Skip to main content


Seed Businesses Saving Money Thanks to Canadian Trade Deal

Trade between nations regularly involves meeting strict government requirements that often create logistical obstacles for all parties involved.  U.S. seed businesses often experience this when doing business with our cousins to the north.  Canada is one of the largest importers of U.S. seed – with tons of seed worth millions of dollars being imported each year.

Thanks to the close partnership between the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), American seed growers and businesses are saving thousands of dollars each year in these cross border transactions.

Seeds Spur Growth in International Relations

The U.S. seed industry and the international market continue to grow to keep up with feeding the world’s population.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is helping to ensure the availability of products that start with seeds through the enforcement of laws and management of international programs that promote the interests of the U.S. seed industry.

AMS promotes the research and development of new plants and crops by protecting plant breeders’ rights through laws such as the Plant Variety Protection Act and the Federal Seed Act.  AMS also protects the interest of U.S. businesses – including the $1.5 billion U.S. seed industry – by representing them at international meetings, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Seed Schemes.

Discovering the Health Benefits of Wine Grape Seeds

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

What happens to seeds from wine grapes? They’re typically put in compost, mixed in cattle feed, or dumped in landfills. But this may be seen as a waste for bakers who like cooking with specialty ingredients and those of us who are looking for foods that could benefit our health.

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is partnering with WholeVine Products in Sonoma, California, to explore the health benefits of unique wine grape seed flours, which can be used in breads, cookies, crackers and other goodies.

Cover Crops: Agriculture's Hero

Cover crops are the real heroes in the world of agriculture. Their job starts after a field is harvested and ends just before the next season’s crop is planted. Expectations for cover crops are high because if they don’t produce, the next crop may suffer.

After crops are harvested each year, planting fields are left bare. Runoff from rainwater, wind, and other forms of erosion devastate planting fields by stripping essential nutrients from the soil – nutrients needed for the next growing season. In addition to the loss of vital nutrients, the exposed fields are prime real estate for noxious-weed seeds intent on stealing what is left of the field’s nutrients. Replacing the lost nutrients and removing the weedy invaders costs millions of dollars each year for farmers.

Montana Organic Association Focuses on the Benefits of Organic Business

This is the twenty-third installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

According to a 2014 USDA Economic Research Service report, consumer demand for organically produced products continues to show double-digit growth.  This year, the Montana Organic Association’s (MOA) annual meeting highlighted the sector’s ongoing growth with its theme of Organic Business: Benefitting Producers and Consumers.  As USDA’s Organic Policy Advisor, I represented USDA at MOA’s conference and presented information about USDA’s support for the growing organic community.

MOA’s mission is to advocate for and promote organic agriculture for the highest good of the people, the environment and the state's economy. The conference brought in over 200 people, a large number in a rural state with just over 200 certified organic operations.  MOA President Nate Brown noted, "The Montana Organic Association annual conference is our biggest event of the year and has been the lifeblood of the organization for the past 12 years.  We feel the conference is a great way to bring together Montana's organic community every year for a weekend of learning and socializing in order to keep up with the growing organic market in our state."

USDA Seeks Variety to Help American Agriculture Flourish

While most of the country is braving cold and blustery winter conditions, farmers and gardeners are busy looking ahead to the spring. They are contemplating the variety of seeds or the plants that they will use. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) increases the options for our farmers, gardeners, and plant breeders by making sure there is an abundance of varieties available.

We do this through our Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO), which grants certificates of intellectual property protection to developers of new plant varieties. These certificates enable breeders to market their variety exclusively for 20 years. The protection is an incentive for the development of new and improved varieties.

Organic 101: Organic Seeds Are Fundamental Right from the Start

This is the twenty-second installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

The fall harvest is in, and organic farmers are already looking forward to planting their spring seedlings.  Organic farmers rely on organic seeds to meet the growing demand for certified organic products. These seeds are essential to the integrity of the supply chain for quality organic food, feed and other products.  All organic producers must use organic seeds, annual seedlings and planting stock unless organic varieties are not commercially available.

To meet the increased demand for organic seeds, the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is collaborating and sharing information with the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and its partner, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), to better understand the organic seed market and to help farmers locate seed producers and supplies.

Why Test Seeds?

Before the late 1800’s, there weren’t any standards or laws overseeing the seed trade.  This allowed individuals to take advantage of the unorganized seed market by selling low quality seed to buyers.  In some instances, what was sold wasn’t even seed at all.

Unfortunately, even the most seasoned seed buyers can’t always tell what they will get when purchasing seed.  Will the seed grow?  If it does grow, what will it grow into?  Will these seeds contain a disease that will hurt my other crops?  Will the packet contain other unwanted weeds that will reduce my yield, hurt my animals, or destroy my land?  The worst part is that the outcome of your purchase won’t be known for months after you buy and “try” to grow them.  In the late 1800’s, these questions asked by millions of people around the world led to the rapid development of laboratories tasked with using science to predict seed quality. 

Cultivating Seeds of Success in a Global Marketplace

Did you know that corn and soybeans account for 50 percent of the harvested acres in the United States?  Together, these two commodities had $106 billion in sales in 2012—not bad for products that start off as humble seeds.  The U.S. seed industry is valued at more than $7 billion, and accounts for 34 percent of the world’s international seed trade.  Our top seed exports are corn, soybean and sunflower seeds.  And the international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

In today’s global market, limitations in manufacturing capabilities, shifts in climate, or simple geography all impact a country’s ability to satisfy all of its own needs.  This means economies and agriculture systems around the globe are interconnected. Through trade, countries are able to market their resources to boost their economies and ensure access to a stable supply of food and products.

It All Starts with a Seed

Believe it or not, food doesn’t come from the refrigerator or even the kitchen.  It doesn’t even come from the grocery store or the farmer.  All food—whether meat, grain, vegetable or fruit—owes its existence to seeds.  Seeds are the backbone of human existence, providing us with the fundamental necessities needed for life: food, clothing, medicine, and shelter.

To protect the quality of these important, yet often forgotten, natural resources and to promote a robust U.S. seed market (current value of over $7.3 billion), Congress enacted a program over a century ago that would later evolve into what is now known as the Federal Seed Act. The act, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in Gastonia, NC, is a law that protects American businesses, farmers, and the general public from misrepresentation when buying seed.