The new virtual Ontario Agricultural Conference received strong reviews during the first week in January, and Ontario certified crop advisors have picked up the education baton and delivered another win this week for ag extension.

Ontario Certified Crop Advisors (CCA) chair Deb Campbell says it’s tough to replace the face-to-face interaction and learning that farmers and agronomists experience in a typical meeting season, but Ontario extension efforts thus far have gone very well as organizers work to deliver information in the face of COVID-19 restrictions.

“I am so impressed with meetings here in the last few weeks. They’ve exceeded my expectations,” says Campbell who chaired the first session of the two-day Ontario CCA Association meeting this week. She notes that challenges remain, especially in areas where rural internet is poor, but “there are a lot of people working behind the scenes to make it happen and overall it’s been really good.”

In this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Campbell notes that Ontario CCA and other organizations were concerned that delivering required continuing education credits during the pandemic would be a difficult task. However, she says that CCAs have been able to adapt and tap into online education sessions โ€” including many in the the U.S. and Europe โ€” to meet their education requirements (including RealAg’s weekly webinar, The Agronomists). (Story continues after the interview.)

Overall, the Ontario CCA continues to grow with membership now reaching 655 advisors. In 2020, the organization moved its examination process online for the first time โ€” a fortuitous move given the challenges posed by pandemic lockdowns. Last year, 84 individuals wrote the Ontario CCA exam with 38 earning the CCA designation. Campbell notes that the passing percentage is the same as in-person exams, which gives the organization confidence in the integrity of the online examination system.

Campbell notes that CCAs did a good job of working with their farmer customers during the challenges of 2020 and she believes advisors, independents and those throughout the retail chain will continue to effectively and safely provide the agronomic insights farmers require.

In the interview, Campbell also discusses some of the issues and policy the Ontario CCA board will be keeping an eye on and hoping to help shape in 2021. These include changes at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and their product tank mixing rules; the development of corn rootworm resistance to Bt hybrids; and a new code of practice that is being developed for grain production in Canada.

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