MOU between SeCan and producer groups keeps wheat varieties out of royalty pilot project

Two wheat varieties that were going to be included in the new Seed Variety Use Agreement (SVUA) pilot program in Western Canada have been pulled from the seed royalty trial by SeCan, the company that owns the midge-tolerant varieties.

Announced in February as a joint project between the Canadian Plant Technology Agency and Canadian Seed Trade Association, the SVUA pilot is designed to address the issue of value creation for plant breeders, as it enables the collection of a royalty fee on farm-saved seed for varieties in the program.

The establishment of the SVUA pilot earlier this year came after the government failed to provide direction to the seed industry following consultations on whether to move forward on two proposed new seed royalty models: a trailing or an end-point royalty system. Participation is voluntary, and seed companies get to set the fee.

SeCan had privately told its seed dealer members that AAC Starbuck VB and AAC Wheatland VB — two midge-tolerant wheat varieties — would be participating in the SVUA pilot, but that decision has been reversed as SeCan has signed a memorandum of understanding with the provincial wheat commissions from the three prairie provinces.

“In recent weeks we have had extensive discussions about funding wheat research with both AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) and the western Canadian wheat commissions via the Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC). As a result of these discussions, we have agreed these varieties will NOT be included in the VUA pilot program,” says an email distributed to SeCan members on September 29.

The CWRC is a collaboration between the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, the Alberta Wheat Commission, and the Manitoba Crop Alliance.

“As commissions we had concerns about including public varieties in the pilot because of the fact farmers have already made a significant investment in public varieties (through check-off funding), and we’ve stated that fairly publicly,” Tom Steve, general manager of the Alberta Wheat Commission, tells RealAgriculture.

The MOU between SeCan and the coalition of Prairie wheat commissions features a commitment to increase wheat research and testing capacity for public breeding programs, such as AAFC’s program. Details, such as the amount of funding to be contributed by the three wheat commissions through the CWRC, have not yet been determined.

SeCan’s email to members says the expanded collaboration will “provide more timely and predictable support to our breeding partners than potential royalty income generated under the pilot program.”

In the email, SeCan tells its members it is still committed to “exploring appropriate means of funding both public and private plant breeding programs,” noting other SeCan products will be part of the SVUA pilot program.

There are still five varieties, including a soybean variety, two wheat varieties, and two pea varieties, in the SVUA pilot program.

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