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.
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.