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Becoming a 4R Designated Agri-Retailer: What’s In It 4R Me?

4R Designation is a voluntary program that allows agri-retailers across Canada to train their staff and align with the sustainability principles of 4R Nutrient Stewardship (Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place®). As a science-based framework for nutrient management, 4R Nutrient Stewardship offers verified best management practices to improve yields and economic returns while reducing impacts to the environment. 

 Agri-retailers are one of a grower’s best sources for information that can be critical to the success of their farm. Offering everything from equipment needs to nutrient management advice, it’s important that an agri-retailer forms a trusted relationship with their grower customers.

For the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS), which is Federated Co-operatives and the retail co-ops together, being a 4R Designated agri-retailer supports their mission to earn and maintain the trusted-advisor status with their customers. The ability to provide scientifically verified nutrient management advice through 4R Nutrient Stewardship improves their grower services and demonstrates a commitment to their customers’ success.

“We want our grower customer to succeed. We care about their business and their sustainability long into the future,” said Trish Meyers, PAg, Certified Crop Advisor and Director of Crop Supplies with Federated Co-op. “That’s why being 4R Designated is so important, to understand the 4Rs and to be able to make recommendations for improvements for the grower customer. It’s part of our guiding star of being a trusted advisor.”

The CRS has been 4R Designated since December of 2017, and has incorporated these services into their new Grown with Purpose™ program. To become 4R Designated, Meyers said the process involved training their team on the 4R framework using Fertilizer Canada’s eLearning courses and signing an attestation to formalize their commitment to informing their growers of 4R Nutrient Stewardship. Since that time, the CRS has grown from four 4R designated agronomists to 55.

“All agronomists want relevant, timely and technical information to share with their growers and that’s what 4R Nutrient Stewardship does,” said Meyers. “It gives them something meaningful to have proactive conversation with their grower about, and provides guidance on nutrient recommendations. It’s a way to provide additional value to our grower customers.”

But beyond the benefits of improved business for both the retailer and the grower, Meyers says there’s a social aspect to consider as well.

“This should be an industry-wide priority. 4R Designation is so important for making recommendations and getting good information to grower customers, and at the end of the day it’s always about the grower customer,” she said. “But larger-picture, there’s an industry issue to address and that’s freedom to operate. We all need to advocate on behalf of the farm customer and the great job they are doing with sustainability. As retailers, we have a place here.”

“Many of our growers in Western Canada are already implementing a lot of the 4R practices, we just haven’t been able to quantify it, verify it and package it up and tell the story,” she added. “4R Designation is a way to do that.”

4R Designation provides a way for agri-retailers to measure implementation of sustainable agriculture practices on acres they manage by submitting them to Fertilizer Canada. Fertilizer Canada’s goal is to count and capture verified acres under 4R Nutrient Stewardship as a way to demonstrate the industry’s commitment to sustainability. Federated Co-op counted 1,000 acres in their first week of 4R Designation, and Meyers says their goal is to count millions.

“What I love about the 4Rs is that it’s a science-based, quantifiable sustainability program that helps build public trust,” she said. “It’s good for the environment and it’s good for farmers. At the end of the day, what’s good for farmers is good for the industry.”

Learn more about 4R Designation at fertilizercanada.ca.