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?”

Look to AFA’s AGM for information on critical changes in agriculture for 2019

AFA’s Board and Executive will join AFA members and guests in Leduc, Alberta for the organization’s Annual General Meeting on January 16-17, 2019, with an eye toward getting producers’ input on some complex issues facing agriculture today.

AFA-AGM2018-1AFA President Lynn Jacobson points to three issues that currently have the potential to impact producers in a way they may not want. He says it’s not too late for Alberta producers to get involved in these issues, and the AFA AGM is a perfect place to start.

 Updates to Plant Breeders’ Rights legislation

“An issue AFA’s been involved with for about three years is Plant Breeders’ Rights,” says Jacobson. “The federal government is in the consultation phase of implementing changes around royalties paid for farm-saved seed, and it’s very important that producers understand what’s being proposed.”

As Jacobson explains, after years of discussions, the federal government is considering two options for changing seed royalties through either an end-point royalty or a trailing royalty. Although the recommendations came out of discussions with the seed sector and plant breeders, that doesn’t mean these are the only ways forward. Jacobson insists that producers still have a chance to speak out and propose other options, but the time has come to be heard.

“There is an opportunity for other options if producers want that, but they’re going to have to be vocal about it,” explains Jacobson. “If they don’t get involved soon, this will just become a reality they’ll have to live with, without having a say.”

Jacobson points out this is precisely why it’s important for AFA members to attend the organization’s AGM: to be updated on critical developments in agriculture and to have a voice on these kinds of issues.

At the AFA AGM in Leduc on January 17, members will hear presentations on a variety of subjects, and vote on resolutions. Producers in attendance impact policy and opportunities in agriculture for the coming year. That’s because the resolutions agreed upon at the AGM are passed along to policy makers in government and within provincial and national agriculture organizations.

Jacobson says that as a general farm organization, AFA covers issues that touch every part of the industry, from agricultural plastics to grain transportation and seed. He notes two other emerging topics will be discussed at the AGM that he feels should be on Alberta producers’ radar: grain transportation and potential changes to the Canadian Grain Commission.

Bill C-69 and the Trans Mountain Pipeline

iStock_000019270898medThe oil industry isn’t the only one feeling the effects of delays in the Trans Mountain pipeline. Many agriculture groups are concerned that using the railway as an alternative transportation system for crude oil shipments will create undue stress for the agriculture industry, which is already dealing with a filled-to-capacity rail system.

Over the last several years, there have been issues getting agricultural products to market on Canada’s rail system in a timely manner. Bill C-69 introduced by the federal government in February 2018 could cause additional delays that may result in increased traffic on Canada’s railways. AFA wants the interests of the agriculture industry to remain a key part of this conversation. This topic will be explored at the AGM in January 2019.

Canadian Grain Commission changes on the horizon

In early-October 2018, an Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table Report concluded that changes are needed for how the Canadian Grain Commission regulates Canada’s grain industry if the industry is to remain competitive. The report suggested that the Canada Grain Act be ‘modernized’ to remove duplicate services currently performed by the Canadian Grain Commission plus review the wheat class system to take into account market realities.

These recommendations will begin rolling out in 2019. Jacobson notes this issue will be on the AGM agenda so that producers can be made aware of the potential impact of these changes.

 Being an AFA member means producers can create change

AFA invites all interested producers to attend the AGM, but only members can submit and vote on resolutions for these important issues. If a producer wants to help set the priorities and direction for AFA’s policy efforts in 2019, it all begins at the AGM.

Becoming an AFA member is easy – just sign up online here. For producers, the membership cost is only $150 per year, or just over $12 a month, and comes with many benefits. Once you have your AFA membership, register online for the AFA Annual General Meeting on January 17,  2019 in Leduc.

AFA-AGM2018-OneilCarlierThe AGM will include presentations from AFA and industry as well as a provincial update from the Hon. Oneil Carlier, Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. A President’s Reception takes place on the evening of January 16 to kick off the meeting.

Jacobson says AFA would love to see producers of all kinds in attendance at the AGM, whether they grow crops, raise livestock or produce value-added food. Afterall, he points out, if AFA doesn’t hear from those producers affected by these issues, it’s hard to fight for what producers want.

“We sometimes get a low turnout at the AGM, and we often hear farmers are frustrated when they feel changes are made without their input,” notes Jacobson. “This is an opportunity to become a member of our organization, spend the day with us and be part of the change you want to see.”

Join AFA today for great benefits and a voice in AG policy

With benefits that include significant discounts for insurance, vehicles, travel costs and farm safety courses, an AFA membership offers great value for Alberta producers and agribusinesses.

