My name is Chris Dickie, and I’m the Organic Sector Specialist with Agriculture & Agri-food Canada’s (AAFC) Cross Sectoral Issues team and am based out of Keswick Ridge, New Brunswick.
I started with AAFC (and the federal government) in April 2022 after spending the bulk of my career working in forestry, agro-forestry and agricultural sectors, and have gained experience with organic production and various certification systems along the way. I come from a very hands-on background and it’s been challenging connecting with an entire industry from the comfort of my living room.
Last month I had the distinct pleasure of participating in COTA’s Annual Organic Summit in Ottawa and welcomed the opportunity to interact directly with industry stakeholders. I was invited to present to the group concerning the Next Policy Framework, which is the cost-shared Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) funding package which sets both the broad policy objectives for agriculture over its 5-year delivery, as well as defining the programming which supports the achievement of these objectives.
In 2023, the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (SCAP) will replace the current 5 year round of funding under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). As the name suggests, this policy framework, with priorities outlined in the Guelph Statement by FPT Ministers of Agriculture in 2021, will prioritize environmental action and outcomes within Canadian agriculture.
The 5 pillars agreed to in the Guelph Statement include:
Climate Change and the Environment
Science, Research and Innovation
Market, Trade and Development
Building Sector Capacity, Growth and Competitiveness
Resiliency and Public Trust
Since taking on this role, I’ve been struck by the alignment I see between current federal priorities and the organic sector. The impacts of climate change and concerns over food security are top of mind for many Canadians, and the strong growth in organic trade demonstrated by COTA’s market reports suggest a significant opportunity to continue expanding the footprint of organic agriculture in Canada. By design, your industry is leading the way in the development and adoption of Best Management Practices which contribute to achieving many of these policy goals, and which could also serve as a resource for all agricultural producers as they work to meet sustainability objectives.
On a personal note, given my forestry background, I’m extremely interested in understanding the function and value of the ecological goods and services generated by the organic sector – the suite of services that arise from a well-functioning ecosystem. As organic farmers you are contributing to a reduction in inputs, while also increasing ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, increasing biodiversity, maintenance of water quality, building drought resistant soils etc. Quantifying these services would provide a full understanding of the value – full cost accounting if you will – of organic production and possibly provide some ability to monetize these services at some point as an additional revenue stream for organic producers. As an example, in Europe, carbon farming – accounting for the sequestration of carbon in organic operations – is becoming a tangible revenue stream for some organic operators.
In short, I welcome the opportunity to work with your sector as you take on these challenges, and plan on getting out to as many regional events as possible. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at any time, and I look forward to hopefully meeting you all some day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chris Dickie graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and Environmental Management. Chris spent the early years of his career working as a private forestry consultant and contractor, writing management plans for a variety of clientele and running harvesting and silvicultural operations, with a particular focus on hardwood management. In April 2022 Chris started with AAFC’s Cross Sectoral Issues group as the Organic sector specialist.