By Tom Driscoll, Director of Conservation Policy and NFU Foundation
As we’ve noted on the Climate Column, climate change will disturb the precipitation patterns and temperatures on which farmers rely to grow crops. Farmers will need to adapt to these changes by implementing new practices and readjusting old ones. One option is selecting seeds for staple crops – like corn and soybeans – that are well-suited for rapidly changing conditions.
Companies like Monsanto are working hard to offer varieties that cope effectively with climate change-driven precipitation and temperature variance. But the interests of major seed companies and those of farmers navigating a changing climate may not always completely align. To ensure that seed research and breeding is ample and competitive, farmers should pay attention to the research title of the farm bill. The amount of funding, and how that funding is allocated, will impact what seed varieties are available, in what amounts, and from what source.
The research title, which includes programs like the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), should strongly support independent, public research as well as public-private partnerships. Maintaining competitive markets for seed companies is also important. When the market is overly consolidated, previously competing research and development departments may merge, local or regional seed companies that can help farmers in a specific location adapt to climate change may be squeezed out, and new companies may not be able to gain a foothold in the market. As a result, research that contributes to climate-adapted seeds may be eliminated.
Do you consider climate change when choosing seed varieties? Do you have access to seed that is adapted to how climate change is manifesting in your area? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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