Farm organizations seeking producer input on seed royalties

Seed royalty survey SM graphic 3Western Canadian farm organizations want to hear from Canadian producers on proposed changes to seed royalty structures for cereal crops. A new online survey launched today to get their input.

Over the past year, AFA has worked closely with general farm organizations including Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) to review the existing models proposed by the government.

Upon review of the models presented to date, AFA and other farm organizations feel there are several issues not addressed in the current proposals. In farm organization meetings, an area of significant antagonism for producers has been for proposed royalties on farmer-saved seed.

Although Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency held a series of public meetings this past winter to gauge feedback on the two proposed models, the government consultation process is currently on hold.

“The creation of a new seed royalty model for cereal crops will mean significant changes for producers when it comes to the issue of farmer-saved seed. Further exploration and consultation is absolutely critical to ensure that the interests of Canadian producers are reflected in any resulting model.”

– Lynn Jacobson, AFA President.

Online survey to capture farm producer input before government consultations

AFA, KAP and APAS want to hear from a greater number of farm producers on the proposed changes before the government consultations resume later this year. Producers can make their voice heard by taking a few minutes to complete the online survey here:

https://www.seedroyaltysurvey.com/

“Producers certainly weren’t satisfied with the level of engagement and consultation that went into the development of the two models currently under consideration,” said Todd Lewis, APAS President. “We want to make sure that producers stay on top of these discussions and have their voice heard throughout the process.”

In June, APAS, KAP and AFA presidents, board members and staff met in Regina for an in-depth discussion on cereal seed royalties. They explored a model that addresses several principles believed to be fundamental to any approved model, to ensure it reflects the interests of Canadian producers.

These principles, which received near unanimous support from farmer delegates across Canada, require that any value creation model must achieve the following outcomes:

  • Maintain and enhance public research, development and finishing of new varieties;
  • Preserve or enhance current public funding;
  • Be transparent with producer involvement;
  • Maintain the privilege of farmer-saved seed;
  • Incorporate systems that are administered in a fair and equitable manner; and
  • Ensure producers can remain competitive in the world marketplace.

Our analysis of the existing proposals for seed models that utilize a trailing royalty and/or an end point royalty shows that these current proposals fall short of meeting the principles outlined above.

That’s why our prairie farm organizations are reaching out to farmers to see what they think.

More input sought from producers

It’s the belief of AFA and our prairie farm organization colleagues that anything that has such a substantial impact on farmers must engage farmers in the process before the creation and approval of a new model.

With the current government consultation process on hold, we’re making it easy for farm producers to have their voice heard by taking the online survey at: https://www.seedroyaltysurvey.com/

“It is crucial that we hear from farmers and producers on the two new proposed models, because consultation with those who are directly affected ultimately leads to better decision making,” Bill Campbell, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers said. “Our hope is that producers will take the time to get involved in this process and ensure their needs are met under a new royalty structure.”

For more information, read our AFA news release here.

A prosperous agriculture industry benefits us all

vegetables-pixabystockCanadians live in a country where local food is plentiful, the food quality is outstanding and there is a strong agricultural community working to ensure our food is accessible and abundant.

In addition, the Canadian agricultural industry is a huge engine for growth and prosperity for our country and our citizens. This kind of prosperity doesn’t just happen by chance. It comes about through hard-working farm and ranch owners, a strong agricultural workforce, and an industry committed to efficiency, technology and a robust national food policy.

To highlight the many benefits of agriculture to the lives of Canadians and the economy, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is spearheading an advocacy campaign Producing Prosperity in Canada. This initiative is supported by Canada’s provincial general farm organizations, like AFA, who work to provide a unified voice and advocate for Canadian farmers at all levels of government.

General farm organizations are non-partisan and represent producers of all commodities. These farm families operate farms and ranches from coast-to-coast producing blueberries, beef, chicken, pork, wheat, barley, canola, chickpeas, lentils, honey, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, corn, sugar beets and so much more.

The goal of the Producing Prosperity in Canada campaign is to identify Canadian agriculture as a sector that benefits all of Canada and to show that investments made in agriculture have far-reaching impacts in economic growth, food security and environmental stewardship. Here are just a few ways agriculture contributes, and why investments in this industry will be key for a prosperous future.

Economic growth

Canadian agriculture is a significant employer of skilled labour, with the agriculture and agri-food sectors accounting for one in eight jobs in 2014 and employing around 2.3 million people. Agriculture drives our national economy through job opportunities, tax revenues and rural economic development. In 2016 alone, Canada’s value exports in this sector totaled $56 billion and generated nearly $112 billion, or 6.7% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP).

