A new national and voluntary sustainability program has been launched to ensure Canadian soybean growers, grain handlers and exporters have continued access to premium markets.
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The Sustainable Canadian Soy program was designed to meet the needs of soybean customers and drive new market opportunities, said Soy Canada executive director Brian Innes during the program’s official virtual launch, held via Zoom March 28.
Why it matters: A verified sustainability program will allow Canadian soybeans to remain competitive in markets such as Asia and the EU.
“Canadian soybean growers are already following sustainable practices, and many participate in value-added programs that meet the needs of customers and offer premiums, but we have a market need for verification,” said Innes.
“What we’re seeing in the world of soybeans is a need to create a verified sustainable soy program, and that this will create opportunities for our farmers and for our value chain.”
International customers that buy food grade and Identity Preserved (IP) Canadian soybeans, particularly those in Japan and the European Union, have been asking for a sustainability verification program, he said. It will help Canada remain competitive with the United States and South America.
“Our customers are not just purchasing from Canada, but from other origins as well. And those other origins already have verified sustainability programs,” said Innes.
The Sustainable Canadian Soy program uses the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA), a globally recognized whole farm sustainability benchmarking and assessment program that focuses on meeting customer needs and values.
The program was developed by Soy Canada with extensive farmer and industry consultation over a two-year period and is funded in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriAssurance Program.
Innes said grower participation is voluntary and includes completing an on-farm sustainability questionnaire about economic viability, social responsibility and environmental stewardship.
Innes said the FSA program was chosen because it aligns with the priorities of Sustainable Canadian Soy: efficient land use, climate-smart farming, soil health, water stewardship, biodiversity and habitat.
It also considers the whole farm system and has similar requirements for existing IP and food grade soybean programs, so growers won’t have a lot of extra paperwork, said Matt Renkema, grain business manager with Sevita, who collaborated on development of the program.
Scott Persall, a Norfolk County grower and board member with Soy Canada and the Grain Farmers of Ontario, said Soy Canada didn’t want an onerous program.
“The self-assessment took me about an hour,” he said during the launch meeting, but noted extra time would be needed for those requiring third-party verification.
The program will be managed by participating grain exporters and handlers that serve customers who ask for sustainability verification. Innes noted the Sustainable Canadian Soy program was welcomed by international customers in discussions during a recent Indo-Pacific mission.
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Renkema said a verification program gives buyers confidence, and developing a program was “imperative” if Canada was to remain competitive in the soybean export market.
“Sustainable Canadian Soy is one more way we can provide our customers value, keeping access to markets that add value to Canadian soybeans.”
The Sustainable Canadian Soy Program will be available for the 2023 growing season, and although the focus initially was on IP and food grade soybeans, Renkema said the program was designed to work with any type of soybean.
Soy Canada is a national value-chain organization for the soybean sector, including seed companies, Canada’s 30,000 growers, exporters and processors.