Update following inaugural NEFP Steering Committee meeting

By: Paul Watson, NEFP Steering Committee Co-Chair

The inaugural meeting of the National Environmental Farm Plan (NEFP) Steering Committee took place on January 26th online. The meeting was well attended with representation from across the value chain. Meeting participants also identified a need for Environmental Non-Governmental Organization (ENGO) and food retailer engagement.

Paul Watson with the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) started the meeting by outlining the history of the NEFP leading up to the Summit last November. Erin Gowriluk, representing the Alberta Wheat Commission, then provided a report on the summit outcomes in her role as Summit Chair.

Next, Eric Ritchie, representing McCain’s, provided some valuable insights from an end-user perspective. In brief, there are market access opportunities for farmers and ranchers whose preferred sustainability assessment tool has been benchmarked against the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) 2.0. In doing so, producers are able to access the Potato Sustainability Initiative (PSI) and other value chains, which include a whole host of global buyers. For the most part, this also applies to buyers associated with the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) platform.

Eric identified seven priorities that FSA 2.0 and SAI address: climate, deforestation, water (quality and usage), food waste, soil health, animal welfare and human rights. Of these, EFP has, or can easily develop, capacity to address climate, water, and soil health. For the NEFP, it is clear we will need to address this though our harmonization efforts. The outcome for producers is that we will continue to strengthen market access opportunities as a result of these efforts.

With this background information in mind, four standing committees were established and are currently being populated. Each committee will refine their membership and determine their scope at their inaugural meeting, but they can initially be described as follows: The Standards Committee will work through what needs to be harmonized and how we will do it. The Verification Committee will address what needs to be verified, how often, how to do it meaningfully, and what costs might be associated. The Data Committee will work with standards and verification to identify data that needs to be collected, how we might report it, and how we protect producer confidentiality. The Communications Committee will work with all committees to ensure that stakeholders are engaged and aware of the ongoing work being done across the board.

The level of engagement at the first steering committee meeting was exceptional with many present volunteering to serve on the four standing committees. I am pleased to report that the current Chairs who will launch the Committees are:

• Andy Graham, Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association: Standards Committee • Marie-France Gagnon, Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec: Verification Committee • Karen Clark, Dairy Farmers of Canada: Data Committee • Erin Gowriluk, Alberta Wheat Commission: Communications Committee

Drew Black with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture has also stepped up to the co-chair role, and you’ll hear from him in the next update. Further offers for participation have since come in and membership of the committees will be distributed once finalized. The standing committees will report back to the steering committee, and overall progress will be regularly reported to all stakeholders. One of the first reports will include a better-refined Terms of Reference for how the steering committee will function. Please note that the NEFP Steering Committee is operated on an inclusive, voluntary basis, and as such, continues to welcome additional participation from stakeholders. If you wish to get involved, contact co-chairs Paul Watson (efp@areca.ab.ca) or Drew Black (envsci@canadian-farmers.ca).

We look forward to providing further updates following the inaugural standing committee meetings.

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