Ladies and gentlemen, as we move forward in our study of Bill , better known as the agriculture growth act, first of all, let me thank each and every one of you on our committee for the talks and discussions that we have had.
On Thursday, as you know, committee was adjourned, and we're back today. We also have had discussions with a number of our witnesses.
I want to say thank you to all of our witnesses who have been on the docket for working with our committee to make sure we get the input that we need, not only from the individuals, but from many of those who come through their umbrella group. I just want to say thank you to each and every one of them.
As we have gone through a bit of a trying time obviously, not just with each of us as an individual but as Canada, I am so proud that we have come out of this stronger and better. We will continue on with the daily duties that we have.
With this, if I don't mess it up, we have with us by video conference from Lethbridge, Gary Stanford, Grain Growers of Canada, and from Barrie, Brent Preston, The New Farm. Brent, thank you.
We have a couple of empty chairs that will be filled when people come in. I'll introduce them when they come.
I also want to make sure that we introduce the people at our head table today. They are Patty Townsend from the Canadian Seed Trade Association. Thank you, Patty, for coming. We have Erin Armstrong from Canterra Seeds. Welcome, Erin. From C&M Seeds, we have Archie Wilson.
With that, folks, we're going to start. Video is always great, but we're going to start with them just in case there's a glitch.
With that, I will go to Mr. Brent Preston, The New Farm, from Barrie.
Brent, you have six minutes, please.
Chair, and all honourable members, thank you very much for inviting me to speak today.
My name is Brent Preston. My wife Gillian and I run the New Farm, a certified organic family farm near the village of Creemore, about an hour and a half northwest of Toronto. We grow vegetables for the restaurant and specialty retail market in southern Ontario.
I must confess that your invitation to testify today came as a bit of a surprise. I'm glad that you're hearing from a diversity of voices when considering Bill , because when I look at the kinds of farms represented by many of the others testifying today, our farm is very different.
Ten years ago my wife and I left our jobs in Toronto and headed to Creemore to start a farm. Gillian grew up on a farm in Vermont, but I was raised in suburban Toronto and had no agricultural experience at all. As newcomers to farming we took a hard, objective look at the agriculture industry and it was pretty clear to us back then that the industry in Canada was broken. We realized quickly that our farm would have to be different if we wanted to create a successful business.
We saw an agricultural system dominated by commodity production for the export market where Canadian farmers were forced to compete with growers in countries with better climates, lower labour and environmental standards, and bigger government subsidies, so we decided to focus on the local market.
We saw farmers at the mercy of buyers, either at the elevator or at the food terminal, where price was set far beyond our borders and price was the only way to distinguish a product, so we set our prices based on actual cost of production and competed on quality, freshness, and taste. If we couldn't sell a product at a fair price, we would and often still do turn it under in the field.
We saw a seed market that was increasingly dominated by huge multinational corporations focused on producing fewer and fewer varieties bred for ease of handling or pesticide tolerance, so we sought out old open-source varieties that were bred for taste and adaptability.
We saw an agriculture industry where everyone except farmers seemed to be making money, where the cost of land, inputs, and machinery made entering the farming business almost impossible, and where average net farm incomes were actually negative. We started small, used low-input organic methods, did almost everything by hand, and focused on profitability rather than growing our gross sales.
We saw a farm community that was shrinking rapidly, where fewer and fewer farmers were managing larger and larger farms, so we joined the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, or CRAFT, a completely farmer-run alliance of small organic farms that provides full-season apprenticeships for aspiring farmers. We have so far trained over 20 young people on our farm, none of whom came from a farm background.
The first few years were a struggle. We lost money. We had to work off-farm to pay the bills. The physical toil of the work was brutal. But now, 10 years later, I think our decision to be different has paid off. Our business is profitable. My wife Gillian and I both work full-time year round on the farm. We employ six full-time seasonal staff, and we can't meet the demand for our products.
At the same time, the problems with Canadian agriculture that we identified 10 years ago have only gotten worse. We now have fewer farmers in greater debt, struggling to compete on a global stage dominated by gigantic corporations.
That brings us back to Bill . It seems to me that when our agricultural system isn't working for most farmers we should be looking for something different to fix it, but Bill C-18 is more of the same. It increases the power of large corporations in relation to family farms. It increasingly ties Canadian agriculture into a globalized, price-based commodity market. It encourages the long-term trend toward bigger farms and fewer farmers.
I don't think the sky will fall if Bill is passed, but it will be one more incremental step in a policy march that I think is failing Canadian agriculture.
What is the alternative? Bill is called the agricultural growth act. Imagine for a minute if each of you, as a member of this committee, sat down in your constituency with a group of farmers and people interested in food policy and said to them, “The government wants to write an agricultural growth act. What do you think should be in it?” Do you honestly think that anyone would speak up and say to bring Canadian law into conformity with UPOV 91? Would someone put up their hand and say, “Why don't we make it easier for foreign corporations to access farm credit programs underwritten by Canadian taxpayers?” It seems unlikely.
