Carbon, technology and sustainability discussed at AFA’s 2020 AGM and Conference

At the AFA Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Nisku on January 21 and 22, 2020, producers, industry partners, students and representatives from several agricultural organizations gathered together to discuss current issues facing Alberta producers. The following is a recap of the meeting.

Sustainability actions spearheaded in the province

Speaker Tom Lynch-Staunton, Chair of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) Scientific Advisory Committee  and Policy Manager for Alberta Beef Producers, spoke passionately about the activities the CRSB has undertaken to share the message of sustainable beef, set up a framework for certification, working with farm and ranch operators to become certified, the food retailers they are working closely with, and more.

Tom Lynch-Staunton

Tom Lynch-Staunton on the CRSB sustainability activities.

Tom also shared the current projects the CRSB is working on including species at risk on agricultural lands and consumer perceptions of beef sustainability. “People like the concept of sustainability,” Tom said. “It makes sense to them and that’s a good sign for us.” Find out more about the CRSB here https://youtu.be/9ktl0ZYRmE4.

Ted Menzies

Ted Menzies with information from the CRSC.

Speaker Ted Menzies presented on behalf of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops and expressed the need for a Code of Practice for cereals, oilseeds and special crops to establish a baseline to show what crop producers are doing is sustainable in improving air, water and soil quality.

Currently, there is no baseline Code of Practice for crops to show consumers and customers, and participation in sustainable practices by producers is voluntary. This crops Code of Practice would be complementary to other programs like Environmental Farm Plans. “We grow some of the most sustainable crops in the world,” Ted said, “but we need to talk about the ways we do that. It’s about proving what we are already doing is right.”

Ben and Guardians

Ben Wilson, filmmaker, shares his perspectives on storytelling in agriculture.

We were pleased to screen the new documentary Guardians of the Grasslands and have one of the film’s creators, Ben Wilson of Story Brokers Media House, with us to share his advice on the best ways to tell stories in agriculture. “Storytelling without a strategy is just monologuing,” Ben said. He stressed the importance of two-way engagement with audiences and shared ways to do that. While the documentary has not yet been made public, Ben encouraged anyone who wants to privately screen Guardians of the Grasslands can reach out to them on their website. https://guardiansofthegrasslands.ca

Dr. Bork

Dr. Edward Bork discusses the effects of grazing on soil carbon.

After seeing the inspiring documentary about grasslands, a natural follow up was the discussion from Dr. Edward Bork, Mattheis Chair, Rangeland Ecology & Management with the University of Alberta. Dr. Bork and his team are studying the role of grasslands in carbon storage and looking at the effects of grazing on soil carbon. He presented the many benefits of grasslands to society and said they are investigating whether adjusting grazing management practices can increase carbon storage and pointed out that these gains may have economic value for producers.

Update and directions from Canadian Farm Leaders

Leaders Panel

L-R: Todd Lewis, Mary Robinson & Lynn Jacobson. Humphrey Banack (background) moderated.

Our Canadian Farm Leaders Panel spoke about issues of importance in Canadian agriculture. Mary Robinson, President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), Todd Lewis, President of the Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan (APAS) and Lynn Jacobson, AFA President, shared their thoughts on carbon tax, environmental stewardship, farm labour and opportunities in Canadian agriculture, with AFA Director Humphrey Banack moderating.

Questions from the audience included issues dealing with deadlines for mandatory entry-level training (MELT), farm labour shortages, how agriculture can speak with a common voice, and more. Later in the afternoon, CFA President Mary Robinson updated  us about the advocacy CFA is undertaking on behalf of Canadian producers to ensure Canadian agriculture thrives. She shared activities on Business Risk Management, farm labour, grain transportation, rural infrastructure and more.

Students

Lakeland College students hear about agriculture policy from Bob Friesen.

While the Canadian Farm Leaders Panel was underway, student attendees from the Lakeland College Agribusiness Marketing and Livestock program enjoyed a break out session and workshop on agriculture policy with expert Bob Friesen.

