As originally printed in Country Guide
Record keeping is not the favorite item on most farm to-do lists. However, keeping detailed crop records is an easy way to improve farm profitability with better-informed decisions. It is also becoming increasingly important as consumers have an increased desire to re-connect with how their food is produced. Luckily, advances in technology are making it easier than ever for grain farmers to provide this information, which is fortunate as we move towards traceability requirements as the new standard. Something that was once a rather onerous process has become simple and, in some cases, completely automated. Theoretically, every step from field to plate could one day be independently confirmed on a blockchain to ensure the integrity of the information.
There are two ways to encourage farmers to keep detailed records and that is to either legislate it or pay them for it. Other countries have thrust environmental and production standards upon their farmers. Rules concerning these standards can affect everything from fertilizer decisions to pesticide applications.
Consumers want to know, so Food Processors want to know too
For a long time, Canadian grain farmers have experienced relatively few rules around gathering field records and reporting production practices. Canada is largely an exporting nation and many of our key destinations need the grain to support their growing middle class. These countries have not necessarily been concerned about traceability, yet. The opportunity here in Canada is that the consumer is asking for the information (not government). And, for now, food processors are willing to pay to get that information.
For instance, there is an estimated 750,000 Metric Tonnes of pea fractioning capacity proposed to be built in North America. In the case of a prairie plant currently under construction, traceability is part of their buying criteria and they are willing to pay for that information. In addition to compensation, this plant is providing farmers with the opportunity to give feedback so they are part of the process rather than having the process thrust upon them.
Traceability from Farm to Consumer will become Standard
Like all new practices, detailed crop records will go through the same cycle of implementation. At first, there will be premiums offered to the early adopters. As time goes on, it will become standard industry practice and those premiums will shrink. At some point, it will likely become difficult to sell your grain without field records. My advice is to get started now if you haven’t already. If you need a place to start, the basic version of Farm at Hand’s farm management software is a free and easy-to-use solution.
By DAN HAWKINS, M.A., PAg, CAFA
Senior Marketing Advisor
FarmLink Marketing Solutions