I can think of many things the Canadian government could do to promote agricultural growth, none of which are in Bill . Why not look at ways to grow the number of farmers? We could give tax credits to farms that offer apprenticeship programs, support agricultural incubators like the one run by FarmStart,just outside Toronto, or work with marketing boards to reduce barriers to entry for new producers of supply-managed commodities.
Why not adopt policies that grow demand for local food? We could create buy local policies for federal departments and publicly funded institutions. Imagine if military bases, prisons, research agencies, and universities were all building relationships with local food producers and distributors pumping food dollars back into the local economy.
We could consider labour and environmental standards when negotiating international trade deals so that Canadian farmers are no longer put at a competitive disadvantage when they pay their workers fairly, or act as responsible stewards of the land.
Growth should be measured in more than just gross dollar output. Canadian farmers should be seen as more than just consumers of inputs and suppliers of cheap raw materials for the food industry.
We need profitable family farms to keep rural communities vibrant and alive, to safeguard our precious agricultural and environmental resources, and to meet the exploding demand for local food that we're seeing all across Canada.
Bill is simply the status quo, in my opinion. We need something different.
Thank you very much.
I'll start off. If I speak too quickly, interpreters, please wave your arms at me, because I have been accused of doing that before. I have only two minutes, so you have to listen fast.
We're sharing our time with two of our members, C&M Seeds and Canterra Seeds.
I would just like to say I'm very happy to be here, and I'm very pleased that you made accommodations to bring us in, when we were scheduled for last week. We did provide a very detailed submission in both official languages. I'm just going to make some really brief comments, and then I'll turn it over to Erin and Archie.
Bill is very important for the seed sector and the seed sector is very important to Canada. Seed is the foundation for Canada's innovative agricultural sector, delivering increased productivity and market opportunities for farmers, and healthy, affordable fibre, fuel, and food for Canadians.
The Canadian Seed Trade Association brings together 130 seed company members that are involved in all aspects of seed from research, plant breeding, trait and variety development, to production, marketing, sales, and international trade. I must add that we also have members that are single farm family seed producer retailers. We have organic seed producers and users of organic seed, and yes, we do represent the large multinationals and everything in between.
CSTA welcomes the provisions in Bill . Amendments to the Seeds Act to allow for incorporation by reference and to accept science-based data generated in other countries in approval systems could help to ensure that our farmers have access to new varieties in a more efficient and timely manner, and we support those provisions.
I would like, however, to focus on the bill's proposed amendments to plant breeders' rights. We have shown over and over again that where our members can generate a return and recover their costs in research and plant breeding, we do invest. In fact, in 2012 our members invested over $110 million in plant breeding and variety development in Canada.
Most of that investment, however, close to 90%, came in three crops: canola, corn, and soybeans. That's where our breeders can generate a return, because they can use a variety of intellectual property protection tools to generate funds for investment. Breeders of crops like cereals and flax, pulse crops, and special crops have access to plant breeders' rights only to protect their varieties.
Due to our outdated plant breeders' rights legislation, companies with an interest in these crops have chosen to invest elsewhere. Added to that is the fact that plant breeders outside of our borders won't send their varieties here for testing, because our plant breeders' rights legislation has not kept pace with the rest of the world.
I'd like to turn to my colleagues now, because they are the ones who are actually experiencing the impacts of outdated plant breeders' rights legislation.
On behalf of Canterra Seeds I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to comment on Bill and specifically the sections dealing with UPOV 91, and the importance of this legislation for creating an environment that will attract new investment in initiatives that will lead to greater innovation and increased opportunity for Canadian farmers.
I'm Erin Armstrong. I'm the director of industry and regulatory affairs for Canterra Seeds. We're a seed company based in Winnipeg, focused on providing pedigreed seed for field crops in western Canada.
Canterra Seeds was established by seed growers 18 years ago. Today we're owned by more than 200 shareholders, and the majority of them are pedigreed seed growers and independent ag retailers across western Canada. Our seed genetics continue to be sourced primarily from public breeding programs in Canada.
We also run a field program across western Canada to evaluate material from international breeding partners. These varieties provide new opportunities for western Canadian farmers in the form of diverse genetics they would not otherwise be able to access if they were solely dependent on western Canadian public breeding programs.
Having said that, our access is limited due to the concerns that Canada's Plant Breeders' Rights Act is not compliant with UPOV 91.
I'd like to give you two examples of the impact on our company. First, within days of Minister Ritz's introduction of Bill last December, I received a call from a European breeding company representative that we've known for many years. The conversation opened with him stating, “Now that Canada is finally getting its act together, we want to send you some material to look at”. This past growing season, 2014, we included material from this program for the first time. This is an opportunity that was not available to us prior to Bill C-18 being introduced. This partner is now confident that if we do commercialize varieties from their program in Canada, they will be able to protect and be compensated for the use of their intellectual property. Should Bill C-18 not be passed, we will lose this partner.
There is no doubt that there are also other new potential partners that we could be working with when UPOV 91 is in place.
As a second example, we've been working on expanding our collaboration with another one of our cereal breeding partners over the past couple of years. Our program has grown significantly and it will grow even more significantly when Bill is passed into law and our PBR Act is updated. We've been working towards this growth in a very deliberate manner, but executing the plan that we have developed is completely dependent upon the passage of Bill and UPOV 91 being implemented in Canada.
This initiative will involve a significant investment and the development of a new stream of material for the ultimate benefit of the farmers in western Canada. The bottom line is that passing Bill and updating our Plant Breeders' Rights Act to the terms of UPOV 91 will create an environment that will attract investment and will result in new tools, technologies, resources, and germplasm. This in turn will benefit directly the farmers and enable them to grow internationally competitive crops.
I'm the general manager of C&M Seeds. It's a family-owned business outside of Palmerston, Ontario. We're the third generation working within this business. We have been very innovative in bringing to Ontario farmers new classes of wheat: hard red winter, soft red winter, hard red spring, and hard white winter. That innovation came from us looking at new opportunities and being able to access them.
C&M Seeds operates an extensive research program to test all potential genetics for agronomic suitability and end-use functionality. We don't operate a breeding program, and therefore we are dependent on breeding programs from around the world to offer us lines for testing.
The current status of UPOV 91 is hurting us, hurting our efforts. lt makes it tough for us to recoup our investment in research and market development, and it reduces international breeders' confidence that they will have a chance to be fairly rewarded for any genetics they allow us to bring to market in Canada. We have had the experience where international breeding programs have agreed to send us materials for testing only to have them decide against that after looking up Canada's status on where we sit on UPOV 91. For a small independent working in Ontario, or in Canada in general, that's very disheartening. We need that access.
As well as being the general manager for C&M Seeds, I also represent Canada at the International Seed Federation, serving on both the board of directors and the field crop section board. I'll be honest; it's embarrassing when the topic of UPOV 91 is discussed and Canada is mentioned as one of only a few developed countries that are not part of the most recent convention of 1991. With over 60 countries compliant, including the likes of Oman, Azerbaijan, Macedonia, and Albania, Canada's absence is extremely noticeable and embarrassing.
Last week I was at the International Seed Federation meetings in Holland and was asked numerous times about the status of Bill . The world is watching this one. Bill C-18's amendments to plant breeders' rights included in the agricultural growth act are important to Canada's innovation agenda. Passing this legislation will make Canada a more attractive place to invest in plant breeding and variety development, bringing new and more productive varieties to Canadian farmers. Breeders and seed companies like C&M will invest when the environment is created to encourage this investment.
Please continue to move Bill forward for the benefit of Canadian agriculture. lt is clear to me that Canada's current position on UPOV 91 is costing not only seed companies like ourselves opportunities for better genetics, but it's also costing Canadian farmers opportunities for better crop performance and profitability.
I travelled across the province to speak for two minutes, during this busy harvest season, because of the importance of this bill. Please have the courage to move forward on it.
My name is Mark Huston, and I'm a corn and soybean farmer. I also grow wheat in Ontario. I'm also a director for Grain Farmers of Ontario.
My organization and I support the proposed amendments to Canada's plant breeders' rights legislation to bring it into compliance with the most recent international convention, UPOV 91.
Ontario's grain farmers need access to new and improved varieties to stay competitive in the domestic and international markets. Canada needs to be recognized as a positive business environment to attract private investment and research and development on variety in grains.
Updated plant breeders' rights legislation increases that investment and results in the delivery of new varieties from breeders operating both inside and outside of Canada. Plant breeders' rights are important to stimulate investment into the development of improved varieties for the crops we grow, including corn, soybeans, and wheat. This is particularly important in the cereal sector for which we don't have the patented traits in the marketplace.
The proposed amendments will encourage all plant breeders, big, small, private and public, international and domestic, to invest in the development of new varieties for Canadian farmers.
We know that plant breeders' rights are of particular importance to public institutions like Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, provincial governments, and universities as the majority of applications come from these areas. We believe it's important to have these rights to protect and encourage researchers as they conduct important research on crops specific to our own environmental challenges and opportunities.
Canada's proposed plant breeders' rights legislation will also ensure that farmers can save the grain they produce to use as seeds on their own farm. It is important to clarify that plant breeders' rights are not patents. Unlike patents, plant breeders' rights make it mandatory for breeders to make their protected varieties available for use by other breeders for research and for development of new varieties.
Also unlike patents, Canada's proposed plant breeders' rights legislation will ensure that farmers can save the grain they produce to use as seeds on their own farms. Our current legislation doesn't say anything about saving grain of protected varieties to use as seed. The new legislation clearly spells it out and says that farmers don't need the authority of the breeder to produce, reproduce, and condition grain of protected varieties to use as seed on their own farms. Because that right is entrenched in legislation, it can't be taken away without a legislative change.
Our organization is not alone in actively supporting updated plant breeders' rights and not alone in seeing the importance and benefits of them. We are a participant in the Partners in Innovation coalition, which is an informal coalition of 20 provincial, regional, and national organizations from across Canada along the value chain of grains, oilseeds, pulse crops, fruits, and vegetables.
