A coalition of public and private partners with the common goal of protecting the public and the grain industry by supporting plant variety improvement through research, education, certification, and PVP enforcement
Seeds protected under the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) may only be sold or advertised for seeding purposes by permission of the owner of the Certificate of Protection. While the process for certification may differ slightly from state to state, the PVPA is a federal law and is uniform across all states. Most state institutions and private seed companies elect to protect their seed varieties using the PVPA.
Effects of Lifting the Cuban Trade Embargo
A new market for American wheat farmers may be on the horizon thanks to the White House’s recent decision to begin new relations with Cuba. There has been a trade embargo between American and Cuba for approximately 55 years. This trade embargo has prevented wheat from being imported into Cuba, but hopes for a breakthrough are at an all time high after President Obama’s recent trip to Cuba.
What does the lifting of the trade embargo mean for American farmers? It means expanded trade with Cuba without restrictions. Wheat is Cuba’s second-biggest import accounting for a total of 3.9 percent of all their imports. This places wheat ahead of many other agricultural products such as corn, poultry, and concentrated milk. Cuba’s tropical climate makes the growing of wheat on the Caribbean island next to impossible. Because of this Cuba is the largest wheat market in the Caribbean.
Currently, Cuba primarily wheat from Canada and the European Union (EU). If the embargo is lifted it is estimated that the EU stands to lose a $150 million wheat market. Experts predict that if the embargo is lifted, European shipments of wheat will largely be replaced by U.S. farmers because they’re extremely close and extremely competitive.
Wheat farmers around the nation are excited at the idea of a new market for their grains. With Cuba sitting 90 miles south of American shores, it is believed the wheat market share could grow from its current level of 0 percent to around 80 or 90 percent, much like it is in other Caribbean nations. It is estimated that Cuba could potentially import a half million metric tons of American wheat annually.
If the embargo is lifted Cuba will become one of American farmer’s biggest wheat export clients.
Importance of Wheat Genetics Research Facilities
Advances in wheat genetics are continually being developed and introduced to the world. As a direct result, the importance of wheat research facilities has risen to an all-time high.
Facilities such as, The Colorado State University (CSU) Wheat Breeding and Genetics Program and Wheat Genetics Resource Center at Kansas State University (KSU), have become world renown in the farming community for their work in wheat research.
The CSU Wheat Breeding and Genetics Program was initiated in 1963 to provide Colorado’s wheat industry with a source of locally developed winter wheat varieties with superior adaption for Colorado’s tough climatic conditions. This facility primarily strives:
“(1) To develop improved hard red (HRW) and hard white (HWW) wheat varieties and germplasm adapted for the diverse production conditions in Colorado and the west central great Plains and; (2) conduct applied-basic research to improve understanding of genetic and environmental factors that affect wheat yield and end-use quality.”
The “internationally-recognized” Wheat Genetics Resource center located at KSU, in the heart of the Great Plains of the United States, has three main missions to assure future advances in wheat breeding:
“(1) Collect, conserve, and utilize germplasm in crop improvement for sustainable production by broadening the crop genetic base; (2) create and promote the free exchange of materials, technology, and new knowledge in genetics and biotechnology among the world’s public and private organizations; (3) sponsor graduate and postgraduate students and visiting scientists for academic training and advanced research in the WGRC laboratories.”
Unfortunately a majority of these facilities and their resources are not being taken advantage of by the farming community. Furthermore, most of these facilities have never been heard of but, with their state-of-the-art laboratories, greenhouses, and field plots, facilities -such as the two previously mentioned - are in place to assure wheat farmers success in the future with the developments technology has brought about in the wheat genetics field.
Overall, these facilities - and others alike - are in place, to help the general public keep up with the advances that are continually taking place in the wheat genetics field and to make sure farmers are planting safe, legal wheat.
Certified Seed: Benefits Beyond the Field
New certified seed varieties are available every year – each purporting greater hardiness, drought tolerance, and insect and disease resistance. Unfortunately though, many farmers don’t realize that benefits of certified seed go far beyond the field.
Nowadays, farming is grounded in economics and efficiency; undoubtedly certified seed can give you the needed edge to save money and farm efficiently. Many producers who already use certified seed attest to the benefits of certified seed. Certified seed is not only a good farming practice, it is a good business decision. As illustrated by economists at Kansas State, the profit potential between certified and saved seed was $9.95 per acre. Furthermore,
“when compared to all the input costs for producing a wheat crop, the additional cost of using certified seed is pretty minor. Unfortunately for many farmers, it’s the first thing they cut, thereby limited the efficiency of all their other inputs. Using poor quality seed has farmers literally leaving money in the field.”
