Chris Davison provides canola industry remarks at Canola Week

December 5, 2023 – Chris Davison, Canola Council of Canada president and CEO, presented the following speech as part of this morning’s canola industry updates at Canola Week in Calgary:

Good morning! I’m Chris Davison, president and CEO of the Canola Council of Canada.

I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person for Canola Week. That’s something I’ll need to rectify next year.

That said, I’m pleased to welcome you to the Canola Industry Meeting on this first day of Canola Week, albeit virtually. This is the first time ever that Canola Week has been held in Calgary, and I’d like to give a special shout out to everyone in the room who is based in Alberta. Perhaps you’re attending for the first time. Welcome!

Canola Week is an opportunity to share views and ideas with partners from academia, industry and government. It’s an important part of charting our path forward on canola innovation and research needs that will promote a vibrant canola industry.

My job today is to provide an update on where the Canadian canola industry is at and what’s on the horizon, both in terms of opportunities and challenges.

Last year, my predecessor, Jim Everson, touched on several important themes. He talked about the success story that canola has become, and the significance of canola’s contributions to the economy – both here in Canada and internationally.

He emphasized that our success has been powered by innovation, and that’s why it is so important to link innovation with ambition and collaboration throughout the value chain.

Research is vital, but only through shared vision and effort can we identify, develop and implement the advances that will lead to even more success for canola in the future. It’s so important that we take the research and development work happening in labs and fields and elsewhere, and transform those findings into products and know-how that will move us forward in very real ways.

This is what I like to call our ‘innovation supply chain.’

To be successful, we need an end-to-end system that can:

  • commercialize and deploy new products with appropriate speed,
  • share new research findings in effective, practical ways,
  • and provide canola growers with tools, information and support they need to do what they do best – which is to produce the best canola in the world.

And so, the importance of innovation, ambition and collaboration is just as relevant today as it was a year ago, maybe even more so.

So, what is new since last year’s event? Quite a bit, I would say – especially in terms of new market opportunities.

At about this time last year, we received some very good news about canola’s future in the growing market for biofuels:

After 10 or so years of collaboration, advocacy and engagement, with organizations here in Canada and in the United States, canola oil was finally approved for advanced biofuel production under the U.S. EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard.

This is a tremendously important pathway into a new market that continues to gain traction in the U.S. and elsewhere. In fact, we’re already seeing the impact of the U.S. EPA decision. In 2023 there has been a significant increase in the volume of canola oil moving into the U.S. I joke with people that it is an overnight success that was just a short 10 years in the making!

Another important biofuel development has been moving forward here in Canada.

As we look to implement the Clean Fuel Regulations, we recently gained clarity surrounding the regulatory guidance that supports our goal of minimizing the administrative burden on farmers and others in the supply chain, and simplifying access to what we hope will be a growing domestic market for canola-based biofuels.

Now, before I move on to other topics, I feel it’s important to pause here and clarify some facts about the CFR. I expect many in attendance at Canola Week are well informed. However, there are a few things related to the CFR that bear repeating:

  • First, it’s important to recognize that, contrary to some of the narrative out there, the CFR is not a tax. It’s a regulation that requires industry to reduce emissions from transportation fuels sold in Canada. The focus and requirements of the CFR are on the fuel industry – not the consumer.
  • It’s also important to note that the CFR is technology neutral. The regulation sets out requirements for emissions reduction, but it doesn’t specify the technology that must be used to achieve those reductions.

And, we know that canola is a proven solution as a low-carbon feedstock to help industry meet these challenges.

 This has helped to spur on processing development that will generate more economic value from canola, both on the farm and beyond. It provides market-based incentives, rather than expensive government subsidies, to encourage investment in different technologies.

In the canola and fuel production industries, those incentives have so far been a catalyst for private sector investment to the tune of approximately $10 billion. The new investments in canola crushing capacity will support greater value-added processing domestically, which will add value for farmers while also helping to diversify canola markets and reduce market risk.

For all of these reasons, renewable fuels are a very promising opportunity for Canadian canola. You will hear more from our colleague Chris Vervaet of the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association and others later today on this topic.

But there are also other factors fueling demand for canola.

The global population is continuing to grow, and demographics around the world continue to shift. Interest in healthy and nutritious foods is growing, which increases the world’s appetite for canola oil. There is also a global demand for more and better protein sources for animal feed, which also bodes well for canola meal.

But this activity is happening at a disruptive time, against a backdrop of ongoing COVID and supply chain recovery, and war and unrest in far too many places around the globe.

And so, this time of opportunity is also a time of challenge for Canadian canola.

To meet the demand, we need to ensure our canola supply is reliable, resilient and growing. That means we need to adopt technology that will enable us to produce even more canola. And we need to continue making investments to increase productivity, both on-farm and otherwise.

But the challenge is bigger than just growing, moving and marketing more canola. As we meet demand, the canola industry, as part of the larger Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector, is being asked to address a number of other imperatives. They include:

  • Growing more food with fewer inputs and less impact,
  • Producing more high-quality food,
  • Navigating the impact of climate challenges and weather volatility, and
  • Reducing emissions associated with production.

On the one hand, we are being asked to increase production and productivity in support of global food security and economic growth. And on the other hand, there is an expectation that we can simultaneously reduce the impact of that production. That means we’re being asked to deliver on some pretty lofty goals – economic, environmental and social – at global, national, regional and even local levels.

It’s a tall order – but one that I believe we can continue to meet, based on canola’s track record. I’m confident that we can meet the challenge if we keep building on those principles of innovation, ambition and collaboration.

But we are going to need some help along the way, because the issues and opportunities we are facing are too complex for any one organization and even one industry to navigate. Ambitious goals can be good, but they must be matched by an equal ambition for science, research and development. Our spirit of cooperation must extend not just through the Canadian canola industry, but also through the entire agri-food sector and through government. Now, more than ever, we need an appropriately tensioned policy, programming and regulatory system.

In other words, if we are going to be successful, we need a complete innovation-nurturing ecosystem.

What does such a system look like?

It must include the hallmarks of science- and risk-based regulation, with harmonization where possible, intellectual property protection, market access, pathways for alternative products and the like.

But perhaps more than anything, I believe we need a domestic innovation ecosystem that aligns with customer and market needs, and that recognizes that predictability, timeliness and transparency are critical factors influencing the success of innovation in our sector.

Today we aren’t moving quickly enough. We are not demonstrating the required sense of urgency to not just review and approve much-needed innovations, but also to support timely research and development on the front end – and, ultimately, commercialization and adoption of such innovations on the back end.

If we want to establish, pursue, support and achieve ambitious goals, we need an enabling innovation ecosystem that does the same.

One good example of what can be achieved was in the news just a few weeks ago. On November 14th, we announced the continuation of the Canola AgriScience Cluster partnership between the federal government and the canola sector. With $9 million from the federal government’s Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership and another $8 million from canola grower organizations and industry, more than $17 million will be invested in canola research over the next five years.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the 17 activities this funding will support. This research will help further efforts to address recent production challenges, increase production and build on canola’s strong contribution as a climate solutions provider. It is illustrative of the innovation, ambition and collaboration required to meet our demand challenges and opportunities.

Over the course of Canola Week, I expect there will be discussions about many other projects and initiatives that will expand our collective ability to advance the growth and resilience of the Canadian canola industry.

It’s certainly a dynamic time for the industry, with growing opportunities in food, feed and fuels. The spirit of innovation from which canola was born, combined with investments in research and other vital work, will help ensure a successful, sustainable future for Canadian canola.

Thank you, again, for being part of this important event, and I wish you a great Canola Week.

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