USDA Launches Interagency Working Group on Competition and Intellectual Property in Seeds

Thursday, March 23, 2023 - 4:30pm
Contact Info
Release No.

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2023 — Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the launch of an Interagency Working Group on Competition and Intellectual Property in Seeds and Other Agricultural Inputs as an immediate action following the recommendations of its recently published report “More and Better Choices for Farmers: Promoting Fair Competition and Innovation in Seeds and Other Agricultural Inputs.” This action is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole of government efforts to promote fair competition, innovation, and resiliency in seed and other agricultural input sectors.

To deliver on recommendations made in the report, today USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt, Competition Senior Advisor Andy Green, and project cooperator Dr. Julie Dawson, participated in the initial working group meeting with Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Kathi Vidal and her team. Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter represented the Department of Justice, and Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter represented the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with staff. The working group will promote fairer competition in seeds and other agricultural inputs and enhance the delivery of services to the public.

“Farmers deserve choice in the marketplace,” said Under Secretary Moffitt. “Today’s interagency meeting is one more step this Administration is taking to support competition and innovation in the seed sector.”

“Our collaboration with the USDA to promote U.S. innovation in the seed and agriculture space while advancing competition demonstrates the Biden Administration’s strong commitment to American farmers, especially small and family-owned farms,” said Under Secretary Vidal. “We look forward to our work and ensuring that the patent system, while a driver of innovation in the agriculture ecosystem, does not reduce competition in this critical space.”

“Protecting competition and the rule of law in agricultural markets – including in seeds – is core to the work of the Antitrust Division,” said Assistant Attorney General Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Farmers and their families work incredibly hard and deserve to enjoy the benefits of free and fair competition. The Antitrust Division is committed to ensuring that anticompetitive practices do not diminish those benefits or lead to undue market concentration or unlawful monopolies in these critical agricultural markets. We are grateful for the leadership of our partners at USDA on this issue, and look forward to working with FTC, USDA, and USPTO to enforce the antitrust laws and protect farmers.”

“Farmers, seed businesses, and plant breeders deserve fair markets where they are able to make clear and informed choices about the agricultural inputs they need to support a bountiful food ecosystem,” said FTC Commissioner Slaughter. “We look forward to working with our federal partners to increase transparency and ensure that unfair or deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition don’t drive up prices, reduce quality, limit or obfuscate choice, or curb innovation.”

In addition to standing up the working group, last week the USPTO and USDA exchanged letters signaling their commitment to making the IP system more transparent and fairer for farmers and seed growers. Together the agencies will explore strategies to enhance the quality of the patent examination process for innovations related to agricultural products and processes, including opportunities for enhancing prior art search capabilities and providing additional joint training to examiners.

As recommended in the report, the working group will be coordinated by a new USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Farmer Seed Liaison. Among the liaison’s responsibilities will be to facilitate communication between farmers, plant breeders, and relevant agencies that touch on the IP system. In collaboration with the working group, the Farmer Seed Liaison will pursue strategies to enhance transparency, reduce confusion, and otherwise help farmers, small and mid-sized seed businesses and plant breeders successfully navigate a complex seed system.

More information is available on the AMS Fair and Competitive Markets webpage

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit