U.S. farmers have long been the envy of the world when it comes to their high yields and technological advancements.
However, since 2000 major players such as China, Brazil and the European Union have increased funding and surpassed the U.S. in agricultural research and development spending. USDA’s Economic Research Service indicates by 2011 China was the largest global funder of research and development by 2015 was spending more than $10 billion annually, a five-fold increase – about twice U.S. investments.
With a growing population China has made food security a priority and wants to be self-sufficient rather than relying on imports. The country recently announced a new list of 276 state-supported breeders and seed producers, including many that will help the nation develop a stronger more independent seed industry.
“It seems like China has been behind the U.S. in technology and farming practices,” says Terry Schultz, president of Mustang Seeds and board member of the Independent Professional Seed Association. “So, I think they need to step it up to get caught up to where we’re at.”
Even with the investments by other countries, Schultz does not believe the U.S. will lose its competitive edge, as the U.S. seed industry is no longer only focusing on increasing yield through agronomic enhancements. Instead, the industry is adding value to commodities through biofuels and other industrial uses.
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