Seeking Unity Amid Uncertainty

- Wheat seeds

As Seeds Canada moves ahead with four partners instead of five, the seed industry attempts to mend fences as it determines a clear path forward.

For Andrew Ayre, there isn’t a worse time than right now to try and find consensus in an industry responding to the results of the August Seeds Canada voting results.

“With the whole pandemic situation, people have so many other concerns. They’re not getting together socially to get feedback from each other and have good, constructive discussions. It’s an unusual time where people are isolated from one another, and for many that made the vote kind of a non-event,” says the past-president of the Manitoba Seed Growers’ Association.

Renee Hoyme, president of the Alberta Seed Growers, echoes similar sentiments when it comes to timing. Seed growers are busy pretty much all the time, but harvest season makes it even more difficult to get a handle on the current moment and what the next steps might be after the vote, she says.

“Everyone’s been busy in the field. I really haven’t heard much of anything after the vote. It kind of just happened and then fell by the wayside for most people as it was time to get out into the field.”

Back in August, the Seed Synergy partners announced that the proposal to form a national seed organization would not go ahead as planned, after Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) members voted down the proposal to amalgamate the industry’s five dedicated seed associations into one.

The CSGA is the lone organization which did not achieve the two-thirds level of voting member support required for the proposed amalgamation. Fifty-five percent of the 751 CSGA votes cast were against the proposed merger. The other four organizations involved — the Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA); Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC); Canadian Seed Institute (CSI); and Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) — all voted yes to the proposal.

Vocal Minority

The amalgamation vote was the culmination of five years of work by the Seed Synergy partners (made up of the five Seeds Canada organizations and CropLife Canada). According to sources, over $2 million was invested during this period, almost half of which was spent on the Seeds Canada amalgamation project.

The boards of the five Seed Synergy partners recommended the proposed amalgamation to their members in June 2020. CSGA member opposition began to surface in mid-July. Negative sentiment increased in early August when growers received email correspondence opposing the amalgamation. Momentum shifted in favour of the no side shortly thereafter.

Even though only 22 per cent of eligible CSGA members cast a vote, Hoyme notes engagement was higher than typically seen due to the fact voting was done remotely.

“Making the decision to do distance voting helped in that we had bigger turnout than you’d see at a regular annual general meeting, but the turnout still wasn’t what you want to see for something as huge as an amalgamation proposal,” Hoyme says.

According to Eric McLean, who represents Manitoba seed growers on the CSGA national board and was to sit on the inaugural board of Seeds Canada, virtual distance voting likely bolstered voting among a vocal minority.

“In my opinion, the no vote was spurred on by a small group of people who were very quiet over the last five years,” says McLean, owner of J.S. Henry and Son.

“Normally we get about 10 per cent member engagement and we got over 20 per cent engagement with this vote, and that extra 10 per cent was made up of people largely informed by the no side. Unfortunately, a lot of other seed growers didn’t think they needed to vote.”

Ayre believes the result may have been different had more people cast a ballot.

“Percentage-wise, I think there it was a high turnout on the no side. It tells me a lot of the seed growers who would have voted yes didn’t turn out to vote.”

Seeking a Path Forward

CSTA President Ellen Sparry notes while it’s disappointing the CSGA has voted against the merger, the CSTA, CSI, CPTA and CSAAC will proceed with amalgamation to become one new, national organization.

Pending board and membership approval, Seeds Canada will become a new entity in February 2021.

Sparry says 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,” she said.

The four partners are working on creating a new Seeds Canada ratification package to undertake a new membership vote before the end of 2020. The ratification package was slated to be released by the end of October.

The goal, Sparry adds, is to ensure members and stakeholders, including seed growers, will see value in the new amalgamation package.

Glyn Chancey, executive director of the CSGA, says a shared vision for seed system renewal and modernization can be found in the Seed Synergy White Paper.

“We will have to dust ourselves off and focus on those areas of the paper where there is the highest level of consensus. The fact that the CFIA’s Seed Regulatory Modernization initiative has now begun in earnest will help us,” he says.