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Food security

Canadians enjoy one of the most diverse offerings of food and value-added products in the world. This post from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada calls agriculture “a colossal contributor to the lives of all Canadians”. Along with feeding Canadians, our country’s agricultural products, foods and beverages can be found around the globe, as shown here.

Our Canadian food system is known for its safe, high-quality food, produced in an efficient and affordable manner. Canadians spend less than most other countries on groceries and have an amazing variety of locally and nationally grown foods at their fingertips.

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Environmental stewardship

Agricultural lands contribute to our environment in many ways from fresh water and clean air, to erosion control and climate regulation. Rural farms are also a haven for wildlife and contribute to diverse habitats such as prairie grasslands, riparian areas and wetlands.

The many advances in agricultural land management practices over the last three decades – and improvements to modern farm equipment – have contributed to considerable gains in soil quality and the reduction of carbon emissions.

Government representatives, academics and the industry continue to work together to invest in plant science, research and technologies that help farmers grow more crops on less land, while reducing their carbon footprint. Advancements in technology help improve water use efficiency, harness solar and wind power and create new seed varieties that are resistant to drought, diseases and other pests.

duck-pixabystockHow you can help

CFA has created a website of resources, including videos, infographics and a pledge form to help spread the word about Producing Prosperity in Canada. Please feel free to use the resources to help build awareness and spread the word on this important topic. https://producingprosperitycanada.ca/

“The three pillars of economic growth, food security and environmental stewardship are the building blocks of a prosperous future for us all,” says Lynn Jacobson, AFA President. “We look forward to working with CFA and our partner farm organizations to meet with political representatives and candidates to remind them of the importance of agriculture as we move towards a federal election.”

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AFA ensures agriculture stays top-of-mind during election and beyond

AFA advocates on behalf of Alberta farmers to keep agriculture a high priority among candidates, politicians and policymakers in Alberta and across Canada.

RailwayAs we move towards the April 16, 2019 election in Alberta, there are many issues on the minds of Alberta farmers. Many of these challenges not only affect Alberta farmers, but producers and growers across Canada. As the province’s general farm organization, AFA is focussed on issues in all sectors of the industry, from crop production, livestock management, value-added food production and more.

Here are just some of the current agriculture issues we’re staying on top of for our farm members.

AFA discusses canola market access with Minister of International Trade Diversification

AFA was pleased to join with Alberta Canola and other members of Canada’s canola value chain to meet with the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification on April 11, 2019 to discuss the issue of market access for canola seed into China.

Challenges persist for canola producers in Alberta, and across the country, as China continues its ban on Canadian canola seed. With China accounting for 40% of canola exports, farmers will now have to make difficult seeding decisions for the 2019 crop season with this growing uncertainty looming on the horizon.

“We were very happy to be at the table and afforded the opportunity to meet with Minister Carr and other colleagues within the industry to discuss this critical issue,” said Humphrey Banack, director of AFA. “It’s no secret that China represents a huge piece of our canola export market, so it’s good to see our government working quickly to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

Learn about Minister Carr’s three-pronged approach discussed in our meeting on April 11, 2019 here.

AFA Director speaks to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future

AFA Director Humphrey Banack spoke with the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future on March 14, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta. The discussion served to share the potential impacts on agriculture of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

“While some beneficial results were achieved for some sectors within agriculture, we are well aware that others will be hurt by some of the concessions included in this new trade deal,” Banack says.

For the full transcript of the meeting and to read the presentation given by Humphrey Banack, click here.

Bill 6, the WCB and farm labour: how much of an issue is it?

When it comes to Bill 6, the farm and ranch workplace legislation, there are different approaches being proposed among leaders of each political party that include repealing it, changing or enhancing it or keeping it as is. AFA President Lynn Jacobson feels that after early pressure from farm groups several years ago, the government did consult with farmers prior to implementing the final legislation, and that a lot of the initial negative reaction has now settled down as discussed in this article.

Despite the WCB injury claims being on the rise in 2018, other farm leaders, like Jody Wacowich, executive director of AgSafe Alberta, feels the reason for a higher number of claims could be attributed to increased knowledge and enrollment numbers. More here.

How will shipping oil by rail affect grain movement?

Grain transportation has long been a focus of AFA’s advocacy, as new cropping seasons and pressures bring new challenges getting grain to port. With the latest government proposal to move oil by rail, AFA is back advocating for farmers to ensure that any solution to solve the oil and gas backlog will not adversely affect farmers already experiencing issues with rail transportation.

