It is a pleasure to be here to make my first address as President of Fertilizer Canada.
I want to stress that I have been extremely impressed with the Board, our great staff and the work that has been conducted before me. It is much easier to take the reins of an association when such strong groundwork has been laid. I also want to thank my team for organizing two great events. It has been a fantastic three days.
I want to recognize the work of Greg Yont, for his leadership over the past two years as Chair. The Association and the industry have benefitted from his expertise in product stewardship and sustainability.
I would also like to recognize our incoming Chair, Steve Biggar, who I look forward to working with this year. Steve has worked closely with Greg over the past year and he will provide the continuity and leadership Fertilizer Canada needs moving forward.
Our theme at this conference is “Growing Stronger,” and that is the title of my speech today. Actually, I have added a sub-title that states: “It is time for Canadians and our political decision-makers to understand the important role the fertilizer industry plays in Canada and on the world stage.”
The Canadian Agri-food Policy Institute (CAPI) is hosting a conference in November that will bring together leaders from various agriculture and food industries, government and academia. CAPI wanted to find a theme that would grab hold of the divergent groups that will be participating at the conference. They came up with one word: TRUST!
CAPI`s premise is Canadians are losing trust in the agriculture and agri-food sectors. Unfortunately, this issue of mistrust appears to be a growing trend that Fertilizer Canada has also witnessed in the results of the public opinion polling conducted last year.
One symptom of this mistrust is Canadians want to know what is in their food. McDonalds Canada had a major challenge concerning Canadians who did not trust the quality of the food it offered. In fact, as ludicrous as it may seem, many people questioned whether McDonalds’ products were “real food!” You may remember TV ads last year which showed farmers producing eggs and chickens for McDonalds. I think the caption was “real farmers providing real food.” McDonalds’ marketing machine spent millions to inform Canadians that not only is the food real but it is healthy. Remember, “an egg McMuffin is only 270 calories.”
The McDonalds’ “real food” story is a lesson that the agriculture sector should follow. If you don’t tell your story then someone will tell it for you. Our Nutrients for Life program is following the McDonalds’ model. We are teaching students the importance of fertilizer by giving them hands on experience in the garden.
If Canadians are losing trust in the agriculture and agri-food sectors, do they trust the fertilizer industry? Do politicians trust the fertilizer industry? Or is it the case that they unaware of the important role the fertilizer industry play in Canada and on the world stage?
Today, I want to talk about building public trust in the fertilizer industry. In order to build that trust, we need to do three things:
We have to tell Canadians who we are – a global success story.
We have to explain what we stand for – stewardship and sustainability.
And finally we have to demonstrate that we are earning that trust – we have to deliver.
First, let me tell you about what I have learned about the fertilizer industry in my short time with Fertilizer Canada. As I have toured the country to meet with members, many of you have told me that we need to tell our story and the fertilizer industry has a great story to tell. In my brief time in this role, I can assure you that this industry and this Association have much strength on which to build, and we are well-positioned to ensure that this industry continues to positively impact the environment, the economy and the social fabrics of Canadian life.
Before I took this role, I did not know that world food production must increase by 70% by 2050 to meet global population demands. Nor did I fully appreciate the critical role that fertilizer will play in meeting that demand, or of Canada’s importance in doing so.
The size of the industry in this country – worth $12 billion annually and directly employing 12,000 people – was also something that I had not fully grasped.
I have now seen firsthand, the powerful impact of this industry with the billions of dollars of investment, the thousands of high paying jobs created and the economic impact on local communities. I have seen the conscientious and diligent adherence to health and safety practices, as well as environmental stewardship. I have also seen collaborative and innovative leaders who passionately care about their industry and the customers they serve –farmers around the world. You are rightly proud of the important role you play in Canada and throughout the world.
The problem is that few people outside this room know our story. We need to tell our government leaders what a powerhouse this industry is. It gives me comfort from an advocacy perspective to see the critical importance of this industry to our economy, to our most basic human needs, and to the health of our planet.
So we know this industry is important. When our industry speaks, governments should listen. That’s the relatively easy part. Our challenge is we need to answer the question: why should our governments and Canadians care about the fertilizer industry?
We will be working with our Board and our members to develop what I call our elevator speech that will make politicians sit up and listen.
WHAT THE FERTILIZER INDUSTRY STANDS FOR
The second key element of trust is making sure that people know what you stand for. I believe that the change in our association’s name to Fertilizer Canada reflects the evolution to a modern responsible industry that stands for sustainability and stewardship.
What you have told me is the Canadian fertilizer industry is committed to helping farmers around the world feed 9.6 billion people by 2050.