“For CSGA this will mean focusing on our digital certification strengths and emerging professional development program, with a laser focus on enhancing the value the pedigreed seed system brings to the seed industry and its customers. Growers and other value chain stakeholders will come together out of necessity – partnerships will continue to be essential to success. In the interim, we will continue to wrestle with who we are for a while yet.”

The CSGA is starting to embark on its new future though. In a letter to CSGA members on Oct. 7, President Joe Rennick says, “The CSGA Board will move ahead with the CSGA 2.0 project – essentially our version of the National Seed Organization concept embodied in the Seeds Canada proposal. First and foremost, the CSGA 2.0 project will respond to our members’ and other stakeholders’ clearly stated support for a ‘single window’ pedigreed seed certification service for Canada and a stronger voice for members.”

Different Worldviews

Finding that “compatibility” might prove challenging, according to Lorne Hadley. The executive director of the Canadian Plant Technology Agency says two competing ideologies have long been present within the seed grower community — those who feel seed growers must distinguish themselves from the seed trade and those who see little difference between the two.

“Both worldviews are valid, but extremely difficult to bridge,” Hadley says.

Shannon Bieman, president of the Ontario Seed Growers Association, says a major challenge will be fostering unity among seed growers and the industry at large as the pieces get picked up and things move ahead in the coming months.

“We’ll never make a stronger seed system in Canada if we don’t have unity, even if that means seed growers stay as their own separate entity,” she says.

There is hope amongst seed growers for unity, Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association President Shawn Fraser says they will work with their members to come together internally as well as with their provincial and national counterparts.

“We remain committed to maintaining the integrity of CSGA as the primary agent of seed crop certification. We stand behind Canada’s strong seed certification system and will be turning our attention to proposed amendments to the Seeds Regulations, part of the Government of Canada initiative in Seed Regulatory Modernization,” he says.

“We welcome the opportunity to enhance our mutually beneficial relationships with the former Seed Synergy partners, as well as producer groups, to the benefit of the entire seed and agriculture sector.”

Seeds Canada to Move Forward with Four Partners

- Wheat seed

The following piece is from our sister publication, Germination.

Four seed sector organizations will proceed with amalgamation to become one new, national organization, it’s been announced.

Pending board and membership approval, Seeds Canada will become a new entity in February 2021, according to a statement.

Over the past five years, five seed sector partners have worked closely together towards the goal of amalgamation. The five organizations are the Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA); the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC); the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA); the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI); and the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA).

In the summer of 2020, the five organizations put the Seeds Canada amalgamation proposal to their respective memberships for a vote. Four out of five groups approved the amalgamation, with at least two-thirds of each membership voting in favour. CSGA members did not vote in favour and therefore will no longer be part of the amalgamation.

“While there may be one less amalgamating partner, 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 statement reads. “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.”

Building on the momentum from the successful votes, the four organizations will now update the Seeds Canada ratification package before undertaking a new membership vote.

“The goal is to ensure that members and stakeholders, including seed growers, will see value in the new amalgamation package. The work on implementation will take place concurrently, with the goal of bringing Seeds Canada into existence in the new year.”

CFO Darryl Kay Picked as New CEO for AFSC

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Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) has picked their current Chief Financial and Innovation Officer Darry Kay as their new Chief Executive Officer, AFSC says in a news release on Oct. 1.

“With my internal knowledge of AFSC, I will bring much needed stability to the Corporation. I’ll be able to hit the ground running and continue to focus on items that are most important to producers,” Kay says in the release.

Kay has been with AFSC for close to 10 years and brings over 20 years of senior leadership experience with him to the role, the release says. He has served in a number of different capacities at AFSC, including interim CEO in 2017. During that time he was instrumental in supporting the new online client platform, AFSC Connect, developing a renewed lending mandate, and approving exciting new lending products which are relevant to today’s producer.

Kay replaces Board Member and Interim CEO Jerry Bouma in the role. Bouma has been acting as Interim CEO since former CEO Steve Blakely’s retirement in April 2020, the release notes.

Moving Canada into the Modern Age

- Wheat seed

The following piece is from our sister publication, Germination.

After delays caused by the pandemic, the process of modernizing Canada’s seed regulations has officially begun.