“The railways and government have given assurances, but we won’t really know how it all plays out until the trains start moving,” AFA President Lynn Jacobson said. Read more on this issue here.

AFA helps craft an extension for farmers with new driver training requirements

TransportationWhen the government announced plans to implement driver training for new Class 1 and Class 2 commercial drivers on March 1, 2019, AFA heard from our farm members that the short notice for this new requirement right before the 2019 cropping season would put undue stress on their operations.

AFA voiced this concern and was invited to be part of the Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) working group that successfully pushed for an extension for farmers/farm workers on MELT training for Class 1 licences. While farmers still need to meet the new MELT standards, farmers and farm workers will have until November 30, 2019 to apply for an extension to comply with the MELT program for new commercial drivers. More information and the application for extension here.

For 2019 and beyond, AFA will continue its work on improving grain transportation, value creation for varietal research, grain contracting, and other priorities outlined at our January 2019 Annual General Meeting.

If you want to participate in these policy decisions and have your voice heard, become an AFA member today by visiting our website at http://www.afaonline.ca/membership.

Producers meet to debate changes facing agriculture at AFA’s 2019 AGM

AFA-Room & LynnAt the AFA Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Leduc on January 17, 2019, producers, industry partners and representatives from several agricultural organizations gathered together to discuss current issues facing Alberta producers like grain transportation, carbon sequestering, public trust and farm labour.

Farm-saved seed proposal a highlighted issue at the AGM

In addition to these issues, a special panel was assembled to explore in greater detail the new proposed varietal funding models for farm-saved seed in Canada. The federal government, in conjunction with the seed industry and the Grains Roundtable, have proposed two models for a royalty on farm-saved seed – either an end-point royalty or a trailing royalty.

Attendees at the AFA AGM heard more about the background of these two royalty options, how other countries are handling funding for new seed varieties, and specifics about what is being proposed. Producers heard from a panel of experts including Holly Mayer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Todd Hydra with SeCan, Dr. Richard Gray with University of Saskatchewan and Kevin Bender, Chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission.

 “The issue of royalties on seed is one piece of policy our organization has been watching and working on for years,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson, who farms near Enchant. “Recently, new consultations and proposed changes have moved it into the spotlight for us and for many Canadian crop producers. At the AGM, we brought in these presenters to help explain what the changes are, how the current options were arrived at and what’s next for this issue.”

Jacobson explained that AFA’s Board of Directors had been hearing from producers that more consultation was wanted on this issue, with the hope that different options around royalties on farm-saved seed could be explored.

At the AGM, Holly Mayer confirmed that there have been no final decisions made on the two proposed options currently on the table for farm-saved seed, and that producers still have an opportunity to share their thoughts on this issue at meetings like the AFA AGM.

AFA-Seed Panel

AFA Seed Panel “Seed For Thought: An Examination of Canada’s Crop Varietal Research Funding”. L-R Kevin Bender with Alberta Wheat, Todd Hyra with SeCan, Holly Mayer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Richard Gray with University of Saskatchewan and AFA moderator Director Humphrey Banack.

Provincial update from Alberta’s Agriculture Minister

The Hon. Oneil Carlier, Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, attended the meeting and provided a provincial update for the producers at the meeting.

Oneil Carlier then met with Lakeland College agricultural students for a break out question-and-answer ‘bear pit’ session with discussions covering a wide range of topics including preserving grassland, the carbon tax, Alberta’s offset protocols, energy efficiency programs, rural crime and more.

Resolutions and debate on advocacy issues

The AGM is also a time for AFA members to propose, debate and vote on resolutions that deal with issues that affect Alberta farm producers.

AFA-Board ReportDuring the AGM, members discussed, voted on and passed the following resolutions:

AFA will explore alternative proposals for funding varietal research: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA work with like-minded farm organizations and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) to develop alternative proposals for funding varietal research that will be equitable and satisfactory to both producers and seed varietal breeders but that will ensure a strong public varietal research presence.

AFA will press for renewed funding for a tree nursery program: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA, through CFA, continue to pressure the Federal Government to restore funding for a tree nursery program.

AFA will advocate for compensation to producers for historical carbon sequestering: BE IT RESOLVED that Canada incorporate into the National Inventory the historic efforts of Canadian farmers in reducing carbon emissions and storing carbon by identifying and incorporating these incremental changes subsequent to 1990.

AFA will recommend a regulation change for Fusarium head blight in Alberta: BE IT RESOLVED that Fusarium head blight be removed from the Agricultural Pest Act in Alberta and be placed under the Agricultural Pest and Nuisance Control Regulations.

