Canadian farmers will soon have a new voluntary code of practice to follow that will help assure customers around the world that the crops they are consuming were produced in a sustainable manner.
The Responsible Grain Code is an initiative of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crop headed by Ted Menzies, a former secretary of state for finance in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
It was unveiled today during the Latin American stop on Cereals Canada’s virtual 2020 Wheat Crop Seminar.
Menzies said the code is a way to showcase Canada’s current farming practices rather than introducing new ones.
“We don’t think this is going to create onerous work for any farmers right now,” he said in a recorded video message.
“Farmers are acting responsibly.”
Lane Stockbrugger, a grower from Englefeld, Sask., and a SaskCanola director, told the group of international buyers that the code should give them peace of mind.
“Our promise from Canadian growers to you is nourishing the future through a sustainable approach,” he said.
Adam Dyck, a Cereals Canada board member and head of Canadian operations for Warburtons, the United Kingdom’s largest bakery, said it is a welcome development.
“We believe the code of practice is really needed to change the narrative around food production and to really highlight the good things already happening on the farm here in Canada,” he said in a video message.
Warburtons plans to initially use the code to help give retailers confidence in their decision to buy bread made with Canadian grain. In time the messaging will be expanded to include end consumers.
“It will be a great thing to have in our toolbox to not only defend the use of Canadian grains but also, hopefully, to promote it as well.”
During his presentation, Stockbrugger displayed a map showing customers the level of organic matter in the soil of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
He said organic soil matter had been severely depleted in the past, but the situation has vastly improved through advances in plant breeding, precision agriculture, variable rate
technology and through conservation tilling practices.
“We’re happy to report that our soil organic matter is building and accumulating,” said Stockbrugger.
That has the side benefit of increasing carbon sequestration and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
He said there has also been a huge reduction in soil erosion, which is attributed to Canada leading the world in conservation tillage practices.
Menzies said there will also be a focus on water quality in the code.
The code is being developed by farmers in conjunction with industry representatives and non-governmental organizations. Governments will provide advice but will not be leading the initiative.
He said the Responsible Grain Code is designed to fit “hand-in-glove” with existing programs, such as environmental farm plans.
“This will not take the place of other programs,” said Menzies.
A draft code has been prepared, and the committee will be seeking feedback on it this winter during a series of consultations with farmers, industry and NGOs.
The plan is to have the voluntary program in place by spring seeding 2021.