In March 2023, USDA published More and Better Choices for Farmers (pdf), a report responding to the Biden Administration’s historic Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. USDA moved quickly to execute the report’s top recommendation: to establish a “Farmer Seed Liaison” within the Agricultural Marketing Service.
The USDA Farmer Seed Liaison initiative provides a point of contact within the USDA to help those who work with seeds navigate a complex system. The Farmer Seed Liaison connects seed growers and intellectual property (IP) administrators, antitrust regulators, licensing and labeling enforcers, and other federal partners to ensure that farmers have the choices they need to be successful. The goals of the initiative are to enhance transparency in the seed marketplace; amplify the voices of growers, seed producers, and others in the seed system; and promote broader access to seeds for research and plant breeding.
Competition and Innovation in Seeds
USDA continues to deliver on its commitments to promote fair competition and innovation in seeds. AMS issued multiple letters to seed companies reiterating their obligation to comply with the Federal Seed Act’s (FSA) varietal labeling requirements for agricultural and vegetable seed shipped in interstate commerce and highlighting the importance of establishing best practices. This follows a Notice to Trade issued March 6, 2023, clarifying varietal labeling requirements of the FSA to enhance transparency for growers. USDA recognizes the variety of seed farmers are purchasing under different brand names is important to them and enables a more competitive, innovative seed landscape.
- Follow Up Letter on Variety Labeling (pdf)
- March 6, 2023 - USDA AMS Clarifies Varietal Labeling Requirements of the Federal Seed Act to Enhance Transparency for Growers
Through the efforts of the USDA – U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Working Group, the Seed Liaison provides transparency about IP related to seeds and facilitates access to information about specific pending and granted patent applications.
The Farmer Seed Liaison initiative elevates the voices of farmers, small- and mid-sized seed companies, and independent plant breeders in policy and decision-making processes to improve competition and choice in the seed marketplace. This includes providing avenues for these stakeholders to challenge unfair contracts or overly restrictive IP licensing agreements. The initiative is also working with USDA’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division to increase awareness about mandatory seed labeling requirements, so farmers can confidently purchase high-quality seed of desired varieties.
Access to Seeds for Research and Plant Breeding
The Farmer Seed Liaison promotes strategies to increase innovative capacity for developing plant varieties that meet future food security and climate change needs. This includes identifying priorities for public plant breeding investments in underserved communities, regions, and markets. These efforts also advance IP strategies to allow for continued innovation, including working with USPTO to consider research and breeding exemptions for U.S. utility patents in the seed and agriculture space.