Seeds Canada likely despite CSGA rejection

Seed growers’ association finds some silver linings

Seeds Canada will likely be formed by the four seed organizations whose members voted strongly in favour of merging, said Ellen Sparry, president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA).

“We want to ensure the momentum keeps going,” Sparry, who is president of C & M Seeds in Palmerston, Ont., said in an interview Sept. 1. “We want to move things along and hope that we can get Seeds Canada off the ground and that, at some point, growers see value in it.”

The CSTA represents 119 seed companies, including multinational giants such as Bayer and BASF, as well as mom-and-pop seed grower-retailers.

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All CSTA members, including an additional 18 affiliate and honorary members, were to vote on merging.

Fifty-seven per cent of CSTA members voted, with 71 (92 per cent) in favour of the merge to Seeds Canada, six (eight per cent) voting against, plus one abstention, the CSTA said in an email.

The CSTA said they are disappointed the majority of Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) members who cast a ballot voted against the merger.

Seeds Canada would be stronger if the CSGA was part of it, Sparry said.

“I think having that one voice is pretty key,” she said.

If Seeds Canada is formed, it’s possible it could co-operate with the CSGA, perhaps through a formal agreement, Sparry added.

“I think the potential is there to think about that down the road,” she said. “It’s hard to say what might happen, but discussion is always an option.”

That might even lead to the CSGA joining Seeds Canada after four or five years as growers see the benefits, Oak Lake, Man., seed grower Eric McLean said in an interview Sept. 1.

No matter what happens, the CSGA must work with other seed industry organizations, according to CSGA past president Jonathan Nyborg, a seed grower from New Denmark, N.B.

“We have to because we still have the seed regulatory modernization coming up,” he said in an interview Sept. 3. “There are going to be aspects we’ll have to work on collectively.

“Now whether we do something formal with an MOU (memorandum of understanding), that remains to be seen.”

Nyborg, who was active in the merger process while serving as CSGA president, said he thought the vote could go either way.

“I wasn’t surprised that it was a ‘No’ vote,” he said. “I think what shocked me the most was the fact that it was such a strong ‘No’ vote.”

CSGA members voted 55 per cent against the merger. The vote needed two-thirds in favour to pass.

Since the vote wasn’t close, Nyborg doubts another vote will be held.

“When you get a vote like we got, then you get a clear message from your membership that’s not what they want to do,” he said. “They don’t want to move forward with the amalgamation.”

Nyborg said he understands why some farmers worry about the potential for multinational seed companies to have too much control within Seeds Canada, but it’s not a fear he shares.

“As soon as you say ‘multinational,’ you get people who are already tensing up and they’re getting nervous,” Nyborg said. “I understand that… but sitting on the oversight committee and working behind the scenes and trying to get the amalgamation agreement put together, I’m privy to a lot more information and I never got the feeling that there was any underlying ulterior motive of anybody trying to take over the industry.”

Although the industry spent five years and large dollar amounts on a merger plan, it wasn’t a wasted effort, Nyborg said.

The process has brought the different seed organizations closer together, he said, and things were learned that can be used in CSGA 2.0.

“Another positive that came out of this is we had 23 per cent of our membership engaged,” Nyborg said. “That’s an unprecedented amount of people voting at a special members’ meeting or at an AGM.

“If we can continue to get folks engaged like that, to me that’s great.”

Nyborg doesn’t expect the federal government to push the CSGA out of its seed certifying seed role.

“We still have to be part of it,” he said.

“I think the farmer pulls a lot of weight with the Canadian public. So I am not too worried about the farmer being pushed out and the seed growers being pushed out.”

The CSGA worked hard to get the best merger deal it could, he said.

“I hope nobody is harbouring any bad feelings about the whole situation,” Nyborg said. “As we moved along… we asked the membership if we were headed in the right direction. We were getting the same answer back and that was, we were.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

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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