After the regulatory modernization process was paused earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SRMWG held its first meeting in September and the process has officially started to bring Canada’s seed regulations into the 21stcentury.

“We’re ready to work with our stakeholders and we’re really hopeful as we look forward to next year. We’re excited about opportunities to modernize the seed system and take it into the future and support Canadian agriculture in the years to come,” says Wendy Jahn, national manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Seed Section, which will be working with seed industry stakeholders to modernize the seed regulations.

The Seeds Regulations regulate seeds and seed potatoes in Canada that are sold, imported, or exported, as well as seeds released into the environment. Seeds and seed potatoes must meet established standards for quality and be labelled so they are properly represented in the marketplace. Varieties of most major agricultural field crops must be registered prior to import or sale of seed.

Proposed amendments would modernize the Seeds Regulations as they apply to seeds imported, conditioned, stored, tested, labelled, sold in Canada and exported. The proposed amendments would reduce overlap and redundancy; increase responsiveness to industry changes; address gaps, weaknesses and inconsistencies; reduce regulatory burden, and provide clarity and flexibility to affected regulated parties.

“Our seed regulations have been in existence for a long time. We’ve made a number of amendments over the years. When you make amendment, it tends to be on a specific part of a regulation. It helps to keep them modern and increase flexibility, but the problem of doing one-off regulatory amendments is you never step back and take a holistic look at the entirety of the regulations,” Jahn says.

Like a harvester that’s gone through a multitude of repairs over the years, eventually it has to be scrapped and a new harvester purchased. According to Jahn, there comes a point where a regulatory framework must be evaluated and modernized. Other industries have already gone through the process, like Canada’s fertilizer sector, Jahn adds.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take a holistic look and make a multitude of changes at the same time and ensure the regulations are a fit for today’s industry.”

Opportunities for modernization are many. One major tweak is to have the regulations refer to or link to outside documents, standards and procedures. That way they can be easily updated, to keep up with scientific developments and industry best practices without needing to amend the regulations. This is also known as “incorporation by reference”.

A good example is the Canadian Regulations and Procedures for Pedigreed Seed Crop Production, commonly referred to as Circular 6, which sets out the requirements that a seed grower and a seed crop must meet for seed crop certification.

“One of the big modernizations that should be considered is taking over the training of the inspectors. It’s always been a challenge for the CFIA to supply that service. It’s quite archaic the way it’s done now, relying on them to be responsible for that. The process could be more efficient and less costly if done online,” says Gordon Butcher, chair of Canada’s Authorized Seed Crop Inspection Services (ACSIS) Association, which is part of the SRMWG.

“This has been brought to the forefront during COVID-19 — we had no training available for 35 new inspectors. It puts pressure on us to cover our bases this year in terms of training. I think regulatory modernization might help us make it better.”

Consultations

It was anticipated these proposed amendments would be pre-published in the Canada Gazette Part I in fall of 2021. However, due to delays caused by the pandemic, Feulner says that timelines may be extended into 2022.

“The timelines we have discussed need to be flexible — it’ a big task.  We need to give the process its due course,” Jahn adds.

The SRMWG includes representatives from the seed industry, producer associations, public and private breeders, value chain commodity organizations, and other interest groups.

“Government wants to engage with seed and seed potato stakeholders early and throughout the process,” Jahn says.

Furthermore, the working group will assign task teams which will take a deep dive into the regulatory framework in order to come up with options for change, and these teams will include additional members outside the working group, she adds.

“We will have additional stakeholder input into the development of regulatory amendment options. We’re also going to have broad-based stakeholder engagement early in the process and plan to reach out to individuals and entities interested in the regulation of seed.”

Consultations will begin over the winter with a survey to be circulated among industry stakeholder groups.

“The survey will ask what the benefits of the current seed system are, opportunities for change, what issues need to be addressed in doing so, what the comfort level is with further industry delivery of regulatory services,” Jahn says.

But that won’t be the only broad-based stakeholder engagement. When the task teams have done their work, there will be a second broad-based engagement on options recommended for changes to the regulations, according to Claudio Feulner, manager of regulatory affairs and trade for the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA).

Those further consultations will then be published in Canada Gazette Part I, which acts as a consultation itself, and the results of that will be finalized and published in Canada Gazette Part 2.

