(Rural Roots Canada) – The federal governments Sustainable Agriculture Strategy has ruffled feathers over the last few months, but after some consultations at the end of 2022, it appears there has been some movement.

Twenty sustainable agriculture groups and NGOs have been named as part of an advisory committee on the strategy, building on earlier consultations. The groups include the Canadian Cattle Association and Grain Growers of Canada.

Jennifer Babcock with the Canadian Cattle Association says it will be great to get everyone together in one room to discuss the strategy.

“When you do all the one-on-one meetings with the (agriculture) minister, her team, the officials. They hear from us and others regularly, but it’s nice to have everyone in the room listening and learning from each other. I think it can lead to some collaborative and, hopefully, better outcomes that we can build upon,” she says.

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The groups are looking to build on what is in the discussion papers.

“Biodiversity is a big one. There are so many things to talk about, including pasture, grassland, and species at risk. That was throughout the discussion papers and it’s great to see,” says Babcock.

Branden Leslie is with the Grain Growers of Canada. He says getting farmers voices to the table is a hugely positive step.

“We’re optimistic that we can get enough ag groups together to share a common, united message to the government, and come up with reasonable, practical solutions on the ground that will not impact our profitability, and help the government reach its stated objectives,”

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Leslie says there are some indications the federal government is starting to listen and consider the needs of the agriculture community.

“If you come up with a plan without talking to us first, it’s going to be a lot more difficult. So, how do we work together earlier? That was our main message. This is a highlighting of an understanding of that and I hope it’s sincere. That’s what we’re waiting for. We’ll see how these meetings play out.”

In a statement, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says the Sustainable Agriculture Strategy will “pave the way to help us sustain the livelihoods of farmers…and drawing from their expertise and best practices, we can ensure that the sector is more resilient in the face of climate change.”