An online producer survey on seed royalties launched in the spring closes next week.
There have been on-going discussions between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and industry stakeholders over the last four years regarding a new proposed seed variety use agreement.
Todd Lewis, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), explained the survey is aimed at finding out how farmers feel about seed royalties and how well they understand them.
“Seed is pretty important it’s the base of every farmer’s operation,” he explained. “They’re talking about changes that are going to affect our seed and seed production for decades to come.”
The proposed agreement would have producers of wheat, barley, oats, flax and pulse crops pay a new royalty fee when they use any farm-saved seed.
An endpoint royalty and a seed royalty have both been proposed.
Lewis said not everyone is happy with the proposals.
“I think we’ve had a lot of push back from producers,” he said. “It’s going to take money out of their pockets, producers have spent a lot of money on seed over time and put lots of money into research.
“Producers are concerned with how their money is being spent and want to ensure the money that they do put out does go towards research, that gets results for them.”
Cam Goff with the National Farmers Union said the royalty fee would be an added cost to farmers and in time, grocery bills for consumers.
“We feel that farmers should have the right to freely use whatever seed they legally purchase if they want to re-use it,” he said.
“Really both of the proposals that this value creation is putting forward denies farmers the opportunity to use their own seed which they’ve had ever since farmers started.”
Goff explained the changes in regulations would affect more than just farmers, it would change our public plant breed system.
“It’s not just wheat and barley that’s affected it’s every way of propagating plants,” he said, “It’s seeds in your garden, it’s tree fruit, it’s everything that we eat and I don’t think citizens should be handing the very basis of our food system over to multinational private corporations.”
Farmers can provide their online feedback until Oct. 15.
Lewis said the survey is easy to fill out and is comprised of just eight questions; he wants producers to take the time to give their feedback.
“During this election cycle we’ve heard lots of complaints about agriculture isn’t part of the conversation with our federal parties,” he said. “We to have farmers engaged, If we can’t be engaged then it’s difficult to complain the government not talking about agriculture.
“If agriculture itself won’t come forward and put a little bit of time in.”
APAS said they will be releasing the results to the public and the next Canadian minister of agriculture at the end of October.
A new proposed seed variety use agreement could be implemented as early as 2020.