Farmers urged to add their voice to seed royalty survey

General farm organizations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are encouraging Western Canadian grain farmers to take a few minutes away from the combine this fall and express their opinions on the controversial topic of seed royalties.

Agricultural producers have until Oct, 15 to share their views on proposed changes to seed royalty structures for cereal crops at seedroyaltysurvey.com.

The online survey was launched in July by the Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA), the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) and Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) of Manitoba.

The decision to solicit farmer feedback was made after concerns were raised about the level of producer input in a government consultation process that began in late 2018 and continued into 2019.

“It’s pretty clear in the responses we have received so far that Canadian producers have a lot to say and feel very strongly about the seed royalty issue, and they deserve to be heard,” said APAS president Todd Lewis, who farms near Gray, Sask.

“We encourage as many producers as possible to take the survey before Oct. 15. These changes will affect producers first and foremost, and their views need to be considered in this decision,”

“When it comes to the issue of seed royalty structures, there is a single payer in every possible model and that is the producer,” added AFA president Lynn Jacobson

The survey results are expected to be presented to the new federal agriculture minister after the upcoming federal election.

The issue of seed royalties has created a divisive furrow across the prairie landscape with some groups and individuals aggressively promoting the collection of additional seed royalties and others voicing strong opposition to the idea.

In late 2018, the federal government launched a nation-wide consultation process, seeking views and feedback on two proposed royalty collection schemes.

Under one scheme known as a seed variety use agreement, or SVUA, an up-front contract is signed by farmers at the point where pedigreed seed is purchased.

The contract would restrict the producer’s right to retain and replant farm-saved seed from newer PBR-protected seed varieties on a royalty-free basis.

Farmers would still have the right to use farm-saved seed for planting a crop but they would be bound by contract to pay a fee each time a royalty-eligible seed variety is saved and replanted.

The second scheme, known as an end-point royalty, or EPR, would collect fees on royalty-eligible crops at the point of where commercial grain is sold, presumably when grain is delivered to an elevator.

The federal consultation process, which began in 2018, included a series of public meetings across Canada and multiple meetings in the prairie provinces.

But the process has been losing momentum, at least among federal politicians, who are showing no appetite to discuss the seed royalty issue in advance of October’s federal election.

In a Sept. 6 interview, Lewis said response to the survey so far has been encouraging.

“We’re not at a thousand yet be we’re trending toward that number so we’re quite pleased with that … especially at this time of the year.”

Lewis said seed royalty changes will affect farmers and the industry for decades.

“So we want to get as many people engaged as we can and certainly, from the comments that we’ve received so far, it’s obvious that people are pretty engaged.

“Going forward, there aren’t many things that are more important to agriculture than our seed source and that’s really what we’re talking about here is how we’re going to pay for that seed source and what’s going to happen over the next number of years, in terms of producer costs.”

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