“The [SRMWG] serves to kickstart all that. It’s our way to consult in the development of the regulations and take us to the point where we know what we want to propose and then consult again,” Jahn says.

Seed Regulatory Modernization: Busting 2 Big Myths

MYTH: The Seed Synergy project and the resulting Seeds Canada proposal is part of seed regulatory modernization.

FACT: The attempt to create a national seed organization is not a part of the seed regulatory modernization process. “Amalgamation of seed industry organizations isn’t necessary for seed regulatory modernization. If amalgamation of any combination proceeds, the new organization will fit into the process just as other stakeholders will,” says Wendy Jahn, national manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Seed Section.

MYTH: Value creation is a part of seed regulatory modernization.

FACT: Value creation — an attempt to bolster investment in improved seed genetics via a seed royalty mechanism — is unrelated to regulatory modernization. A Variety Use Agreement (VUA) Pilot Program is currently underway and is designed to test how a trailing seed royalty system would work in practice.

Alberta Company Wins Agri-Food Export Award

- VitaFiber by BioNeutra

BioNeutra, an Alberta company, has been awarded Agri-Food Export Group Quebec-Canada’s Alizés Award for a small to medium-sized enterprise category, a news release on Sept. 29, says.

The Alizés Awards celebrate the of the work accomplished by Canadian agri-food companies that have distinguished themselves in international markets and are presented by Farm Credit Canada (FCC).

BioNeutra was founded in 2003 and markets VitaFiber ™. The product is made by by transforming starch molecules from local grain crops into functional health molecules, it provides dietary fibre and is a nutritious sweetener, the release notes.

“With its rapid growth, its distinct products and continued efforts at ambitious approval of its products in many countries, BioNeutra pleased the jury. Its commitment to its brand and its ability to promote Canada overseas were more reasons for its selection as a winner.”

Canterra Seeds Joins New “Digital Ecosystem” for Farmers

- Computer

The following piece is from our sister publication, Germination.

Winnipeg-based Canterra Seeds is the first seed company to join what’s being dubbed  a “digital ecosystem” which promises to transform the way the Canadian agriculture industry buys, sells and earns.

Agro.Club, a U.S.-based startup, has established a new Canadian company. Drawing on the company’s origins in the Black Sea market with over 10,000 farmers using the platform, the Canadian company is committed to creating efficient, inclusive technology solutions for the value chain, according to the company.

“We want to give the whole industry a more efficient way of doing business digitally”, says Neil Arbuckle, the managing director of Agro.Club Canada.

Arbuckle has over 30 years of ag business leadership, working across the Canadian value chain. To Arbuckle, building an online ecosystem that includes all the existing partnerships and trusted relationships is the key to helping the Canadian ag industry take a digital step forward.

David Hansen, CEO and president of Canterra Seeds, says the Agro.Club vision fits with the company’s need for an e-commerce solution that works for the seed industry.

“Until Agro.Club entered the market, the options were scarce. We could build an IT solution on our own, go with an e-commerce partner or sit back and do nothing.”

Agro.Club makes the upfront IT investment and then partners with organizations who want new ways to conduct their business online, the company says.

“Our model is to create an ecosystem where Canterra Seeds — and any other input company — can reach farmers and offer programs and a farmer can place orders with their preferred retailer,” says Arbuckle.

The Agro.Club ecosystem isn’t limited to input companies. Arbuckle says a number of retailers want to work with Agro.Club to digitize their own businesses.

For Lorri Keyowski, director of sales for Canterra, the power of the Agro.Club platform is the ability to incorporate digital technology while sustaining local relationships.

“I know many farmers who use their phone for everything. We wanted to provide farmers with a new option to order seed that keeps them connected to their retailer.”

For Hansen, this is a new era in the company’s 25-year history.

“This is a digital step forward for [us]. We’re excited to embrace change without losing what’s important.”

In June, Agro.Club first announced plans to expand into Europe and launch operations in North America following the closure of a $1.5-million seed round led by Speedinvest, with participation from Elevator Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Raiffeisen Bank International. Previously, it had a successful launch in Russia, a $20-billion market, where almost 20% of farmers have signed up in the first 18 months and with millions of dollars in monthly business, according to the company.

