Update: Jim Everson provides remarks on canola industry and innovation at Canola Week

December 7, 2022 – CCC president Jim Everson presented the following speech at the Canola Week event in Saskatoon yesterday to attendees representing all links in the canola value chain:

Good morning! I’m Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada. Welcome to the Canada Industry Meeting on this first day of Canola Week.

It’s my pleasure to update you on where the Canadian canola sector is today and what’s on the horizon. Innovation will play a vital role in virtually every opportunity and challenge ahead.

Today canola is a remarkable success story, contributing about $30 billion annually in economic activity and supporting over 200,000 jobs across the country.

We’ve achieved this success by drawing on many strengths, and the first and foremost of those strengths is Innovation. Canola was born of innovation, and it’s what keeps us moving forward today.

That’s why Canola Week is so important. This is where innovation converges with other key strengths, like Ambition and Collaboration. The next few days are a unique opportunity to marshal the ideas and knowledge that can lead to even greater success.

To fully embrace innovation, our industry needs to think beyond the research work in the lab and test field. We also need to share the latest findings with growers. That’s why I’m happy to see so many retail agronomists participating in this year’s Canola Week. Knowledge transfer is an industry-wide responsibility, and we need to engage our networks of agronomists so that innovation can be transformed into action.

Now, let’s talk about the state of the canola industry today. It’s a time when we see great opportunities on the horizon, and some challenges along the way.

After weathering a couple of tough years, we’re seeing many promising signs of strong global demand. We continue to see a growing appetite for healthier food products like canola oil, and a growing awareness of canola meal’s advantages as an animal feed ingredient.

In addition to food and feed, we can add “environmental solutions” to our list of diversification opportunities. The market for low-carbon fuels, to reduce GHG emissions is burgeoning, and it’s a great fit for canola.

Canola-based biofuels reduce lifecycle GHG emissions by up to 90 per cent compared to fossil fuels, thanks to our strong track record of sustainable production practices.

And canola-based biofuels are ideal for use in the transportation sector, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel are chemically similar to petroleum, so they can fuel existing vehicles and aircraft at 100 per cent replacement.

For more than a decade, the Canola Council has worked to open access to biofuels markets in the EU, Canada and the United States. In 2022, we were happy to see two important doors opening.

Just last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency delivered the final rule that renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel and other biofuels made from canola oil will qualify as “advanced biofuels” under the U.S. Renewal Fuel Standard program. This means canola oil now has the pathway into this big U.S. market.

And earlier this year, we were encouraged by the Clean Fuel Regulations released by the Canadian government. These regulations recognize the sustainable farm practices used by canola growers, and that bodes well for canola to become the feedstock of choice for biofuel production in this country.

Chris Vervaet at the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association has been very active in helping secure canola’s access to biofuels markets, in both the U.S. and Canada. He’ll be presenting later this morning about these evolving policies and future opportunities for canola.

So, in short, there are many reasons to have confidence in our North American market outlook. And that confidence is shared by domestic oilseed processors, who are making big investments in capacity. In the coming years, Canada could crush 50 per cent more canola than we do today.

Of course, a large proportion of our crop is exported overseas, where strong demand for canola must be paired with reliable market access. We’ve faced some difficult market access challenges while dealing with pandemic restrictions and other trade disruptions over the past few years.

But throughout this unusual period, the canola value chain has remained focused on our long-term goal of a more predictable, rules-based trade environment. This past year, we were happy to see some significant progress.

In May, we saw improvements in our trade relationship with China, including reinstated access for canola seed exporters.

And last month, the federal government announced a new Indo-Pacific Agriculture and Agri-Food Office. The Canola Council has been a strong advocate for these new resources in Asia, and we look forward to tackling market access issues in a strategic, coordinated way.

With expectations for continued strong demand, our challenge now is making sure we can get full value from these opportunities.

One dimension of that challenge is producing more canola. The goal of the Canadian industry is to increase yields to meet growing demand. We need to focus our collective efforts on growing the supply of canola in a sustainable, profitable way.

There’s no doubt that we have a great foundation on which to build. The past couple of years have proved, once again, how resilient our crop has become.

After the devastating drought of 2021, conditions were better in 2022, but still far from ideal in many canola-growing areas. And yet, canola yields have returned to normal levels – a testament to the quality of canola genetics and the skill of Canadian farmers.

We know there is still much more room to increase yields and profitability, through both genetic improvements and refinements in crop management. Every advance in technology leads to more possibilities. We’re just beginning to mine the potential of precision agriculture, which is an important focus of this year’s Canola Week discussions.

We are likely to see expanded canola production in certain areas – particularly the brown soil zone of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Because it’s prone to drought and high temperatures, the brown soil zone has not been a traditional canola growing area. But as processing capacity expands nearby, the steady source of canola demand may create more interest from growers in surrounding areas.

Canola could become part of a sustainable, profitable crop rotation in this zone. But first, we need to better understand the opportunities and risks. The researchers, agronomists and growers here today can help us find the answers and we look forward to the discussion on this topic during tomorrow’s agenda.

A second key challenge for our industry is to increase production while contributing to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, our customers – buyers of seed, oil and meal – are interested in our sector’s plans in this area.

Consumers are asking about the carbon intensity of their food, and food companies are seeking out ingredients that meet their expectations. Livestock producers – also important customers – are facing their own environmental pressures, and the feedstuffs they choose can have an impact on the carbon footprint of their entire operation.

As I mentioned earlier, canola is already contributing through the low-carbon-fuels market. And with no-till practices, straight-cutting, precision ag technologies and 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices, growers are constantly innovating in ways that mitigate GHG emissions. As an industry, we can point to sustainable practices throughout the canola lifecycle.

Sustainability, and especially GHG reduction, is something our customer base is talking about and seeking out. It’s imperative that we listen and work with them. 

One of my colleagues had pointed out that if we don’t proactively lead on this as a value chain, we will need to follow a process developed by others, so it’s in our interest to take leadership in this area.

It’s a tall order because it means we need to increase crop yields while also contributing to the global effort around greenhouse gas emissions. But Canadian canola is well-positioned to succeed. Across the value chain, we are united in our commitment to build on this crop’s strong track record of sustainability. And once again, innovation will be the answer.

For this reason, it’s certainly appropriate that precision agriculture is a theme for the week – it is key to increasing production while mitigating GHG emissions.

So as you tuck into discussions this week, please keep these two challenges in mind.

So, in summary: There are so many opportunities ahead for canola, as well as some significant challenges. The key to unlocking all of them is innovation.

Over the next three days, we’ll have some compelling discussions about the latest science and innovation that will promote a vibrant canola industry, and how to get the best possible value from every research dollar. I look forward to hearing the ideas and information all participants will share.

Thank you for being part of this important event.

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