The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) submitted comments today in response to the Request for Information by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The comments highlight the necessary role of agriculture innovation in both combating and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
“The development and commercialization of innovative plant products is already playing a significant role in helping U.S. agriculture reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said ASTA President & CEO Andy LaVigne. “Further crop improvements using new precision breeding methods, including gene editing, can hasten these positive trends.”
For U.S. agriculture to maximize its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration, a number of things are needed, including: 1) additional private and public sector investment in agriculture research; 2) rational government policies regarding evolving innovation in the agriculture space; and 3) programs that incentivize farmers to adopt conservation practices.
ASTA’s members are committed to investing in research and development and delivering products to farmers that address constantly evolving and interlocking threats from changing weather, evolving diseases, and insect pressures. An increasingly warming climate means an increase in disease intensity and the evolution of pests and diseases into areas where they formerly didn’t exist. While tackling these threats, plant breeders are also developing higher-yielding crop varieties – from vegetables to row crops. These new plant varieties enable farmers to grow more food on less land, enabling more sensitive lands that would otherwise be used for farming to stay in natural habitat or be available for wildflowers, animals and pollinators.
In addition, innovations in cover crops have been proven to contribute to soil health and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. ASTA members are working to enhance cover crop varieties but the current cover crop market is insufficient to support large-scale research and development costs. A greater federal investment is needed to develop and test varieties that can maximize carbon sequestration and to identify optimal management strategies, while providing economic incentives to encourage greater use by farmers.
“Plant breeding innovations like gene editing hold the key to addressing many of our collective global challenges – from health and nutrition, to hunger and climate change,” said LaVigne. “The public and private sectors both have an important role to play. It’s critical that we continue moving forward, through robust investment in agriculture research and development, to drive forward the next generation of innovative solutions to meet the new and emerging challenges of tomorrow.”