U.S. seed sector to "Storm the Hill" with trade, innovation high on agenda

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Seed industry advocates will “Storm the Hill” as part of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) Legislative Fly-in tomorrow (April 5), with discussions on trade and innovation programs high up on the priority list. 

ASTA describes the event as a "unique opportunity" for its members representing every crop and every part of the nation to join together with a unified voice on Capitol Hill.

Speaking to Fresh Fruit Portal, the organization's director of communications Bethany Shively said a good turnout was expected this year.

"We have members from more than 19 states that are coming in and more than 90 meetings set up in the House and Senate, so I know that there is a lot of interest" she said.

"Of course it's important that there are a lot of new people in town - new members of the Administration, new staffers on the hill, so it’s really an important time to educate those new people about the industry’s priorities."

Important issues highlighted by the ASTA this year include trade, funding for key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, the Food Safety Modernization Act and innovation in plant breeding.

The ASTA said it supported a "strong trade agenda", and favored eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers, promoting stronger intellectual property rights and harmonizing regulations.

"Trade right now is pretty key for us. There’s a lot of talks going on around trade right now...and trade is a big part of what we do - making sure continuing the flow of seed around the country and around the globe," Shively said.

"Innovation and breeding is another really important one for us right now - working with the agencies like the USDA, FDA [Food and Drug Administration] to make sure we have consistent policy across the U.S. government and making sure that we’re engaging with the other countries too."

U.S. President Trump recently proposed slashing the USDA's discretionary spending by 21%, and Shively said the seed industry was most concerned about programs related to science and research.

"We think its important to invest in science and research so we can continue innovation, and there is a big return on investment for those federal dollars that are put into those science and research programs for agriculture," she said.

ASTA members are "looking forward" to working with the new Administration on these issues, she added, saying they would highlight just how important these issues are not just for the seed industry or agriculture, but for the whole country.

The group's president and CEO Andrew LaVigne also stressed the importance of such as event as “Storm the Hill".

“From international trade, to plant breeding innovation, Farm Bill and funding for critical research and conservation programs, Congress is debating serious issues that will affect the seed industry’s ability to continue meeting the evolving needs of farmers, consumers, and the environment in the years ahead,” he said.

“So many issues impact the seed industry, and the seed industry impacts virtually every aspect of our daily life. We’re excited to bring our diverse industry to Capitol Hill to share our unified priorities for ensuring better seed for a better quality of life.”

Photo: www.shutterstock.com


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