We’ve streamlined our membership pricing, so producers in Alberta pay only $150 a year for an AFA membership, while commodity organizations, non-profits, businesses and/or co-operatives that serve the needs and interests of agricultural producers pay only $500 per year.

Not only will you or your company get access to great benefits, but if you have an interest in shaping agricultural policy in the province, this is the place to be. As an AFA member, you’ll have a chance to vote on policy decisions that impact agriculture and participate in helping to set the direction of our organization each January at our annual general meeting.

AFA Member Benefits

iStock_000010421895MediumCheck out these AFA membership benefits from our corporate partners that – when used – will earn your AFA membership fees back in no time:

  • significant Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA Canada) fleet discounts on new vehicles, which can translate into savings of thousands of dollars
  • enhance your farm insurance coverage from The Co-operators Insurance for a fraction of the retail price
  • AFA members also receive discounts on farm, home and travel insurance from The Co-operators Insurance
  • NEW AFA Travel Discount Program gives members an exclusive worldwide travel discount service, saving you an average of 10-20% below-market price on all hotels and car rental suppliers around the world – anywhere, anytime. We’ll negotiate the best deals and provide a comparison price for you
  • save between 10-20% on St. John Ambulance’s public rates for first aid classes and get a special discount on their ‘Safety on the Farm’ module
  • members receive 10% off purchases made at Mark’s Work Wearhouse

AFA producer members (active or retired commercial agricultural producers, farming partners, or farming corporations) also receive these additional benefits:

  • special consideration for yourself or a family member for AFA’s annual $500 scholarship for post-secondary studies in agriculture or a related field at universities and colleges throughout Alberta
  • a $150 discount on a new one-year Farmers of North America (FNA) membership; a $400 discount on a new three-year FNA membership; a $650 discount on a new five-year FNA membership.

Agriculture Advocacy

AFA has been busy working on many developments in agriculture both provincially and federally this year. We advocate broadly for agriculture, not just for one group or commodity. Whether at the regional, provincial or national level, we represent our members on these producer-related agricultural issues:

  • trade and taxation
  • transportation and infrastructure
  • grain movement, grading and handling
  • plant breeding
  • energy, carbon capture and storage
  • surface rights
  • water-related risk
  • animal care
  • labour and employment standards
  • agricultural safety
  • business risk management

“We’re always looking for new and returning members who are passionate about agriculture,” says Shannon Scofield, Executive Director of AFA. “We are a collaborative organization that wants input from Alberta’s farm and ranch producers, commodity groups, agri-business and anyone who wants to have a say in how agriculture will develop and grow in Alberta and across Canada. There’s never been a better time to become an AFA member.”

AFA AGM- Farm Meeting

Signing up for an AFA membership is easy!

AFA’s annual membership year runs from November 1st to October 31st.  You can join online in minutes or download and print your application form by visiting our website: http://www.afaonline.ca/membership. A summary of benefits is listed below.

AFA Membership grid 2018

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.

 

AFA Summer Meeting: a chance to discuss challenges and opportunities in agriculture

The Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) will hold their 2018 Summer Meeting on June 26 and 27, 2018 in Camrose, Alberta.

AFA Members – and those interested in agricultural policy – are invited to attend the working session on June 26 to participate in discussions about the emerging issues that will most affect farmers in the coming year. There will also be a presentation on sustainable agriculture.

AFA AGM- Farm Meeting2AFA Director Humphrey Banack says he always looks forward to challenging debate and discussion when those passionate about agriculture get together.

“During the AGM, we gather with producers to debate and discuss top issues in agriculture, then use those policy directions to draw the future of agriculture forward,” says Banack. “The June Summer Meeting is an important way to check in on how we’re doing for the year and discuss emerging issues that have developed since January.”

After the day of discussions on June 26, the meeting will conclude with a networking barbeque to give those in attendance an opportunity to connect with each other and share good food, good company and discuss issues in agriculture in a more informal way.

Here’s the agenda for the Tuesday, June 26, 2018 meeting:

10 am – noon:  Issue Update & Policy Development: What AFA has been up to this year

Noon: Lunch at Camrose Resort Casino

1 – 3 pm: Discussion on the top emerging issues facing our industry in the coming year

3 – 3:15 pm: Break

3:15 – 4:30 pm: Sustainable Agriculture Panel

4:30 – 5 pm: Issue/Debate Wrap Up

5:30 pm: Steak BBQ at the Park Pavilion, Camrose Exhibition Trail RV Park

On Wednesday, June 27, AFA will hold their regularly-scheduled board meeting, of which AFA Regional Directors and former AFA board members are welcome to attend.

