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Year in review: Cereal royalty discussions expected to resume soon

Seed industry had hoped issue would be settled by now

Prairie farmers will be talking about cereal royalties again this year.

When public discussions on collecting more royalties from farmers to help fund new cereal varieties started in November 2018 the federal government targeted the spring of 2019 to report on farmer feedback on the seed industry’s two proposed options.

But farmer opposition to both — an end point royalty that would collect a fee from farmers when they sell their grain, and a trailing contract royalty, which would require farmers pay a fee on farm-saved seed — has delayed the process.

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“For each proposal, between 65 and 66 per cent of respondents disagreed, or strongly disagreed, that the models were worth further consideration,” the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) and other farm groups said when they released the results of their online survey in the fall of 2019.

According to Canada’s seed industry not enough money is being invested in the development of new cereals varieties because farmers don’t buy pedigreed seed often enough.

Because cereals such as wheat are open-pollinated, farmers can buy pedigreed seed one year, grow it and save seed to plant in future years. Farmers like it because it saves them money on seed.

But if farmers contributed more it would encourage both private and public plant breeders to develop better varieties to help keep Canadian farmers competitive in the future.

The industry also says it would attract more foreign investment in Canadian crop development.

But some farmers are uneasy about a payment system that doesn’t give them any say in how the money is spent.

“We are not puppets,” Deerwood farmer Ian Steppler posted on Facebook on Jan. 21. “Let these companies invest their dollars into their products to buy my business.

“Get your hands out of my pockets.”

Many farmers are happy with the varieties they get from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“The yield gains percentage wise with wheat have grown at the same percentage as canola without it being privatized,” Angusville farmer James Melnyk said Jan. 23 during an interview at Ag Days in Brandon.

In fact crop insurance data show on average Manitoba wheat and canola yields have increased 102 and 80 per cent over the last 25 years.

But Todd Hyra of SeCan warns the federal government cut research funding since its high-yielding wheats were developed. The fact that Syngenta quit its Canadian wheat-breeding program at the end of 2019 is a red flag, he said.

“So we want to encourage that investment and we want to create an infrastructure and a system that rewards private breeders to bring their innovation to Canada,” he said in an interview Nov. 14.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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