Below are some frequently asked questions about the Canadian Agri-food Sustainability Initiative (CASI). These include questions about the development, structure, and compliance of CASI. Scroll through the questions and responses and if your question is not answered below, please feel free to contact us directly.

 

The Canadian Agri-food Sustainability initiative FAQ

 

What is the Sustainable Farm and Food Initiative?

The Sustainable Farm and Food Initiative started as an Ontario project to create a system that will simplify the process of meeting sustainability requirements. The goal was to develop a framework, or platform, that would facilitate communication and reporting across various commodity-specific programs and create a “whole farm” approach based on a common set of practices, allowing for sustainability actions implemented on farms to be recognized throughout the value chain. Upon completion of funding for SFFI, an evolution into a national initiative is the next critical step. Therefore, SFFI is now known as the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative.

What are the benefits of the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative?

The Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative will help reduce the complexity and cost associated with the increasing need for Canadian farmers to confirm their sustainability performance amid an increasing number of codes, standards, and verification requirements. Many of these programs have similar measurement and performance criteria, which creates significant overlap and duplication of effort. Through the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative, stakeholders within the farm and food value chain will develop a process of identifying standards from different programs that are equivalent and eliminate duplication.

Will the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative replace the Environmental Farm Plan?

The Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative will not replace the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). It will build up the strength of programs such as the EFP and Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP), and work with the National EFP, giving Canadian farmers a unique opportunity to develop a robust and trusted sustainability initiative.

How is the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative being developed?

The Sustainable Farm and Food Initiative was originally developed through an extensive consultation process. Producers, processors, retailers, food service, non-governmental organizations and consumer groups, primarily in Ontario, were contacted and engaged through interviews and workshops in 2016 to 2017. The Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative will continue engagement at a national level to further develop the program.

Who Developed the Sustainable Farm and Food Initiative?

The Sustainable Farm and Food Initiative was developed by a coalition of Ontario farm organizations in collaboration with representatives from the food and beverage sector, academia, and non-government organizations. Development of the Sustainable Farm and Food Initiative was managed by the Sustainable Farm and Food Coalition Steering Committee. The management of the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative will be developed and coordinated as the program moves forward with new funding.

When will the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative be in place?

With successful funding, the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative will be in place within 2 to 5 years, following more engagement, pilot projects, testing, and rolling out. Our previous engagement with the value chain noted the importance of such a platform being in place as soon as possible. 

Will the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative be mandatory?

No, the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative will be voluntary in terms of participation, however, given the current trend towards increased demand for sustainability assurances and verification of practices, farmers may be motivated to proactively participate to maintain market access for their given commodity(ies).

What international standards will be be used to benchmark the programs used by Canadian farmers?

Benchmarking activities will be focused on the most relevant international standards for Canadian farmers and will include the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI Platform) tool (the Farm Sustainability Assessment) as well as ISCC, Unilever’s SAC, ISEAL, etc.

Will these international standards cover all crops (ex. cash crops, fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, etc.)?

Yes. The SAI Platform tool does not currently cover livestock so we would work on benchmarking different programs (or develop our own Canadian standards) for certain livestock sub-sectors. For Canadian beef producers, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef has already done this work in a detailed manner so we would look towards this as an example within our own country.  For other commodities, we would look towards benchmarking with the most market relevant standards in as efficient a manner as possible. We would also work with the environmental farm plan delivery across the country in an effort to avoid duplication of efforts for farmers in terms of meeting environmental management and sustainability requirements. 

have you been working the project with national commodity groups (ex. Canadian horticultural council, dairy farmers of Canada, etc.)?

While the project initially started with the Ontario general farm organizations, and an Ontario pilot project, discussions have occurred with national-level groups and national/international companies/organizations. We recognize that further engagement of national organizations and commodity groups is critical to the overall effectiveness and success of Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative, therefore, year one of the funding ask has a significant emphasis on further engagement across the Canadian agri-food industry. 

what process is being used to make sure provincial farmer organizations are regularly informed and consulted regarding the development of the Canadian agri-food sustainability initiative?

We have identified the importance of ongoing knowledge transfer and communication. The Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative website will be used as a repository for CASI information as well as updates and news releases. A series of focus groups as well as an annual summit are also planned to ensure regional and provincial participation is as accessible as possible. We will also work with the governance structure to create clear lines of communication between the steering committee and provincial organizations. 

will the Canadian agri-food sustainability initiative include a third-party validation of what a farmer declares using CASI?

In some situations, yes. However, the role of verification and certification for Canadian farmers will be an important part of the development of the Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative - one of the key principles is to streamline this type of verification for farmers in order to avoid increasing on-farm visits or audits. As much as possible, the focus will be on benchmarking standards and developing synergies with any existing programs the farmer may already be using in order to minimize any additional 3rd party validation. However, in order for the initiative to be meaningful in terms of driving economic, social, and environmental outcomes, as well as building trust along the value chain, some level of validation will be required. This may happen through a variety of self-assessment, 2nd party validation, and 3rd party validation. Again, keeping in mind that the system is intended to reduce the burden on individual farmers and is meant to streamline and find synergies and efficiencies wherever possible.  

the Canadian agri-food sustainability initiative seems to prioritize international standards. will it be useful to farmers and buyers on the Canadian market and at the local level?

Absolutely. The Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative is meant to be a national platform and program with provincial and regional applicability. It will be a clearing house for all sustainability programs and requirements. It won’t focus solely on international standards. Where and when possible, it will make benchmarking possible to international standards. 

Could the Canadian agri-food sustainability initiative be used as a tool to communicate to the public what farmers are doing to manage their farms sustainably, for example, by commodity groups?

Absolutely. Metrics and meeting requirements could be valuable for public trust, among other benefits. The Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Initiative will help reduce the complexity and cost associated with the increasing need for Canadian farmers to confirm their sustainability performance amid an increasing number of codes, standards, and verification requirements. Many of these programs have similar measurement and performance criteria, which creates significant overlap and duplication of effort.