“Farmers have historically been the risk-takers working in a non-transparent market. The Agro.Club mobile app empowers farmers by giving them access to multinational giants, independent manufacturers, trusted retailers, grain exporters and food companies,” the company said in a news release. “This opens up new opportunities for players of all sizes, while providing a closer relationship with farmers and platform support across the whole value chain, from seed to grain at the port.”

The Agro.Club Canada announcement comes two years after Farmers Business Network announced its move to Canada, setting up a head office in High River, Alta., and announcing its acquisition of Yorkton Distributors in Saskatchewan — the beginning of what it said would be a distribution network across the West.

FBN allows farmers to anonymously share precision ag data including seed performance, as well as information on what they’re paying for seed and crop protection products. Farmers can also purchase inputs directly online from FBN and its partners.

FBN Canada’s approach to doing business on the seed side is a little different than its U.S. counterpart, however. In the United States, an individual seed variety can be sold under multiple brand names by different retailers at different price points, and FBN’s data will reveal which seed products from which brands are genetically identical, and at what prices they’re being sold for.

Because Canada’s seed system forbids multiple companies from selling the same variety of seed, FBN Canada has instead focused on performance and price analytics.

According to its website, Agro.Club Canada enables farmers to place orders online for the products of its manufacturer partners. Farmers then select their preferred retailer. Price is negotiated locally, and once a deal is reached, product is delivered and supported by the retailer of the farmer’s choice.

There is no subscription or membership fee for Agro.Club.

Earlier this month, FBN announced it would remove membership fees for all farmers, eliminating its $700 per year subscription.

The Nuts and Bolts of the VUA

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What is the VUA and how exactly will it affect the crops you plant in your fields?

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Todd Hyra, business manager Western Canada for SeCan, gives Alberta Seed Guide readers an in-depth look at the Variety Use Agreement (VUA) which will see farmers will pay a royalty to plant breeders for use of farm-saved seed. Hyra has worked for decades in the seed industry and helped develop the VUA. With a few crop varieties under the VUA banner out in fields as of the 2020 growing season, Hyra is working to gather feedback on the program and explain how it can help plant breeding in Canada.

ASG: How do you keep track of who is using farm-saved seed?

TH: We’re in the process of building a web-based system, an app that would allow an electronic agreement to be signed at the time of the original seed purchase. If the farmer likes the variety and chooses to use farm-saved seed, they would declare how many acres are used each year, or they could just repurchase certified seed.

ASG: So, it’s kind of a trust system almost?

TH: So, there is a contract, it’s beyond just pure trust… there would be some audits and some tracking to ensure compliance as well. As we’ve talked to farmers over the last couple of years, one of the pieces that they say is, ‘I’m fine signing a contract. But I want to make sure that if I’m paying, everybody’s paying.’ And so that’s part of the just ensuring that everybody’s paying their way along.

ASG: What are the different varieties involved in the pilot program?

TH: We had a soybean, a Round Up Ready soybean, that will be available for next year… Cantera had two wheat varieties… there was reasonable pickup of both those varieties and farmers seem to understand what was being done. And there were two pea varieties, forage pea varieties, that were added kind of late.

We’re still working with our plant breeding partners on identifying future varieties. The products must show value to farmers as this is what pushes plant breeders to deliver improvements. In the VUA farmers show support for crop breeding programs by buying specific varieties from that program.

ASG: Are there any similar programs to this in other countries?

TH: Yes, actually, there are a number of other countries — most developed countries have some system. The most similar to this would be what is done in the Netherlands, similar to what’s done in the UK, in terms of a farm save royalty… most countries around the world have something based on the seed being planted. The other version being something on the grain being harvested. Australia has an endpoint royalty where there’s a royalty taken at the time of harvest.

We looked at models from around the world as we were considering other options. And the VUA is flexible, so the rate can change depending on what the needs of the breeder or the product offers. It works across all regions of Canada, across all crops.

ASG: What do you feel is misunderstood about the VUA?

