Ontario farmers primed for Responsible Grain code of practice consultation


Farmers are getting vocal about the Responsible Grain code of practice, whether it’s in support or dissent. Up until now, those voices have primarily been western Canadian in origin, but the code potentially impacts Ontario and points east, too.

Crosby Devitt, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), recently joined Shaun Haney to help us understand where Ontario farmers stand on the issue.

“GFO’s been involved in a lot of different initiatives through the years and continues to be, on areas around sustainability or responsible farming,” says Devitt. “This code development by Roundtable on Sustainable Crops has been something we’ve been watching as it evolves over the months and the couple of years it’s been around.”

Initially, GFO was not on the steering committee that put the draft code together, and was focusing its efforts on other initiatives — the organization felt that the draft “had its legs.” GFO was approached to have its say as the draft code was rolling out last fall and is now involved in consultation.

“The lens that GFO, and farmers I’d expect in Ontario, will look through it is ‘what is the clear place for this new initiative in their business,” says Devitt. Questions from Ontario farmers arose, such as: what value does it provide both on and off the farm? Are those modules going to be helpful in farming in a better way? Is there a role in this with our customers?

As there’s more interest from customers and processors about how grain is produced, farmers in Ontario are wondering if the code will play a role in bridging that gap, says Devitt.

Last week, Tyler Bjornson was on RealAg Radio and mentioned he thinks Canada is about five years behind in terms of a program like Responsible Grain, using soybeans as an example of the progress the U.S. has made.

“If you look at the soybean side, probably something that’s unique in Ontario or eastern Canada, is that a lot of farmers have been part of identity preserved soybean production, and that includes traceability, it includes on-farm feed safety, record-keeping, et cetera,” says Devitt. “So, there’s a bit of experience with doing paperwork and proving what we’ve done, and so far that’s been very successful.”

Different sustainability programs — from audited on-farm systems to ‘information on farming Ontario’ — which are market driven, similar to the Responsible Grain code have already run in the province and Devitt thinks the new code of practice may be an extra tool for marketing. The environmental farm plan is a good example of a voluntary program that Ontario farmers have been involved in for a number of years now.

“We’re not looking to government to define sustainability initiatives, or how to farm, I think there’s a partnership in certain areas that is important,” Devitt adds.

Listen in to the full conversation below:

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