Press Release: Researchers, Policy Makers and Advocates Host 2014 Summit on Seeds & Breeds in D.C.

March 5-7  •  The Dupont Circle Hotel, 1500 New Hampshire Ave., NW  •  Washington DC, 20036

MEDIA RELEASE: Researchers, Policy Makers and Advocates Host 2014 Summit on Seeds & Breeds in D.C.

Panelists include experts in public plant breeding working toward a sustainable future in agriculture

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 25, 2014) – On March 5-7, the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) will convene the 2014 Summit on Seeds & Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture: Meeting the Challenges of Food Security in Washington, DC. The invite-only summit will build upon work accomplished during two previous Seeds & Breeds summits, most recently in 2003 and also hosted by RAFI.

The summit will serve as a forum for expert panelists to present their research and foster open-ended, peer-to-peer discussion among public plant breeders, federal policymakers, farmers and advocates. Invitees include research students and scientists from the nation’s top land grant universities, as well as farmers and USDA representatives.

“We are excited to help bring leading plant breeders, farmers, businesses and the public interest community together to better define the role that public cultivar development and research should play in addressing the major challenges of 21st century agriculture,” says RAFI Just Foods Director Michael Sligh.

The year 2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the laws that established the USDA and our land-grant university system. The intent of these laws was to create a national infrastructure designed to expand US agriculture for the sake of prosperity and security, while developing advancements in agriculture that are accessible to all. At the heart of these efforts was a mission to support farmers who were actively building and improving our nation’s germplasm through research, education, and innovation.

This is a critical time for public plant breeding, as new survey data reveals we have lost approximately 30% of our public plant breeding programs over the last 20 years. The goal of this national summit is to build a clear policy pathway for ensuring that our public research investments are meeting the needs of a regionally appropriate, diverse, and resilient system of agricultural production. Among the many topics on the agenda is the urgent need to grant enough funding to support the next generation of plant breeders and their mentors.

In May, students will graduate with master’s and doctorate degrees looking for work in a sector that cannot accommodate their skills and expertise. Many want to conduct field-based plant breeding in the public sector to fill gaps in minor crops and markets, such as organic. Yet the glaring barriers include a general lack of funding for desired positions and areas of research. In order for a diversified agricultural system to thrive, we must ensure that the next generation of plant breeders has secure funding to address our most pressing agricultural challenges.

“Public plant varieties that are adapted to regional production and climatic conditions also improve food security,” says Adrienne Shelton, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who will present her research at the Summit. “We must ensure relevant training and job opportunities for future plant breeders, especially those who are interested in the public sector. Public plant breeders are in the best position to help us create sustainable solutions to our most pressing food and agricultural challenges.”

For Summit details, visit: https://www.rafiusa.org/programs/just-foods/2014-seeds-breeds-summit

CONTACT: Michael Sligh, [email protected], 919-641-9341

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