A new proposed seed variety use agreement (SVUA) would have producers of wheat, barley, oats, flax and pulse crops subject to a new royalty fee as early as 2020.
Two fee options have been proposed by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to support research and plant breeding programs in Canada when producers use farm-saved seeds.
One option would see producers pay a royalty fee when they deliver grain from farm-saved seed known as an End-Point Royalty. The other, a Seed Royalty, would be a fee paid by producers when they plant farm-saved seeds.
Formal consultations have been held across Canada in Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Ottawa and P.E.I. to gather feedback from producers on the two proposed models.
Todd Hyra, with the Canadian Seed Growers and Canadian Seed Trade Associations, said it can take 10 to 12 years to develop a new plant variety, with costs rising over $1 million, and there is a need for more investment.
“It’s not about now, it’s not about five years from now,” he said. “This is 10, 15, 20 years from now ensuring that we have strong programs that are going to be able to deliver products to our farming community.”
Fourth-generation producer Ian Boxall farms north of Tisdale, Sask., and attended two of the SVUA consultation sessions to listen and ask questions about the proposed models. He said he still has some concerns about both systems.
“Who’s going to be held accountable with the money we’re investing into research?” he asked. “Are we getting a product that the producer wants?”
Boxall said he would like to see farmers have a hand in deciding how the royalties collected could be spent.
“Saskatchewan has 46 per cent of Canada’s crop acres,” he said. “We should have 46 per cent of the say into the royalty system. If the majority of the money is coming out of Saskatchewan we need our voice heard and get all the players on the same page.”
The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association said they would like to see more money going into cereal research, but currently, aren’t endorsing either SVUA model.
Jim Wickett from the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association said both Australia and France have successful End Point Royalty programs.
“Both of these models have been used all over the world,” he said. “We aren’t reinventing the wheel, we’re just late to the party, we are 15 years behind the times.”
Canola, soybeans and corn already have their own models to generate revenue for research and plant breeding programs in Canada, they would be unaffected by the proposed agreement.
Producers would still have farmers’ privilege to save seed from year-to-year, but the change with the agreement would implement a royalty fee to the breeder for the seed genetics.
Boxall said he’s heard mixed opinions amongst industry about the proposed models.
“Farmers aren’t against paying for a variety of research,” he said. “As long as we get a product that is better than what we currently have.”
An online consultation is expected to start soon for industry stakeholders to voice their concerns with the proposed models and contribute to developing a system that works for Canadian producers.
More information about the proposed SVUA is available at seedvaluecreation.ca.