When CSGA moved several years ago from a paper-based certification system to an electronic one, we were required to revamp our operating model and retrain our staff to function in this new environment; an environment where our members and our clients are constantly seeking increased service speed and ease of system use, improved access to their data and further development of our system to facilitate a wider range of transactions associated with their evolving business needs.
As difficult as it was, this move was both timely and fortuitous, because it positioned us to build on that initial investment, to take that work further, to continue to innovate and to explore new opportunities, like a single-window service model or an electronic Circular 6 navigation tool, at every turn.
So far, our members have adjusted extremely well to the new operational environment and as they begin to see new possibilities, they are increasingly encouraging us to go further, a direction that we are openly embracing in our new strategic plan, which includes a strong commitment to value-added business development.
Prominent current examples of the latter are our support for standards development in hybrid cereals and new crop types such as quinoa, both domestically and internationally through AOSCA. Another example is cannabis, where the federal government has committed to legalizing recreational pot in 2018. Our board feels strongly that we, and our industry, must be ready. So we are actively seeking to partner with the Government of Canada on this issue, like we did with hemp, to explore seed certification services for cannabis.
Certified cannabis seed is something that will be required as more legal cannabis enters the marketplace. There will be a fairly significant business opportunity and a need from a public policy perspective to have the same degree of quality systems support and oversight in this area than in any other. This is something that’s been on our radar for some time, but now that it’s moving ahead, we’re engaging in discussions with Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to ensure that our potential contribution is fully understood before they lock down the model.
Our members’ willingness to have us explore new avenues for development and increased efficiency and effectiveness is what prompted the decision to move forward with a revamping of the Canadian Regulations and Procedures for Pedigreed Seed Crop Production, better known as Circular 6, this year. Recent confirmation of funding from AAFC’s Agri-Marketing Program will allow us to go further and faster than would have otherwise been possible. We are now hiring contractors and setting up stakeholder and expert working groups to advise us on key areas where Circular 6 needs to change.
The Circular 6 modernization momentum could also lead to changes to other policies with downstream linkages, like those affecting the transition from third-party inspection systems to an increased proportion of QMS-based third-party oversight systems. There is also growing interest in finding ways to more fully realize the potential of seed cleaning technologies and to shift more of the onus of meeting mechanical purity standards from the field to post-harvest processes.
At the same time we begin to change our thinking in our area of core business, we are beginning to more aggressively and effectively advocate for our members in other policy areas of concern. For example, new research from the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) suggests that a lack of domestic workers could significantly impede the growth of Canada’s grain and oilseed industry. We are leveraging this and other research and taking action, including partnering with CAHRC, CSTA and the Ontario Seed Corn Growers Association to press for changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, to recognize the labour-intensive nature of seed production such as rogueing and de-tasseling, and to improve access to needed labour now.
Happening concurrently with all the above is our participation in the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project, which you’ve read much about in this magazine these past several of months. At our annual general meeting in July, we shared our members’ vision of a Single-Window Seed Certification System that would see the integration of seed certification services currently delivered separately by different organizations
As we see it, in the future, a CSGA certification portal should provide access to the current services CSGA offers, but also include connections to seed testing, seed establishment certification, post-harvest certification, intellectual property information, guidance on best management practices and more. A project plan must still be developed, and we will need to work closely with CFIA, AAFC and our Seed Synergy partners to make it happen, but the importance of moving forward on this is becoming increasingly apparent.
As we approach the New Year, CSGA and its members are more enthusiastic than ever about what the future holds. In lieu of a crystal ball, continue to watch this space for more information about how CSGA is working to forge a new and better future for Canadian seed.