Mr. Chair, thank you for the invitation to appear before you today.
The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops was formed in 2013 specifically as a means to proactively advance sustainability for the grains industry in Canada.
The CRSC, which is what we call it for short, is member-based and has a broad scope of members. These include grain growers, supply chain organizations, grain handlers, food processors, food service companies, and environmental and sustainability organizations.
Currently, we have about 50 members from across Canada. Government has no members—we exclude them from membership but they are invited to participate in our meetings and they contribute to technical committee discussions.
The CRSC mission drives our work and our mission is as follows: to create value for all members of Canada’s grains sector by providing a national forum for advancing, reporting on, and communicating the sustainability of Canadian grain production.
To this end, the Canadian grain sector, through the CRSC, is driving an industry-led initiative to gather existing information, to conduct original research, and to make publicly available comprehensive and national data about the sustainability of grain production in Canada. We intend to maintain this information online and keep the information as up to date as possible, enabling all interested parties to understand sustainable grain production and to see how it changes over time.
The need for this initiative was clear. There are numerous sustainability certification standards globally, some of them company-specific, but they all focus on the same issues.
The CRSC has determined which issues are important from across the major standards with the goal of allowing any stakeholder, regardless of which standard they use, to find the information they need on the sustainability of our production.
We believe this will serve a twofold objective. First, it will enable food manufacturers and food-service customers to clearly and credibly tell consumers the story of the sustainable production of the grain products they make. Second, it will help Canadian grain and oilseed producers and exporters to maintain market access for those economies or customers that require macro-level sustainability information as part of their regulations or procurement policies.
To accomplish this, we have first engaged with the membership itself, and then outside to buyers, customers, and the general public. This dialogue is critical to establishing a congruent approach among our members, many of whom have active programs to enhance sustainability. The CRSC offers them the opportunity to coordinate and develop synergistic approaches among these various organizations and initiatives.
Given that the CRSC has members that produce grain as well as members that buy and consume grain products, the CRSC assists in the understanding of the expectations of customers and societies, including environmental organizations. This understanding of the expectations of consumers and society led us to the second focus of our work, which is on the establishment of research priorities and the undertaking of research to fill knowledge gaps.
To ensure that information meets the needs of our stakeholders, it must be science-based and credible. In the last year, the CRSC has invested in researching the carbon life-cycle footprint of ten crops in major grain-producing provinces. As well, we conducted a survey of producer practices that relate to sustainability criteria.
The researching and collection of credible and relevant data is not in itself valuable without a mechanism to effectively communicate that information to those who want it or require it. To do this, we embarked on a major project to build our online grain-sustainability metrics platform.
As mentioned earlier, the platform will provide relevant and credible science-based data about the sustainability performance of Canadian grain producers. Although the majority of the information is about environmental sustainability, we're also providing information on social responsibility, which is about workers in the community as well as the economic viability of the industry as all three are important to our customers and consumers. We are currently in the latter stages of development and plan to have this platform launched in early 2018.
To do this, we are using a multitude of data sources. One source of particular importance is the work that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada undertake on environmental indicators.
In addition, we rely on results from a number of Statistics Canada surveys, such as the agriculture census, the farm environmental management survey, and the water use survey. This survey information is complemented by our own data, which I talked about earlier, as well as that generated by the Canadian Field Print Initiative, which is another sustainability initiative undertaken by the grains industry.
I would also mention that we have been able to undertake this because of the contribution of the Government of Canada through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's programs, which provide funding that's matched by our members.
In closing, I would like to share with you the results of the research that we've conducted into the expectations of markets and civil society regarding environmental sustainability. As expected, there are definite expectations that producers handle agrochemicals, fertilizer, and manure in such a manner that they do not negatively impact water quality, and that producers maintain the productivity of soils. In addition, markets and civil society also have expectations of the agriculture industry in general for greenhouse gas reduction, the preservation and enhancement of wildlife habitat, the maintenance of sensitive areas, and the management of waste and pollution.
There is also an understanding within these groups that are looking for sustainable performance that ideal results will not be achieved immediately, but that there's continuous improvement over time.
Again, thank you for your interest.