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Return to News ListingNCCPB – 25 Years in Review

Presented by Dr. Harold Loden
Executive Vice President
American Seed Trade Association to the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders
Washington, DC
June 27, 1979


Preparing this presentation gave me somewhat of a shock when I realized that in reviewing NCCPB history and accomplishments for the past 25 years, I was part of this history from the very first meeting. Time slips by on all of us…..but I am not yet quite ready to become a historical character.

On January 10, 1954, I made the most terrifying plane trip of my life from Fort Worth, Texas to Jackson, Mississippi. Over Louisiana, we encountered an ice storm and more ice accumulated on the wings than I have ever seen before or since. Sheets were continually blowing off the wings as the pilot used the pulsators on the wings leading edge. We were unable to make scheduled stops in Shreveport or Jackson and went on to Meridian before we were able to get out of the ice storm. The headline of next morning's paper was about the crash of a plane near Shreveport from the ice storm in which Mr. Tom Braniff and a number of Braniff executives were killed. The next day, on January 11th, a number of cotton breeders from across the Cotton Belt, along with three or four hybrid corn producers met in Jackson to discuss the feasibility of forming an organization of private plant breeders. This meeting could well be called "the stormy beginning" of the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders.

The next meeting of the group, which still lacked a name, was held on October 28, 1954 in Memphis, Tennessee. The stated purpose of the meeting was "to discuss forming an organization that would deal with the problems common to commercial breeders of planting seed." At this meeting, representatives of firms having breeding programs for a number of crops attended. Among those attending, in addition to representative of private cotton breeding firms, were T.T. Hopkins of Rogers Brothers, Floyd Winter of Asgrow, A.D. Taylor, then with F.H. Woodruff, Russ Rasmusen of DeKalb, L.W. Corbett of Northrup King, Raymond Coulter of Ferry-Morse, L.M. Camp of PAG, and Earl Page of Cornell. It was decided that an organization of commercial plant breeders should be formed. A committee was appointed to recommend a name and another committee was appointed to prepare a declaration of principles and purpose as well as the Articles of the Association and By-Laws. Robert R. Coker was elected chairman, with Floyd Winter as vice-chairman. Interestingly enough, a major topic of discussion was whether the new organization should become a part of the American Seed Trade Association, and it was determined that, at least initially, the organization should operate independently without being affiliated with any other organization. The name "National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders', was proposed and adopted during the first meeting of the Board of Directors in New Orleans on November 28, 1954.

The first full membership meeting of the new organization was held during the ASTA Mid-winter meeting in Chicago on January 22, 1955. I remember well that the weather was typical of January in Chicago….bad. At this meeting, Dr. C.R. Sayre was named chairman.

Another fact which may be of interest is that during none of the early meetings of NCCPB was plant variety protection mentioned. It is often said that the basic objective for which NCCPB was organized was to develop a system of protection for private plant breeders. This was not the case. The initial objectives of NCCPB were:

A) "….continuing development of high standards of professional and business ethics;
B) promote cooperation and mutual assistance with publicity-supported research agencies;
C) recognition of individual scientific contribution toward betterment of American Agriculture…"

The relationship between public and private research has been of primary and continuing interest to NCCPB since it was organized. The minutes of the January 30, 1957 meeting referred to a paper "Balance Between Government and Private Research" presented on behalf of NCCPB by Dr. Floyd Winter during a meeting in Atlanta, Georgia sponsored by USDA/ARS. During the formative years of NCCPB, a number of meetings were held with Administrators within USDA/ARS, USDA/Grain Branch and State Experiment Station Directors. These meetings, as reported in the minutes of NCCPB meetings, were directed toward a determination and definition of the fundamental areas of activities of the commercial and State/Federal plant breeders and administrators with the objective of improving the cooperation and relationships between public and private breeders.

During the June 1957 meeting in Cincinnati, Bob Coker reviewed the proposed Joint Policy Statement, "Private and Public Responsibilities and Opportunities in Cotton Genetics and Breeding". This statement developed by private cotton breeders was presented to and accepted by experiment station directors in the south. The statement was developed as a result of the dissatisfaction and disagreement of commercial cotton breeders with a statement on seed policy developed by a committee of experiment station directors chaired by Dr. R.D. Lewis of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. Ideas contained in the policy statement on cotton genetics and breeding were subsequently incorporated into the "ESCOP Statement of Responsibilities and Policies Relating to Seeds of Publicly Developed Varieties". As you know, NCCPB is one of the organizations listed as approving the ESCOP statement as revised several years ago.

