Seed Treatment Stewardship Promoted at Classic

ASTA Seed Treatment GuideWe first heard about “The Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship” last year at Commodity Classic.

The second phase roll out of the guide – produced by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) in collaboration with organizations like the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and American Farm Bureau – began this year and we heard more about it from ASTA VP for Government and Regulatory Affairs Jane DeMarchi.

classic14-asta-jane“The Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship was created to touch all aspects of seed applied technology,” said Jane. “Our goal is to emphasize stewardship practices across crops and treatment segments and to minimize the risk of seed dust exposure to pollinators.”

Jane says they have developed videos about seed treatment stewardship and began taking them on the road this year to state and national corn, soybean and farm bureau meetings, and she says awareness of pollinator issues is growing among farmers across the country.

Learn more here: Press conference with Jane DeMarchi, ASTA

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

ASTA Takes Seed Theft Seriously

asta-logoAs the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) was concluding its annual seed research conference and trade show in Chicago last week, word came that arrests had been made in two separate conspiracies to steal seed and trade secrets of U.S. companies.

ASTA president and CEO Andy LaVigne says they were pleased that the U.S. government took swift action on a very serious offense. “It’s like stealing anyone’s intellectual property,” said LaVigne. “This is a product or seed varieties and technology that companies have put many years into research and development, getting it approved through the regulatory system and bringing it into the market for use by farmers.”

LaVigne stresses that while the suspects in the cases are Chinese nationals, the U.S. has a good relationship with the country of China. “Our understanding at this point in time is this is one company looking at doing this that has Chinese backing, not the government, not other companies that we have been dealing with,” he said. “We are thinking this is just a single incident.” Interview with ASTA president and CEO Andy LaVigne

Arrests were made in two different cases last week. A Chinese national working for the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Company was charged with allegedly stealing inbred corn seed from production fields in Iowa and Illinois. In the second case, two Chinese scientists were arrested in Kansas after an incident in August when customs officials found stolen seeds in the luggage of Chinese delegation members who had visited the United States.

BASF Advanced Seed Enhancement is Global

basf-alysonAt the ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo last week, we heard about the BASF portfolio of Advanced Seed Enhancements including inoculants, colorants, and biological and chemical seed treatments. Much of this new portfolio comes from the BASF acquisition of Becker Underwood in late 2012, according to Alyson Emanuel, Vice President of Global Business Management for BASF Functional Crop Care.

“We were here (at ASTA CSS) just a year ago when we had just closed the deal and the last year we’ve been very busy working on our portfolio in seed solutions bringing together the BASF side of the house and the Becker Underwood side of the house,” said Alyson.

She explains that BASF’s exclusive BioStacked® technology has enabled them to combine inoculants and biofungicides, polymers and colorants designed for specific crops. “It provides better rooting architecture, enhances plant health, nutrient uptake, disease protection – it’s a very interesting technology that we’re just beginning to see the benefits of,” Alyson said.

BASF is launching the technology in both North and South America and they plan to bring it into Europe as well. “The great thing about the BioStacked technology is that it can be very customized to the particular environment and the needs of the farmers in the area,” Alyson said

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Alyson Emanuel, BASF Functional Crop Care

International Seed Federation Update

asta-css-isfIllinois Foundation Seeds president Tim Johnson is currently serving as the elected president of the International Seed Federation (ISF), which represents seed industry interests on a global level. Tim gave an ISF update during the first general session of the ASTA 2013 CSS last week, first pointing out to attendees that as members of the American Seed Trade Association they are all members of the ISF.

“The International Seed Federation was a merger of two federations in 2002,” he explained. “It used to be the Federation of International Seedsmen and we needed to change that because we are now seed people.” The other organization represented global breeders. “We represent over 238 members in 73 countries, which is 96 percent of all international seed traded globally.”

Tim talked about activities of the ISF this past year, including the 2013 Congress that was held in Athens, Greece and plans for the upcoming Congress to be held May 26-28, 2014 in Beijing. International Seed Federation update from president Tim Johnson

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

AgAccord is Complete

asta-berniceThe big topic at last year’s ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo was The Accord, which is an industry agreement developed to provide a mechanism to transition from proprietary biotech events to off-patent or generic biotech events. Just prior to the expo this year, the second part of what is now called the AgAccord was opened up for signature. That is the Data Use and Compensation Agreement or DUCA, as ASTA Vice President for Science and International Affairs Bernice Slutsky explains.

