The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) urges members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee to include several key provisions important to the seed industry within the final bill. In a recent letter to conferees, ASTA highlighted the following priorities within the Conservation, Trade, Research, Horticulture and Crop Insurance titles:
Conservation: ASTA is concerned with the proposal in the House version of the farm bill (H.R. 2) that would limit the cost share for seed in the Conservation Reserve Program to 25 percent. In order to promote transparency in conservation seed mix formulations, ASTA suggests conference report language directing states to form standing Seed Subcommittees under the State Technical Committees to review and formulate seed mixes that both implement conservation goals and are cost effective. ASTA also supports the Soil Health Demonstration Project language included in the Senate version of the bill.
Trade: ASTA supports language in both the House and Senate bills that would merge the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development Program, the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program and the E. Kika De La Garza Emerging Markets Program. The proposed language would also provide funding for the merged programs at or above current levels. This funding is critical for the continued success of the U.S. seed industry globally.
Research: ASTA supports Section 7608 of the House farm bill, which directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (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, which 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; and Section 7413 of the Senate farm bill which provides a new authorization of $200 million in mandatory funds for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.
Horticulture: Both the House and Senate farm bills include important language to amend the Plant Variety Protection Act, and expand the scope of the law to include asexually propagated materials such as flowers. ASTA requests the Conference Committee use the language in the House farm bill, which 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.
Crop Insurance: ASTA is encouraged by the language in the Senate farm bill that 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.
Source: American Seed Trade Association