TH: There’s a few misconceptions. So one is, ‘Why do we need it? Things are looking okay right now. There are still some good products coming to market. Do we really need this?’ And my answer to that is, if you’ve been around as long as I have and can look at what we had and what we have and the trend lines, it’s startling.

A few different examples that I can give you are just the breeding positions within some of the public programs that have been cut over the years. So, just four or five years ago we had two barley breeders and two wheat breeders in Brandon, Manitoba. And now there’s one of each. So, breeding positions are being cut, testing facilities have been cut.

There’s a ton of other examples, but the erosion has been continuous over time. And we need to stop that and ensure that we maintain what we have and build back and attract new investment.

The next one is, ‘While I’ve already paid for these varieties, why are you charging me more?’ Because farmers pay levees, and they pay some but not all. And it’s important to consider this is just one piece of many pieces of pie that make up funding, in particular public breeding programs.

They’re funded by producer dollars, they’re funded by federal dollars, so pure public investment in those, as well as other industry contributions that support the programs. And then the royalty that would be captured from certified seed sales. This is sort of another piece that would help round out that overall contribution.

ASG: How will the VUA affect plant breeding in Canada and specifically in Alberta?

TH: I’ll give a couple of examples. In oats, for example, certified seed usage is about 15 per cent. So that means when a breeder sells the variety, they get a royalty on certified seed sales which would be about 15 per cent of the acres being planted of their variety. So, 85 per cent of the crop is being used without any royalty flow back to them.

And so, if it’s a public program, there are some other avenues. There’s public funds and some producer checkoff dollars that help support them. But if you’re a private breeder, it’s a very difficult position, even when you’ve got good products, to try and maintain flow and keep those products coming forward. And so, by having a small royalty on those that choose to farm save seed, it levels the playing field and ensures that breeders are being rewarded.

If we look at the some of the challenges going on within the public programs across Canada, and you can look provincially in Alberta. Some of the struggles to try and maintain that investment in the breeding that is being done by Alberta Agriculture and ensure that the agronomy support goes on. You can see the budget cuts that hit in 2019, 2020 that are really impacting those.

If you want to maintain breeding, you have to have dollars going in and you can’t rely alone on public dollars. So, we need alternate mechanisms that help support those programs.

ASG: What do you think the future of plant breeding in Canada is if the VUA doesn’t go through?

TH: Well, it’ll continue in some form, but to maintain competitiveness and to attract the brightest and best we need to invest. No doubt about it, farmers invest in their farms all the time. And this is just one of those pieces of investment.

And so, if we don’t, programs will continue, but will the competitiveness of the products coming out of those programs be as good as they could be? Will there be products from other parts of the world coming to Canada?

When we started talking about the VUA and the potential for some additional royalty flow back to breeders, it immediately sparked interest from breeders from around the world to look at Canada and start to make crosses for Canada. And so, without that, they’ll stop that investment, completely pack up and leave. They need to have a return.

ASG: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

TH: This is an important time for us. We’re learning. We want to understand the impact from a farm perspective. We want real life feedback and we want the system to be fair. So, it’s about developing a system that supports and encourages breeding. But there has to be reward in it for the farmer all the way. It’s not just a one-sided equation.

Editor’s note: The Seed Variety Use Agreement (SVUA) was recently renamed the Variety Use Agreement (VUA).

Harvest of Spring Seeded Crops Underway

- Harvest

Favourable weather conditions, particularly in the south and central are, have allowed most Alberta producers to start harvesting spring seeded crops, the bi-weekly crop report from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry on Aug. 28, says.

Provincially, eight per cent of the crop has been harvested to date. Southern Alberta is the farthest advanced with 24 per cent of the crop in the bin.

Variable weather conditions experienced during the last few weeks in the northern regions of the province has resulted in less than two per cent of crops combined in each area, the report notes.

Canadian Seed Growers Association Members Vote No to Seeds Canada Merger

- Wheat kernels

The following piece is from our sister publication, Germination.

Canadian Seed Growers’ Association members have voted against merging with the industry’s other dedicated seed associations to form a national seed organization called Seeds Canada.

The CSGA voting results were announced today during the CSGA’s special member meeting. 55% of the 751 votes cast were against the proposed merger.

