers access to improved crop cultivars and livestock breeds that are better adapted to diverse farming systems and regional variations. The letter notes classical breeding techniques can provide regionally appropriate public seed options and ensure food security through genetic diversity of breeding stock. The rapid decline in public research support for breeding work has made this a dire and urgent situation.
The 2008 Farm Bill included a congressional mandate that the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) prioritize classical breeding projects; however, this mandate has not been fulfilled by USDA to date. Senator Tester’s amendment requires that 5 percent of annual funding for USDA’s AFRI program prioritize classical breeding of public cultivar and breed development and provides greater clarity about what constitutes conventional breeding and public breeds and cultivars.
The full text of the letter and list of signing organizations and individuals can be read here.