AgSat: a new tool for Canadian producers offered by AFA and Aquanty

Aquanty-Steve

Steve Frey from Aquanty on the new AFA-Aquanty online tool AgSat.

An important part of sustainability is the ability to use digital tools to help make decisions on the farm. AFA AGM attendees got an update on the development of AgSat, the new remote sensing platform owned by AFA and designed by Aquanty that provides producers with access to important essential data for their land at an accessible price.

Today, Canadian farm producers are using field and production data more than ever before to manage their operations. Producers have access to a wide variety of data and precision farming services, but these services can be complex and require a consultant to interpret or use the information on the farm. While AgSat doesn’t compare to these types of services on a feature-by-feature basis, AgSat does provide entry level access to satellite, mapping and weather-related information, putting these tools in the hands of producers for a much smaller investment.

“There’s a digital revolution going on in agriculture right now, with many companies providing valuable products and services to producers,” says Lynn Jacobson, AFA President. “We don’t want farm size and finances to be barriers that keep some producers from participating. AgSat will be of value and within financial reach of any producer, that’s why AFA and Aquanty are working on this new tool together.”

Agriculture policy resolutions and debates

Grace MacGregor Board Update

Grace MacGregor shares the AFA Board Update just before AGM resolutions get underway.

The AGM is also a time for AFA members to propose, debate and vote on resolutions that deal with issues that affect Alberta farm producers. During the AGM, members discussed, voted on and passed the following resolutions:

Carbon Offset: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA approach the Minister of Environment and Parks to request that the 40% compliance cap be removed for Alberta agriculture such that producers can continue to participate in the Protocol and have their carbon sinks recognized nationally and internationally even up to 100% compliance.

Carbon Footprint of Beef Production: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA caution the uncritical acceptance of claims made about the carbon footprint of beef production and urge the scientific evaluation of beef production systems including the use of land not so suitable for grain production.

Crop Insurance: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA approach AFSC to request that the lack of moisture program be extended to cover forages and combine-able crops.

Tree Planting Incentives: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA, through CFA, approach the federal departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture and Agri-Food in support of tree planting and to suggest that financial incentives be offered to agricultural producers to plant shelterbelts and other trees and for the maintenance of existing natural treed areas.

Grain Drying: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA, through CFA, petition the Government of Canada to exempt propane and natural gas used in grain drying from the carbon tax.

Canadian Grain Commission: BE IT RESOLVED that through CFA, AFA campaigns to ensure that the updated Canada Grain Act clearly states the CGC mandate is to work in the interest of grain producers.

Food Awareness: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA, through CFA, seeks avenues to raise awareness within government and the general population of the relationship between agricultural production and food, and that the Canada Food Policy needs to address food security, sustainability and sovereignty in terms of agricultural production, as well as food safety.

Family Farms: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA, through CFA seek avenues to raise awareness within government and the general population of the role of the family farm in providing benefits to the Canadian public as a whole.

Carbon Tax: BE IT RESOLVED that CFA encourage the federal government to recognize agriculture’s ability to sequester carbon by the following methods:

  1. Establish a national program such that carbon emitters and sequesters, including agricultural producers, can trade carbon credits, and
  2. Allow agricultural producers to offset any carbon tax they may have to pay by carbon credits earned.

Farm Employee Insurance: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA campaign the provincial government to reconsider allowing farm operations not to carry insurance on non-family employees and instead make insurance mandatory for all workers.

Payment Protection Fund: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA urge the CGC to establish a pool payment protection fund similar to that currently in place with the Alberta Farm Implement Board, such that all licensed grain traders pay an annual proportionate levy into the pool to ensure that producers are adequately protected against payment default of grain traders.

Seed Value Creation Model: BE IT RESOLVED That Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada immediately withdraw further consideration of the two proposed seed royalty models as presented and, in consultation with agricultural producers, only proceed with changes to plant breeder’s rights and crop development funding models that result in a system that: 

  • Maintains and enhances public research, development and finishing of new varieties;
  • Preserves or enhances current public funding for agricultural research;
  • Is transparent with producer involvement;
  • Maintains the privilege and unencumbered use of farm saved seed;
  • Is administered in a fair and equitable manner;
  • Ensures Canadian producers can maximize their returns in a world marketplace.

