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Industry & Sustainability
Global purchasers are beginning to demand sustainably sourced goods from their suppliers and producers. In response, many of Alberta’s agricultural industry associations are working on initiatives related toin order to help their members compete in major markets, here and abroad. The Alberta Environmental Farm Plan (AEFP) is currently working on meeting the global standards which are being requested by some of the major purchasers.
AEFP are partnering with industry associations to ensure the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) program and its content is complete and comprehensive, to encourage their member producers to complete an EFP, to develop provincial and national standards related to sustainable sourcing, and to collectively address other related issues.
The Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA) were one of our early partners. When food giant McCain’s announced they would only purchase from farms that have completed an EFP assessment, PGA decided to require this as a condition for membership. We also recently partnered with Alberta Barley on a study that compared our standards to international standards. A similar initiative is underway at the national level; provincial EFPs across Canada are working together to try and develop a national standard for sustainable sourcing. We expect these and other initiatives will demonstrate that Alberta’s EFP program meets or exceeds international standards. However, if we find discrepancies, we will work to adapt our program to ensure it is globally compliant.
Discussions are underway with other industry groups that may lead to new, collaborative initiatives. AEFP is a provincial non-profit agricultural organization independent of government whose work spans all agricultural disciplines. Our unique status makes us ideally positioned to be a unifying force for industries addressing the sustainable sourcing issue.
Advantages of EFP
- Single Standard: a single overarching standard accepted by the agriculture value chain which is the preferred choice of producers and producer groups.
- Discussions are currently underway to get recognition for EFP as a national plan.
- Producer Familiarity: producers are familiar with Environmental Farm Plans. As of 2011, roughly 35% of Canadian producers (about 71 000) had an EFP. These EFPs covered about 50% of agricultural acres across Canada.
- Pre-exists: the framework for delivery of EFPs exists across Canada. While specifics of the farm plans differ from province to province with respect to delivery and content, they collectively represent the strength of the program. Adapting an existing, known program will be simpler and easier.
- Existing Coverage: EFP already covers most of the environmental components of existing platforms (i.e. SAI v. 2.0, ISCC) as demonstrated by a benchmarking report from Alberta EFP.
- Expandability: EFP’s strength has been as an environmental program. As noted by the Alberta EFP benchmarking report, EFP has traditionally not covered social (or non-farm) management criteria. Within environmental frameworks, protecting habitat, species diversity, and species at risk.
- Ontario EFP has developed an initiative to add social and management criteria into their “Sustainable Farm Plan.” This has the support of a broad swath of the agriculture value chain in Ontario.
- Alberta EFP is in the preliminary stages of developing species-at-risk, habitat protection, and health and safety modules.
- Alberta EFP is in the preliminary stages of developing a streamlined EFP process that will incorporate industry needs and reduce producer paperwork. Specifically, AEFP is developing a project to:
- Incorporate information from other programs (CanadaGap, proAction, Verified Beef Production), so that industry associations can define for themselves what they wish to audit, and assist with processes to audit the areas of concern.
- Flexibility: Alberta EFP clearly recognizes that EFP will not be all things to all groups. For example, EFP has a role inside other programs such as proAction, Verified Beef Production and McCain’s sourcing requirements. Each program has a current or future requirement for producers to have an up-to-date EFP.
- Regionally-defined Beneficial Practices: for a country as large and geographically diverse as Canada, there is no single best practices across the country. Each province knows its agriculture sector best and are able to define Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) based on provincial, regional and local knowledge. In fact, defining BMPs for each provincial EFP is well underway. For a practice to be considered a BMP, it needs to meet the following criteria:
- Protective of the Environment: the practice protects surface water, ground water, soil, air and habitat.
- Production-related: the practice has to help producers meet their yield and quality targets.
- Profitable: a BMP should lower costs, increase return, or both.
- Proven: a BMP needs to be field-proofed before being deemed effective.
- Practical: farm specialists and managers need to verify that candidate BMPs are a good fit with their respective operations.
- Click here to read one producer’s take on EFP
Working with EFP
The goal of the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan is to be responsive to industry. In the near future, we foresee a number of changes to the Alberta EFP to meet sustainable sourcing requirements. Changes to the program are vetted by two working groups. One is the Operations Committee, which is comprised of senior EFP technicians with extensive experience working with producers on EFPs. Often, some of these technicians are producers themselves. The other is the Stakeholder Advisory Committee, which is comprised of representatives from various sectors of the agriculture industry. As with the Operations Committee, some members of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee are also producers.
In anticipation of sustainable sourcing requirements becoming prevalent in Canada, we have begun some initiatives and have more planned. Most are early-stage:
- Benchmarking EFP against international sustainable sourcing standards.
- Redeveloping the EFP workbook from the ground up so we can add modules into the online workbook. Our benchmarking study showed us that EFP needs to incorporate habitat protection and species at risk. Projects have been started to fulfil these needs.
- Streamlining EFP so that we can:
- Access external data sources to auto-fill information into the EFP form (e.g., soil type).
- Use information from an existing sustainable sourcing program (e.g., proAction) and auto-fill the form where the producers’ program meets or exceeds EFP standards.
To discuss ideas and partnership opportunities contact the EFP Director (Paul Watson) at the ARECA office: 780-612-9712 or firstname.lastname@example.org