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National Farmers Union fights for farm-saved seed

Farmers will invest more in variety development but won’t guarantee companies a profit

Farmers are willing to invest more into publicly funded plant variety development so long as they can see where their money is going and track the results, says Stewart Wells, 2nd vice-president of the National Farmers Union (NFU).

“Our position is farmers aren’t remotely interested in end point royalties or trailing royalty contracts wherein the farmer becomes totally subservient to the seed companies and the seed companies are totally in control of the seed supply,” Wells said in an interview June 7.

That’s the message Wells and NFU president Katie Ward and 1st vice-president Cam Goff took to MPs in Ottawa June 5 and 6.

The grain industry has proposed farmers pay more toward cereal variety development, which is also intended to encourage private companies to invest more.

Starting last fall the federal government has held several public meetings to review the two options. But according to Wells both boil boil down to guaranteeing private companies a profit.

“Well, OK, where’s the guaranteed profit for farmers?” he said.

There’s no way to ensure farmers’ money collected by a private company would be used for research, he said.

“The companies will put the money where ever it suits them,” Wells said. “That’s a pretty big hole in the whole argument about the benefit to farmers.

“We have to make sure farmers are writing letters and voicing their concerns to the Minister (of Agriculture) because you can never be sure how accurate the feedback coming from people in AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) is.”

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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