Grain Farmers of Ontario and I as an active grain farmer support the move to become compliant with UPOV 91, and appreciate the continued effort to move this forward. It's important for our industry and to our farmers to remain competitive and to have access to the best science.
Thank you for your time.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members.
My name is Gary Stanford. I am the president of the Grain Growers of Canada. I will be sharing my time with Levi Wood, from the Western Canadian Wheat Growers.
Thank you for inviting me to speak today about Bill , the agricultural growth act.
Grain Growers of Canada provides a strong national voice for over 50,000 active and successful grain farmers of pulse, oilseeds, and grain through its 14 provincial and regional groups from across Canada, from British Columbia to Atlantic Canada.
The agriculture and agrifood industry is a significant contributor to the Canadian economy. ln 2012 it accounted for 6.7% of Canada's GDP. The sector's continued success includes grain and oilseed producers, and is contingent upon the ability of farmers to access and utilize new and innovative technology.
The proposed amendments in Bill to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act will align Canada's legislation with UPOV 91. This is important for ensuring Canada's farmers have access to the newest seed varieties to remain competitive with their international counterparts.
We expect a number of benefits will arise from the proposed changes to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act as highlighted in Bill . First, it will create a regulatory environment that will encourage investment and initiative in the development of new varieties. Just as patents give inventors the ability to recapture their investment, plant breeders' rights give seed developers the ability to recapture their investment.
Amending the Plant Breeders' Rights Act to comply with UPOV 91 will help pave the way for much greater investment in the development of new seed varieties that will deliver higher yields and better economics for Canadian farmers.
ln the case of cereals, more than half of the varieties protected under the current Plant Breeders' Rights Act were developed at public institutions, such as universities, provincial governments, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. This legislation does not take away any of that. What it does is it creates a regulatory environment that will increase research investment dollars by private companies, especially as it pertains to investment in new cereal varieties.
The commitment by the government and the introduction of Bill will clearly signal to private companies that Canada is open for investment. We have already seen the positive effects from the proposed changes. Bayer CropScience recently broke ground on a new state-of-the-art facility south of Saskatoon.
The adoption of Bill will bring our regulations in line with international standards. Canada is only one of a handful of developed countries not covered under UPOV 91. This keeps our farmers out of competitive advantage. Aligning our regulations will not only level the playing field for our producers, but it will also encourage foreign investment into new varieties for Canada. This would give our farmers access to new varieties that their competitors already use.
lt is important to note that Bill enshrines the ability of farmers to save their old seed. Canada's farmers have always been able to save seed, but it was never guaranteed under the legislation. This legislation changes that. The farmers will have the ability to save seed from any variety, including those protected by a plant breeder's right, unless a farmer chooses to waive that right.
I also want to take a moment to talk about the cash advance under Bill .
The Grain Growers welcome these changes as they reduce the administrative burden on farmers obtaining their cash advances and increase the overall value of the program. The proposed amendments will create a one-stop shop, simplifying the process by giving farmers the ability to obtain their advance through the administrator, allowing for multi-year advance repayment agreements, flexible under repayment, broadened eligibility requirements, and enhanced security options for positive changes.
If there is an opportunity to increase the cap on the advance from $400,000, we feel this would further enhance the value of the program.
ln closing, we urge the committee to pass Bill . With the world's population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, Canada's grain producers will need the most innovative technology and the newest varieties in order to maximize production and minimize environmental impacts. Bringing plant breeders' rights legislation up to date will encourage investment in new varieties and will ensure Canadian farmers are well positioned for growth in the future.
Thank you for letting me speak on this issue. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you very much for your time today.
My name is Levi Wood, I am president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association. I also farm at Pense, Saskatchewan, which is just outside of Regina.
I'd like to reinforce the comments made by Gary Stanford. In our view, and in our membership's view, the key benefit of is it will give us more crop varieties to choose from. Breeders in Canada, both private and public, will be able to draw on genetics from around the world. That will give us access to new varieties that can help increase our yields and grow our on-farm profitability. The legislation will not take choices away but rather will give us more. Let me explain.
Currently there are 78 different varieties of wheat eligible for acceptance into the top milling class in western Canada. I can choose any one of those 78 varieties to grow on my farm today. Of those 78 registered varieties, more than half of them, 41 to be exact, are not currently protected by plant breeders' rights. These are in the public domain. That means I'm free to grow them without paying a royalty of any kind. The oldest registered variety dates back to 1935. Occasionally a variety will be deregistered, usually if it no longer meets the quality standards, but we fully expect the majority of these varieties will continue to be available. Currently, the vast majority of wheat varieties grown in Canada were developed at public institutions. This new legislation doesn't take away any of those varieties. What this legislation does is it helps create a business environment that will allow seed developers, large and small, Canadian and foreign, invest more heavily in wheat breeding in Canada. For me, that means a greater opportunity to access varieties that will increase ultimately the profitability of our farm.