Roll Over of Farm Assets: BE IT RESOLVED that CFA advocate for reforms to the tax system that would allow roll over of farm assets to extended family entrants or non-family entrants.

AFA delegates also re-confirmed the AFA Board of Directors and Executive for 2020 with Lynn Jacobson, Keith Degenhardt and Grace MacGregor all staying on as President, 1st and 2nd Vice President respectively. AFA’s leadership team will continue to engage in vital policy advocacy alongside Canada’s provincial and national farm organizations.

Lynn JacobsonTo Jacobson, the conference speakers and resolutions discussed at the AGM reflect top concerns of producers right now. He believes that sustainability should not be viewed too narrowly.

“Our conference theme this year was sustainability and it’s important to remember that financial sustainability is part of the mix as we look at ways to enhance farming practices, land and environmental management and production sustainability in the future,” Jacobson said.

AFA 2020 Board-Jan 23-small

AFA 2020 Board of Directors
(Back) L-R Bruce Burnstad, Graham Gilchrist, Humphrey Banack, Kerry Degenhardt
(Front) Grace MacGregor, Lynn Jacobson, Keith Degenhardt

Members and non-members alike invited to AFA’s 2020 Conference & AGM

AFA-Room & LynnAFA’s Board and Executive is mixing it up this year by asking both AFA members and non-members to join them in Nisku, Alberta for the organization’s annual Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) on January 21 & 22, 2020.

To bring Alberta producers up-to-date on industry developments – like seed royalty proposals, soil carbon, crop and beef sustainability and more – AFA’s Conference & AGM will begin with a first-day emphasis on information sharing and agricultural learning, with official AGM business taking place the second day.

All Alberta producers – whether they are AFA members or not – can attend their choice of one or both days for a fuller understanding of Alberta’s current agriculture policy landscape, key issues AFA is working on, and how individual producers can help shape policy.

“We’re changing the format of our AGM by placing the information sessions on one day and the AGM business on the second day,” says Lynn Jacobson, AFA president. “We want to encourage members and non-members alike to come have a dialogue, discuss the issues that impact us all and be part of the solutions going forward.”

Here are just a few of the speakers that will present on the first day of the AGM:

  • Edward Bork, Professor of Agricultural Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta, will present on soil carbon and the impact of grazing
  • Ted Menzies, Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops, will present on sustainability in our industry
  • Filmmakers Sarah Wray and Ben Wilson wil show their award-winning documentary Guardians of the Grasslands and talk about cracking the code of stroytelling in agriculture
  • other topics will include presentations on sustainable beef, a Western Farm Leaders Panel on seed royalties and an update on AFA’s development of a remote sensing platform.

Sneak peek at new AFA-Aquanty remote sensing platform

AFA has partnered with Aquanty, a company that specializes in computer simulation technology, to offer Canadian producers an exciting new online tool. This tool will provide producers with a low-cost option for accessing remote sensing and terrestrial sensor data plus several ground-measured characteristics for their farm in one easy-to-use online platform.

AFA Conference & AGM attendees will be among the first producers to get a detailed look at the current development of this new online tool, the type of information that farmers can access and information on when the tool will be available.

startup-593327_1920Currently in Canada, there are commercially available, subscription- or fee-based remote sensing and drone-based data products which can add to the wealth of information for producers. Often, however, specialized software and data-management specialists are required to understand and use the raw data. Producers can subscribe to data feeds from agri-tech service providers, often on a per acre basis, and the cost of this can really add up.

While AgSat doesn’t compare to these types of services on a feature-by-feature basis, AgSat does provide an entry level access to the farm data revolution and gives all producers data essentials for farm decision-making. For a modest yearly investment, the new AFA-Aquanty tool will help farm producers make informed decisions on weather, moisture and other characteristics that impact a farm’s bottom line. This lower-cost tool aligns with AFA’s mandate to bring benefits to all producers, regardless of their size and ability to pay for more expensive satellite options.

