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President’s Corner

UMN wheat variety plots. Photo: David Hansen. © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.

By Fawad Shah, President/CEO

Research to develop or improve crop varieties is a crucial component of agricultural productivity, food security, and economic vitality. The public-private partnership in agricultural research has led the way in making it possible to rely on a stable, abundant, and affordable food supply, not only in the domestic market but also in foreign markets that rely on the import of American commodities.

The United States has been, and should remain, the leader in innovative agricultural research. However, public funding for such research has greatly decreased over the years. As a result, public institutions like the University of Minnesota have adopted innovative ways to generate funding to support ongoing agricultural research. One such way is to generate funds through variety development fees.

The University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) has a rich history of having a strong variety development program. In February 1993, the MAES established the Variety Development Fund, commonly known as VDF, to provide financial support for agronomic crop variety development. The VDF is generated through a fee that is collected as part of the sale of registered and certified seed of all agronomic crop varieties developed and protected by MAES under the US Plant Variety Protection Act. The Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, the sole seed certifying agency for Minnesota, is charged with seed certification and collects VDF fees, as established by MAES.

Proceeds from the Variety Development Fund are used to support variety development research as well as related outreach and education. The MAES formalized a process for University of Minnesota researchers to apply for funding from the VDF for support of variety development and related activities, and for investment in potentially new crop species. The Variety Development Fund can be used for equipment purchase as well, with a minimum of 25 percent matching funds from other sources.

Nearly 30 years after establishing the Variety Development Fund fee structure, the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station recently reviewed and increased its fees. Effective July 1, 2022, the VDF fee will increase to $0.75 per bushel for all registered and certified seed sold of wheat varieties (both old and new) released by the MAES. The seed of these varieties sold on or after July 1, 2022, will be assessed at the new $0.75 per bushel rate.

Minnesota Crop Improvement Association informed growers about this fee increase and posted this announcement on our website in May. The new fee will be applicable to all University of Minnesota wheat varieties, including Bolles, Lang-MN, Linkert, MN-Rothsay, MN-Torgy, MN-Washburn, and Shelly. Seed grower support of the Variety Development Fund will continue to be an important part of the research to develop and improve crop varieties.