A qualified crop of advisors

ONTARIO CROP ADVISORS WORK HARD FOR CERTIFICATION

producers are familiar with the value of hiring a crop advisor, but the difference between a Canadian Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and those who do not carry that certification may not be as clear.

Although he acknowledges that crop advisors who aren’t certified can provide excellent service, Andrew Graham, program manager at the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, says that his organization has a high level of confidence in CCAs. He notes that in some planning categories eligible for cost-share through programs associated with the Environmental Farm Plan (Integrated Pest Management Plan, Grazing Management Plan and the Crop Nutrient Plan), “CCAs are listed as a recommended source of expertise that farmers could approach. There’s an expectation from the government that farmers seeking EFP  cost-share funding seek qualified advice.” 

training and education
The CCA program is coordinated by the American Society of Agronomy and administered at the local level by provincial or regional boards consisting of volunteers with academic, governmental and private industry backgrounds in agriculture and natural resources.

To become a CCA, applicants must have up to four years crop advising experience. “The exact amount depends on the advisor’s educational background,” says Craig Chapple, Chair of the CCA Ontario Board of Directors. “For example, if you have a university degree, you require two years of experience.”

Applicants must document both their education and crop advising experience with supporting references and transcripts and pass both a comprehensive national and provincial exam. “These exams evaluate competency in the areas of soil fertility, integrated pest management, crop production and soil and water management,” says Chapple. The exams were created by a team of advisors that includes representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) — such as soil management specialists Adam Hayes and Anne Verhallen and field crops pathologist Albert Tenuta – and others from private sector firms such as Syngenta, Agri-Food Labs and DuPont.

Applicants must also sign and agree to uphold the CCA Code of Ethics, which outlines how to interact with clients, the public and other members as well as how to uphold a duty to the profession. “Once certified, the registrant must complete 40 hours of quality continuing education every two years,” adds Chapple. “We feature an updated list of acceptable courses, field days and symposiums on the website.”

recognizing excellence
Advisors can be nominated by their peers, customers or employer for the ‘CCA Award of Excellence’. The prestigious award is presented to the advisor who has demonstrated exceptional performance. “I’ve been a member of the selection committee for several years and it’s never been easy to choose the winner,” says Chapple. “This award is given at our Annual Conference, an event that provides an opportunity for more than 200 CCAs to share their experiences and hear speakers from nearby and around the world.” 

“As a CCA myself since 1997, what I have personally gained – and which has allowed me to provide better benefits for producers – is the networking opportunities,” Chapple notes. “Through CCA, I’ve forged connections where I can quickly access the diverse knowledge of my colleagues. Many times I have bounced ideas off colleagues before introducing them to clients.” Chapple says being a CCA also provides him with improved learning opportunities. “Since staying certified requires quality continuing education units, OMAFRA and others have really stepped up the quality of the information they provide to meet our needs.”

For more: www.canadiancca.com. •