 Updates to seed royalty proposals and survey

An important issue AFA and our partner general farm organizations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have been involved in since our last AGM is the federal government’s proposed changes for royalties on farm-saved seed.

“Western Canadian producers that took a survey this fall said they are not happy with either of the federal government’s proposed models,” Jacobson noted. “At the AGM, we’ll share the survey results and discuss how we move forward to make sure producers are consulted in any options that may be put forward.”

For more background on the seed royalty issue, see our news release here.

Have a say in agriculture’s most pressing issues

Jacobson points out that the seed royalty issue, first discussed at the 2019 AFA AGM, is just one example of why it’s important for Alberta producers and AFA members to attend the AGM: to be updated on critical developments in Canadian agriculture and to ensure their voice is heard.

At the 2020 AFA AGM on January 22, members will hear presentations and vote on a variety of resolutions. AFA members can propose a resolution for the AGM by sending an email to info@afaonline.ca by January 13, 2020. Non-members can attend the AGM to listen to the discussions, but producers must be a member to vote on the proposed resolutions.

Membership in AFA costs only $150 per year – or just over $12 a month – and comes with a wide variety of benefits, as outlined on our website.

AFA-Board Report2Producers attending the AFA AGM directly impact policy in agriculture for the year ahead since the resolutions agreed upon at the AGM are shared with policy makers in government and within provincial and national agriculture organizations.

Jacobson says AFA wants to see producers from all sectors at the AGM, whether they grow crops, raise livestock or produce value-added food. He points out that if AFA doesn’t hear from producers, it’s hard to fight for what they want.

“Sometimes, producers don’t attend an AGM because they aren’t sure how they fit into these activities if they’re not that involved,” explains Jacobson. “Whether you’re interested in the speakers and the topic areas, or if you’re interested in being a non-voting observer at our AGM, you are more than welcome to be involved in this meeting to find out more about what we’re focused on today.”

There is a cost to attend the first day of the AGM, which includes a pre-event President’s Reception from 7 pm to 9 pm on January 20, plus breakfast, lunch, dinner and sessions on January 21. Attendance at the January 22 AGM from 8:30 am to noon is free to all. To attend, register here.

“We hope producers take this opportunity to attend the presentations and the AGM, spend a few days with us and see what agriculture policy is all about,” says Jacobson. “We invite all Alberta producers to be part of the change they want to see.”

Federal election issues AFA is watching

As we move towards the October 21, 2019 election in Canada, many pressing issues are on the minds of Alberta farmers and growers across Canada. AFA is working to ensure agriculture remains a high priority topic among politicians and candidates in the upcoming federal election.

Along with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and Canada’s provincial general farm organizations, we are monitoring these key agriculture issues for the next federal election.

Market access and trade

There are significant market challenges facing Canada’s agriculture sector in 2019. With the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) signed but still not fully ratified, there’s uncertainty around this renegotiated NAFTA trade deal. Urgent challenges persist for Canadian producers who are feeling the impacts of closures in key international markets, especially with China.

Canada’s farm organizations are advocating for reform of the federal government’s business risk management programs to make them more responsive to farmer needs. Stability is needed in our sector so producers can sustain their operations and continue to invest in the future.

Grain transportation

train-1391314_1920This issue has long been a focus of AFA’s advocacy efforts, and it continues to be top-of-mind with the 2019 harvest underway. Canada’s rail transportation system is still struggling to meet the increased demand of grain movement and this trickles down to create costly delays for Canada’s farmers.

With the Alberta government considering contracting private companies to move the province’s oil by rail, AFA continues to advocate for farmers to ensure rail traffic will not adversely affect those already experiencing issues with getting grain to port.

Proposed changes to seed royalties

Late in 2018 and early in 2019, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency held a series of public meetings to gauge feedback on two proposed models of collecting royalties on farm-saved seed. Now, with the upcoming federal election, the government consultation process is on hold.

Our previous blog discusses this issue in detail.

To allow producers to have input on the proposed changes before the federal government consultations resume, AFA, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and the Keystone Ag Producers of Manitoba have created an online survey for producers. The survey www.seedroyaltysurvey.com is open until mid-October.