- Daryl Strouts, Kansas Wheat Alliance
Unfortunately, many producers do not recognize the hidden costs associated with saved seed. They may be damaging their seed through improper handling and storage – not to mention the cost associated with cleaning, treating, and storing saved seed. Furthermore, planting saved seed may necessitate high seeding rates, so producers use more seed per acre to achieve desired wheat stands.
In contrast, using certified seed saves time, hedges risk of crop loss, earns higher yields, and increases marketability of your crop. In regards to marketability, research and development by breeders have resulted in improved varieties, which include traits that are appealing to many buyers. Buyers are often in the market for specific varieties, and when you can demonstrate that you have used certified seed, you can glean premiums from those buyers. Certified seed can increase your marketing power when you can efficiently produce what buyers want and require.
When certified seed is planted, there is no question as to the benefits it offers when compared to saved seed. Let certified seed work for you! .
* Check out the Kansas State economic spreadsheet, free of charge, at http://www.agmanager.info/crops/prodecon/production/default.asp. FYI invites you to see for yourself how your own operation could benefit from planting certified seed.
What Certified Seed Means to You
According to research, certified wheat seed varieties offer growers a greater return than planting bin-run varieties--as much as $22 an acre or more.
Research in the past several years conducted by Kansas State University shows certified seed pays for itself at a mere 1 bushel-per-acre yield advantage and a market price of $3.50 a bushel. And according to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, certified seed typically out-yields bin-run varieties by 1.2 to 2.5 bushels per acre.
“Growers need to take into account the cost of bin-run seed,” says Darrell Hanavan, executive director of the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation. “Certified seed simply makes greater economic sense.”
“Growers must also consider the hidden costs of planting bin-run seed,” said Hanavan. “Some research has shown random samples of bin-run seed that had 62 percent severe seed damage and varietal purity issues. Plus, growers often must seed at a higher rate to account for lower germination of bin-run seed.”
Research and development by breeders have resulted in improved varieties, which include traits that are appealing. Seed developers focus with the end user in mind so that when the product is finally consumed, it will contain higher proteins, will be healthier for the consumer, and will provide more consistency in the baking process.
When newer varieties of certified seed are developed and marketed, you not only get the newest variety, but you get the best of that variety when you purchase certified seed. The only way to reliably access the traits that you need and require is to utilize certified seed.
Consequences of Infringement
Despite the efforts by private and public sector to educate producers as to the risk of illegal seed sales, some producers and seed cleaners continue forward in marketing grain as seed without the proper licenses or authority. The following are some lawsuits and settlements that followed the diligent investigation:
Watley Seed Company v. Bronco Seed Company, et al., N.D. Tex. Case No. 1:10CV-271-C – Secured Consent Judgments and settlement agreements for PVP infringement claims totaling $616,000 against 17 Texas defendants engaged in the sale, purchase, or conditioning of proprietary TAM 112 hard red winter wheat seed. The case began against two producers and a seed conditioner, but in the course of discovery it was determined the seed conditioner facilitated a far larger network of unauthorized activity in a local community.
Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. Taylor, et al., W.D. Ok. Case No. 5:11CV-01081 - Obtained settlement for PVP infringement by Oklahoma defendants.
Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. Elmore, et al., N.D. Tex. Case No. 2:11-cv-00189 – Obtained settlement of PVP infringement case against a Texas defendant involved in unauthorized purchases, uses, and/or sales of plaintiff’s federally protected wheat varieties.
Syngenta Seeds, Inc. and Garst Seed Co. v. Hartwell,et al., N.D. Tex. Case No. 2:10CV-219 - Obtained consent judgments and settlements of PVP infringement claims worth $200,000 against Texas defendants, including a local seed conditioner.
Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. Hering and Wilberg, W.D. Tex. Case No. 6:11-cv-260 – Settled PVP case concerning proprietary wheat seed in the amount of $28,500.
South Dakota Board of Regents v. Nachtigal, et al., S. Dak. Case No. 10-4168 – Resolved PVP infringement claims against a South Dakota seed company for payment to the plaintiff of $75,000.
BASF v. Miller – Resolved patent infringement claim against an Oklahoma defendant with settlement in the amount of $75,000.
UNL Technology Development Corp. and Board of Regent of the University of Nebraska v. Voichahoske, Den Besten, Dakota’s Best Seed, et al., Neb. Case No. 4:11-CV-03147 – Obtained consent judgment against PVP infringing defendant. Total settlement was for $75,000.
North Dakota State University Research Foundation v. Maus – Obtained settlement via Mutual Release Agreement in PVP infringement case concerning proprietary Alsen variety wheat seed.