Information Updates: Why we ask for them and what we do with them.

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Producers who are certified with VBP+ (audited) are asked to provide information updates every year. There are some excellent reasons for asking for this information. Some of these reasons relate to how we report aggregated data to our stakeholders, who have a vested interest in the value of VBP+, or some items have a direct reporting function for qualification in supply chain programs, such as the Cargill Certified Sustainable Sourcing program.

First, let us discuss what items for which we request information updates. We regularly ask producers to review and update their contact information. If producers change their name, address, postal code, email, primary phone number, etc., we ask that you update that information. These updates allow us to have the most current information if, for whatever reason, we need to contact you. Remember, we would never share this information with anyone without your permission.

We also ask producers to update their head numbers every year. These numbers are a metric that we provide aggregated (not individual) data to stakeholders. For example, twice per year, we provide the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef with the number of cattle under the management of VBP+ certified operations. This is an impressive number! As of February, there are 1,547,000 head under management. It is important that we have confidence in these numbers when we report, which is why we ask producers to update their numbers every year as we know circumstances change.

We are adding some new information fields, which are of interest to not only stakeholders, but we feel would be of future value to producers participating in VBP+. These information fields pertain to acres under the management of VBP+ certified producers, particularly grazing acres and acres for feed production.

There needs to some clarification about how these fields are defined for the purposes of our reporting. We know that not all information requests fit nicely into simple fields, so what is represented here is how we have determined the definitions so we can clearly articulate what we are reporting.

Let us start with grazing or pasture acres. We have split grazing or pasture acres into native grazing acres and tame grazing acres. These are pasture acres that are grazed, not utilized for forage production, although it is understood that acres, especially tame acres, may be utilized for forage production then grazed. We do not want acres that are used for these dual purposes to be double reported; what we need is the primary use of these acres. These can change from year to year based on conditions, which is why we have added these fields to the annual information update.

Native or naturalized acres can be defined as pasture acres that are unimproved or have been returned to a natural state (naturalized). Unimproved acres are defined as pastures that have not been tilled or direct-seeded. This is a tricky area. It brings up questions on individual scenarios and has been difficult to define previously.  If we leave our definition as acres that have been unimproved or returned to a natural state with natural grass species for 30 years, we can begin to collect this data and potentially contribute to a more concise definition for our whole industry.

Tame or improved acres are defined as acres used for pasture that have been tilled (including direct) and re-seeded utilizing plant or grass species not native to the area. This is an important distinction because it provides information on acres that have been returned to pasture, how often land is returned to a grass rotation and production estimates for improved pasture. Land utilization is an important discussion, and it is, as an industry, in our best interest to collect and report this information as accurately as possible. It is of great value to producers to participate in the VBP+ certification program to show commitment to responsible land management, confirmed by VBP+ certification.

Acres for feed production have been defined as irrigated and dryland acres and include acres utilized for forage (hay) production. Irrigated acres include acres utilized by the operation for grain production, silage production, hay production, etc. Even if the product of these acres is sold as a commodity, it is important to include as they are under the management of a VBP+ operation. Irrigation can be defined by the presence of a water diversion license for irrigation.

Any other acres under the management of the VBP+ operation can be defined under the dryland acres for feed production field. So, acres used for the production of grain, hay, silage, swath grazing, including both annual and perennial crops that are not produced using irrigation. All acres reported can be owned acres, rented acres or leased acres; as long as they are under the management processes and practices verified during certification.

Example of a common information submission from a cow/calf operation
Example of a common information submission from a cow/calf operation

This might seem like a lot of information to gather and report, but there could be substantial potential value to producers who participate in VBP+ certification, so we are proactive in collecting and reporting this data. We are looking forward to the results of the reporting of this aggregated data. What a great story to tell that (estimated) 10,000,000 acres of land are under the management of VBP+ certified producers.

VBP+ represents beef producers across the country at many different levels. Our goal is to ensure that the VBP+ program remains valuable and attainable at a producer level. VBP+ certified producers have a great story to tell, and when we present aggregated information that is accurate to third-party organizations, policy developers, and stakeholders, it is a powerful message.

Are you direct marketing beef from your beef operation?

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Consider VBP+ Certification

Beef is the preferred protein choice for many consumers across Canada. A unexpected positive for many beef producers due to the COVID -19 pandemic is the outreach from consumers to support home-grown and local beef programs. As prevalent on social media, interest in buying local food direct from producers has blossomed and gained momentum. Loyal beef customers don’t question the quality and safety of eating beef but some folks do have concerns about environmental impacts of beef production and animal welfare issues. As a beef producer, there much you can do to assure your customer that your operation is doing everything right in the interest of the consumer and the animals by becoming trained and certified with the VBP+ program.

VBP+ training covers all 5 pillars of sustainable beef production; on-farm food safety, environmental stewardship, animal care, biosecurity, and human resources/community involvement. Taking VBP+ training and becoming certified through an audit is proof you can use to show your customers all aspects of beef production on your farm meets industry standards via third party verification.

VBP+ certification adds value to your unique brand and supports the good practices that you’ve put in place to differentiate your beef product (grass-fed, breed-brand, etc.) Investing in your own product is a huge commitment and VBP+ certification can provide protection of that investment through industry recognized, records and management practice verification and audit.

As a direct-to-market producer, there are many different ways to communicate to your customer about what a VBP+ certification means. VBP+ is has developed a direct to market toolkit to help producers how to effectively communicate about their certification and how to correctly use the VBP+ logo.

You can find the VBP+ Direct Marketer Toolkit and more producer resources at our website: www.verifiedbeef.ca

Click here to download the VBP+ Direct Marketer Toolkit – ENGLISH
Click here to download the VBP+ Direct Marketer Toolkit – FRENCH

Verification Built By Producers, For Producers with the End User in Mind

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My name is Cecilie Fleming and I am a seedstock and cow calf producer from west of Granum, in southwest Alberta. Our operation is a longtime established farmstead surrounded by ranching and feedlot production. Our place consists of farmland, riparian areas, and tame and native grassland ecosystems supporting native species. Is everything perfect on our place? – No. But being a part of Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) as Registered Producers has helped us look inward at our operation to see how we can improve and minimize risk.

I sit as the National Chair of the VBP+ Management Committee, the roll of which is to set policies ensuring the VBP+ program is meaningful and usable for beef producers and delivers value. The management committee consists of national producer representation by Province or Region. VBP+ is something that beef producers in Canada can be proud of as an excellent and affordable tool to help them tell their story of beef sustainability to the world. Continue reading “Verification Built By Producers, For Producers with the End User in Mind”