The past year was a great year for our industry in many ways; however, we expect 2015 to be the year when we see the finalization of a number of changes that have been in the works — for years, in some cases.
I predict a very exciting year, which also means a year full of opportunity. Specifically, I am referring to three particular changes that will have a significant impact on the cereal seed business in Canada. These include the Agricultural Growth Act (Bill C-18), variety registration and new industry organizations for the cereals sector.
Agriculture Growth Act
This act contains a number of important updates to regulations that will help modernize the seed industry and bring reform to Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR). Bill C-18’s greatest impact to CANTERRA SEEDS and the entire seed industry value chain will be making Canada compliant with UPOV ’91 — the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, which was adopted by the UPOV Convention in 1991. Currently, Canada conforms to a much older Plant Breeders’ Rights legislation, UPOV ’78. The newer regulations in UPOV ’91 will put Canada on par with the rest of the world.
UPOV ’91 will provide for enhanced PBR and is expected to encourage the release of new varieties and increase investment in plant breeding in Canada. Increased efforts by Canadian breeders will have a significant impact, while the new PBR will also give greater confidence to international breeders that their material will be protected in our country. By ensuring that breeders are compensated for the use of their intellectual property, we will see the rapid release of new varieties with improved yields, disease resistance and other traits.
Once UPOV ’91 is ratified in Bill C-18, I expect to see announcements from the private and public plant breeding and seed communities about closer alignments, partnerships and funding arrangements. Ultimately, farmers are going to be the beneficiaries of this enhanced funding environment through the release of improved varieties.
The variety registration system in Canada is undergoing review and change. For cereal crops, the current system requires multiple years of testing and review of merit (equal to or better than established check varieties) by expert committees spanning the industry.
CANTERRA SEEDS has engaged in the variety registration review process and contributed to the proposed changes that are now on the table. While it is expected that cereals will still require multiple years of testing and merit assessment, the proposed changes will ensure our industry will gain a modernized crop variety registration system that provides balanced value chain representation and streamlined and transparent merit criteria.
Once UPOV ’91 is ratified and the variety registration system modernized, the industry can and will move very quickly to partner private and public sector efforts with additional and much needed investments. Increased investments will ensure Canadian farmers have access to the best genetic improvements, all within an improved system that minimizes the delay of burdensome bureaucratic processes.
New Cereals Industry Organizations
With the removal of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly, it was evident to CANTERRA SEEDS and our industry peers that new organizations would be needed to assume and further the good work that the CWB had done for wheat and barley market development and promotion. Cereals Canada was conceived and came to fruition in 2014, and I am currently the vice-chair.
Representing the cereals value chain, Cereals Canada will create opportunities for our industry to continue to grow and remain profitable. CANTERRA SEEDS envisions a future where we see greater diversification in Western Canada, with the inclusion of crops such as corn and soybeans, but one where wheat remains a dominant crop.
Without doubt, 2015 is shaping up to be a year like no other. I speak for CANTERRA SEEDS when I say that, but I’m sure other seed companies would echo this same sentiment. It’s a fantastic time to be in agriculture and especially in the seed business.