There was no shortage of issues, opportunities and challenges to discuss recently at the half-year mark in our year, and Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) shared these discussions with farmers at our 2018 Summer Meeting.
2018 has been a year of change in agriculture, with some issues continuing to squeeze producers – like grain transportation – and others new on the horizon, like environmental farm plans.
In late-June 2018, AFA Members and others interested in agricultural policy gathered in Camrose, Alberta to participate in discussions about emerging issues that will affect farmers in the coming year. Producer meetings are just one of the ways AFA’s Board stays in touch with what’s important to Alberta farmers.
Transportation and seed
AFA President Lynn Jacobson, who continues to lead the organization in advocating on issues that matter to farmers, says grain transportation is one issue AFA has advocated on for years and is continuing to watch.
“At this point, it doesn’t look like the recent legislation that was passed will put us on equal footing with other industries,” he explains. “The railway still has the ability to ration and prioritize grain shipments. So, that’s an issue we are following very closely as we go forward.”
Another long-time issue for AFA discussed at the Summer Meeting is plant breeders’ rights. It’s a complex issue that has developed from national changes to plant breeders’ rights in 2015. The part of the topic that AFA is looking at is around farm-saved seed and royalty options.
“There doesn’t seem to be consensus in the agriculture community about where to go with it,” notes Jacobson. “We need a lot more discussion with producers if the government is going to change regulations, and the seed sector and commodity groups are going to have to be communicating more about it, too.”
Sustainability in agriculture
During the panel discussion on sustainable agriculture at the AFA Summer Meeting, Jacobson said attendees appreciated learning more about what the marketplace and customers are now demanding from Canadian producers. He says as a result, AFA has become more involved in the process of Environmental Farm Plans (EFP). This is a new area of investigation for AFA, and Jacobson is well positioned in the industry with his board position on a national EFP group.
“As we go down the road of sustainability and consumers and customers want to know what’s in their food and how it has been raised, EFPs are going to be more important,” Jacobson says. “It could get to the point that if you haven’t done an EFP and kept certain records, you may not be able to sell agricultural products to certain segments.”
What’s on the horizon?
Jacobson will join agricultural groups from across Canada at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture ‘Lobby Day 2018’ in Ottawa on October 30. The purpose of the event is to have representatives from across the country share a unified perspective on Canadian agricultural priorities by meeting with MPs and senators from all parties.
These are just a few of the key areas that the AFA Board and Executive is working on to address concerns and opportunities in the agricultural sector. It’s a mission that requires perseverance and political effort, and one that Jacobson feels passionate about.
“It’s important that the voice of the producer is heard,” says Jacobson. “Bringing the views of Alberta farmers to all levels of government is how change happens.”
If you want to know more about AFA and its activities, or for information on becoming an AFA member or our upcoming annual general meeting, visit our website at www.afaonline.ca.