“Last year when we were talking about the accord we had just completed the first agreement, the Generic Event Marketability and Access Agreement or the GEMMA, and we have now completed the second agreement – the DUCA…so the AgAccord is now complete,” said Bernice.

The DUCA will become operational once six parties sign, three that hold proprietary regulatory property or have petitioned the USDA to deregulate an event, and three parties that do not hold proprietary regulatory property, such as a seed company or national farm organization. The AgAccord was triggered in anticipation of the very first biotech event scheduled to go off patent at the end of 2014, which is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready trait.

This is a pretty complex issue, but very important for the transition of biotech events to the off-patent market, particularly when it comes to international trade. “We’re really being proactive,” said Bernice. “These are highly regulated products and that regulation has an impact on our exports.” Interview with Bernice Slutsky, ASTA

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

ASTA Chair Looks Ahead to Annual Meeting

css-13-craigFinally caught up with American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) chairman Craig Newman as I was heading out of the hotel to go home Friday morning so I caught a quick interview.

Craig says the expo this year was great with a record number of exhibitors. “In fact, it’s just bulging,” he said. “Sometimes we think that the industry’s consolidating when actually innovation is expanding it.”

Craig is president and CEO of AgReliant Genetics, based in Indiana, so he is pleased to be hosting ASTA’s 131st annual convention in his home state next year. “The meeting will be in Indianapolis and we’ve added a lot of new things,” said Craig. “First is the new ASTA Purdue Leadership Academy which is pre-conference, two and a half days of specialized seed industry training.”

The meeting will be June 11-14, 2014 and Craig encourages anyone with an interest in the seed industry to come and “feel the need for seed!” Interview with ASTA chair Craig Newman

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

ASTA CSS Session Focuses on Seed Treatment

The second general session of ASTA CSS and Seed Expo focused on seed treatments and pollinator health.

11341722875_4d60858bce_qLaurie Adams with Pollinator Partnership discussed the Corn Dust Research Consortium, with a focus on some of the reasons we are seeing a loss in pollinators. With competing pressures for productivity in agriculture and for protection of pollinators like bees and butterflies, the actions of the seed trade have a significant impact on the future. Laurie discussed how sustainability for both high-yield landscapes and ecologically nurturing habitat can be achieved.
You can listen to Laurie’s remarks here Laurie Adams, Pollinator Partnership

11343001153_023dda3fcd_qDr. Iain Kelly with Bayer CropScience focused on seed treatment and pollinator health. Declining pollinator health is currently attracting considerable scientific and media interest. A recent report summarizing the conclusions of USDA’s National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health outlined the various factors contributing to the decline, noting that the parasitic Varroa mite remains the single most detrimental pest of honey bees. Kelly discussed efforts by industry stakeholders to improve bee health, including assessing and minimizing any potential risks from seed treatment.
You can listen to Dr. Kelly’s remarks here Dr. Iain Kelly, Bayer CropScience

11342852675_57d146a25d_q Jane DeMarchi with ASTA discussed the new Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship being rolled out in 2014. The Guide has been enthusiastically endorsed by the National Corn Growers Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Soybean Association, and has been shared with both EPA and USDA. As seed treatment technology advances, more resources are developed and the needs of the seed and crop production value chain evolve, Jane says the Guide will be updated to ensure the latest in seed treatment management information for seed companies and growers.

You can listen to Jane’s remarks as well as audio for the video they are using to promote Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship here: Jane DeMarchi, ASTA

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

BASF’s Advanced Seed Enhancement Platform

css-13-basf-justinAt the ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo this week we had the opportunity to learn more about BASF’s Advanced Seed Enhancement platform which includes a number of important products that can accomplish increased emergence and help farmers get more from every acre.

Those products include Vault HP plus Integral for soybeans, Stamina F3 for cereals, and Flo Rite Plantability Polymers, according to BASF Technical Market Specialist Justin Clark. Listen to him talk about each one here: Interview with Justin Clark, BASF

Justin also gave us a very simple visual demonstration to show the difference that Flo Rite Plantability Polymers make with seed – check it out.

