PMA has submitted comments to USDA’s request for input on future agricultural innovations. These comments will help craft the USDA’s Agricultural Innovation Agenda, the Department’s commitment to the continued success of American farmers, ranchers, producers and foresters in the face of future challenges.
What were PMA’s key points in the submission?
- PMA applauds USDA’s efforts to streamline research efforts and develop new tools that will increase sustainability of agricultural production. Sustainability means first of all, that commercial operations are economically sustainable (especially in this era of COVID-19). This gives our industry the time and means to focus on responsible stewardship of land and water that will allow farmers to grow crops with minimal environmental footprint while feeding our growing world.
- PMA supports efforts to foster creative solutions that will allow to minimize packaging waste and promote wise energy use; we continue to support ethically responsible labor practices.
- PMA recognizes a need for smart, scientifically validated tools to assess the positive impacts of horticulture on the environment.
In responding to the question ‘What are the biggest challenges and opportunities to increase productivity and/or decrease the environmental footprint?’, PMA said:
- Specialty crop production practices require a distinct sustainability framework, as they are distinct from other row crops and highly perishable.
- The near-term goal of genetic trait mapping should be to increase taste and flavor of commercial fruits and vegetables.
- To remain globally competitive, it is critical to improve management of inputs, for example through developing tools to gather and integrate data and develop easily accessible tools for producers to integrate weather, soil, plant and satellite data to minimize inputs and maximize outputs.
- Addressing labor challenges will require a comprehensive approach, and technology will have to play an important role in reducing labor inputs.
- Readiness for climate-smart horticulture must focus on understanding and unlocking the genetic potential of crops, developing modern breeding tools and focusing on efforts not only to increase yields, but also to reduce post-harvest crop losses, increase drought, heat, frost and flood tolerance, and increase pest and disease resistance.
In responding to the question ‘What are the specific research gaps, regulatory barriers or other hurdles’, PMA identified:
- Breeding tools for genomic and post-genomic crop improvement
- Crops that are bred for taste, flavor and superior health and nutritional properties
- Smart sensor for data collection and tools for data integration
In summary, PMA said that through improved innovation, specialty crop growers will continue to produce healthful, wholesome fruits, vegetable and florals that play a well-documented role in enhancing health and well-being of the people and the planet, as well as the economy of this nation.
Download PMA's full comments
USDA Announces the Agricultural Innovation Agenda | February 20, 2020
USDA is rolling out an initiative that will take the next bold step that will reshape agriculture. By focusing research and data efforts in agricultural sustainability, the USDA will seek to support American farmers to adopt new technologies and practices while lessening industry’s environmental footprint. Just as the healthcare industry benefited from tens of billions of dollars of federally supported research each year, it is time to afford an opportunity to do the same for agriculture.
We applaud USDA’s efforts to streamline research efforts and develop new tools that will increase sustainability of agricultural production. At PMA, sustainability means first of all, that commercial operations are economically sustainable. This gives our industry the time and means to focus on responsible stewardship of land and water that will allow farmers grow crops with minimal environmental footprint while feeding our growing world. We foster creative solutions that will allow to minimize packaging waste and promote wise energy use; we continue to support ethically responsible labor practices. We recognize a need for smart scientifically-validated tools to assess the positive impacts of horticulture on the environment.
While we welcome efforts to promote agricultural sustainability, our production practices are distinct from those of row crops and our industry is unique in another important way: produce and floral are highly perishable. Market fluctuations and even minor weather events mean million-dollar losses. Sustainability and viability of our operations critically depend on demand creation and predictable opportunities to sell produce and floral at fair market values. Conversations about sharing data have to include provisions for responsible data management so that the industry has real incentives for sharing proprietary data with our federal partners. Importantly, we need to be clear-eyed about the fact that the implementation of new practices will have a real cost. Without a doubt, conservation practices will benefit the environment and the generations of urban and rural dwellers alike. Because we will step up, we need to know that the financial burden associated with the implementation of these practices is not ours alone to carry. Everybody along the supply chain, who plays their part, needs to know that their efforts are incentivized through responsible government programs. PMA welcomes the USDA announcement and recognizes it as an investment not only in our industry and our environment but also in our consumers who deserve fresh, delicious and healthy fresh produce all year round.
Download the USDA Agricultural Innovation Agenda