Provincial Seed Grower Groups in Myth-Busting Mode as Seeds Canada Vote Deadline Approaches

- Wheat seed

The following piece is from our sister publication, Germination.

With just a few days left for Canadian Seed Growers Association (CSGA) members to vote on the Seeds Canada proposal, provincial seed grower groups are in full communications mode trying to clear up what they say are misconceptions about the proposal to merge the country’s five dedication seed associations.

“Over the past few weeks, you have been bombarded with emails and publications from CSGA, MSGA and a group strongly opposed to the Seeds Canada amalgamation,” reads an email sent out today to members of the Manitoba Seed Growers Association (MSGA).

“We get it — we are all heads down, getting the crop in. This is a monumental decision for CSGA members, and it comes at the worst time for us farmers. But there are still plenty of opportunities to have your voice heard and vote on the Seeds Canada proposal.”

The email notes that the opposition group in question has circulated material presented by two individuals during a CSGA online Town Hall meeting and, in the interest of transparency, the MSGA is providing members with a rebuttal to their argument by outlining some big myths that have emerged about the Seeds Canada proposal, which seeks to merge the CSGA with the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA), Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA), Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC), and the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI).

Myths and Facts

Myth: Seed growers will lose their voice under the Seeds Canada model.

Fact: Seeds Canada will be a full democratic process that will let members decide who represents them, notes Eric McLean, a Manitoba seed grower heavily involved in the Seeds Canada process. And unlike CSGA today, members will be able vote from a distance on all director seats. “Time away from the farm, and money to attend an AGM will no longer be a factor to vote on board representatives. The opportunity for grower involvement will be stronger than ever,” McLean notes, going on to note that the CSGA has no lobby mandate currently. Under Seeds Canada, growers, regulators and analysts will have the ability to craft unified messaging and place seed grower concerns front and centre and provide input on future policy.

Myth: Seed growers merging with the seed trade is a bad idea.

Fact: If you compare CSGA and CSTA policy statements, you will see they are already 90% identical, McLean says. “The majority vision of the Canadian Seed Sector partners and players is already pointed in the same direction — towards a strong and vital Canadian Seed Sector. …Culture differences have caused concern through time by pitting the grower versus trade. There are over 2,000 seed grower businesses that likely don’t have exposure to CSTA roles, or how CSI can help train them and their staff. By bringing seed growers and their businesses into Seeds Canada, they can access these organizations’ services through a single window. Growers need trade and the rest of the industry to help them bring their seed products to market. Otherwise, it’s just expensive grain that gets dumped.”

Myth: If CSGA members vote no to the Seeds Canada proposal, we keep the status quo.

Fact: “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 says. “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.”

The Seeds Canada/Value Creation Myth

Jonathan Nyborg, past-president of the CSGA, says there has been much confusion concerning the Variety Use Agreement (VUA) and the Seeds Canada proposal. The VUA is being spearheaded by the CPTA as a means of value creation to create a new revenue stream to fund development of new varieties in Canada and is not a Seeds Canada initiative.

“They are related, just like anything we do in this industry is connected to everything else, but it’s not technically part of the amalgamation,” Nyborg says. He notes that the confusion has led to a bigger misperception that Seeds Canada is designed to privatize plant breeding in Canada.

“That’s not the case. Seeds Canada is a coming together of the organizations to find efficiencies. It’s about working together.”

Communication a Challenge During the Busy Season

Kelly Chambers, executive director for the Alberta Seed Growers, says communicating with members has been a challenge during a busy time taken up with a flurry of activity in the seed grower and farming community.

“About the time [the Seeds Canada ratification packages went out] was not only when our board was taking a summer holiday, but everyone else was too. It was that lull between spraying season and harvest that farm families try to get away from the farm to relax,” she says.

“It’s a tough time to hold a referendum like this.”

Chambers notes that a recent email sent out to the CSGA mailing list by an anti-merger faction within the seed grower community  has also served to confuse and divide seed growers on the issue.

“It’s the democratic process at work, however many of the comments and concerns expressed are not based on the facts. The national and branch leadership of CSGA have spent countless days, months and years ensuring that member concerns have been addressed. In Alberta, the leadership supports the amalgamation, they feel this package presents an opportunity for the future of seed growers.”

In Ontario, Ontario Seed Growers Association (OSGA) manager Colleen Acres and the OSGA board are busy reaching out to 700 seed growers to ensure everyone has an opportunity to cast their vote.

“There haven’t been a lot of concerns raised. Some people have had questions about the positives and negatives, many have voted already. For those who hadn’t voted we checked in to ensure they received their packages and remind them of their final voting day and time,” Acres says.

“Some received the email from the ‘no’ side and were wondering what was going on and wanting to obtain clarification. For sure there are some concerns and it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. People should obtain clarification if they are concerned or worried about anything. By and large people are appreciative of the opportunities made available to them if they have questions.”

Voting for CSGA members continues up to and including this coming Thursday, Aug. 27. Advance voting online or by telephone is open until 10 a.m. on Aug. 26. You need your Unique Control Number that is on the voting card you received in the mail with your ratification package.

CSGA members can also vote online during the CSGA Special General Meeting on Aug. 27, starting at 10:00 a.m. You’ll need your control number here, too.

If you didn’t get your ratification package with voting card and unique control number, please contact the CSGA office ASAP at [email protected] or at 613-236-0497.