AFA recognizes that fall is a busy time for Alberta farmers, but we encourage as many producers as possible complete the survey to make sure their input is included in this important discussion. More here.

Seeking candidates’ positions on agriculture

PPiC Debate Promo - participant picsTo get the perspectives of each federal party on agriculture, the CFA is hosting the AG Leaders’ Debate on Tuesday, September 24, 2019.

The theme of the Debate centers around CFA’s national advocacy campaign, Producing Prosperity in Canada www.producingprosperitycanada.ca. See our previous blog here.

Debate questions will focus on the three main benefits agriculture brings to the Canadian economy: Food Security, Environmental Stewardship and Economic Growth. Participants will not have the questions in advance but have been informed of the theme of the debate.

Public distribution of the debate will be through CFA’s Facebook and YouTube channels at 7:00PM EST on Tuesday, September 24.

Debate participants include:

  • Marie-Claude Bibeau/Liberal
  • Luc Berthold/CPC
  • Alistair MacGregor/NDP
  • Kate Storey/Green Party

AFA: advocating for all sectors in agriculture

As the province’s general farm organization, AFA is focused on issues in all sectors of the agriculture industry, from crop production, livestock management, value-added food production and more. Our mandate has remained constant through the years: to work for the benefit of all farmers, ranchers and/or agricultural enterprises and give them a voice in shaping the future of Alberta’s dynamic agricultural industry.

“There is no shortage of issues when it comes to agriculture and policy,” says AFA president Lynn Jacobson. “AFA’s priority is to ensure Alberta producers are kept informed about these important election issues and that we’re advocating on their behalf on the subjects that matter most to them.”

Farm organizations seeking producer input on seed royalties

Seed royalty survey SM graphic 3Western Canadian farm organizations want to hear from Canadian producers on proposed changes to seed royalty structures for cereal crops. A new online survey launched today to get their input.

Over the past year, AFA has worked closely with general farm organizations including Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) to review the existing models proposed by the government.

Upon review of the models presented to date, AFA and other farm organizations feel there are several issues not addressed in the current proposals. In farm organization meetings, an area of significant antagonism for producers has been for proposed royalties on farmer-saved seed.

Although Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency held a series of public meetings this past winter to gauge feedback on the two proposed models, the government consultation process is currently on hold.

“The creation of a new seed royalty model for cereal crops will mean significant changes for producers when it comes to the issue of farmer-saved seed. Further exploration and consultation is absolutely critical to ensure that the interests of Canadian producers are reflected in any resulting model.”

– Lynn Jacobson, AFA President.

Online survey to capture farm producer input before government consultations

AFA, KAP and APAS want to hear from a greater number of farm producers on the proposed changes before the government consultations resume later this year. Producers can make their voice heard by taking a few minutes to complete the online survey here:

https://www.seedroyaltysurvey.com/

“Producers certainly weren’t satisfied with the level of engagement and consultation that went into the development of the two models currently under consideration,” said Todd Lewis, APAS President. “We want to make sure that producers stay on top of these discussions and have their voice heard throughout the process.”

In June, APAS, KAP and AFA presidents, board members and staff met in Regina for an in-depth discussion on cereal seed royalties. They explored a model that addresses several principles believed to be fundamental to any approved model, to ensure it reflects the interests of Canadian producers.

These principles, which received near unanimous support from farmer delegates across Canada, require that any value creation model must achieve the following outcomes:

  • Maintain and enhance public research, development and finishing of new varieties;
  • Preserve or enhance current public funding;
  • Be transparent with producer involvement;
  • Maintain the privilege of farmer-saved seed;
  • Incorporate systems that are administered in a fair and equitable manner; and
  • Ensure producers can remain competitive in the world marketplace.

Our analysis of the existing proposals for seed models that utilize a trailing royalty and/or an end point royalty shows that these current proposals fall short of meeting the principles outlined above.

That’s why our prairie farm organizations are reaching out to farmers to see what they think.

More input sought from producers

It’s the belief of AFA and our prairie farm organization colleagues that anything that has such a substantial impact on farmers must engage farmers in the process before the creation and approval of a new model.

