Sustainable Agriculture Strategy designed by farmers, for farmers, says CFA

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On December 12, 2022, the Canadian government launched public consultations on the creation of a Sustainable Agriculture Strategy (SAS).

The strategy — which would be separate from the agricultural policy framework agreements signed by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments every five years — is intended to “provide a coordinated approach to improving the agriculture sector’s environmental performance and sustainability.”

Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), joined RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney to give some insight into what the strategy is, and how it will impact farmers and ranchers across the country. Robinson says the SAS is something the CFA has been requesting for quite some time, and is a great opportunity.

“We’ve had some input in designing who the members of this committee were,” she explains. “There’s a really great amount of diversity as far as who’s at the table, and its producers.” CFA is co-chairing the committee, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

With such a large amount of groups at the same table, it can sometimes make achieving goals difficult. As Robinson notes, the way through that is by having clear and concise goals, with regular updates to those goals.

“They’re going to be meeting as a committee every two weeks. We know that this first round of consultations will wrap up the end of March,” she says. “There are some fantastic people that are really plugged into policy to see how we can steer this. And I think we have to definitely temper our expectations. But at the same time, I think we have to remain optimistic, and we have to keep going to the table and working with government. Because if we don’t, then what’s going to come down at us is going to be ill informed, from a pragmatic producer perspective.”

The thing to keep in mind, says Robinson, is that agriculture has more than 90 per cent in common. Even when you pick some of the most polarized groups — they still have things in common, especially when it comes to the challenges they face. Theoretically, these 20 groups should be able to come to an agreement of sorts when it comes to making recommendations.

“There’s definitely that five or 10 per cent on exports, supply management, that kind of stuff that they’re not going to agree on, because it’s the fibre of their operations. But when we look at that, and we see the advancements we’ve made as mainstream agriculture and working together, I think we’ve got to apply that lens,” she explains.

Check out the full conversation between Robinson and Haney, below:

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