Ontario represents a portion of Canada’s most viable and productive farmland and has been a leader in nutrient management planning for crop production. 4R Nutrient Stewardship has been embraced as a valuable tool for meeting agricultural and environmental goals as referenced in both the International Joint Commission’s Binational Report and the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Domestic Action Plan. With its partners in the province, Fertilizer Canada has undertaken extensive efforts to promote and implement 4R Nutrient Stewardship and have joined Ohio in introducing the 4R Certification program for agri-retailers. The province is the second region to launch the certification program.
In close collaboration with TFI, the Nutrient Stewardship Council, and the Ohio Agri-Business Association, the 4R Certification program was developed for Nutrient Service Providers in Ontario. Members of the 4R Ontario Steering Committee oversee the program and represent a diversity of stakeholders including Fertilizer Canada; the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA); the Ontario Agri Business Association (OABA); the Grain Farmers of Ontario; the Ontario Federation of Agriculture; the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario; Conservation Ontario; The Nature Conservancy – Ohio; the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change; the International Plant Nutrition Institute; the Ontario Certified Crop Advisor Board of Ontario; and Ontario agri-retailers.
The 4R Ontario Certification pilot project was launched in 2016 to evaluate the validity, suitability and accountability of the Ohio 4R Certification model for implementation in the Ontario marketplace. Four agri-retail locations in the Western Basin of Lake Erie volunteered to participate in the audit program, conducted by the lead auditor from the Ohio program. A 4R technical sub-committee developed the standards for the 4R Certification Program, modeled after the program adopted by agri-retailers in Ohio which is expanding to Indiana and Michigan where surrounding waters drain into Lake Erie. The standards have incorporated specific criteria for the purpose of addressing regional priorities for water quality, including references to regional soil fertility recommendations and requirements to prevent nutrient application on frozen ground.
The standards were finalized following a public comment period earlier this winter. Fertilizer Canada is currently working on communications and public outreach of the program, including a toolkit resource for agri-retailers available for use this spring. Future work will include developing supporting documents outlining evidence required for each standard during an audit, as well as ongoing work with the research community to identify the most effective conservation and nutrient management practices ensuring the standards stay up to date. The 4R Certification audit period in Ontario is scheduled to begin in July 2018.
For more information on this initiative, please contact McKenzie Smith, Audit Coordinator at Fertilizer Canada: [email protected] .