AFA will assist in the development of a standardized Canadian grain contract: BE IT RESOLVED that the AFA supports the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan in their effort to develop a standardized grain contract.

AFA delegates also re-confirmed the Board of Directors for another year, with a mandate to continue engagement on their vital policy advocacy alongside Canada’s provincial and national farm organizations on matters such as agricultural plastics recycling, farm labour solutions, trade agreements and more.

AFA-Lynn WrapAs Alberta’s general farm organization, one of AFA’s areas of expertise is agricultural policy. AFA’s President Jacobson says that’s why it’s important to discuss these issues at the AGM and set the direction for the coming year.

“We deal with concerns that impact a wide range of issues for farmers and ranchers in the province,” he says. “We will continue to raise the awareness on these issues and challenges to make sure our Alberta producers have a voice in these important policy decisions.”

Proposed royalties on farm-saved seed: what AFA wants you to know

iStock_000006354562MediumConsultations have just begun on proposed royalties to be paid by producers for farm-saved seed. Although this topic has been discussed for some time, an AFA Board member says it’s time for Alberta producers to get involved in the discussion to help craft something that works for them.

AFA’s 1st Vice President and seed grower Keith Degenhardt feels that, at the very least, Alberta crop producers should find out what’s being proposed with these new royalty options. More importantly, he says, producers can participate in the discussion at AFA’s Annual General Meeting in January 2019 and help shape the options before it’s too late.

“Although the discussion centers around plant breeders’ rights legislation, part of the issue is that producers will not have as much flexibility as they’ve had in the past,” says Degenhardt.

Degenhardt explains that revisions to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act in 2015 aligned the Act with the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91), and ‘farmers’ privilege’ was noted as an exception under the legislation. That means when a producer buys certified seed, the production from that seed can be regrown on their own farm to produce subsequent crops, provided that seed is not resold to other producers.

What’s on the table for royalties

The federal government, in conjunction with the seed industry and the Grains Roundtable, is now considering a royalty on farm-saved seed and, to date, has two options in mind. Under an end-point royalty, producers would pay when they deliver and sell grain. The other option is a trailing royalty where producers sign a contract and pay an annual royalty to plant breeders when using farm-saved seed.

AFA has been part of the discussion on Plant Breeders’ Rights for many years. In December, AFA President Lynn Jacobson and Board Member Humphrey Banack participated in a session on value creation models for cereals research and variety development in Canada. Degenhardt points out that at AFA regional meetings late this year, the reaction to these options was mixed, ranging from understanding to firm dislike.

“We heard one producer say they would rather pay more up front and not have their farmers’ privilege affected,” says Degenhardt. “That may be an option, but we don’t know if that increase is enough funding for breeding companies to reinvest in more and newer varieties.”

To Degenhardt, what’s at stake for the industry is that the current seed research and development model in Canada is at risk of being underfunded. He points out the federal government has indicated that money for investment in new seed varieties is not guaranteed. Producers require new seed varieties to continue to fight diseases, address pest pressures and improve traits that allow for better yields and market access. There’s a cost to that, and these new royalty options are an attempt to pay for that seed development.

“The present model is not raising enough dollars,” says Degenhardt. “Plant breeding is like a lottery, where breeders can make crosses, but they don’t always know which will create a superior line or if it will go to the variety stage. It takes years to develop new varieties – up to eight or 10 years.”

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Producer input urgently needed

Degenhardt recognizes the need to generate more research funding for the plant breeders and keep the Canadian seed industry competitive and producers thriving. Even so, AFA is not certain the two options proposed are the best for producers.

“Producers can say they don’t like these two options and want something else,” Degenhardt explains. “At AFA, we think other methods should be explored with the input of farmers.”

Degenhardt encourages anyone who cares about this issue to attend the AFA Annual General Meeting in Leduc on January 17, 2019, where plant breeders’ rights and the options around creating value for the entire chain will be explored.

AFA President Lynn Jacobson points out in this AFA blog that getting direct input from producers at the AFA AGM is the best way to ensure producers have a say on the issue of royalties for farm-saved seed.

To attend the AFA AGM on January 17, 2019, producers can register here. Anthony Parker, commissioner with the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be there to explain the farm-saved seed proposal. AFA will develop a position on this issue at the AGM, so it’s important that there is good producer representation to add to the discussion.

“On any issue, you’ll never get everyone agreeing on the same thing,” says Degenhardt. “On this issue, producers have to decide if they support research, and if so, do they want to support one of these models or suggest another model?”

