ASTA highlights Farm Bill Conference priorities

In a letter to Farm Bill Conferees, the American Seed Trade Association highlights a number of proposal areas that they say are of critical importance to the seed industry, and request these issues be included in the conferenced bill.

Conservation
"ASTA is concerned with the proposal in H.R. 2 that would limit the cost share for seed in the Conservation Reserve Program to 25 percent. Conservation programs must be cost-effective and affordable to incentivize participation. Reduction of cost-share for the seed necessary to establish cover may disincentivize producers from enrolling in specialized CRP programs, such as CP42 for pollinators. If the goal of Congress is to reduce the cost of seed mixes in conservation plantings, more must be done at the state level to evaluate seed mix recommendations.

"In order to promote transparency in conservation seed mix formulation, ASTA suggests conference report language directing the states to form standing Seed Subcommittees under the State Technical Committees (STC) to review and formulate seed mixes that both implement conservation goals and are cost effective. There is precedence for specialized subcommittees under the STC Policy Guidance, and this would allow seed industry experts and other conservation groups to partner with USDA in implementing conservation practices.

"ASTA is additionally supportive of the Soil Health Demonstration Project from the Senate bill, and is supportive of its inclusion in the conference Farm Bill."

Trade
"The creation of the International Market Development Program proposed in H.R. 2 by merging the Market Access Program (MAP), the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD), the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program (TASC), and the E. (Kika) De La Garza Emerging Markets Program (EMP) is supported by ASTA. Our association has been a cooperator for MAP and FMD for decades, and the funding provided through these programs is critical for the continued success of the U.S. seed industry globally."

Research
"Federal research and education programs supported through the Farm Bill help secure the U.S.’s position as the global leader in agricultural innovation. The work funded by the Farm Bill enables USDA to provide services and conduct research that will maintain U.S. agricultural security for years to come. There are separate proposals from the House and Senate Farm Bill that ASTA strongly encourages be included in the final Farm Bill:
  • Section 7608 of the House Farm Bill directs USDA to carry out a national science-based education campaign to increase public awareness regarding the use of technology in food and agriculture production.
  • Section 7205 of the Senate Farm Bill creates an opportunity for the USDA to analyze its current germplasm holdings in the National Plant Germplasm System and its cultivar development programs to plan for the future.
  • Section 7413 of the Senate Farm Bill provides a new authorization of $200 million in mandatory funds for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR).
ASTA also supports continued funding for pest and disease prevention programs in the Horticulture Title and funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)."

Horticulture
"ASTA is grateful both the House and Senate Farm Bills included language that amends the Plant Variety Protection Act, and expands the scope of the law to include asexually propagated materials such as flowers. This expansion is crucial to maintaining strong intellectual property protections for American companies in the horticulture industry. ASTA requests the conference committee use the language amending the Plant Variety Protection Act from the House Farm Bill.

"Section 9201 of H.R. 2 creates a definition for biostimulants, and directs USDA to develop a report on a regulatory framework for biostimulants in order to address significant uncertainty created by a patchwork of state regulations. Identical language was also offered as an amendment during the Senate process. ASTA strongly supports inclusion of this provision in the final Farm Bill so that these products can be more broadly used in the future."

Crop insurance
"ASTA is encouraged by Section 11107 Title XI in the Senate Farm Bill which amends section 508(a) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act to clarify conditions for voluntary conservation practices, including cover crops, to be considered as good farming practices. This much-needed clarification will better align the policies of the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency regarding cover crop usage alongside cash crops, so farmers and producers no longer run the risk of losing their crop insurance because they used cover crops as an approved conservation practice on their farm. We strongly urge the conference committee to adopt this provision in the final conferenced Farm Bill."

Source: ASTA

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