Farmer input sought for new grain code of practice

Consultations on the new voluntary program start in January, with a rollout planned for spring

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Grain farmers are being asked for their views on a new code of practice being created by a coalition of farm groups and industry associations.

Consultations begin next month on the proposed code, which covers practices such as fertilizer and pesticide use, and management of soil and water.

“The intent of the voluntary code of practice is to demonstrate farmers’ sustainable farming practices to aid in continual market access efforts and enhance public trust,” says the website of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops, the group developing the code.

The organization also says the code won’t require grain farmers to make big changes in the way they do things.

In one of the videos on its website (responsiblegrain.ca), Bentley-area farmer Jason Lenz (an Alberta Wheat director who sits on the committee developing the code) points to reduced tillage and how it reduces erosion, helps build soil organic matter, and lowers a farm’s carbon footprint.

Farmers should embrace the new code of practice for grain farming because it is “a great opportunity here to build public trust,” says Jason Lenz, who sits on the committee that’s been developing the new voluntary code. photo: Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops video (screengrab)

Those environmental benefits are well known to producers, but it’s important the public and grain buyers know about them, too, Lenz says in the video.

“For the most part, we’ve been preaching to the choir on how we do things and why we do it,” he says.

However, the website says the code will also recommend practices to encourage “farmers go even further to both protect and improve the health of our environment.” The goal is to launch the code in spring, the roundtable says.

The first round of consultations will take place on the first three Thursdays in January. Producers can go to the Responsible Grain website to sign up for one of the 90-minute introductory sessions. There are seven modules of the code that farmers will be able to review and comment on. (In addition to fertilizer, pesticides, soil and water, there are modules on seed selection and use; land use and wildlife; and human health and wellness.)

“I really feel that producers should adopt the code of practice and pay attention to this responsible grade code,” Lenz says in the video.

“That’s not only for our families here in Canada, it’s for consumers around the world. We know that we’re responsible for feeding them but we’re also responsible for looking at the environment that, that food is grown in. We really have a great opportunity here to build public trust with consumers around the world who are really our customers.”

That view is echoed in another video of Adam Dyck of Warburtons, the privately owned British baker which buys spring wheat from more than 500 farmers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan under an identity-preserved program. (It is the U.K.’s largest baker with more than 18,000 grocers, shops and retailers selling its products.)

“We want consumers to feel really good about purchasing anything that includes Canadian grain,” he says in the video. “As a consumer-facing organization, we are challenged more and more by our retail customers (retailers) and consumers… We’re going to be able to use this tool internally within Warburtons, we’re going to be able to use it with our retail customers, and hopefully in time we’re going to be able to use it with consumers as well.”

The committee developing the code is a mix of farmers and reps from grain companies, a food processor, a food-services company, CropLife Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and others. It is chaired by Ted Menzies, a former federal cabinet minister and CropLife CEO. There are several Albertans on the 18-member scientific committee, including Canola Council of Canada agronomist Greg Sekulic, Alberta Wheat/Barley agronomist Jeremy Boychyn, and Paul Watson of the Alberta Research and Extension Council, who oversees the Environmental Farm Plan in the province.

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