Consultations are in full swing for the Responsible Grain code of practice, and the process is facing some bumps in the road.
While the initiative is similar to what the beef industry went through with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, it’s not the same; and many farmers are expressing concern over whether or not this code would be more of a hinderance than a help for grain farmers.
Public perception is driving responses from retailers, food companies, and government on environmental sustainability says Tyler Bjornson, executive vice president of Canada Grains Council. Families that live in suburban Canada or in Canada’s export markets want to have more information about where their food is coming from, and the conversation about public trust has been on industry and farmers’ minds for a number of years, adds Bjornson.
“I think where we landed was, in the absence of having a made-in-Canada set of best practices, without having a farmer-led initiative, what we’re going to see is those same retailers, food companies, and perhaps government, impose their own standards upon us,” says Bjornson. “Which in my view won’t always consider farmers’ needs.”
The development of the code of practice is intended to avoid overly rigid schemes imposed by others and, he says, it’s about building a front line of defence against all the expectations asked of farmers by consumers.
Bjornson wants to reassure farmers that the consultations are being taken seriously, that along with the science advisory committee made up partly of agronomists, farmers are also encouraged to have their say. He also thinks that Canada is way behind in developing marketing tools and responses to sustainable practice questions.
“This isn’t about creating a premium product from Canada, this is about making us competitive with the rest of the pack,” he says. “There are many folks out there from various origins that already have very detailed best management practices that they’ve got in place that’s giving them a competitive advantage in the bulk marketplace in a number of markets around the world.”
Listen in to the full conversation between Bjornson and RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney on measuring the success of the code of practice, and more: