Seed World

It’s Time to Take a Deep Breath and Finish What we Started

More than 15 years ago, a small group of seed growers were contemplating the big picture. We put to paper a few of the challenges we saw for the future of our industry.

We recognized that agriculture was on the cusp of a dramatic shift. How will the seed business be relevant in the overall agriculture system? How will we as seed retailers survive? How will we as individual seed growers stay relevant? These were big questions we wanted to address.

Richard Stamp is president of Alberta’s Stamp Seeds and a former board member of the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association

We needed a strong game plan going forward. We couldn’t just sit by and watch ourselves be left behind. This was the formation of our SeedNet company, established in 2010 by 14 independent seed growers.

The centre of our company was then, and still is today, to work together in numerous ways to build strong retail seed farm entities. This would then translate into a framework to support the entire seed industry and in turn Canadian ag.

Our group, along with a few of our partners, took this concept to the next level to envision the next-generation seed system.

This coincided with the overall Seed Synergy initiative. At the same time a few of us were also part of the CSGA “oversight committee” to help drive a vision forward.

With all this effort and the birth of Seeds Canada it is unfortunate that the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association did not join the fold. What many people see as a failed merger has left us divided and our industry is suffering as a result. It leaves us with a fractured seed landscape.

My frustration today, as it was then, is that a small group of individuals have intentionally sidetracked a lot of dedicated work that went into the concept for the next-generation seed system. If the 2020 amalgamation vote was held today, I’m confident that the result would be different.

As the 2020 vote approached, an organized campaign to scuttle the amalgamation and prevent change caused confusion among all of us. Many feared that seed growers would “lose their voice” should they join a new national organization.

“What many people see as a failed merger has left us divided and our industry is suffering as a result. It leaves us with a fractured seed landscape.”

This disinformation campaign was organized by a small group of growers. In my view, this was very short sighted and irresponsible. I’m pretty sure that some of these same individuals were on the edge of exiting the industry. We did not hear any plan or strategy going forward from these folks.

Today we are left to try and salvage our future, as the clock ticks and we hurtle toward the end of the Seed Regulatory Modernization process as an industry divided.

I understand the concerns among some of my fellow seed growers. I get it.

If you are a seed grower who might grow a variety for seed and hope to sell it, then it is difficult to figure out where you fit in, as the industry landscape keeps changing. You are likely disappointed in the seed business as you see it. If nothing changes now, you will feel somewhat safe and secure.

If you are a large multinational, the frustration is also real. Regulatory red tape makes you feel stifled and unable to innovate. It’s hard to build a business when you don’t feel like you can operate within the current business environment. So, maybe you try and turn things in your favour, so you can defeat anyone you view as competition and opposed to your ideas.

Then there’s the rest of us, stuck somewhere in the middle, trying to find a way forward as seed farms and retail businesses. We’re caught between people who don’t want change and people who we might sometimes view as wanting too much change, too fast.

Sadly, all this fear puts us at odds with each other and in danger of losing all credibility. I believe perception is always reality, and with widespread division and no clear direction forward as a united industry, we are not being taken seriously by government, our customers, and most importantly, our colleagues.

My challenge to all: accept that change is happening, whether we like it or not. Future generations are counting on us. Let’s make sure they look back with pride at the great vision we had for our own future and theirs. This will be better than them shaking their heads at the fact we couldn’t swallow our pride before the clock ran out.