A dozen farmers and agricultural workers from Ponoka and Wetaskiwin counties gathered to express their disgust with the proposed Bill C-18, as well as learn more about the bill, during a presentation at the United Church, March 6.
Bill C-18 will have huge implications on both the public and private breeding sectors. “On the surface, this looks like a good thing,” said Jan Slomp, president of the National Farmers Union.
The bill has three major parts of impact. Firstly it will restrict farmers’ abilities to save, reuse, sell, exchange and condition their seeds.
Secondly, if a foreign government or organization, at the present time, wanted to import an additive, fertilizer, chemical or seed, research must be submitted for the consideration of the Canadian Government. Under the bill, these procedures would allow for a fast-track approach to that system with more control given to the foreign entities.
Slomp questioned whether depleting the Canadian Government’s influence in that assessment system would be useful or even safe for Canadian farmers and the general public.
“It’s absurd to rely on foreign entities to determine what’s safe,” said Slomp.
The third portion of the bill Slomp spoke on was the push for advanced payments on crops in bin, and the consequences he feels would follow.
Slomp feels the danger with allowing multiple advanced payments is: foreign entities will be enticed to buy and produce ownership of Canadian land simply to also qualify for these payments. “Land grabbing is a huge worldwide problem.”
“This third part of Bill C-18 opens this door wider,” he added.
Slomp told the farmers Canada doesn’t need incoming foreign products to strengthen the country’s agricultural sector; many crops produced in Canada, including barley, are already second to none.
“Canadian wheat varieties have been (at) the top of the world,” he added.
However, as more money is diverted from the public sector, where it’s been funneled in the past, Slomp says it’s possible Canada’s crops could begin to slip in terms of quality.
Part of this stems from foreign breeds that aren’t familiar with Canadian soil, weather and other factors, making it weaker than homegrown breeds and less likely to produce a higher quality and higher yield.
With lower quality, Canada will begin to lose its place in the world market. Slomp says, for the first time, Japan bought wheat from the United States whereas it’s historically purchased from Canada.
Bill C-18 also proposes end-point royalties to be imposed on farmers. Slomp is calling this “double dipping”, as farmers already pay a levee to the public sector.
End-point royalties is a charge made on harvested grain and could end up costing the collective grain farming population tens of thousands of dollars per year if the Plant Breeders Rights laws are updated with this.
National Farmers Union believes that with Bill C-18, farmers’ rights to reseed are being downgraded to a privilege, which can be taken away by parliament at any time.