With the current government consultation process on hold, we’re making it easy for farm producers to have their voice heard by taking the online survey at: https://www.seedroyaltysurvey.com/

“It is crucial that we hear from farmers and producers on the two new proposed models, because consultation with those who are directly affected ultimately leads to better decision making,” Bill Campbell, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers said. “Our hope is that producers will take the time to get involved in this process and ensure their needs are met under a new royalty structure.”

For more information, read our AFA news release here.

A prosperous agriculture industry benefits us all

vegetables-pixabystockCanadians live in a country where local food is plentiful, the food quality is outstanding and there is a strong agricultural community working to ensure our food is accessible and abundant.

In addition, the Canadian agricultural industry is a huge engine for growth and prosperity for our country and our citizens. This kind of prosperity doesn’t just happen by chance. It comes about through hard-working farm and ranch owners, a strong agricultural workforce, and an industry committed to efficiency, technology and a robust national food policy.

To highlight the many benefits of agriculture to the lives of Canadians and the economy, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is spearheading an advocacy campaign Producing Prosperity in Canada. This initiative is supported by Canada’s provincial general farm organizations, like AFA, who work to provide a unified voice and advocate for Canadian farmers at all levels of government.

General farm organizations are non-partisan and represent producers of all commodities. These farm families operate farms and ranches from coast-to-coast producing blueberries, beef, chicken, pork, wheat, barley, canola, chickpeas, lentils, honey, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, corn, sugar beets and so much more.

The goal of the Producing Prosperity in Canada campaign is to identify Canadian agriculture as a sector that benefits all of Canada and to show that investments made in agriculture have far-reaching impacts in economic growth, food security and environmental stewardship. Here are just a few ways agriculture contributes, and why investments in this industry will be key for a prosperous future.

Economic growth

Canadian agriculture is a significant employer of skilled labour, with the agriculture and agri-food sectors accounting for one in eight jobs in 2014 and employing around 2.3 million people. Agriculture drives our national economy through job opportunities, tax revenues and rural economic development. In 2016 alone, Canada’s value exports in this sector totaled $56 billion and generated nearly $112 billion, or 6.7% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP).

cereal-1866559_1920

Food security

Canadians enjoy one of the most diverse offerings of food and value-added products in the world. This post from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada calls agriculture “a colossal contributor to the lives of all Canadians”. Along with feeding Canadians, our country’s agricultural products, foods and beverages can be found around the globe, as shown here.

Our Canadian food system is known for its safe, high-quality food, produced in an efficient and affordable manner. Canadians spend less than most other countries on groceries and have an amazing variety of locally and nationally grown foods at their fingertips.

AgMoreThan Ever Cdn Ag

Environmental stewardship

Agricultural lands contribute to our environment in many ways from fresh water and clean air, to erosion control and climate regulation. Rural farms are also a haven for wildlife and contribute to diverse habitats such as prairie grasslands, riparian areas and wetlands.

The many advances in agricultural land management practices over the last three decades – and improvements to modern farm equipment – have contributed to considerable gains in soil quality and the reduction of carbon emissions.

Government representatives, academics and the industry continue to work together to invest in plant science, research and technologies that help farmers grow more crops on less land, while reducing their carbon footprint. Advancements in technology help improve water use efficiency, harness solar and wind power and create new seed varieties that are resistant to drought, diseases and other pests.

duck-pixabystockHow you can help

CFA has created a website of resources, including videos, infographics and a pledge form to help spread the word about Producing Prosperity in Canada. Please feel free to use the resources to help build awareness and spread the word on this important topic. https://producingprosperitycanada.ca/

“The three pillars of economic growth, food security and environmental stewardship are the building blocks of a prosperous future for us all,” says Lynn Jacobson, AFA President. “We look forward to working with CFA and our partner farm organizations to meet with political representatives and candidates to remind them of the importance of agriculture as we move towards a federal election.”

English Infographic

AFA ensures agriculture stays top-of-mind during election and beyond

AFA advocates on behalf of Alberta farmers to keep agriculture a high priority among candidates, politicians and policymakers in Alberta and across Canada.