Newer varieties are often protected by plant breeders' rights for a period of up to 18 years. This will be extended to 20 years under Bill . I pay a royalty any time I purchase a seed variety that is protected by plant breeders' rights. However, as a rule I can reuse those seeds as many times as I like. It's no different from downloading a song on iTunes. Once I pay my 99¢ I can listen to it as much as I like. I can't copy and give or sell that song to anyone else, but I'm allowed to play it as much as I like. New seed varieties that are protected by plant breeders' rights are protected in the same way. I pay a royalty the first time I purchase it, but I can replant it on my farm as many times as I like without paying that royalty again.
In our view, and in our membership's view, Bill gives us the best of both worlds. It continues to give us the ability to use existing tried and true varieties. It also gives us the greater ability to access new varieties, which we need on our farm. Every farmer will be free to choose those varieties that work best for their farm operation and for their own business. For this reason, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association urges you to give this legislation your full support.
Thank you for your invitation today. I look forward to your questions.
Sure, thank you very much.
I think that at past hearings you've heard from representatives of the organic industry, and in the next hour you will as well. I think that they'll be able to speak to that.
My main point is that I see Bill as a missed opportunity. It's focusing on issues like plant breeders' rights and protecting intellectual property, which are going to have virtually no impact on my operation and operations like mine that are small scale and geared to the local market. It's really not going to have any discernible impact.
Most of the varieties that I use are old heritage varieties some of which were developed more than 100 years ago. The diversity of vegetable seed that was available 50 years ago was much greater than it is now after decades of increasing protection of intellectual property in this area. I don't see that protecting the property rights of plant breeders and large corporations is going to do anything to increase my access to new varieties, because all of the research and development is going into fewer and fewer crops. There may be lots of varieties of wheat available, lots of varieties of soy being developed, but most of those are being developed so that they can accept pesticides so that they work well under an industrial system of agriculture, which is not the sort of agriculture that I'm practising. I just think there are so many other things we could do as a farm community, as a community of people interested in food policy, to promote agricultural growth, but I don't see it in this bill.
Thank you, witnesses, for coming today.
I just thought of an analogy. I've been a carpenter for many years, and my dad was a carpenter before me. I'm from northern B.C., so, Levi, I'm as western Canadian as you are.
Carpenters often like new tools because they make us more productive. There's a higher cost as a result of that tool, but it's worth the money because it makes our day a lot easier and able to produce more for the same energy expended. To me, it seems obvious that UPOV 91 and protecting farmers' rights to their seed and all that is good, and that's why we're pursuing it on this side. We think it's a good thing for western Canadian farmers.
There has been a narrative out there that says farmers for some reason are not allowed to keep their own seed. I think it's one group that keeps that myth going.
I'd like a comment from Levi.
Where does that myth come from, and is it true? Are farmers able to use their own seed? I mean, you've said it before and I know the answer. I'd also ask how we can combat that myth from being perpetuated. Is the myth true, and how can we combat it?
I would say, from my perspective, that myth certainly does exist, and it's probably the number one issue out there with this bill around plant breeders' rights.
You're right. At this time, as I said earlier today, with the varieties that are currently protected, if I buy it, I can use it on my farm. I'm allowed to save that seed and I'm allowed to reuse it on my farm year after year if I choose. There are ultimately other factors that go into that as well, including the agronomic decisions that go with the economic decisions of using a variety, but at this time, yes, absolutely.
I think maybe some of the misconception comes a bit from the rise in canola, the canola models being comparatively different. When you see that.... I think it's partially where the myth comes from. In order to combat this myth, information needs to get out there. People in general aren't too familiar with UPOV 91. At the farm gate level, they only want to know how it affects them.
Ultimately, if we can convey the message that they are getting the best of both worlds, they will see the advantage, because as you said, like carpenters, farmers like a new tool in the chest. Ultimately, the more genetic research we can have here, the more varieties that can be established, made in Canada for Canadian conditions, it will certainly be better for farmers. If I look at a variety in terms of economics and incentive to grow it, that is certainly the case. In grain production, cereals are naturally receptive to western Canadian growing conditions, and I think increased genetics will improve that viability and ultimately contribute to our profitability at the bottom line, which is what's ultimately important.
I think it was you who used the iTunes analogy. I was just talking to one of my colleagues. It's really a perfect analogy. You absolutely can play that song as many times as you like; you just can't resell it. There are certain rights that belong to the producer or creator of that particular music.
Archie, I wanted to speak to what you said about the growth of local food. I like to buy locally produced beef in the Peace. It just seems better than the rest; I don't know what it is. But we're in an international market now, and you've spoken to this many times, that Canada also has to be prepared to be on that scale, to be ready for that and be able to produce to be competitive.
In terms of what Levi said when I asked him about the negative myths that are out there with UPOV 91, you speak to the positives, and so emphatically. How can we get the message out there to regular rank and file farmers that UPOV 91 is a good thing for farmers?