Two-thirds of the votes cast were required to be Yes votes for the CSGA to approve the merger.

The Seed Synergy partners released a statement today confirming that the CSGA is the lone organization to have voted no to the merger. The five organizations that make up the Seed Synergy partners are the Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA); the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC); the CSGA; the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI); and the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA).

“This result is disappointing, and the boards of each participating organization will now consider how to move forward,” the brief statement says.

“Over the past five years, these groups have worked together on a vision to create the next generation seed system in Canada. Without a unanimous decision, the boards of each organization will reconvene to determine the next steps. An update on this matter is anticipated by the middle of September.”

The amalgamation agreement does provide for one or more of the organizations to hold a second vote provided that they have the agreement of the other amalgamating organizations. If a second vote is agreed to by the amalgamating organizations, the second vote must be completed by Dec. 15, 2020.

In the event that one or more of the organizations do not ratify the amalgamation, the organizations that do approve amalgamation may proceed to amalgamate on their own, or they may choose to not proceed with the amalgamation at all.

Ellen Sparry, who is slated to sit on the proposed inaugural board of Seeds Canada, says while it’s disappointing that the CSGA has voted against the merger, she believes the will still exists to go forward with some form of the amalgamation.  

“Each organization needs to reconvene to determine what the next steps should be ” Sparry said. “For me, Seeds Canada should still move forward, it’s just a matter of who and how. There aren’t any clear answers rights now.”

Sparry — manager of Ontario’s C&M Seeds — is a member of the CSGA, her company is a CSTA member as well, in addition to belonging to the CPTA and also being a client of CSI and utilizing the services of CSAAC, too.

“It’s unfortunate the growers voted the way they did and we’ll see what the implications of that are for CSGA down the road.”

“I think the goal should be to continue moving things forward quickly. It’s just a matter of determining who, what and how. It’s tough to know what to say. It’s disappointing but we’re still invested in moving Seeds Canada forward albeit in a slightly altered format,” she added.

In a message sent out to its members this week by the Manitoba Seed Growers’ Association, Seeds Canada inaugural board member and Oak River-based seed grower Eric McLean said the results of a “no” vote would be profound for his national association.

“What happens if we vote no to Seeds Canada? If the amalgamation doesn’t go through, we don’t get to go back to the way it was. The old CSGA simply won’t exist anymore. CSGA 2.0 will be drastically different,” McLean said.

“If the other four industry partners move ahead with Seeds Canada with a significantly muted grower voice, the result will be a powerful lobby voice representing our sector without grassroots influence or perspective.”

Anti-Merger Email “Not Endorsed” by CSGA: Rennick

- Typing at a laptop

The following piece is from our sister publication, Germination.

Canadian Seed Growers’ Association President Joe Rennick says an email sent out last week to CSGA’s official mailing list opposing the merger to form Seeds Canada and advising CSGA members to vote “No” is not endorsed by the CSGA board of directors.

Rennick says in a statement posted on the CSGA website that the CSGA board wants members “to know that this email was from some members who don’t support the proposed amalgamation,” and that the board cannot assure members that the information contained in the email — which has not been released publicly — is accurate.

As to how those responsible for writing and sending the email obtained CSGA’s full mailing list, Rennick goes on to say that under Subsection 22(5) and 22(7) of the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, upon request by a member, CSGA is legally obliged, under certain circumstances and subject to specific requirements, to provide that member with a list of CSGA members.

The specific requirements include a statutory declaration to CSGA which commits the member to limit use of the membership list to: i) influencing the voting of members; ii) requesting a meeting of members, or; iii) any other matter relating to the affairs of the corporation, according to the statement.

Rennick adds that if another member wants this option, they should submit the required declaration form via email to [email protected] in order to receive the membership list. The member would then be authorized to send a message to that list, providing they abide by the restrictions in the declaration, he says.

“With less than two weeks remaining before voting ends, we encourage you to inform yourselves, to join the online amalgamation discussion and to vote,” Rennick said in the statement.

CSGA members will continue to vote up to and including Aug. 27, when the results of the merger vote will be announced by the Seed Synergy partners.

For the full statement visit https://seedgrowers.ca/bod-seedscanada-comms/.