Retail Industry Takes a Seat at the Discussion Table

CAAR was proud to represent retailers during three days of meetings on the future of registration, regulation and use of fertilizer products in Canada.

Mitch Rezansoff, executive director of CAAR, attended the annual Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Information Day, held in conjunction with Fertilizer Canada’s Canadian Fertilizer Products Forum and, new in 2020, the first annual meeting of the Fertilizer & Supplement Advisory Committee (FSAC).

The meetings took place from Jan. 14-16 in Ottawa. Rezansoff says each session provided valuable updates on the work of regulators and industry associations, along with a closer look at the changing nature of fertilizer products themselves.

“The next generation of fertilizer is not fertilizer at all,” says Rezansoff. “There were many discussions about grey areas; biostimulants, enhancers, biologicals and microbes. These products are supplements that create a reaction in the plant, but they are not traditional fertilizers.”

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Rezansoff says there was a diverse representation of manufacturers in attendance for these non-traditional products. He estimates 20 per cent of attending companies were from the U.S. or EU, and says several were manufacturing fertilizer from alternative sources.

“It was good to see companies working with lots of composted and recycled product,” says Rezansoff. “We are seeing novel ways of extracting nutrients or composting to make nutrients available to use in agriculture.”

One of the key revelations from the CFIA meeting was the CFIA’s volume of active registration submissions. In 2019, there were more than 600 files open, with 95 per cent of these submissions falling into new registration categories.

Rezansoff says another important update was on the change in classification to nitrification and urease inhibitors. As of 2019, all inhibitors sold in Canada now require registration under the Fertilizers Act to be in compliance. There is a grace period until June 30, 2020 for manufacturers and retailers to gather submissions on previously un-registered products.

“CAAR’s participation in the annual CFIA workshop provides a voice on behalf of agri-retailers and their customers, who may not be able to attend the meeting themselves,” says Glenn Murray, Senior Specialist with the CFIA’s Fertilizer Safety Office. “CAAR’s participation enables it to provide information to its membership on regulatory updates and participate in constructive dialogue informing the future direction of the CFIA’s policies and programs.”

Fertilizer Canada’s Canadian Fertilizer Products Forum

After the conclusion of the CFIA session, Rezansoff attended the Canadian Fertilizer Products Forum held by CAAR’s sister association Fertilizer Canada on Jan. 15., and he says one of the most relevant presentations for retailers from this forum was the presentation on the results of the 2019 Fertilizer Use Survey. The survey was commissioned by Fertilizer Canada and executed by Stratus Ag Research.

According to the survey, 33.1 per cent of farmers rank ag retailers or dealers as their top source for fertilizer advice. Twenty-five per cent of farmers said their top source for advice on fertilizer comes from an independent professional advisor, while 19.5 per cent ranked a professional advisor associated with a retailer or manufacturer as their top source. According to this survey, provincial extension was the least preferred source of fertilizer information.

Specifically ranking their sources of information about 4R Nutrient Stewardship, 56.5 per cent of survey respondents ranked ag retailers as their best source of information about 4R.

“We see that 4R needs to be led by retailers and agronomists,” says Rezansoff. “There is huge opportunity to integrate 4R methodology into a retail’s company culture, nutrient recommendations and sales tactics.”

Fertilizer & Supplement Advisory Committee

With so many specialty fertilizers, supplements and biologicals entering the market, there are numerous questions of how these products should be categorized and regulated.

The FSAC was created after the 2018 Fertilizer Products Forum to provide a forum for discussions on this topic. The group’s ultimate goal is to work with the CFIA to move toward a regulatory system that ensures safety of products without delaying entry of new technologies to the market.

Rezansoff says approximately 80 per cent of attendees at the FSAC meeting participated in the first two days of meetings. FSAC executive director Peter McCann says the association welcomes participation of small and large fertilizer developers, regulators, academics, ag retailers and farmers.

“We see a value for ag retailers to express their priorities and recommendations on how to regulate the marketplace of fertilizers, supplements and biologicals,” says McCann. “Ag Retailers are the first and most important communication line to the farmers and we always value their priorities and perception of new technologies and products,” he says.

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