During the June 1959 meeting in Washington, DC, a proposal was made that NCCPB consider some form of recognition of superior accomplishment by individual plant breeders. This program was discussed and studied for several years by a number of committees and was finally approved in 1964 and the first award was presented in 1965. Fourteen awards have been given and the recipient of this award will be determined during this meeting. I am sure all of us agree that this program has served NCCPB and the commercial plant breeding industry well and is accomplishing the objectives for which it was developed.

I was surprised to find the first mention of breeders rights by NCCPB was in the minutes of the June 1960 annual meeting. The minutes reported that I discussed this possibility and a motion was made that a committee be appointed "to study the possibility of providing protection for private plant breeders who originate varieties". The first Breeders Right Study Committee was appointed in 1961. Needless to say, this became the major activity of NCCPB during the ensuing years until the enactment of the Plant Variety Protection Act. The importance of the role of NCCPB is this achievement cannot be underestimated. The 1963 symposium on Breeders Rights of which NCCPB was a cosponsor was an important contribution to the eventual enactment of the U.S. PVP Act. A review of the record indicates that NCCPB was a full partner with ASTA in these efforts.

Early during the existence of NCCPB, a policy statement that NCCPB should develop and take positive positions on matters of concern to commercial plant breeders was adopted. NCCPB has never "ducked" an issue. This policy has significant results which may have been overlooked due to the major emphasis placed on breeders rights. Some issues on which NCCPB has taken positions have been (A) opposing the mandatory registration of varieties, (B) release policy on publicly developed varieties, (C) variety nomenclature, and (D) germplasm release by state and federal agencies. These actions and others have impacted positively to the benefit of the entire seed industry.

Annual dues in NCCPB were established in 1955 at $25.00 per firm and remained at this level until 1967 when a revised dues structure was adopted. Concurrent with this action, the Executive Vice President of the American Seed Trade Association also became the Executive Vice President of NCCPB.

In 1968, NCCPB made the first printing of the brochure on NCCPB's "Aims and Objectives". A new brochure has been written this year.

NCCPB has undertaken a number of special projects of value to its members, and to private and public research programs. Among these have been distribution of the Ethiopian Sorghum Collection and support of the Cornell Plant Breeding Seminar. Efforts in germplasm release information has been of benefit to both public and private plant breeders.

The recent history, accomplishments and activities of NCCPB are well known to most of you and I will not recap them. However, in closing, I would like to philosophize a bit on a significant development which has taken place during the past 25 years and one for which major credit can be given to NCCPB. This relates to the image of commercial plant breeding. The efforts, objectives and results of private plant breeding programs are better understood and appreciated, particularly in the public sector. NCCPB has become recognized as the representative and voice for seed industry research. Through NCCPB, the entire seed industry, and commercial plant breeding in particular, has been given a voice and representation on committees, boards and in other forums where matters of vital concern to our industry are discussed and where policy is developed. A few examples are the Plant Variety Protection Board, National Plant Genetics Resources Board, AOSCA Advisory Committee, Variety Review Boards, and Committees too numerous to list. Of major importance is the fact that through NCCPB, the entire seed industry has a stronger voice since, more often then not, both ASTA and NCCPB have full and equal representation on the committees and boards. This is an important function of NCCPB and every effort should be made to continue and strengthen this important benefit to our industry. In time, the cumulative benefits of this representation, even though sometimes difficult to evaluate, may well be one of the major contributions of NCCPB.

One additional observation I would like to make has to do with company representation within NCCPB. It appears to me that during the first years after NCCPB was formed that there was more active participation of top management and chief executive officers of member firms than may now be the case. I believe the participation of top management in the affairs of NCCPB is desirable or even essential to the satisfactory accomplishment of your objectives and goals and I encourage the leadership of NCCPB to seed this support.

In conclusion, I enjoyed preparing this review of NCCPB's first 25 years. It has given me greater appreciation for its contributions to our industry. I doubt that many organizations could review their first 25 years and point with pride to its accomplishments as can NCCPB. I trust this review has served to strengthen your belief and pride in NCCPB, its objectives, purposes and accomplishments. I am confident that during the next 25 years your organization will grow and make even greater contributions to the U.S. seed industry and American Agriculture.



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