RailwayAs we move towards the April 16, 2019 election in Alberta, there are many issues on the minds of Alberta farmers. Many of these challenges not only affect Alberta farmers, but producers and growers across Canada. As the province’s general farm organization, AFA is focussed on issues in all sectors of the industry, from crop production, livestock management, value-added food production and more.

Here are just some of the current agriculture issues we’re staying on top of for our farm members.

AFA discusses canola market access with Minister of International Trade Diversification

AFA was pleased to join with Alberta Canola and other members of Canada’s canola value chain to meet with the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification on April 11, 2019 to discuss the issue of market access for canola seed into China.

Challenges persist for canola producers in Alberta, and across the country, as China continues its ban on Canadian canola seed. With China accounting for 40% of canola exports, farmers will now have to make difficult seeding decisions for the 2019 crop season with this growing uncertainty looming on the horizon.

“We were very happy to be at the table and afforded the opportunity to meet with Minister Carr and other colleagues within the industry to discuss this critical issue,” said Humphrey Banack, director of AFA. “It’s no secret that China represents a huge piece of our canola export market, so it’s good to see our government working quickly to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

Learn about Minister Carr’s three-pronged approach discussed in our meeting on April 11, 2019 here.

AFA Director speaks to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future

AFA Director Humphrey Banack spoke with the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future on March 14, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta. The discussion served to share the potential impacts on agriculture of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

“While some beneficial results were achieved for some sectors within agriculture, we are well aware that others will be hurt by some of the concessions included in this new trade deal,” Banack says.

For the full transcript of the meeting and to read the presentation given by Humphrey Banack, click here.

Bill 6, the WCB and farm labour: how much of an issue is it?

When it comes to Bill 6, the farm and ranch workplace legislation, there are different approaches being proposed among leaders of each political party that include repealing it, changing or enhancing it or keeping it as is. AFA President Lynn Jacobson feels that after early pressure from farm groups several years ago, the government did consult with farmers prior to implementing the final legislation, and that a lot of the initial negative reaction has now settled down as discussed in this article.

Despite the WCB injury claims being on the rise in 2018, other farm leaders, like Jody Wacowich, executive director of AgSafe Alberta, feels the reason for a higher number of claims could be attributed to increased knowledge and enrollment numbers. More here.

How will shipping oil by rail affect grain movement?

Grain transportation has long been a focus of AFA’s advocacy, as new cropping seasons and pressures bring new challenges getting grain to port. With the latest government proposal to move oil by rail, AFA is back advocating for farmers to ensure that any solution to solve the oil and gas backlog will not adversely affect farmers already experiencing issues with rail transportation.

“The railways and government have given assurances, but we won’t really know how it all plays out until the trains start moving,” AFA President Lynn Jacobson said. Read more on this issue here.

AFA helps craft an extension for farmers with new driver training requirements

TransportationWhen the government announced plans to implement driver training for new Class 1 and Class 2 commercial drivers on March 1, 2019, AFA heard from our farm members that the short notice for this new requirement right before the 2019 cropping season would put undue stress on their operations.

AFA voiced this concern and was invited to be part of the Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) working group that successfully pushed for an extension for farmers/farm workers on MELT training for Class 1 licences. While farmers still need to meet the new MELT standards, farmers and farm workers will have until November 30, 2019 to apply for an extension to comply with the MELT program for new commercial drivers. More information and the application for extension here.

For 2019 and beyond, AFA will continue its work on improving grain transportation, value creation for varietal research, grain contracting, and other priorities outlined at our January 2019 Annual General Meeting.

If you want to participate in these policy decisions and have your voice heard, become an AFA member today by visiting our website at http://www.afaonline.ca/membership.

Producers meet to debate changes facing agriculture at AFA’s 2019 AGM

AFA-Room & LynnAt the AFA Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Leduc on January 17, 2019, producers, industry partners and representatives from several agricultural organizations gathered together to discuss current issues facing Alberta producers like grain transportation, carbon sequestering, public trust and farm labour.

