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Fifteenth meeting of the Organics Value Chain Roundtable: Record of decision

March 1 to 2, 2017 – Ottawa, Ontario

Introductions

  • Industry co-chair, Paddy Doherty, welcomed new members, François Handfield and Tim Rundle, to the Organic Value Chain Roundtable (OVCRT) and also thanked outgoing members. As part of the Government of Canada’s "Youth Engagement Strategy" that aims to draw more young people into the sector, Cody Straza from Saskatchewan was a young farmer in attendance as an observer.
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) co-chair, Sandra Gagné, highlighted relevant Government of Canada initiatives, including:
    • consultations towards the development of a national food policy
    • cross-government initiatives on climate change and clean technology
    • Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA)
    • Canada-U.S. relations
    • Advisory Council on Economic Growth’s Barton Report
  • All Action Items from the 2016 OVCRT meeting were completed.

Investment: Securing stabilized funding for sector growth and development

  • The Investment Funding Task Force chair, Wayne Adams, presented a variety of funding models that could be used to support organic standard maintenance, promotion, research and extension services. One of the funding models examined was the development of a Promotion and Research Agency (PRA) and Bill Edwardson from Farm Products Council of Canada (FPCC) provided a brief overview of the steps needed to establish a PRA. The chairs thanked the task force members for the successful conclusion of their work.
  • The four national organizations -- Canadian Organic Growers (COG), Canadian Organic Trade Association (COTA), Organic Federation of Canada (OFC) and the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada (OACC) -- will investigate the creation of an Organic Budget Coalition to acquire funds for the organic sector. Led by Tia Loftsgard
  • A new Carbon Sequestration and Pricing Task Force will be created to examine the possibility of receiving carbon credits for beneficial production practices that reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (for example, soil carbon sequestration). Led by Dag Falck

Increasing Canadian supply: Tackling barriers to market entry and growth

  • Becky Lipton provided a summary of the Increasing Supply Task Force and noted the majority of the work over the past year related to the preparation of an Agri-Risk submission. Once the Agri-Risk submission is approved, the task force will refresh its mandate by acting as a steering committee or advisory body for the roll-out of the Agri-Risk project.
  • Ashley St Hilaire provided an overview of the Agri-Risk submission through a presentation called "Transitioning to organic production: Identifying risks and potential solutions". Once the Agri-Risk submission is approved, pilot programs, business case studies and focus groups will be conducted to collect qualitative and quantitative data. One the deliverables of the project will use this data to develop a comprehensive guide to support farmers transitioning to organic production.
  • Nicolas Turgeon provided an overview of Quebec’s strategy to expand Quebec’s supply of organic products. This strategy includes programs that will help producers transition to organic practices, access technical expertise and get on-farm infrastructure modifications. Because this program had positive economic and environmental benefits to the sector, the Quebec government recently announced a commitment to extent the programming to 2022.
  • The Increasing Supply Task Force was asked to investigate next steps in the creation of an industry-led certification and cost-shared support program. This could be an option under the Agri-Risk proposal.

Science and innovation: Identifying research priorities

  • Michael Whittaker outlined AAFC’s current science investments. He noted the science clusters are working well and the organic sector is aligned with the Government of Canada’s science priorities, particularly in the areas of environmental research. It was mentioned by the membership that it is difficult to identify stakeholders willing to provide matching funds for environmental research and other public good research needed to leverage public sector funding under the clusters.
  • Andy Hammermeister summarized the significant work that was accomplished by the Research Needs Task Force. A national survey that solicits research needs/priorities for the sector was created and distributed to a broad audience across Canada. Andy summarized the survey data to date that can be grouped into three strategic research priorities: Public Good, Competitive and Evolution of Organic.

    In terms of next steps, this task force will continue its work and report back to the OVCRT by July 2017 with results from its consultations.

Organic data: Identifying opportunities and challenges

  • Data Task Force chair, Marie-Eve Levert, has been working with AAFC and Statistics Canada in the development of a budget and strategy to enhance organic data collection. The task force has identified existing data and outlined priority data gaps that will now be assessed by Statistics Canada to determine collection options and costs. Statistics Canada is in the process of preparing a response to this project and some results should be available in May 2017.

Pest Management Regulatory Agency Food-on-Food

  • Brian Belliveau from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) provided an update on the “Food on Food” issue (pest deterrent). The OVCRT has tried in the past to get an exemption for food products (that is, garlic, mustard, corn nuts) that manage diseases/insects/weeds and Brian highlighted a small window of opportunity for the organic sector to provide a list to PMRA for consideration. PMRA is currently undertaking a regulatory review and exploring options to possibly exempt food-on-food ingredients for pest control purposes. Connie Kehler agreed to lead a task force that will poll the industry, compile and submit a list to PMRA. She will also continue discussions with PMRA to establish an exemption list and streamline other bio pesticides.

Public Trust

  • A new Public Trust Task Force, chaired by Ashley St Hilaire, was created by the OVCRT Steering Committee in January 2017. Ashley represented the organic sector at an industry-wide public trust (Journey to Social License) meeting on February 9, 2017. This industry-led initiative has created a steering committee and raised enough funds to hire a coordinator for a one-year period to manage a Public Trust Hub. OVCRT membership raised concerns about the optics of having an organic member at the table because it might be seen as organic stakeholders endorsing conventional farming practices. Therefore, it was agreed that the OVCRT would join the Hub as an observer because there could be opportunities to build bridges within the larger agriculture community. The OVCRT membership tasked the Public Trust Task Force to develop positive messages that will not disparage conventional agriculture and can be used when participating at future Public Trust meetings.
  • Tia Loftsgard from COTA provided a brief update on the "Think Organic" campaign and recommended that it be refreshed. Since new consumer data is now available she felt it was time to leverage the strengths of the campaign and review the key objectives. The OVCRT members supported Tia’s initiative to pursue new ideas and Tia will report back to the OVCRT.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency updates

  • Nina Frid provided an update on Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Cost Recovery Initiative. CFIA is currently examining cost recovery models and new fee structures. Nine categories of fees were listed as well as a description of proposed service standards. Industry members requested an extension on the consultation period to determine the competitiveness impacts of this proposal.
  • The realignment of the Canadian Organic Office has caused concern and confusion among organic stakeholders, including international traders, and industry members requested it be reinstated. While CFIA emphasized its continued commitment to the sector, industry members emphasized that they have difficulty finding key contacts that provide organic support. CFIA agreed to provide a current organizational chart that includes names, responsibilities and contact information.
  • Marie-Claire Hurteau provided updates on the Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations and Equivalency Agreements (EA). Industry members raised concerns around their ability to certify some products that fall outside the current scope of equivalency agreements. While Canadian EAs are equivalent to other signatory countries, some have restrictions that limit the ability for Canadian firms to export some products such as hydroponic produce to U.S. While these products are considered marginal, members feel there is loss of sales and investment as a result. Members asked CFIA to not limit the ability for Canadian firms to certify directly to these standards to achieve market access for those products that fall outside of the scope of Canada’s current agreements. Industry was divided on the merits of an EA with Mexico (for example, grain sector appreciative, horticulture sector concerned) and they also added that Japan has requested that Canadian exporters be certified with their own certified importers. The transportation issue (certification of transport) was also raised by industry.
  • Industry submitted a list of additional questions for CFIA that still need to be addressed. It was agreed that AAFC would organize a conference call with CFIA and that a list of questions be submitted 30 days in advance of the meeting would be researched and addressed during the call.
  • Industry requested that CFIA provide a list of all organic certified operations, similar to what is available in the U.S.

Next Policy Framework

  • Ray Edwards from AAFC provided a brief update on the Next Policy Framework (NPF) and it was agreed that AAFC would initiate a session in fall 2017 to outline the new federal NPF programs. It was requested by industry that AAFC create a webinar when new programs are announced.

Review of strategic plan (2013-2018) and vision in future

  • Sandra Gagné and Paddy Doherty provided an overview of the current OVCRT strategic plan and noted that it will end in 2018. Although the current strategic plan is still relevant, Sandra encouraged members to start thinking about new issues that are facing the sector and contemplate how the current priorities can be refocused. It was recommended that the recent Barton Report be considered during the strategic planning discussion. Many industry members endorsed the need for a strategic plan because it is a powerful tool to leverage policy and influence decision makers. A new Strategic Plan Task Force (Paddy Doherty as chair) will be established to review the 2013-18 strategic plan as well as the Barton Report and provide next steps and recommendations.
  • Similar to 2016, the OVCRT will hold a mid-year conference call to get progress reports on the Task Forces.
  • The OVCRT meeting ended with an impromptu evaluation (what went well and what could be better) around the table. The majority of people found the meeting very useful in terms of knowledge sharing and collaboration. Many members enjoy the camaraderie and collaboration within the roundtable and were very pleased that the organic movement is much more positive and robust.
  • The next in-person roundtable meeting will take place on February 28 to March 1, 2018. Location of the meeting will be determined at a later date.

Annex A: Action items

Action Item Description Responsibility Timeline
15-1 The Investment Funding Task Force will end in March 2017. Industry –
Wayne Adams
March 2017
15-2 A Carbon Sequestration and Pricing Task Force will be created. Dag Falck will chair. Industry –
Dag Falck
15-3 The four national organic organizations will report back on the creation of an Organic Budget Coalition. Industry –
Tia Loftsgard
June 2017
15-4 The Increasing Supply Task has completed its mandate but they will refresh the mandate by being a steering or advisory committee for the Agri-Risk project if/when it gets approved. Industry –
Becky Lipton
July 2017
15-5 The OVCRT industry members support the principle of a certification cost-shared support program and the Increasing Supply Task Force will investigate next steps. Industry –
Becky Lipton
September 2017
15-6 The Research Needs Assessment Task Force will report back to the OVCRT by July 2017 on the results of their consultations. Report to be submitted to AAFC for circulation to the OVCRT. Industry – Andy Hammermeister July 2017
15-7 Phase 1 – A task force will identify an exemption list of "food on food" applications by polling the industry for a list of ingredients.
Phase 2 – The list will be provided to PMRA (Brian Belliveau) by June 1, 2017 and industry will continue a dialogue that helps establish an exemption list and streamline other bio pesticides.
Industry –
Connie Kehler
July 2017
15-8 The Organic Public Trust Task Force will develop positive messages that will not disparage other production methods. Messaging will also be used during larger Public Trust Hub meetings. Industry –
Ashley St Hilaire
June 2017
15-9 The Data Task Force will report back to OVCRT on a data budget and strategy. Industry –
Tia Loftsgard
May 2017
15-10 AAFC will circulate the full Cost Recovery Initiative deck that was prepared by CFIA. AAFC –
Christine Moses
April 2017
15-11 AAFC will organize a bilingual conference call by June 30, 2017 so that CFIA can answer questions that have been submitted 30 days in advance. AAFC / CFIA – Christine Moses July 2017
15-12 CFIA will share their current organizational chart related to the organic sector. Chart will include names, responsibilities and contact information. AAFC / CFIA – Christine Moses April 2017
15-13 AAFC will organize a session (conference call or Webex) with the OVCRT to review the new NPF federal programs in fall 2017. Task Forces will also be asked to provide mid-year reviews. AAFC –
Christine Moses
November 2017
15-14 A Strategic Plan Task Force was created to review the 2013-2018 plan. The new task force will also review the February 2017 Barton Report and provide recommendations or next steps by summer 2017. AAFC / Industry September 2017

Annex B: Participants

Co-chairs

  • Paddy Doherty – West Enderby Farm
  • Sandra Gagné – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

Industry

  • Allison Grant – Southfield Organics
  • Andrew Hammermeister – Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada
  • Ashley St Hilaire – Canadian Organic Growers (COG)
  • Becky Lipton – Organic Alberta
  • Tia Loftsgard – Canadian Organic Trade Association (COTA)
  • Connie Kehler – Canadian Herb – Specialty Ag and Natural Health Product Coalition
  • Dag Falck – Natures Path Foods Inc.
  • Tara Scott – ACORN
  • Keith Everts – Diamond Willow Range
  • Jérôme-Antoine Brunelle – L’Union des producteurs agricoles
  • Marion McBride – Farmer Direct Co-operative Ltd.
  • Marie-Eve Levert – USC Canada
  • Sally Blackman – Canadian Produce Marketing Association
  • François Handfield – Ferme aux petits oignons
  • Tim Rundle – Creative Salmon
  • Tom Manley – Homestead Organics
  • Lisa Mumm – Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds

Provincial governments

  • Keri Sharpe – Alberta Agriculture – Food and Rural Initiatives
  • Laurie Adrien – Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food
  • Nicolas Turgeon – Agriculture – Pêcheries et Alimentation Québec (by phone)
  • Dunling Wang – Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture (by phone)
  • Susan Smith – British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture (by phone)

Federal government

  • Marie-Claire Hurteau – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)

Guests/speakers

  • Ray Edwards – AAFC
  • Michael Whittaker – AAFC
  • Bill Edwardson – Farm Products Council of Canada
  • Brian Belliveau – Pest Management Regulatory Agency
  • Martin Beaulieu – Statistics Canada
  • Wally Hamm – Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd
  • Anahita Belanger – Belanger Organic Farms
  • Rachael Muller – COG
  • Nina Frid – CFIA
  • Heather Holland – CFIA
  • Kevin Smith – CFIA
  • Cody Straza – Organic farmer – Young Farmers Initiative
  • Janine Gibson – Organic Federation of Canada (OFC)
  • Joanne Johnson – OFC
  • Jim Robbins – OFC
  • Hermann Bruns – OFC
  • Charles Newell – OFC
  • Shannon Jones – OFC

Federal support

  • Sheila Jones – AAFC
  • Adam Cull – AAFC
  • Ron Gerold – AAFC
  • Christine Moses – AAFC
  • Stephanie Mitchell – CFIA

Industry observers

  • Aabir Dey – Everdale and USC Canada
  • Nicole Boudreau – Fédération biologique du Canada
  • Wayne Adams – COG
  • Rob Wallbridge – Thompsons Limited
  • Krista Jajko – Canadian Health Food Association
  • Nicole Boudreau – Fédération biologique du Canada
  • Kelly Monaghan – Ash Street Organics (by phone)

Federal government observers

  • Arden Esqueda – AAFC
  • Tobias Laengle – AAFC (by phone)
  • Jean-François Frenette – AAFC
  • Martine Dorais – AAFC (by phone)
  • Jake Eelman – AAFC (by phone)
  • Robert Fraser – AAFC (by phone)
  • Anita Lum – AAFC (by phone)
  • Jacqui Davidson – AAFC (by phone)
  • Lucette Laflamme – AAFC (by phone)
  • Rose Halliday – AAFC (by phone)
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