As it Turns One Year Old, Seeds Canada is About to Help Initiate Some Important Conversations

by | Jan 28, 2022 | Industry News

The following piece is from our sister publication, Germination.

When Ellen Sparry thinks back 12 months, she remembers an industry landscape that was much different than it is now. At the time, the seed sector in Canada was comprised of five industry associations, with Sparry herself serving as president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA).

Fast-forward to today, and that number has gone from five to two, and Sparry finds herself president of Seeds Canada, which will mark its one-year anniversary on Feb. 1.

It was almost one year ago that Seeds Canada formed as a result of the amalgamation of the CSTA, Canadian Seed Institute, Canada Plant Technology Agency and Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada.

“The last 12 months have been unique because of the ongoing pandemic and not getting together face-to-face in one room, but I think that the benefit of bringing those four associations together and having all those different voices in the room has been apparent even on a virtual level,” says Sparry, who also serves as general manager of Ontario’s C&M Seeds.

Leading a 15-person board isn’t easy, but Sparry has risen to the challenge. After the CSGA voted not to join Seeds Canada back in late 2020, she acknowledged that getting things done might take a little longer without having everybody together under one umbrella (the Canadian Seed Growers Association opted not to amalgamate to become part of Seeds Canada), but she was confident Seeds Canada and its members had the resolve to move ahead.

A year later, her prediction has come true.

“The Seeds Canada board structure is very forward thinking. Having people involved in all areas of the seed sector from a developer, distributor, retailer, seed testing aspect has really brought increased strength and depth to our discussions at the board table,” she says.

Part of bringing those voices to the table was the hiring of Barry Senft as executive director. Senft has more than 30 years experience in the private and public agri-business sectors, including the strategic development and merging of three organizations as CEO at Grain Farmers of Ontario.

Prior to arriving at Seeds Canada, he also served as executive director of the Canadian International Grains Institute, chief commissioner with the Canadian Grain Commission and second vice-president of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

“Having Barry on board has been a major asset for us,” Sparry adds. “He’s really brought people together and helped facilitate so many conversations that might not have happened as well without him.”

For Senft, having the entire value chain and stakeholders as members of the Seeds Canada is key to Seeds Canada being what he calls the go-to voice of Canada’s seed sector.

“Everyone along the value chain, whether it’s the analysts, the auditors, seed growers, the seed developers big and small, they’re all around the table now. That’s a great starting point to work from. Now we are embarking on our upcoming Seed Summit 2022 which I think is going to show what an appetite for change there is in this country,” Senft says.

The summit’s aim is to bring together the seed and agricultural communities to explore the future of the Canadian seed system and discuss solutions and opportunities to best meet the needs of producers and end users.

The discussions are meant to complement the current Seed Regulatory Modernization process and the outcome will be offered up for consideration. It will take place as a virtual event happening as three single-day sessions over the course of a three-week period. Organizers are welcoming all stakeholders and users of seed to join the sessions on Feb. 7, 14, and 23.

Seed Summit 2022 was initiated by Seeds Canada in partnership with a slate of producers and industry groups — Cereals Canada, Canola Council of Canada, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Canadian Horticultural Council, Western Canadian Wheat Growers, Soy Canada, Grains Farmers of Ontario, Western Grain Elevator Association, and the Ontario Agri-Business Association.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a broader discussion of seed development by all of the industry, so I think this event shows the enthusiasm and sense of urgency Seeds Canada has been able to help generate in regard to regulatory reform,” Senft adds.

As Seeds Canada and its partners prepare to help support the best outcomes for the modernization of Canada’s seed industry landscape, the organization is hard at work on another important but complementary initiative — organizing an upcoming membership drive to help recruit more organizations interested in being part of creating positive change for the seed industry, notes Krista Erickson, director of member strategy & solutions for Seeds Canada.

“Our members know Seeds Canada is in the perfect position to deal with the important policy issues that directly affect their businesses,” she says.

With the SRM process not expected to be complete until 2025 at the earliest, Senft says the one-year-old organization has a lot of work ahead of it — but says amalgamating four organizations into one is only beginning to pay dividends.

“Time will continue to show that we made the right decision to form Seeds Canada. I think a lot of what you’re going to see come out of this summit will help pave the regulatory path that our industry is going to take in the years and decades ahead, and that’s only one example of the change we’re helping to make,” he adds.

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