Please RSVP for this event so we can assess attendance and plan for our barbeque. Contact AFA’s Executive Director Shannon Scofield by email at shannon.scofield@afaonline.ca, or call us toll-free at 1-855-789-9151 or contact the AFA Director in your area.

afa-humphrey-banack-farm-safetyHumphrey Banack, who farms near Camrose, Alberta, reminds producers that it’s never been more important to speak up and drive agricultural policy decisions. He stresses that meetings like this are a direct channel for producers to let their voice be heard.

“At AFA, our people are working for a stronger industry for all,” says Banack. “Past discussions like this have laid the foundation for some significant changes in agriculture. It’s great to know you can have such an impact at a grassroots level.”

With gratitude, we thank our corporate partner, FCC

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This profile features the partnership that Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) has with Farm Credit Canada (FCC). We’re proud to team up with this dynamic group that does so much for agriculture in Canada!
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Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is an important player in our country’s agriculture industry. As Canada’s top agricultural lender, FCC plays a vital role in supporting and strengthening our industry’s agribusinesses: from primary producers to companies that specialize in agri-food products.

FCC is a financially self-sustaining federal Crown corporation, reporting to Parliament through the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. As an organization, FCC focuses on efforts that support Canadian agriculture, and give back to communities across Canada. They have over 1,700 employees in 100 offices throughout rural Canada.

FCC serves agriculture businesses in a wide variety of ways, helping producers and agribusinesses succeed by offering the following core services:

• Financing and Insurance: for primary producers, agribusinesses and young farmers
• Ag Knowledge: news articles and events to help producers manage production, marketing, human resources, technology, finances, business planning, and more
• Resources and Tools: innovative accounting and farm management software, calculators and specialized training
• Community Support: 4-H support, community funding, food bank drives and other partnerships

Beyond offering tailored products for agriculture, FCC staff are committed to sharing their expertise and knowledge with others in the industry. Each year, a representative from FCC attends our AFA Annual General Meeting to bring the latest advancements and outlooks to AFA members who attend our event.

In January 2016, we heard from Rob Schmeichel, FCC’s District Director from Edmonton, Alberta. Rob spoke passionately about the importance of telling agriculture’s story and being an agricultural advocate in today’s world with consumers so focussed on transparency and social license. All in attendance appreciated his enthusiasm, and his important message.

“In the years that AFA has partnered with FCC, we’ve admired their collaborative approach to business and the many ways they support agriculture across the country,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson. “AFA and FCC personnel connect on a very deep level because we all share such a strong passion for agriculture. It’s a very rewarding partnership and we’re grateful for their friendship.”

Your chance to spend some time on the farm this summer

AFA-Banack Open Farm Days Tent

Open Farm Days visitors learn about, and see, the grains grown on the Banack farm.

Consumers continue to be tremendously interested in how their food is grown. Getting farm producers and consumers together is one of the goals of Alberta’s Open Farm Days. This annual event provides an important connection for rural producers and their urban neighbours.

Open Farm Days also continues to be a popular event for farm producers, with a 28% increase in host farm participation when compared to last year. For 2016, a total of 90 host farms will provide real-world farm experiences for visitors on Sunday, August 21.

Once again, our Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Vice President, Humphrey Banack and his family will be participating as a host farm. Humphrey and wife Terry Banack will welcome visitors to their Camrose-area homestead and will provide information and demonstrations for those who attend.

“Open Farm Days is a very important event in Alberta,” says Humphrey Banack. “People come with questions and a real open interest in agriculture. Traceability and social license are hot topics for today’s consumer, and Open Farm Days allows us to have that important conversation with members of the public.”

8-AFA-Banack Open Farm DaysHumphrey and Terry say that Open Farm Days lets them provide visitors with a ‘mini-adventure’ with a hands-on look at how food is produced nearby in Alberta communities. This year, the Banacks hope to take visitors out harvesting and send them home with a bag of peas straight from the field that they can use in recipes at home. Check out this video for more information.

Host farms that offer Open Farm DaysFarm Experiences” showcase a wide range of farm businesses including honey and berry farms, petting zoos, flower farms, plus more traditional agricultural enterprises like livestock, crop and vegetable farms.

Open Farm Days also includes farm-to-table “Culinary Experiences” taking place on August 20 and 21. These events feature local chefs and producers that team up to provide unique field dinners, brewery tasting tours, cowboy gatherings and barbecues. Most of these events require ticket purchases in advance. Information can be found at http://www.albertafarmdays.com/.

“We understand how important it is to connect with the consumers of our product,” Banack says. “Open Farm Days gives us the opportunity to allow visitors to see exactly what we do, where we fit into their food system and how we are part of what they put on their tables everyday.”

This AFA video taken during Alberta’s 2015 Open Farm Days event on the Banack Homestead shows what visitors can expect from a farm visit.

We encourage you to make this fun event part of your summer plans!