Good day, my name is Victor Santacruz. I am the executive director of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, a national trade organization representing over 3,800 member companies engaged in the ornamental horticulture industry. Specifically, our sector represents the nursery production, landscape services, and retail sectors within ornamental horticulture. Our organization has been serving and landscaping Canada since 1922 and represents members in every province across the country.
The ornamental horticulture sector is an important part of Canada's economy representing over $14.48 billion in economic impact. The ornamental horticulture sector is also the second largest employer in primary production agriculture, bypassed only by dairy and cattle farming. If we include our value chain from the farm to the yard, we employ over 220,000 Canadians in over 135,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
The Canadian Nursery Landscape Association consults regularly with AAFC and the CFIA, and participates in stakeholder consultations on matters that affect our industry. CNLA has been very active and a participant on the PBR advisory committee.
The Canadian Nursery Landscape Association is a proud member of the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance, which unites the combined interests of the entire ornamental horticulture sector. Also, through this group, we have engaged in direct research and innovation as an ornamental sector. Bill will have an impact on our activities and future of the sector. We're also a participant in the Partners in Innovation coalition that supports the amendments to Canada's plant breeders' rights legislation to bring it into compliance with the most recent international convention, UPOV 91.
Our position is that we support the changes to the plant breeders' rights in the adoption of UPOV 91. Canada's ornamental horticulture sector was in a competitive disadvantage by being on UPOV 78, and we are pleased with the decision to move this forward. This will place our sector on a level playing field with our trading partners, such as the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and the Netherlands.
Access to new varieties and the ability to protect Canadian new varieties abroad is important to the competitiveness of our sector.
Our association is also involved in managing a Canadian hardy rose breeding program on behalf of industry and through the support of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the former breeding programs at the Morden Arboretum Research Station in Manitoba and at the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu research station in Quebec. Our association and industry are committed to research and innovation, encouraging and greater incentivizing industry to invest, protect, and promote new varieties in Canada and abroad. Our industry's competitiveness depends on the ability to bring new plant varieties to market in a responsible and sustainable manner. All of this is greatly improved and supported through UPOV 91.
To illustrate the importance of plant breeders' rights to our sector, since 1992 to approximately March 2014 the PBR office in Canada has received 7,841 applications of which 5,891 were from horticulture. Of those, over 5,434 were from the ornamental horticulture sector which accounts for over 92% of all horticulture applications and over 69% for all of agriculture. For our sector, PBR is crucially important.
In conclusion, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association supports the amendments to the PBR legislation and supports moving forward with Bill .
Thank you very much for the opportunity to present our views to the committee.
Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
The Organic Council of Ontario is a provincial sector organization representing interests from producer to consumer and all levels in between.
Organic is over a $1-billion industry in Ontario alone. Sustained growth in the sector has been in the double digits for close to two decades, closer to 20% annually in the last few years.
Much of the market is supplied from outside our borders looking to import replacement as supply develops domestically.
I'm Jennifer Pfenning. I am the elected farmer representative and chair of the Organic Council of Ontario. I'm also the part owner and director of Pfenning's Organic Vegetables Inc. We are a farm, packer, distributor, and we do import and export as well. We employ approximately 60 people year round, and seasonally, the peak was 126 this year. Our business and our farm echo that of the industry overall. We have seen 15% to 20% growth annually for the last decade and closer to 20% in the last few years.
Legislation and regulation should encourage and support this growth to continue. As the Organic Council, we do have a few points about specific items in the legislation.
We support the recognition of work done to develop new varieties and want to see that continue. Legislation must ensure that recognition does not inadvertently make criminals of farmers engaging in traditional activities such as selling grains or feed to other farms.
In Germany, for example, the adoption of the UPOV 91 agreement has resulted in thousands of lawsuits against farmers, and I would hope we can avoid that in our adoption.
It is our position that EPR should not be introduced. While it is not currently in the legislation as it is written right now, I think it is possible it may be introduced through the regulatory framework, and we would not like to see that happen.
The proposed subsection for farmers' privilege, 5.3(2), should be expanded to include 5(1)(g). Currently it only applies to 5(1)(a) and (b). Paragraph 5(1)(g) is “to stock propagating material of the variety for the purpose of doing any act...”. It's that stocking the material that we feel is very important to protecting our rights as farmers.
We also have a concern with 5.1 that it may create some difficulties with cross-pollination. If there's inadvertent assimilation of genetic traits due to wind drift or pollinator insect activity, that could have a very big impact on farmers unintentionally.
Also 5.4(1) could create an onerous paperwork burden for farmers as intent is difficult to prove, and that is specifically referring to “the export of material of the plant variety to a country that does not protect varieties of the plant genus or species...”. The point that would be difficult is where it says “not intended for consumption”. It's very difficult. I don't necessarily know what my customer is going to do with everything I sell to them, and I have obviously no control once it has left my facility.
Those are some of the points. I know the Canada Organic Trade Association, Food Secure Canada, and others have raised other points. I don't want to repeat things that have been said by others, but support the overall intention of that feedback to be considerate of the possible unintended consequences of this legislation.
