Tester introduces amendment to Farm Bill to ensure crop diversity

Senator’s provision would support regional crops, improve food security

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill to ensure that Montana farmers can access a variety of seeds to maintain crop diversity – which strengthens food security and preserves the role of family farming.

Tester’s amendment requires the Department of Agriculture to dedicate at least five percent of Agriculture and Food Research Initiative funds to support classical breeding of public plant varieties. 

Classical breeding, which uses field-based selection of crops, accounts for about half of the increase in food and fiber crop yield in the last century.  But the Agriculture Department is currently not prioritizing the classical breeding of crop seeds.

“America depends on our nation’s farmers to produce high-quality crops from Montana to Texas,” said Tester, the Senate’s only farmer.  “The USDA needs to support diverse seed research so farmers can adapt to the various growing conditions they face and aren’t limited when deciding what to grow.”

Maintaining diverse varieties of plants decreases vulnerability to pests and diseases, and helps food systems remain resilient.  The bipartisan 2008 Farm Bill directed the Agriculture Department to prioritize research into conventional breeding, but the department failed to do so. 

The Farm Bill, which reauthorizes various food and farm initiatives for five years, is currently being debated by the Senate.  Tester’s amendment is supported by farming organizations and scientists from around the country.

In 2010, Tester amended the Food Safety Modernization Act to protect family farmers and food producers from unnecessary federal regulations.