Seed World

The U.S. Seed Industry Formally Launches SeedFirstPAC

View of the U.S. CapitolAs members of the American Seed Trade Association prepare to “Storm the Hill” in Washington, D.C., this week as part of the association’s annual convention, the industry is also formally launching a non-connected political action committee, the SeedFirstPAC.
John Latham of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, who is chair of the SeedFirstPAC, says the need for such a group has been talked about for a number of years as federal legislation increasingly impacts the seed industry.
“It’s necessary for the seed industry to become more influential on the Hill, and we are very excited to be launching the SeedFirstPAC,” Latham says, noting that they’ve had a tremendous response to the initiative so far with individuals making pledges.
John Schoenecker of HM.CLAUSE and the current chairman of ASTA is also serving as a SeedFirstPAC board member and is very supportive of the new energy being concentrated in this area. As part of ASTA’s tradition, the chairman gets to select the conference theme and this year’s is “Make Your Voice Heard.”
“The industry has more and more cross-cutting issues to deal with and they span the whole gamut — new breeding techniques, import/export issues and phytosanitary requirements,” Schoenecker says. “The PAC is another tool in the seed industry’s toolbox that will help us to be more effective in our lobbying efforts and have more of an impact.”
One issue that the industry has been working to educate policymakers on is the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). “It’s vital that the United States ratify the treaty,” Schoenecker says. “We need to have a seat at the table and be able to help influence what’s happening with regard to the exchange of germplasm and access and benefit sharing at the international level.”
Latham also cites GMO labeling as an area that has hit home for the seed industry, the current pollinator discussions and trade with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and trade promotion authority.
Sometimes just talking with policymakers isn’t enough; it takes dollars to have an impact. “The SeedFirstPAC will allow people representing smaller businesses with limited resources to be able to participate and have more influence at the federal level,” says Tracy Tally of Justin Seed, who is also a board member. “It allows us to reach across the aisle, state lines and districts to support policymakers who are supportive of the seed industry.”
SeedFirstPAC is guided by a board of seed industry leaders led by Latham and vice chair Fred Mohr, turf seed business manager at Seedway. Alice Gomez of Cornerstone Public Affairs will manage the independent PAC and also serve as its treasurer. Jane DeMarchi, vice president of government and regulatory affairs for ASTA will serve as the vice-treasurer. Other board members include Risa Demasi of Grassland Oregon; James Byrum of Michigan Agri-business Association; Bryan Gerard of Jomar Seeds; Dave Pearl of The CISCO Companies; and Matt Perin of Bayer.
The SeedFirstPAC can accept donations from U.S. citizens and green card holders. Donations are not tax deductible. Latham says to look for the PAC on social media. The Twitter handle is @SeedFirstPAC, and the group is working to develop a website so that people can donate online. “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to support the seed industry,” Latham says.
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