The new certification will be based on the 4R nutrient best management practice philosophy – Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place – and is designed to enhance CCAs’ ability to help farmers best manage water quality and nutrient management issues.
The pilot project, funded by Fertilizer Canada, the Ontario Agri Business Association (OABA), and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, will incorporate a specialized CCA exam and study resource and will address the growing demand for qualified advisors with focused knowledge and skills in nutrient management.
In the announcement, the funding organizations stressed that farmers and crop advisors have made significant contributions to helping manage agriculture’s nutrients and their impact on water quality. The new program is billed as another step in the right direction.
“Providing formal recognized training to CCAs is positive step for the agri-retail industry,” says Dave Buttenham, CEO of OABA. “This will create a benchmark to ensure Ontario farmers receive science-based and reliable information about 4R nutrient stewardship as a practical tool to enhance profitability and environmental sustainability.”
With heightened awareness of water quality issues in the Lake Erie Basin and a growing spotlight on agriculture’s impact, “the timing is really right for this 4R certification,” says Susan Fitzgerald, the Ontario Certified Crop Advisor Association’s executive director.
Fitzgerald explains that the Ontario pilot will be based on an internationally recognized 4R certification program that was piloted in six US states in 2015. “It will resemble the US program, but it will be tailored to reflect Ontario legislation, regulations, climate and geography. We’re working through that process right now.”
The exam will be written in August and will be open to any CCA who wants to achieve the designation. CCAs who pass the exam will then have to accumulate a required amount of soil and water quality and nutrient management credits to maintain the designation.
All CCAs are required to earn 40 hours of approved continuing education every two years. If CCAs achieve the 4R designation they will be required to earn a minimum of 7.5 hours in those two categories – soil and water quality and nutrient management – as part of their 40 hours. “So that means they have to write and pass the exam and stay current in that field by getting more continuing education hours than they would normally have to get,” notes Fitzgerald.
“The new 4R Nutrient Management Planning Specialty allows CCAs who advise on nutrient management to become more visible and recognized for their knowledge and skills in helping their grower customers meet the need for improved water quality, environmental stewardship, and sustainability,” explained CCA Clare Kinlin in a release.
How much work CCAs will have to invest to pass the exam will likely depend on how involved they are in nutrient management, says Fitzgerald. Of the 69 people who wrote the exam in the US this year, only 55% of them passed. That success rate is pretty much in line with Ontario CCA exam passing rates, she notes.