Protecting Public Seeds and Breeds in the Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill


Today and tomorrow can determine whether taxpayer dollars support the development of seeds and breeds that belong to the public or to a few large corporations. The Senate Agriculture Committee’s draft of the Farm Bill leaves out specific language that would guarantee at least modest funding for classical breeding and public varieties through the USDA’s AFRI grant program. Public ownership gives farmers and researchers access to diverse varieties that meet the specific, changing needs of farmers worldwide. And classical breeding is a proven and cost-effective way to improve and protect our food supply.

In 2008, the Farm Bill asked AFRI to make classical breeding a funding priority, but the overwhelming majority of federal research funds still go to developing patented varieties. A study by RAFI and the National Organic Coalition found that only one AFRI grant – out of 127 – had been awarded for classical breeding between 2009 and 2011. (Read RAFI’s blog post about it.)

If you live in a state with a Senator on the Agriculture Committee, we need you to help turn the tide. Find your Senator on the list below, and then call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224–3121, and ask to speak to him or her. Use this simple message:

Hello, my name is (name), and I am a constituent (or farmer, if you are one) from (your hometown). I’m calling to ask the Senator to support the Gillibrand Amendment to the Farm Bill, which would set aside 5% of AFRI research funds for classical, public plant and animal breeding. Can you tell me whether or not the Senator will support this amendment?

Then let us know what you found out! Email Michael Sligh at michael@rafiusa.org and let us know the results of your call!

Members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry:

Stabenow, Debbie (MI) , ChairmanLeahy, Patrick J. (VT)
Harkin, Tom (IA)
Conrad, Kent (ND)
Baucus, Max (MT)
Nelson, Ben (NE)
Brown, Sherrod (OH)
Casey, Robert P. (PA)
Klobuchar, Amy (MN)
Bennet, Michael F. (CO)
Gillibrand, Kirsten E. (NY)
Roberts, Pat (KS), Ranking MemberLugar, Richard G. (IN)
Cochran, Thad (MS)
McConnell, Mitch (KY)
Chambliss, Saxby (GA)
Johanns, Mike (NE)
Boozman, John (AR)
Grassley, Chuck (IA)
Thune, John (SD)
Hoeven, John (ND)

Small changes to early drafts of the Farm Bill can make a huge difference in the future. Calls to these key Senators from their constituents – farmers and consumers – are the best way to make sure these Senators protect the interests of farmers and the public and fund seeds and breeds that belong to all of us, not just big companies.

If, like me, you don’t live in one of these key states, please help spread the word to your friends, and then hang in there. There will be plenty of need for calls and emails in the weeks ahead. Be sure you are following RAFI on Facebook and Twitter to receive the latest updates.

 


About Scott Marlow

Scott currently serves as Executive Director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA. Scott’s specialty is financial infrastructure, including access to credit and risk management for value-added producers. He previously directed the organization’s Farm Sustainability program, providing in-depth financial counseling to farmers in crisis, education on disaster assistance programs and access to credit, and addressing the needs of mid-scale farmers who are increasing the sustainability of their farms by transitioning to higher-value specialty markets.