Trailing royalty proposal a bad idea

The question of implementing a seed royalty has been drawn to my attention.

What I understand is that the seed sector is planning an industry-wide amalgamation that would combine the five major seed organizations: the Canadian Seed Growers Association, the Canadian Seed Trade Association, the Canadian Seed Institute, the Canadian Plant Technology Agency and the Commercial Seed Analysts Association.

This combined entity would be a one-stop shop that would handle the production and sale of seed. It would cover the cost of administration, production and the sale of seed through fees and levies and the cost of research through certified seed sales trailing royalty contracts on every acre of particular varieties sown by farmers — somewhat similar to that of canola.

I also understand that research and development of seed varieties of wheat, oats, barley, rye and other crops is primarily done by universities and funded by Agriculture Canada, the provincial and federal governments and producers.

This procedure has been highly successful and has had positive continuity and been reasonably affordable by our present funding structures. Primary producers do not want or require trailing royalties or unnecessary extra costs.

All people require food to live and the research and development of seed varieties should be a cost borne by the entire population, not just the farmer. Our government must not shirk its responsibility to continue to fund variety research.

Producers currently contribute more than $30 million to seed variety development and agricultural research through the Western Grain Research Foundation, various commodity organizations and royalties on certified seed.

The suggestion that “a trailing seed royalty” should be applied to every acre of grain that a farmer plants, from seed produced on his own land, makes the farmer responsible for subsidizing the cost of food to the consumer and gives the control of seed to a “seed entity” with corporate interests.

This would limit a farmer’s ability to sell grain unless he or she signs a contract with the “seed entity,” which will include the trailing royalty payments on every acre sown.

If the proposed system goes ahead, it would free the government from its responsibility of funding research and pass the costs onto farmers in an annual royalty.

Research funding should remain as is and be the government’s responsibility — not only the farmers’.

The federal government has halted consultations with farmers regarding trailing royalties. Those consultations must be continued and while they do so, the Canadian Seed Trade Association’s pilot seed royalty project must be put on hold.

Primary producers of food are being denied a voice in a very undemocratic way.

Primary producers are on the front lines of food production, and as a minority, should not be exploited. They supply an essential service, and the minister of agriculture would do well to communicate with primary producers on a regular basis.

This trailing seed royalty fiasco is looked at by the vast majority of primary producers as an attempt by a seed entity amalgamation to seize control of the seed industry and play toward gaining government support, which will in turn allow government to lessen its responsibility to govern fairly with funding and to honestly support primary producers in the production of cheap food for society.

This trailing royalty must not be supported by farmers nor supported by a democratic government.

W. Douglas Fawcett farms near Consort, Alta. His original article has been edited for length.

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