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Canada’s Seed Industry Goes Back to the Drawing Board

Canadian Seed Growers’ Association members have voted no to a proposal to form a single national seed organization for the country — but Seeds Canada may still become a reality.

Canada’s effort to unite its seed industry under one banner called Seeds Canada hit a snag in August, but the project to form a national seed organization is likely still proceeding.

Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) members voted against amalgamating with the industry’s other dedicated seed associations to form Seeds Canada, which has been five years in the making and was designed to unite the country’s five seed industry associations. They were known as the Seed Synergy partners as they worked to design the Seeds Canada structure.

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).

The CSGA voting results were announced in late August during their virtual special general meeting of members. Over half of the 751 votes cast were against the proposed amalgamation. Two-thirds of the votes cast were required to be “yes” votes for CSGA to approve the amalgamation.

Out of the five groups, CSGA is the lone organization to have voted no, despite its national board officially endorsing the proposed amalgamation.

In terms of membership numbers, the CSGA is the largest of the partner associations and is designated in the federal Seeds Act and Regulations as the official pedigreeing agency for seed crops in Canada, except for potatoes. The association represents 3,500 seed growers and monitors and certifies seed for agricultural field crops in Canada.

“This result is disappointing, and the boards of each participating organization will now consider how to move forward,” read a statement issued by the Seed Synergy partners shortly after the vote was announced.

“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 those next steps was expected by the middle of September, prior to press time.

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, it must be completed by Dec. 15, 2020.

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Ellen Sparry is president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association.

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

“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 said.

Sparry — president of the CSTA and manager of Ontario’s C&M Seeds — is a member of the CSGA. Her company is a CSTA member, belongs to the CPTA, is a client of CSI, and utilizes the services of CSAAC, as well.

“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 2021, the Canadian federal government will begin modernizing Canada’s seed regulatory system. With CSGA’s executive director Glyn Chancey set to depart come February 2021, CSGA past-president Jonathan Nyborg said in the event of a “no” vote, work would need to begin to help the CSGA evolve into what is being dubbed CSGA 2.0.

“There will be a lot of effort required moving forwards under all scenarios being considered,” Nyborg said. “CSGA can continue to focus on becoming the best version of itself — CSGA 2.0 — continue to work towards some form of consolidation with the partners, or both. It will be up to them as well.”  

Seeds Canada inaugural board member and Manitoba-based seed grower Eric McLean said the results of a “no” vote would be profound for the CSGA.

“If the other four industry partners move ahead with a version of Seeds Canada with a significantly muted grower voice, it will leave our sector without the grassroots influence that the inclusion of CSGA would have provided,” McLean said.

“CSGA will not be able to continue as it is today either way — it will need to transform, and CSGA 2.0 will be a drastically different association.”

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