Survey finds little appetite for seed royalties

Prairie farmers are in no mood to pay additional fees when they save and replant seed that was grown and harvested on their own land.

That’s one of the key findings of a producer survey on seed royalties.

The survey, which sought producer opinions on new seed royalty collection mechanisms, was conducted over the past few months and organized by general farm organizations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Results of the survey were released earlier today.

“What we heard from producers is that they are not in a position to absorb extra costs,” said Todd Lewis, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.

“As price-takers, farmers have little room in their margins for added expenditures, so there is little support for yet another expense to add to our bottom lines.”

In 2018, Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency launched Canada-wide consultations to determine if new seed royalties are needed and supported by stakeholders in the Canadian agriculture sector.

Supporters said a new seed royalty collection system is necessary to attract new investments in plant breeding and ensure that existing plant breeding programs are properly funded.

Additional revenues are critical to ensure that Canada’s grain farmers remain competitive and have access to the newest and most productive seed varieties possible, they added.

But opponents — including many commercial grain farmers — said the introduction of additional seed royalties will be another drain on growers’ profit margins, which are already razor thin.

Some farmers claimed that consultations facilitated by Agriculture Canada and the CFIA did not adequately seek the views of primary producers, who will ultimately be expected to absorb the additional costs if a new royalty system is introduced.

In response, APAS, along with Keystone Agricultural Producers in Manitoba and the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, launched an online survey in July to gauge producer opinions and gather feedback from growers.

More than 1,000 producers responded to the survey and sent a message that there is limited support among respondents for new seed royalties.

Results from the producer survey also suggested that:

• More than 70 percent of respondents are either satisfied or very satisfied with the current approach to varietal development for pulses and cereal grain crops including wheat, barley and oats.

• Fifty-seven percent of respondents are either satisfied or very satisfied with the current approach to varietal development for canola.

• Forty-seven percent of respondents agree that increased investment in crop development is required, provided producers have oversight into how much is collected and what the funds are used for.

The majority of producers who responded to the survey also indicated that although they are familiar with the two royalty collections mechanisms currently being discussed in Canada — end point royalties and contract enabled royalties — other models that consider farm profitability should be considered.

“Producers are telling us loud and clear that they are not happy with either of the proposed models,” said Lynn Jacobson, president of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture.

“Our outreach confirms that they don’t feel they’ve been sufficiently engaged in consultations to date. It’s our hope that AAFC will work to rectify this before any further decisions are made.”

In an Oct. 23 news release, KAP president Bill Campbell said prairie farm groups “look forward to working with the federal government now that the election is complete to ensure that any new seed royalty structure is ultimately fair for farmers and producers.”

Plant breeding needs to be funded in a manner that is fair and driven by the interests of farmers.”

Results of the survey can be viewed here.

A summary of the results can be found here.

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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