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Alberta’s Crop Commissions Hire Ipsos Reid to Survey Farms’ Sustainability Practices (PCN Fall 2016) SEP 19 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Alberta’s major crop commissions are addressing a growing need for farmers to meet sustainability standards required to either expand or maintain international market access.

“Canadian agriculture has a very positive image in the global market place and Alberta growers are progressive, innovative, and dedicated to the stewardship of their land,” said Jolene Noble, Extension Coordinator for the newly-formed Alberta Farm Sustainability Extension Working Group (AFSE). This reputation positions the Alberta farmers to be leaders in the sustainable agriculture movement and capitalize on emerging market opportunities, she added.

The AFSE working group is comprised of Alberta Barley Commission, Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Alberta Pulse Growers Commission, and the Alberta Wheat Commission. Working on behalf of their producer membership, the commissions are committed to assessing and meeting areas of need for on-farm sustainability extension and education. They also share common goals concerning on-farm sustainability which made the decision to collaborate simple.

“Large multinationals are trying to distinguish themselves through ecological and environmental labels including sustainable sourcing based on their understanding of best practices,” explained Nevin Rosaasen, Policy and Program Specialist for Alberta Pulse Growers. “It is much easier to generate your own standards and compel farmers to certify into those practices rather than work collectively with other retailers, ingredient suppliers and producers to find commonality or even attempt to define sustainability collectively. Numerous international sustainability schemes have developed as a result. Education and extension to producers is needed should they choose to certify into such schemes, which at present may not offer much of a premium. Limited market access to these large buyers may result in the future should producers not document sustainable practices, which is concerning and why this initiative is important.”

Alberta Pulse Growers (APG) and the three other major crop commissions contracted Ipsos Reid to conduct a phone survey of Alberta growers this summer to gain a better understanding of farmers’ readiness to access international sustainability standards based on best management practices.

“APG and the other members of AFSE are leveraging checkoff dollars and have secured other funding from government to invest for the benefit of producers and the industry,” said APG Director Fraser Robertson, who advocated for sustainability on a recent Team Alberta trip to Ottawa. “Collaborating through AFSE to address farm level sustainability for all our collective members maximizes the return on levy dollars.”

The phone survey conducted this summer consisted of questions regarding growers’ awareness of certain sustainable practices as well as adoption rates. Results from this survey will enable the industry to benchmark the great work that Alberta growers are already doing on farm sustainability. Building on the work from the Alberta Crops Sustainability Certification Pilot Project from spring of 2015, the working group will assess the results and provide resources and extension support to continue advancing on-farm sustainability production practices in Alberta.

As this issue of Pulse Crop News went to print, AFSE had received the draft report from Ipsos Reid and anticipates releasing results and extension material this fall.

For more information, contact AFSE Extension Coordinator Jolene Noble at 780-887-9446 or APG Policy and Program Specialist Nevin Rosaasen at 780-986-9398 ext. 5.