This is quite a mission – Shipping quality fertilizer by trucks, trains and vessels around the globe to meet the specific needs of farms, crops, soils and climates — and achieving this logistical miracle while protecting the environment and safeguarding the public.
HOW DOES THE FERTILIZER INDUSTRY MEASURE UP?
The next question is: are we delivering? Can the public rely on us to protect the environment and their safety?
With everything I have seen so far, the answer is: Absolutely.
Fertilizer Canada has built an 11 year partnership with Canadian First Responders.
There are 396 anhydrous ammonia agri-retail sites which are fully compliant with the standards outlined in the Ammonia Code of Practice.
Over one million farm acres are implementing 4R Nutrient Stewardship and we have 38 4R demonstration farms across the country.
With that in mind, let me highlight three priority areas for the year ahead.
First, the focus on the environment is not going away – nor should it. But this industry does not need a lesson from anyone in being proactive in addressing greenhouse gas emissions, having worked with governments for over a decade on reductions.
Those discussions led to the May announcement by the Federal Government of plans to regulate emissions stemming from ammonia and nitric acid production, with a reasonably balanced outcome.
Now, however, we have to deal with ten provinces pursuing their own environmental agendas, plus the possibility of regime change at the federal level and a whole new approach there. Our priority will be ensuring that we remain proactive in these discussions as we seek to achieve high environmental standards while maintaining the economic integrity of the industry. As an example, our Alberta members, such as Agrium and CF, are working hard to ensure the Alberta government views our industry as part of the solution and not as part of the problem. The goal is to mitigate the impacts of the recent announcement to its gas emitter’s regulation and the significant increase in costs on our industry.
We will continue to promote the adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship to further demonstrate our industry leadership, and we will aim to build on the successful initiatives underway in five provinces. Our immediate priority is to push the Ontario government and provincial farm groups to sign our 4R Memorandum of Cooperation agreement before Lake Erie turns green and all fingers point to the fertilizer industry.
A second priority will be transportation. The Association has been actively engaged in the review of the Canadian Transportation Act, the first opportunity for comprehensive changes since the last review in 2001. The report of the Review Committee is due no later than December of this year.
As an efficient transportation system is critical to the competitiveness of the fertilizer industry, the outcome of that review, including any new legislation, will be a primary focus in the year ahead.
Our third priority will continue to be safety and security, as we seek to maintain Canada’s world leadership in this area. Here again, I believe the industry is speaking from a position of strength, with initiatives like our Codes of Practice and outreach to first responders.
Another key message members have told me is: we need to be present at the federal and provincial policy table. There is a saying in our business, “if you are not at the policy table you are on the menu!”
We don’t want to leave it up to the politicians to tell our story. This current federal election tells us that our political leaders are not high on Canadians’ trust list. Another challenge we face is that these days there seems to be an unpredictable revolving door that spins out new governments.
Had I been standing at the last conference, how would you have reacted if I’d predicted the NDP would now be in power in Alberta? You would be shaking your heads in disbelief. The results of that Alberta election demonstrate that this country is going through a period of incredible political change.
Following the federal election on October 19, the government is going to look very different, either with a dramatically changed cabinet, a possible return to a minority government, or even a new party in power. We live in uncertain political times.
In addition, before we meet again next year, we will have elections in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, and likely Yukon as well.
We already have the new government in Alberta and another new government in PEI.
There are also relatively new governments in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, all roughly a year old and all pursuing an activist agenda on environmental issues, which are obviously of critical importance to our industry.
We cannot influence the outcome of elections nor can we reverse the fortunes of a slowing economy. But we can ensure all political parties and all governments know who we are and what we do. We will tell them our story and tell them a strong Canada needs a strong and growing fertilizer industry.
The industries that achieve success with their advocacy are those that speak with a single voice. The fact that we have manufacturers, wholesale and retail distributors united under the Fertilizer Canada banner is a major strength.
That is also why I am excited about the opportunities for our Association, and confident we can meet the challenges of feeding a growing world population while navigating through a period of prolonged political instability and economic uncertainty.
The team at Fertilizer Canada are at your service to make sure that your concerns are heard and addressed by government so that our industry continues to show leadership on our key issues, and that we have a bright future in this country.
We need to tell our story to ensure governments listen to us at the policy table. We need to build on our industry’s solid reputation and continue to earn Canadians’ trust.
We will tell Canadians about our global success story,
We will explain that we stand for – stewardship and sustainability,
And we will demonstrate that we do deliver!
In closing, I would like to thank the Board for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to meeting all members to better understand your business and your priorities for the Association.
Together, we will grow stronger as an industry and as an Association.