Ag minister announces $3.1 million for national agri-food sustainability index

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The federal government is contributing $3.1 million to further develop the National Index on Agri-Food Performance.

A pilot version of the index, which was designed to measure and support marketing around the sustainability of food produced in Canada, was launched in May 2023.

As of early 2024, the Centre for Agri-Food Benchmarking, led by executive director and index founder David McInnes, has been set up under the umbrella of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI,) with partners having approved an initial four-year plan.

On Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced $3.1 million to support the index initiative through CAPI. The funds are coming from the AgriAssurance program, which is part of the federal and provincial governments’ five-year Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership launched in 2023.

“Consumers around the world are looking for more sustainable products, and I have no doubt that our innovative Canadian farmers can meet that demand. This funding will improve the National Index on Agri-Food Performance, helping the sector take advantage of market opportunities, and backing up our efforts with concrete data,” said MacAulay. “By making sure everyone measures sustainability in the same way, we’re moving closer toward our goals both nationally and globally.”

CAPI will use the funding to include more partners in refining the index, to fill in missing information, and to make upgrades to the pilot version of the index, which involved 142 private and public partners.

“Together with an unprecedented coalition of partners, we will improve and promote the use of Canada’s first agri-food sustainability index in the marketplace,” noted McInnes. “In a more demanding food world, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s investment can help the country’s agri-food sector to be a global leader in grounding sustainability claims in data.”

According to the Centre for Agri-Food Benchmarking’s website, the bench-marking of agri-food practices is becoming essential to operate and compete for market access worldwide, with countries positioning their respective food systems as “the most sustainable.”

“Proof of sustainability can favour Canada. Canadian agriculture has among the lowest environmental footprints anywhere and is a global leader in food safety,” the site reads, noting Canada is well-positioned to leverage such leadership.

CAPI, meanwhile, welcomes the opportunity to house the centre “as part of our ongoing efforts to advance policy solutions that realize the full potential of Canada’s agriculture and food system,” notes managing director Tyler McCann.

Related: Canada’s National Index on Agri-Food Performance focused on setting baseline for sustainability

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