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Prince of Poker Plays BASF Casino

11330003084_53d626604b_mYou can always bet on BASF Crop Protection to have a great presence at any trade show and they turned their exhibit at the ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo into a Vegas-themed casino, complete with the Prince of Poker.

Scotty Nguyen, one of the 2013 inductees into the World Poker Hall of Fame, shared tips and tricks with attendees at the conference to the enjoyment of all. Scotty is also a philanthropist in his native Vietnam where he sends a portion of his winnings to take care of the homeless and those less fortunate. He’s been in Las Vegas for the better part of three decades making a living at playing a card game.

Listen to my interview with Scotty here: Interview with Prince of Poker, Scotty Nguyen

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Sonny Ramaswamy at ASTA CSS 2013

asta-css-ramaswamyThe Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture Sonny Ramaswamy gave a presentation on “Setting the Table for a Hotter, Flatter, More Crowded Earth” during the opening general session at the ASTA CSS 2013 on Thursday with a focus on how public sector research and private sector support need to work together to feed our growing population.

Ramaswamy discussed what he calls the “wicked problems” – the societal challenges facing the world, ranging from population to poverty. “The reason I call them wicked problems is you may have the most fantastic technology available to you but you’re not able to deploy those technologies because mere humans become involved in this and we cannot seem to agree,” he said.

Listen to my interview for a short summary and his 50 minute presentation for more details:
Interview with Sonny Ramaswamy, USDA-NIFA
ASTA CSS presentation by Sonny Ramaswamy, USDA-NIFA

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Bayer Showcases Innovation at ASTA CSS 2013

asta-css-bayerCorn and soybean growers in the Midwest face varying challenges every year, depending on weather, pests and diseases. Visitors to ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo this year were able to see many of the tools offered by Bayer CropScience to address those challenges.

According to Brad May, strategic business lead for seed growth, some of their highlights at the expo this year include new seed treatment technology, new technology coming online in 2015, and an overview of their Bayer SeedGrowth Centers. Brad says the ASTA event is “the ultimate of expos” with the major decision makers in the seed industry in attendance, which is why they are one of the organization’s strategic partners. Bayer will be capping off its presence at the Seed Expo and conference this evening with a reception featuring country music artist Jerrod Niemann.

Listen to my interview with Brad here: Interview with Bayer CropScience, Brad May

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album


ASTA CSS Offers Grain Markets Outlook

asta-css-basseOnce again this year at the ASTA CSS 2013, for the third year in a row now, AgResource Company president Dan Basse looked at the year in review for grain markets and gave his outlook for the future.

While there are bright spots, Dan’s overall outlook for the year ahead is pretty sobering, saying the good times may have come to an end for corn. “A year ago we had corn prices above $7 with flirtations to eight,” he said. “We’re now looking at Chicago markets with corn prices near four. We think the best we can do at least for the next 6-9 months is maybe getting back to something like four and a half.”

Basse points out that the United States only needs to produce a corn crop of 13 billion bushels to meet demand. “That’s the big concern for the US farmer down the road,” he said.

On kind of a bright side, Dan expects North America to be “energy self-sufficient by 2020″ but that is largely due to fracking to reach new deposits of crude oil and natural gas rather than biofuels. “Ethanol, which was deemed to be the savior from Mideast oil, is no longer going to have that spot at the table,” he said, adding that the industry has “reached its zenith.”

Basse covered a number of important topics in his presentation, including whether the bull market in ag commodities is coming to an end, the mature biofuels industry, pressure on farmers to plant less corn, the high cost of production for U.S. farmers, and – of course – the farm bill.

Listen to my interview for the condensed version and his 30 minute presentation for more details:
Interview with Dan Basse, AgResource
ASTA CSS presentation by Dan Basse, AgResource

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

BASF on Cutting Edge of Seed Enhancement

asta-css-basf-neilThe just released CropLife Foundation report shows just how important seed treatment is becoming for agricultural production and today at the ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo we heard how BASF Crop Protection has moved to the forefront of seed enhancement to help farmers get the most out of every acre.

“Seed enhancement is one of the fastest growing segments of the industry,” said Neil Bentley, director of marketing for the BASF U.S. Crop Protection business. “Seed is one of the most expensive investments that a farmer makes each year. We want to make sure that’s maximized.”

Thanks to the integration of Becker Underwood into the BASF family over the past year, BASF’s Advanced Seed Enhancement platform includes a number of important products that can accomplish increased emergence and help farmers get more from every acre. “Those products include Vault HP + Integral in soybeans and Stamina F3 for cereals,” said Neil. “We also have Flo Rite Plantability Polymers, a very interesting technology that can help a grower maximize the amount of active ingredient that stays on a seed and also helps seeds flow better through planters.”

Neil pointed out that just a 5% stand loss on 3,000 acres of soybeans could cost a farmer nearly $85,000 in a growing season so anything they can do to help growers minimize that loss means more from every acre.

Listen to my interview with Neil here: Interview with Neil Bentley, BASF

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Meet ASTA’s New Director of Communications

J Walters PhotoAfter managing communications for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) for the last five years, Janice Walters is now the lead communicator for the seed industry.

As the brand new director of communications for the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), Janice is working closely with President and CEO Andy LaVigne to promote the seed industry’s regulatory and legislative positions, as well as its many initiatives to support seed education and research, careers in the seed industry, and the quality management, movement and stewardship of seed.

During ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo, I caught up with Janice to talk about her new role and, more personally, her two bundles of joy at home. Janice is originally from Galesburg, Illinois but she and her husband now live outside of Washington, D.C. with their 8-month-old twin boys.

Listen to my interview with Janice here: Interview with Janice Walters, ASTA

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

ASTA CSS and Seed Expo Underway

asta-css-sign Over 2,500 seed industry professionals are in the Windy City this week to attend the American Seed Trade Association’s Annual Corn & Sorghum and Soybean Seed Research Conference and Seed Expo.

There are a record number of exhibitors demonstrating the seed industry’s latest technologies, products and services. A New Product Showcase on Thursday will feature products introduced to the industry within the past six months. International participation in the CSS includes delegations from many South American countries, China, Canada and numerous other countries.

The CSS opening session on Thursday will feature renowned agriculture economist Dan Basse and his predictions for the 2014 global crop market; Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Chief USDA Scientist, discussing the key issues impacting agriculture research; and Dr. Junyi Gai from Nanjing Ag University discussing the global outlook for the seed industry.

This meeting is truly “where seed business gets done” with committee meetings focusing on legal and legislative issues, biotech and organic seed concerns, phytosanitary regulations, emerging diseases and other issues affecting seed production and movement worldwide. If you are in the seed business and not here – the question is why?

Check out the photo album here: 2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Cover Crop Seed Growth

asta-risa-cssWith cover crops becoming increasingly important for farmers to provide nutrients and protect against erosion, different varieties are being developed to address specific needs.

At the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CSS & Seed Expo in Chicago, I learned more about that from Risa DeMasi with Grassland Oregon, who is second vice chairman of ASTA. “Our company is very involved with cover crop research…working on sustainability issues for the soil and for the farmer,” she said. “Our mission is to provide novel solutions for growing concerns of the growers today.”

Risa says there are a number of different types of cover crops that are best for achieving specific goals, whether that is addressing soil erosion, soil compaction, water or nutrient management, wildlife habitat – or all of the above. One variety they are particularly excited about is Balansa clover. “It provides a great amount of nitrogen,” said Risa. “It also creates very deep channels in the soil, so you get water availability when you want it and drainage when you don’t. It’s creating a lot of top growth so you get weed suppression. It also can create an environment of habitat for certain wildlife.”

ASTA is becoming more involved in the educational aspect of cover crops for all stakeholders, from policy makers in Washington to the farmers on the ground. Learn more in this interview: Interview with Risa DeMasi, Grassland Oregon

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Seed Treatment in Modern Crop Production

CropLife FoundationAt the end of last week Croplife Foundation released a new report, “The Role of Seed Treatment in Modern U.S. Crop Production.” The report contains extensive information on the benefits of seed treatment for growers, consumers and the environment. Some of the topics covered in the report include:

Grower benefits – Seed treatments offer effective control against early-season pests and diseases, and reduce the need for additional rescue treatments or replanting.

Added value to seed – Seed treatment protects and contributes value to a large proportion of seed that has been enhanced through agricultural technologies.

Positive environmental impacts – Crop protection products applied as seed treatments can reduce soil surface exposure by up to 90 percent compared to other application methods.

Economic impacts – Through increased protection and greater crop yields, seed treatments helped contribute to nearly $80 billion worth of value to American corn growers in 2011.

