28 November 2001
NFU roasts spud royalties

By Tom Allen-Stevens

A ROW has broken out between farmers leaders and plant breeders over farm-saved seed (FSS) payments on potatoes.

Currently, growers who plant their own stock of five varieties, making up 4% of the certified seed area sown in 2000, have to pay breeders 25/ha in seed royalties.

But the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) announced on Tuesday (27 November) that more varieties are set to be covered.

From 2002 payments are due to be extended to 20 mainly niche or specialist varieties, BSPB said.

BSPB has written to all UK potato growers explaining the collection system, and giving details of varieties affected and payment rates.

But the National Farmers Union has accused BSPB of “unilaterally imposing a system to collect payments”.

“We have been negotiating with the BSPB to introduce a fair and agreed system,” said NFU potatoes committee chairman Graham Nichols.

“The BSPB has now gone ahead to impose its own system without our agreement or support and is assembling a database of producers details.”

Growers contacted by BSPB are being encouraged by the NFU to ask how the information on their businesses was obtained.

The union claims there is no legal justification for BSPB to ask growers if they have planted farm-saved seed of unlisted varieties.

Nor need growers be asked the number of hectares planted with certified seed, claims the NFU.

It also points out the 25/ha rate has not been agreed with the NFU and is not underpinned by any industry agreement.

BSPB Chief Executive Roger Turner said breeders needed the FSS payments to ensure continued investment in the crop development.

“Plant breeders have been encouraged by the very high levels of farmer support for the principle of FSS payments,” he said.

FWis Farmer to Farmer crop diarist and Lincolnshire grower Tim Harper says the BSPB move is not particularly significant anyway.

“Most conventional potato growers source certified seed these days. You have to reach such high standards you do everything to ensure top quality from the start.”

From 2001 FSS payments were due on the varieties Midas, Navan, Saxon, Shula and Sierra.

Those on the list for 2002 include Cosmos, Harmony, Osprey, Picasso, Rooster, Swift, Valor and Winston.

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