16 June 1995

Four out of five against rate of 80%

"THE imposition of royalties is a ****** insult and all farmers should refuse to comply with any rules brought in. It is just another way of screwing money out of us. Whats next – a 50% spray tax?"

That is one of the more strident comments to emerge from the farmers weekly survey of growers attitudes to farm-saved seed royalties (Arable, June 9).

Four out of five growers are against the royalty being set at 80% of the C2 certified seed rate, the survey shows. Many reckon breeders already profit enough. And the argument that varieties contain intellectual property does not convince many. Time and again the view emerges that "once you have grown something it is yours."

"Why can plant breeders sell us the seed one year and still consider they own a part of it the year after?" asks one grower. Another points out that "we dont pay royalties on calves born to a pedigree bull, so why royalties on second generation grain?".

Will kill farm-saving

Several acknowledge that a high royalty rate will kill farm-saving. Others are concerned at the bureaucracy of collecting and policing it, pointing out that a high rate will prompt more growers to evade it, so cutting income and raising the cost of policing.

But what should the rate be? Views vary, but tend towards the lower end of the scale: "20% is reasonable, over 30% is greedy." "30 to 40% would be all right." "5% is OK if we really have to."

Growers who strongly agree with royalties were in a minority. But their comments include: "As we buy all our seed, we think royalties should be applied to farm-saved seed to allow seed houses to produce new varieties." Another pro-royalty farmer comments that: "All farm-saved seed should pay royalties. Only that way will we get good new varieties." "Someone, somewhere has to pay for R&D, therefore make everyone pay," adds another.

Several growers felt a percentage royalty rate was the wrong route. "It allows breeders to charge what they want in future. A fixed amount would have been fairer." Others want a levy on grain sold, as for the HGCA levy, or an area payment. &#42