The CropLife Foundation held a press conference with these speakers:

Jay Vroom, chair, CropLife Foundation board of directors and president and CEO, CropLife America; Andrew W. LaVigne, president and CEO, American Seed Trade Association; Tim Burrack, Iowa farmer and vice chair of the board of directors, Truth about Trade & Technology.

You can download or listen to the press conference to learn more here: CropLife Foundation Press Conference

ASTA CSS 2013 Preview

nafb13-asta-andyWhen I talked with American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CEO Andy LaVinge at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting meeting the 2013 CSS & Seed Expo was still three weeks away, but all of the sudden it’s next week already!

I am heading to Chicago for the 68th annual Corn and Sorghum Seed Research Conference/43rd Soybean Seed Research Conference on Monday where I will be joined by Leah Guffey to bring you coverage of this important meeting “where seed business gets done.” Thanks to ASTA and BASF Crop Protection for sponsoring our coverage. BASF will be will be discussing where their seed solutions profile is today, since they officially announced their plans with Becker Underwood at this meeting last year.

The new portfolio is the result of combined breakthroughs from the BASF global research and development platform and Becker Underwood’s biological seed treatment, seed treatment colors and polymer technologies.

Andy says there will be a big focus at the meeting this year on seed treatment stewardship and a new guide available under the industry banner of Seed Treatment Matters. “We got together with CropLife America, and the major grower groups – National Corn Growers, American Soybean, National Cotton Council and American Farm Bureau Federation – to talk about the adoption of new technologies we’ve seen on seed,” he said. “We want to make sure that technology is properly stewarded.”

The guide developed by the groups is available at and it will also be offered and discussed at 2014 grower meetings.

Listen to my interview with Andy here: Interview with Andy LaVigne, ASTA

2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album

Biotech Crops Alliance Names Secretariat

An alliance of organizations supporting biotech crops has named a leader to help “spearhead collaborative efforts to improve the environment for technology innovation and the market for U.S. crops produced through modern biotechnology.”

mjp-biotechDr. Michael J. Phillips has been selected as the first secretariat for the U.S. Biotech Crops Alliance (USBCA), which was established by several organizations under a memorandum of understanding signed in 2012. The USBCA has been developing and working to “implement consensus positions on key policy issues designed to improve the introduction, stewardship, domestic and international regulatory policy, and distribution in U.S. and export markets of commodities and processed products containing or derived from modern biotechnology.”

In his capacity as secretariat, Phillips will be the focal point of the group’s efforts to further advance the reach, work and wide range of activities being pursued under the expanding broad-based national initiative that currently consists of 11 influential national organizations representing U.S. biotechnology providers; seed, grain and oilseed producers; grain handlers, feed manufacturers, grain processors and millers; exporters; and other end-users. The secretariat also will serve a key role in helping develop and implement consensus positions on specific policy issues.

Phillips is president of MJ Phillips and Associates LLC, an agricultural consulting firm that specializes in agricultural biotechnology issues, and prior to that was vice president for science and regulatory policy for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

The USBCA’s founding organizations include National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, American Seed Trade Association, Biotechnology Industry Organization, National Grain and Feed Association, and North American Export Grain Association. Other national organizations now members of USBCA are American Farm Bureau Federation, Corn Refiners Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, U.S. Grains Council and U.S. Soybean Export Council.

Kohn Joins ASTA

Michelle KohnMichelle Kohn, formerly a research analyst for agriculture consulting firm, Agralytica, has been named Director, International Programs and Policy, said Andrew W. LaVigne, president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA).

In this new role at ASTA, Kohn will be responsible for the management and direction of USDA Cooperator/donor-funded programs and for assisting in the development of ASTA’s international policies and priorities. She will be the staff lead for the International Executive Committee and the major foreign markets (Argentina, India, Mexico, China and Brazil) committees.

Formerly at Agralytica, Kohn provided analysis and support for market research, program evaluations and strategic market analysis for government agencies, trade associations and US exporter organizations. Among the industries she analyzed were soybeans, wheat, grains, oilseed and animal agriculture; and among the issues she evaluated were crop insurance, tariffs and trade barriers.

Prior to Agralytica, Kohn provided writing, research, statistical and other project management support for an environmental nonprofit. A graduate of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland, Kohn is currently working on an MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management from Purdue University and the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.