Journal of Intellectual Property Law


The poverty rate among farmers and those living in rural America is about four percent higher than those who live in metropolitan areas. The majority of these farmers rely on farm subsidies from the federal government to offset low farm profits. The seed price for these farmers has increased astronomically, with corn seed representing fifteen percent of total corn production expenses. Federal law contributes to the high input prices by allowing developers of new seed varieties to monopolize their research findings under the Plant Variety Protection Act and other intellectual property protection. Because of the complexity and expense of developing new seed varieties, manufacturers assert that the protections are necessary to recoup the millions spent to create a new seed variety. Because the seed market is tiny and comprises a few large corporations, there is little competition to drive seed prices down. This note explains how a shift in federal subsidies from the farmer towards public agricultural research would create competition in the seed market and force seed prices down without reducing intellectual property protections. This note is timely because the farm poverty crisis is ongoing, with little successful intervention by either industry or the federal government.