Farm-saved seed proposal a highlighted issue at the AGM

In addition to these issues, a special panel was assembled to explore in greater detail the new proposed varietal funding models for farm-saved seed in Canada. The federal government, in conjunction with the seed industry and the Grains Roundtable, have proposed two models for a royalty on farm-saved seed – either an end-point royalty or a trailing royalty.

Attendees at the AFA AGM heard more about the background of these two royalty options, how other countries are handling funding for new seed varieties, and specifics about what is being proposed. Producers heard from a panel of experts including Holly Mayer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Todd Hydra with SeCan, Dr. Richard Gray with University of Saskatchewan and Kevin Bender, Chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission.

 “The issue of royalties on seed is one piece of policy our organization has been watching and working on for years,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson, who farms near Enchant. “Recently, new consultations and proposed changes have moved it into the spotlight for us and for many Canadian crop producers. At the AGM, we brought in these presenters to help explain what the changes are, how the current options were arrived at and what’s next for this issue.”

Jacobson explained that AFA’s Board of Directors had been hearing from producers that more consultation was wanted on this issue, with the hope that different options around royalties on farm-saved seed could be explored.

At the AGM, Holly Mayer confirmed that there have been no final decisions made on the two proposed options currently on the table for farm-saved seed, and that producers still have an opportunity to share their thoughts on this issue at meetings like the AFA AGM.

AFA-Seed Panel

AFA Seed Panel “Seed For Thought: An Examination of Canada’s Crop Varietal Research Funding”. L-R Kevin Bender with Alberta Wheat, Todd Hyra with SeCan, Holly Mayer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Richard Gray with University of Saskatchewan and AFA moderator Director Humphrey Banack.

Provincial update from Alberta’s Agriculture Minister

The Hon. Oneil Carlier, Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, attended the meeting and provided a provincial update for the producers at the meeting.

Oneil Carlier then met with Lakeland College agricultural students for a break out question-and-answer ‘bear pit’ session with discussions covering a wide range of topics including preserving grassland, the carbon tax, Alberta’s offset protocols, energy efficiency programs, rural crime and more.

Resolutions and debate on advocacy issues

The AGM is also a time for AFA members to propose, debate and vote on resolutions that deal with issues that affect Alberta farm producers.

AFA-Board ReportDuring the AGM, members discussed, voted on and passed the following resolutions:

AFA will explore alternative proposals for funding varietal research: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA work with like-minded farm organizations and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) to develop alternative proposals for funding varietal research that will be equitable and satisfactory to both producers and seed varietal breeders but that will ensure a strong public varietal research presence.

AFA will press for renewed funding for a tree nursery program: BE IT RESOLVED that AFA, through CFA, continue to pressure the Federal Government to restore funding for a tree nursery program.

AFA will advocate for compensation to producers for historical carbon sequestering: BE IT RESOLVED that Canada incorporate into the National Inventory the historic efforts of Canadian farmers in reducing carbon emissions and storing carbon by identifying and incorporating these incremental changes subsequent to 1990.

AFA will recommend a regulation change for Fusarium head blight in Alberta: BE IT RESOLVED that Fusarium head blight be removed from the Agricultural Pest Act in Alberta and be placed under the Agricultural Pest and Nuisance Control Regulations.

AFA will assist in the development of a standardized Canadian grain contract: BE IT RESOLVED that the AFA supports the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan in their effort to develop a standardized grain contract.

AFA delegates also re-confirmed the Board of Directors for another year, with a mandate to continue engagement on their vital policy advocacy alongside Canada’s provincial and national farm organizations on matters such as agricultural plastics recycling, farm labour solutions, trade agreements and more.

AFA-Lynn WrapAs Alberta’s general farm organization, one of AFA’s areas of expertise is agricultural policy. AFA’s President Jacobson says that’s why it’s important to discuss these issues at the AGM and set the direction for the coming year.

“We deal with concerns that impact a wide range of issues for farmers and ranchers in the province,” he says. “We will continue to raise the awareness on these issues and challenges to make sure our Alberta producers have a voice in these important policy decisions.”