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    Plant breeders contributed enormously to the agricultural and economic development of the United States. By improving the profitability of farming, plant breeders improved the economic condition of farmers and contributed to the growth and structure of rural communities. In the years since World War II, agriculture and the quality of rural life have been driven by policies that encouraged and subsidized an agroindustrial production model. Plant breeders responded by developing methods and deploying products attuned to agroindustrial clients. Major achievements by plant breeders of the era include the development of higher-yielding crops suitable to new environments and mechanized harvesting and shipping. As social, technological, and economic changes reinforced the expansion and dominance of the agroindustrial model, rural communities sustained high levels of out-migration. At the same time, a variety of societal and economic forces have encouraged new food system models, including the locavores and community-supported agriculture. Sustainability indices reflect the desire of megaretailers to make the relationship between consumers and the production of their food more transparent. These forces, along with an increased focus on the quality of rural life in America, represent opportunities for plant breeders to address the needs of new clients, to develop methods appropriate to their client’s values, and to serve traditional clients in new ways.

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    Woeste, KE; Blanche, SB; Moldenhauer, KA; Nelson, CD. 2010. Plant breeding and rural development in the United States. Crop Science 50:1-8.

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