Could Regenerative Organic and Ecological Incentive Programs work in Ontario?

Organic farmers have tremendous capacity to support a healthy and resilient environment, sequester carbon in soil, and mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Studies have shown that organically-managed soils hold an average of 13 percent more organic matter than conventional cropland and organic farms have higher biodiversity scores. However, while demand for organic is on the rise (organic market share in Canada increased from 1.7% in 2012 to 3.2% in 2019), Ontario organic production is not growing at the same pace. In response, some ecological innovators are exploring new programs and labels in addition to, or instead of, organic certification.

International organic principles and the Canada Organic Standard emphasize the importance of enhancing and sustaining soil health. Regenerative organic agriculture offers specific practices including reduced tillage, longer rotations, cover cropping, and incorporating grazing livestock. The Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) is interested in investigating how we can create better incentives for farms to increase adoption of these regenerative organic practices and communicate these benefits to their customers.

OCO is partnering with Hamilton region farmers and businesses to explore the potential of new “beyond organic” verification programs through interviews, focus groups, surveys and virtual farm tours. Programs that will be explored include the Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) by the Savory Institute, the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) by the Regenerative Organic Alliance and Rodale Institute and the Soil Carbon Initiative by The Carbon Underground, among others.

This project will evaluate and assess whether these programs are practical and helpful for farmers, and what incentives and benefits are available. Focus groups will help to identify potential barriers or issues small and large scale producers may face while participating in these programs, and potential solutions will be reported in the study. 

OCO will also conduct surveys exploring whether these labels are a useful indicator for eaters and retailers, and if they will improve consumers’ ability to purchase products that offer climate-focused solutions. 

Stay tuned for our regenerative agriculture blog series, webinars and interactive videos that will explore regenerative practices, benefits, and programs.

The larger goal of this project is to provide recommendations for a program that incentivizes all farmers to build soil carbon at a faster rate and adopt regenerative organic practices.

For those interested in participating in this project please email: [email protected]. This project is funded through the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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