Seed testing laboratories struggle to keep pace

Seed testing laboratories throughout the Southeast have fallen on some hard times because of budget cutbacks and other problems. Speaking at the Southern Crop Production Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture John McMillan talked about what Alabama is doing to update its facilities and testing equipment.

As Richard Taylor, executive vice president of the Southern Seedsmen's Association, said during remarks at the SCPA meeting, consistency has been an issue for many of the states' seed testing laboratory over the last 50 years. But the problem seems to have grown in recent years. Some states have shut down their laboratories entirely while others are operating with skeleton crews.

McMillan said out-dated equipment has been one of the major problems facing the Alabama Seed Testing Laboratory. Within a year after taking office, McMillan had managed to build a surplus he hoped to apply to the laboratory.

"Before we could begin to use that money, we had to put an entire new roof on the facility and replace the central heating and air conditioning systems," he says. "So it's been a struggle to bring the kinds of changes we want to make."

To help demonstrate how out-dated some of the equipment was, McMillan had one of his staff members place large hand-printed signs showing the date of purchase for the major pieces of equipment. "About the newest piece of equipment we had was purchased in the 1990s."

Another obtacle has been that Alabama's farm organizations have had difficulty agreeing on a new fee structure to support the seed testing laboratory. McMillan says he and the administration are determined to bring improvements to the facility.


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