In conclusion, it is our position that unless some of these issues are addressed, this legislation has the potential to negatively impact growth in the organic sector and family farms in general.
As an example of that, on my farm in particular, we work very well with our neighbours who are not organic farmers but who have family farms. We sell grain to them. They may use it for feed; they may use it for a cover crop, or they may use it to plant and harvest to feed their cattle the following year. I have no control over that. We would like to see that type of relationship enabled and not criminalized. Because of the particular nature of organic agriculture, we feel that some of these concerns will disproportionately impact organic growers unless some modifications are made to the language.
Overall, the tone of this bill politicizes control over seed, and we see that as a concern. The need to protect global food security and biodiversity requires us to enshrine farmers' rights in more than a small exception to this legislation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon. As mentioned, my name is Rick Bergmann. I'm a hog producer from Steinbach, Manitoba, and the vice-chair of the Canadian Pork Council.
First of all, I would like to thank the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for the invitation to appear before you this afternoon to discuss Bill .
The CPC serves as a national voice for hog producers in Canada. We're a federation of non-provincial pork industry associations. Our purpose is to play a leadership role in achieving and maintaining a dynamic and prosperous pork sector. As you know, that's not an easy job.
We are pleased that the common theme for the proposed changes in this bill has the potential of increasing producer access to programs and lowering costs. I'll use the next few minutes to comment on behalf of pork producers across the country. For the record, today I will not be talking about temporary foreign workers.
Hog production is a huge economic engine in Canada. We are a sector that exports more than two-thirds of the hogs produced in Canada as either live or pork products. Exports help the Canadian hog and pork industry to grow. They benefit all of us. However, exports, or the potential of an export market, are worthless if Canada does not have producers to supply the product. Keeping farm costs under control and eliminating red tape is important for us and for all our members.
Our industry has faced serious challenges to our ability to compete in the world market in the recent past, including country of origin labelling, a strong Canadian dollar, historically high grain prices, and the world economic slowdown. However, we have managed to come through all this with a smaller but highly competitive hog sector, and we must not lose sight of the Canadian hog industry's long-term interests. The world economy will continue to evolve. We cannot afford to overlook or suspend any efforts that can improve our market access or place our industry at a competitive disadvantage.
The pork industry has turned its corner over the last year and due to lower feed costs and stable hog prices, we're enjoying a better year. CPC has recently commissioned a paper on the financial situation faced by the hog and pork sector here in Canada. The paper highlighted a few things. Current profits have not completely rebuilt the industry equity lost during the previous years, so producers are feverishly taking the money they have been able to make this year and primarily putting it in the big hole behind them to get that fixed so they can move on. We're pleased that can happen.
Current profits are linked to the production impact of the PED virus in the United States. That virus is also here in Canada as well, to a lesser extent. Prices could come under strong downward pressure in 2016 due to capacity limitations, so we need to be able to provide strong export markets for the products we produce here in Canada. The main point is that commodity markets remain inherently risky, and hogs have demonstrated a great deal of price and margin volatility due to hog supplies, global demand, cost of grains, and current fluctuations. The industry as well as its financiers will remain vigilant and cautious as it recovers from the severe trauma of the past years. We have lost many producers over the last five years.
Canadian hog producers see value in the advance payments program and view the changes to the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act as an improvement. Steps that can reduce the administrative burden and cut costs for participating can make a difference, and we encourage that to continue. The availability of the program assisted many producers with their cashflow during a very difficult period in the industry. While many of the proposed changes are focused on the administrative part of the program, we encourage a review of the loan limits in this regard. The maximum limit currently of $400,000, with $100,000 interest-free, should be raised to reflect more of the general farm operation sizes, particularly in the hog industry. At one time these numbers were more meaningful than what they are today, so they need to be reviewed and brought in line to where the industry is.
The repercussion from several years of difficulty in the hog sector is the availability of credit. APP will help, but it will not help with the construction or improvement of buildings. The CPC is currently examining the Canadian Agricultural Loans Act and the CALA program to determine how the program could be improved in order to better meet the objective of supporting the renewal of the hog sector in Canada. Building structures are aging, and the industry is in need of significant reinvestment to ensure continued efficiencies. A modified CALA loan program would be extremely helpful in this regard.
Being from Manitoba, we're very sensitive and our provincial government is very sensitive to phosphorus. Phosphorus comes in many forms, but the Feeds Act currently states that there's a minimum-maximum level of phosphorus in the feeds that would need to be consumed by these animals. We believe it's time for that act to be reviewed and to bring it to an area that would be more applicable and acceptable for producers around the world.
In conclusion, we are recognized around the world for our animal husbandry practices and the quality and safety of the pork we raise. People want what we have. We need to continue to build on that momentum.
I thank you for your time.
The example from Germany was specifically referring to lawsuits regarding the sale of grain.
I did some research on the subject, after I spoke with my local member of Parliament, and found that in Germany the regulation was adopted with an exception for smaller acreage growers, varying slightly. It's somewhat complex the way they implemented it. Perhaps that's part of the issue there; I'm not sure.
