Seed Hunters, Farmer-less Farming, and Other Legal News

Tree Seeds | Cape Law Firm

Seed Hunters Wanted

A relatively unknown sector of the seed business – tree seeds – is grappling with a potential supply shortage. But solving the problem is becoming more difficult because securing tree seeds requires seed hunters, a skill set that is acquired only by experience. Demand for tree seeds has grown significantly in the last several years, driven in part by devastating wildfires in the West and the developing carbon capture market promoting re-forestation to achieve carbon reduction goals. Congressional proposals for legislation aimed at restoring trees and forests, such as the Trillion Trees Act and the Replant Act are also increasing the need to shore up tree seed supplies. According to an interim report from the Bureau of Land Management, the current supply chain is inadequate to meet the nation’s reforestation goals. Some industry professionals are pushing for government to create a national seed system employing technology to model regional seed needs and optimal planting conditions.

Pesticide Wars

A recent push by Congressional Ag Committee leaders urging EPA to reverse its decision to revoke the residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos highlighted an ever-widening national divide over the use of pesticides, especially in agriculture. In the case of chlorpyrifos, an insecticide, the revocation of residue tolerances effectively bans the pesticide in many crops. Congressional leaders and several Ag Groups claim the EPA has ignored the work of its career scientists.
However, in the case of dicamba, a herbicide, a number of Ag Groups claim that the EPA’s restrictions on the herbicide are too burdensome and that the EPA’s career scientists got it wrong. Adding to the EPA’s pesticide quagmire, last month EPA acknowledged that it may have to add even more restrictions to dicamba in light of continuing widespread damage, and that it may no longer be able to defend its registration decision on the herbicide.
Still yet, the U.S. Senator from New Jersey recently introduced federal legislation to amend FIFRA in order to ban over 100 pesticides.
These pesticide wars are not inconsequential – the U.S. is one of the world’s largest pesticide users, which contributes greatly to also being one of the world’s largest commodity producers. As the fight over pesticide use intensifies, the shrinking Ag community will likely need new ideas and maybe even try to find some common ground with those that want to curtail our dependence on pesticides.

The Billion Dollar Burger

A few days ago the Biden Administration followed up on one of its initial agenda items aimed at increasing competition in the meat packing industry. Part of the plan involves $1 billion in spending by the USDA to expand smaller and independent meat packers. Another part of the plan will see the proposal of new rules to strengthen enforcement of the Packers& Stockyards Act and make it easier for cattle producers to bring claims for unfair practices. These new initiatives are being rolled out at a time when consumer meat prices are at record highs along with packer profits.

Farmer-less Farming

Although robot tractors aren’t exactly new, John Deere’s roll-out of a fully autonomous tractor for large scale farming at CES 2022 shows just how far technology is advancing into crop production. Deere has added the autonomous technology to its 8 Series tractors, some of its largest for row crops. Last year we highlighted a new robotic laser weeder which is able to traverse fields killing weeds on its own. Precision farming technologies are now able to make pinpoint applications of inputs within individual fields, and even suggest the best seed to use. The use of robotics, artificial intelligence, and similar technologies continue to make it easier to farm more ground with fewer hired hands and spend less time out in the field. As amazing as these technologies are, it doesn’t require a great deal of imagination to envision farms that need a lot less farmer.

Cape Law Firm’s Frequently (or Randomly) Asked Questions

What is an “Essentially Derived Variety”

The concept is simple enough – a plant breeder may develop a new plant variety that is “essentially derived” from another variety. In other words, the new variety would contain much the same genetics and characteristics of the variety it came from (its parent, or “initial variety’). First, under the Plant Variety Protection Act, the protections given to a protected variety will extend to Essentially Derived Varieties (EDV). Second, the EDV may be eligible for protection on its own if it is “clearly distinguishable” from the initial variety and meets the other criteria for protection. Third, if the initial variety is not protected, then the breeder’s rights will not extend to an EDV. In practice, the concept of Essentially Derived Varieties can be difficult to apply, and much scholarly debate has been made on how to implement and determine what constitutes an EDV. When there is debate as to an EDV, the owner of the initial variety generally has the burden of showing that another variety is an EDV.

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