From grain transportation to sustainable agriculture. What we’re working on today.

There was no shortage of issues, opportunities and challenges to discuss recently at the half-year mark in our year, and Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) shared these discussions with farmers at our 2018 Summer Meeting.

2018 has been a year of change in agriculture, with some issues continuing to squeeze producers – like grain transportation – and others new on the horizon, like environmental farm plans.

In late-June 2018, AFA Members and others interested in agricultural policy gathered in Camrose, Alberta to participate in discussions about emerging issues that will affect farmers in the coming year. Producer meetings are just one of the ways AFA’s Board stays in touch with what’s important to Alberta farmers.

Transportation and seed

iStock_000019270898medAFA President Lynn Jacobson, who continues to lead the organization in advocating on issues that matter to farmers, says grain transportation is one issue AFA has advocated on for years and is continuing to watch.

“At this point, it doesn’t look like the recent legislation that was passed will put us on equal footing with other industries,” he explains. “The railway still has the ability to ration and prioritize grain shipments. So, that’s an issue we are following very closely as we go forward.”

Another long-time issue for AFA discussed at the Summer Meeting is plant breeders’ rights. It’s a complex issue that has developed from national changes to plant breeders’ rights in 2015. The part of the topic that AFA is looking at is around farm-saved seed and royalty options.

“There doesn’t seem to be consensus in the agriculture community about where to go with it,” notes Jacobson. “We need a lot more discussion with producers if the government is going to change regulations, and the seed sector and commodity groups are going to have to be communicating more about it, too.”

Sustainability in agriculture

During the panel discussion on sustainable agriculture at the AFA Summer Meeting, Jacobson said attendees appreciated learning more about what the marketplace and customers are now demanding from Canadian producers. He says as a result, AFA has become more involved in the process of Environmental Farm Plans (EFP). This is a new area of investigation for AFA, and Jacobson is well positioned in the industry with his board position on a national EFP group.

“As we go down the road of sustainability and consumers and customers want to know what’s in their food and how it has been raised, EFPs are going to be more important,” Jacobson says. “It could get to the point that if you haven’t done an EFP and kept certain records, you may not be able to sell agricultural products to certain segments.”

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What’s on the horizon?

Jacobson will join agricultural groups from across Canada at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture ‘Lobby Day 2018’ in Ottawa on October 30. The purpose of the event is to have representatives from across the country share a unified perspective on Canadian agricultural priorities by meeting with MPs and senators from all parties.

These are just a few of the key areas that the AFA Board and Executive is working on to address concerns and opportunities in the agricultural sector. It’s a mission that requires perseverance and political effort, and one that Jacobson feels passionate about.

“It’s important that the voice of the producer is heard,” says Jacobson. “Bringing the views of Alberta farmers to all levels of government is how change happens.”

If you want to know more about AFA and its activities, or for information on becoming an AFA member or our upcoming annual general meeting, visit our website at www.afaonline.ca.

 

Helping the next generation of agriculture in Alberta

AFA Scholarship

Do you know a person studying agriculture who would be a good candidate for our Alberta Federation of Agriculture scholarship? If so, encourage them to apply by the August 1, 2018 deadline.

AFA is seeking students who are attending a post-secondary institution in Alberta who want to use their talents to make a contribution to agriculture. The AFA Scholarship annually awards $500 for one student to use towards their studies in a post-secondary agriculture or related program.

To be eligible for the AFA scholarship, an applicant must be:

  • a Canadian Citizen, a Permanent Resident and be an Alberta resident (visa students not eligible)
  • attending a designated post-secondary institution in Alberta
  • enrolled full-time in the second or subsequent year of undergraduate post-secondary study in a program related to the field of agriculture.

AFA Scholarship-womenAFA producer members, their children and grandchildren will be given preference for this scholarship. This is just one benefit to having an AFA membership, but you don’t have to be an AFA member to apply for the scholarship.

Apply by this year’s deadline Wednesday, August 1, 2018 by following this link to the online application. The recipients will be selected based on academic achievement in an agricultural program. AFA members will form the review committee and make the selection.

 AFA scholarship winners

Some of our previous AFA scholarship winners studied at the University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge. We’d love to add your name to the list of winners. Apply today!

Want to give back to agriculture in our province?

Are you a business, group or individual who would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the AFA Scholarship Fund to ensure its sustainability for future years? To donate in the name of the AFA Scholarship, call our AFA head office in Lacombe: 1-855-789-9151.