Consultations underway on “Code 2.0” for Canadian crop sector

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

After receiving backlash to a proposed voluntary code of practice for grain production, dubbed “Responsible Grain,” in 2021, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops (CRSC) has gone back to the drawing board and is nearing completion of a new yet-to-be-named document that is supposed to highlight the sustainable practices used on Canadian farms.

Consultations are currently underway on the “Code 2.0,” with plans to release a new document showcasing the practices and track record of Canadian crop producers this spring, says Jason Lenz, CRSC chair and farmer from Bentley, Alta., in the interview below.

He says the CRSC has come a long way from the original Responsible Grain proposal, with a focus on highlighting existing accomplishments, regulations, and practices.

“The first draft was pretty prescriptive. We admit that, and that we tried to cover all the bases, trying to cover the breadth of this country. We’re in a big country here, and there are a lot of different cropping practices and a lot of different crops, and a lot of different regulations between different provinces here. So the original draft includes seven different modules, we’ve cut that down to four modules —the four that we feel are most important. And we’ve changed the tone of it — kind of a full 180 and saying ‘here is what we’re doing,'” explains Lenz.

The four modules in “Code 2.0” are titled “Soil and nutrient management,” “Water and biodiversity,” “Seed varieties and crop health,” and “Health and wellness.” The draft outlines key messages and practices under each of these categories.

The goal remains to develop a tool that can be used to convey these messages around sustainability and quality to domestic and international buyers, as well as the Canadian public and government, he says.

“This can really be an education piece to help farmers explain what they’re doing on their farms, to even their own families that are maybe a generation or two removed away from the farm. It’s definitely going to help our grain industry, our commodity groups that are trying to help us sell and maintain markets across the world,” he says.

“I think it’s something that we can use as consumer-facing when, when we get faced with questions from consumers about some of the practices that we’re doing on our farm and why we’re doing that —that’ll be a big component of it. And finally, with some of the policies that our government is coming out with over the last couple of years, I think this could be used as a very significant educational piece for many in government who maybe haven’t spent very much time on a farm in Western Canada or Ontario, or Quebec.”

As for funding the initiative, Lenz says the CRSC is at the tail-end of the initial funds that were provided on a cost-shared basis by the federal government (at 75 per cent) and several national commodity organizations, including the Canola Council of Canada, Cereals Canada, and Grain Growers of Canada, in 2020. He says they’re anticipating receiving additional funds for a communications plan for the new code under the new Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership that begins on April 1, 2023.

Find past coverage of the crop code of practice and “Responsible Grain” here.

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