Saatgut-Treuhandverwaltungs GmbH, the organization in Germany that is responsible for the enforcement of UPOV 91 regulations, has made itself very hostile to small farmers. There are between 2,000 and 3,000 lawsuits against small farmers around this legislation. I can't speak to all of them, and I'm not familiar enough with how the legislation was implemented in Germany, but an Internet search regarding Saatgut-Treuhandverwaltungs GmbH brings up a lot of examples that can be looked to for that. Speaking anecdotally, I know that many small farmers are being harassed by that organization to report even though they fall below the threshold required for reporting.
Does that answer the question?
Thank you, guests, for coming.
I'm going to continue on with the questioning by my colleague, especially on the nursery side, because most of the witnesses coming forward have been from the grain industry. We heard from some from the horticulture industry but not much from the nursery side. I've been to the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and it's amazing what they're doing with different varieties. At the end of the day, consumers in Canada would like to have the varieties that there are all over the world.
I visited the Dutch market in Holland where they sell all these varieties. We have a terrific greenhouse industry here in Canada. I think we have the potential in the beddng industry not only to grow plants for Canada, but also to be an exporter into the U.S. market. We're doing so well with the greenhouse vegetables, why can't we be selling more greenhouse plants down south?
That being said, can you give a little more detail on that and some examples—you mentioned the rose varieties—of how that would be transformed after this bill was passed and how your next year would unfold with these new regulations?
Thank you to our witnesses once again for being here and sharing their thoughts on this bill.
To follow on that conversation we were having, just regarding the organic sector, I was asking the Canadian Seed Trade Association, which has organic seed providers within its membership, if they felt that Bill would be helpful. I got a sort of unequivocal yes in that the bill will encourage investment in organic seeds as well. Especially in my mind, because it's a growing market—a rapidly growing market as you quite rightly pointed out—there is huge potential that has already been realized, but there is tremendously huge potential still to be realized, and I would think that organic technology would be the friend of the organic farmer in perhaps reaching out to Canadians and new consumers.
I would also point out one other thing, and that is I do want to clarify that Bill is not instituting plant breeders' rights. It's not like there are no plant breeders' rights today, that Bill C-18 is charting a new path and now there will be plant breeders' rights. No, they're already in effect. It's extending them. Certainly, what we've heard from a number of witnesses is the extension of these rights is what is going to encourage investment and has already actually triggered positive decision-making by those involved in seed research and development, in terms of the decisions they're making to do this type of research in Canada.
Jennifer, perhaps you could comment on that, that organic farmers could very well benefit from new investment because these are being extended, and also perhaps recognize that the bill is really only extending plant breeders' rights, not instituting them from zero.
I'd like to thank our witnesses today for their testimony and their valuable input, because this is a big bill. It has about 110 pages and touches nine pieces of legislation, and it is complicated.
I know there are comments that we need to get this done, that we have to be fast, but I think we should take the time to do our homework and make sure that this is in the best interests of farmers moving forward, that this is a forward-thinking piece of legislation, and that we get it right, because there have been instances when we have had other omnibus budget bills or bills and there have been problems with them. It's always harder to fix once it's passed.
For the Organic Council, you mentioned that you had some concerns and some amendments that you would like to see. When we had the minister at committee on the first day we started studying Bill , he said that the government will be moving ahead with an amendment to clarify and to make sure that it is better understood what the farmers' privilege is. I know that you touched on the importance of the term “stocking”. This is something that was brought up earlier by witnesses today, that we need to clarify stocking and say that it means storing.
I was wondering what other things you absolutely want to see in this bill. No matter what, this bill will pass. This will go forward. I want to make sure that when we do come to amendments, which will be shortly, we have your input. Please comment more on what needs to be done to make this a better piece of legislation.
Thank you for this opportunity.
Specifically I would like to see, under proposed subsection 5(1), where it lays out the nature of plant breeders' rights.... Currently farmers' privilege extends only to paragraphs (a) and (b) under proposed subsection 5(1). Under paragraph (a), it is “to produce and reproduce propagating material of the variety”, and under paragraph (b) it is “to condition propagating material...”. Conditioning would be cleaning the seed on our own premises.
Again, this goes beyond organic. This goes to other smaller farmers, dairy farmers who would send their own harvested grains to an off-site facility to be cleaned for planting. Currently the way the exception is written, it would be difficult for that to continue.
Paragraph (g), which is the one you referred to, “to stock propagating material of the variety...”, I would like to see that included in farmers' privilege.
To answer your question as well as the one that I drew a blank on earlier, in proposed subsection 5(1) regarding cross-pollination, there should be an exception to ensure that a farmer is not penalized for genetic material ending up in his crop which he or she did not intentionally procure. If I plant an open pollinated variety of a crop in my field and my neighbour plants something else, even with a 20-foot buffer strip that is treed there will be some cross-pollination. We can't control where the pollinators fly and there will be transference of that genetic material. Every scientist can tell you that. There needs to be protection for farmers that if there is an unintended procurement of that genetic material, they are not penalized for it.