Seeds Canada will include seed grower voices

That’s despite the Canadian Seed Growers Association’s decision not to participate in new organization

The Canadian Seed Growers Association (CSGA) isn’t part of the merger creating Seeds Canada, but some seed growers will be part of Seeds Canada.

“While there may be one less amalgamating partner (CSGA), the vision for Seeds Canada to become the voice of the seed sector, including seed growers, analysts, and the seed trade, remains the same,” the four merging groups said in a joint statement Oct. 6.

“The goal is for Seeds Canada’s membership to include national and provincial seed associations, as well as seed growers from across the country. Growers play an integral role in the seed system, and Seeds Canada needs their involvement to succeed.”

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In a strong vote earlier this summer members of the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA), Canadian Plant Technology Agency, Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada and Canadian Seed Institute (CSI) voted to merge to create Seeds Canada.

Why it matters: Seeds Canada was proposed to bring Canada’s five seed industry groups together under one roof, but members of the Canadian Seed Growers Association, the biggest of the five, strongly rejected the plan.

Seeds Canada, which had been under discussion for five years, was intended to bring the seed industry together to create a unified voice and a streamlined, one-stop shop for the seed sector. However, 55 per cent of CSGA members who cast a ballot voted against it. It required two-thirds support to go ahead.

Despite that rejection, the CSGA will likely be an affiliate Seeds Canada member as will some provincial seed grower associations and individual seed growers, CSTA president Ellen Sparry said in an interview Oct. 7.

Michael Sheffel.
photo: Supplied

“Right now CSGA is an affiliate member of CSTA,” Michael Scheffel, the CSGA’s, managing director of policy and standards, said in an interview Oct 8. “We would probably be invited to be an affiliate member of Seeds Canada… It would be up to the board as to whether or not we would be an affiliate member of that association.”

The same goes for the Manitoba Seed Growers Association (MSGA), executive director Jennifer Seward, wrote in an email Oct. 7.

“I strongly suspect we will (join Seeds Canada) for the same reasons we were members of CSTA — to be able to be physically and virtually in the room while topics that affect our members are discussed,” Seward wrote.

Seeds Canada will be member driven, Sparry said.

“All members will be able to participate on committees, serve on the board, and again the goal is to be diverse and inclusive,” she added. “Those are the big goals as we move forward with Seeds Canada.”

CSGA members opposed to merging raised concerns about how Seeds Canada would be governed, including fears the farmer-seed grower voice would be lost and that multinational seed companies would dominate.

Those fears were largely unjustified, according to merger supporters.

While the four other groups voted strongly to merge, they will have to vote again to do so, probably at the end of November, based on a revised plan that doesn’t include the CSGA.

Sparry expects Seeds Canada will officially be created Feb. 1, 2021.

CSGA and Seeds Canada will need some time to consider their relationship, but Scheffel said he expects there will be co-operation.

“We are still all in this together,” he said.

“We’re just not doing it under a single roof, I would say. We’ve got two houses if you like, but sometimes we visit.

“We don’t imagine going back to our members within a short term. I think the 55 per cent of members who voted no would be aghast if we were to bring the question back. They feel, I’m sure, that it was a fairly resounding rejection of the idea.”

Ahead of the vote some in the seed industry wondered if changes to seed regulations might see the CSGA’s role in seed crop certification transferred to Seeds Canada.

If that happened CSGA would have no reason to exist, Scheffel said.

“I don’t think government is looking to take something like that away from the CSGA and give it to some other body that is mostly seed companies, including multinational seed corporations and life science and chemistry companies,” he said. “CSGA has been doing what it does for 115 years and I think we have been doing it quite well. I can’t imagine that the CFIA or government would have any reason to take that away.”

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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