Preserving Agriculture’s Social License to Operate

If you’ve been attending agricultural conferences in the past few years, you’ve likely heard the phrase “social license to operate.” It essentially boils down to the approval of a certain industry by local communities and public stakeholders. With new regulations affecting farms, maintaining social license has become a priority for modern agriculture.

At the 2015 Agricultural Excellence Conference in Regina, Saskatchewan, “The Great Debate” centred around this notion. Are losing our social license to farm?

Steve Denys, an Ontario farmer and sales and marketing vice president for Pride Seeds, took the “yes” side.

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Steve Denys, vice president, sales and marketing, at Pride Seeds and Chatham, Ontario farmer, on social license and how farmers can maintain it. Filmed at the 2015 AgExcellence Conference in Regina.

“If you define social license as the ability of farmers to be able to act within a reasonable amount of regulations and…with a reasonable amount of freedom, I took the stand that…we’re probably going to be facing more regulations and more restrictions…”

Denys says the shift is largely due to the influence of non-governmental organizations, and it could cost more than said farmers’ freedom. It could negatively impact the environment; the number of “non-industrialized,” family farms; and might even disrupt food costs.

“We’ve enjoyed in North America, the lowest cost food supply in the history of mankind, meaning 10% of our income,” Denys says in the above interview with RealAgriculture’s Kelvin Heppner, but that’s not likely to continue if rules and regulations continue to expand. “We’re going to see food costs go up —  that’s probably the one discussion we haven’t had nationally.”

According to Denys, those in agriculture need to amalgamate their resources and efforts in order to help consumers understand the ‘why’s’ of agriculture. And, we have to be confident when taking food safety messages to consumers.

“I think what we have to be on the same page about is the safety of the technologies that we’re using, and that goes whether we’re in organic production or conventional production.”

Also from AgEx 2015:

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