Seed royalty proposal divides farmers

The wheat growers association wants to wait till the end of the consultation process before stating its preferred choice, but added it supports the continuation of public breeding programs and believes a new royalty collection system would contribute to their sustainability.  |  File photo

Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association comes out in favour of proposal, but APAS expresses opposition

The original headline of this story, “Seed royalty proposal gains farmer support,” did not accurately reflect the story, which has views for and against the proposed changes. The headline has been updated to, “Seed royalty proposal divides farmers.”

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association says it’s in favour of paying royalties on farm-saved seed if it means better seed products for prairie farmers.

“As farmers, we don’t feel the status quo is good enough…,” said WCWGA president Levi Wood.

“(We) want improvements including more investment, innovation and competition.

“Competition is good, so if a new system encourages and facilitates more of it, we feel confident it’s a move in the right direction.”

On Nov. 27, the WCWGA issued a news release saying it “firmly supports efforts to create value in the seed sector” and reward investments in plant breeding.

The WCWGA issued its statement just two days before the Agricultural Producers of Association Saskatchewan (APAS) passed a resolution at its annual general meeting opposing royalties on farm saved seed.

According to the resolution, Saskatchewan’s general farm lobby group “by all effective means” will oppose the adoption of end point royalties or trailing royalty contracts on farm-saved seed.

The federal government has been holding consultation meetings on a plan that could see royalties charged on farm-saved seed within two to three years.

The federal consultations are seeking feedback on two proposed royalty models — farm-saved seed contracts and end-point royalties.

Royalty rates under both models have yet to be determined but regardless of which system is implemented, farmers would be paying more for seed each time they plant a crop using farm-saved seed.

“We’re letting the consultation process run its course before stating a preferred choice,” said Manitoba farmer and WCWGA director Gunter Jochum.

“Wheat growers are fully engaged in the sessions and are keen to learn more about the pros and cons of both solutions.”

Jochum said WCWGA supports the continuation of public breeding programs and believes a new royalty collection system would contribute to their sustainability.

Jochum, who farms near St. Francois Xavier, Man., west of Winnipeg, said wheat acreage on his farm was declining steadily until a few years ago when new wheat varieties with improved fusarium resistance were introduced.

He said proper financial incentives must be provided to ensure that cereal breeding programs continue to invest in varietal development.

“If breeders see good value in bringing new varieties to market … it benefits everyone,” he said.

“It benefits them and it benefits us as farmers.”

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