The $867 billion Farm Bill approved by Congress on Dec. 12 includes an update to the U.S. Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) that will protect and encourage floriculture innovation. The bill also strengthens the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and includes provisions that encourage more data-based analysis in pesticide registration decisions.
The news is a significant victory for the Society of American Florists, along with AmericanHort and the American Seed Trade Association. The groups have lobbied together for language to amend the PVPA, a 1970 law enacted to protect the intellectual property of breeders of certain agricultural products, including some flower varieties.
“The Farm Bill has amended the PVPA to protect asexual reproduction,” explained Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations. “Essentially derived varieties, or EDVs, obtained from asexually reproduced plants that can be brought to market very quickly will now be protected by law.”
The Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure on Dec. 11 on a vote of 87 to 13. The House passed it on Dec 12, 369 to 47. President Trump is expected to sign the bill this week.
When the new rules go into effect, which may take up to a year, unauthorized parties will no longer be able to take patented plant varieties and induce a sport or mutation (EDV) without authorization, a practice that has “significantly harmed floriculture innovation,” McBurney added.
Along with the PVPA update, the Farm Bill also enhanced funding for the SCRI. The change will allow all specialty crops to compete for the full $80 million annual funding for the program and $75 million annually for programs that combat invasive pests and diseases, and continued funding of Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG).
The Farm Bill, officially titled “H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” sets a vast number of policies in the Agriculture Department including commodity programs, trade, rural development, farm credit, conservation, agricultural research, food and nutrition programs, marketing and other areas. It is a multi-year bill that is only voted on twice every ten years.
Drew Gruenburg is the chief operating officer of the Society of American Florists.