More than 280 Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs) jammed into a London, Ontario hotel last week to talk agronomy, information and regulation.
It was the largest turnout ever for the Ontario Certified Crop Advisors Association annual meeting since the event began 13 years ago. The province currently has 545 active CCAs and the number is expected to grow in 2016 thanks to a record number 119 people who will write the CCA designation exam this winter.
Ontario Certified Crop Advisor program Executive Director Susan Fitzgerald believes it’s very clear what’s driving the growth. “There’s certainly greater demand for the services at the retail level. We’re seeing growers who are looking more to CCAs – agronomists – to support them with advice.
The reality of increasing regulation – from new regulations governing the use of seed treatments to pending rules on nutrients such as phosphorous – has more farmers turning to CCAs to sort through the growing mountain of information and offer expertise. “There’s so much more information out there,” says Fitzgerald. “Farmers are looking to the CCA to be the consolidator for pest and nutrient information.”
Also noticeable is the growing number of women among the CCA ranks. The majority are still men, says Fitzgerald, but it’s changing. More that 50% of the people who will write the CCA examinations in February are expected to be women.
Ontario CCAs are also adding a new nutrient management designation. 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 Fitzgerald.
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. Ontario CCAs will write these exams in August and the first designations will likely be awarded in January 2017.