Research to focus on regional crop varieties and animal breeds to improve resistance to disease, pests and extreme weather
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin led a call in support of research for local and regional crop varieties and animal breeds in an effort to strengthen American agriculture. In a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Baldwin was joined by a group of senators to highlight the need to invest in research into new varieties of plants and animal breeds to address the unique challenges faced by farmers in Wisconsin and across the country.
“Without access to cultivars and breeds that are adapted to climates, soils, and farming systems of each region, farmers do not have the tools ideally suited for their farming needs,” the Senators wrote. “It is critical that the federal government work to reinvigorate public plant and animal breeding expertise in all regions of our country, to enhance our productive capacity nationwide while safeguarding our natural resources.”
Senator Baldwin (D-WI) was joined by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Angus King (I-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in sending the letter.
In Wisconsin, farmers and agricultural groups echoed strong support for investing in local and regional crop and animal breed research.
“Farmers need access to seeds and breeds that are well adapted to their farming systems, soils and changing climates. In recent decades, access to these important tools has dwindled,” said Harriet Behar, Senior Organic Specialist with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) based in Spring Valley, Wisconsin. “We greatly appreciate Senator Baldwin’s efforts to reverse these trends, and her leadership on issues of importance to organic and sustainable farmers.”
“Bolstering research on publically available, classically bred plant and animal varieties will be beneficial to organics and all of agriculture,” said Logan Peterman, Farm Resource Manager at Organic Valley cooperative. “Making this a priority for federal research will help develop and refine regionally adapted plant breeds for better yields, improved disease and pest resistance, and resilience to weather extremes while maintaining the public sovereignty of seed. This is good public policy that will leverage the strengths of academia, extension and farmers to create a more productive, adaptive and sustainable agriculture open to all.”
The USDA research would benefit American agriculture by focusing on improved local and regional crop varieties and animal breeds with higher yields and improved resistance to disease, pests and extreme weather. Publicly available seeds and animal breeds would be specifically bred to be adapted to the soils, climates, and farming systems of farmers of all regions of the country.