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.”

Proposed royalties on farm-saved seed: what AFA wants you to know

iStock_000006354562MediumConsultations have just begun on proposed royalties to be paid by producers for farm-saved seed. Although this topic has been discussed for some time, an AFA Board member says it’s time for Alberta producers to get involved in the discussion to help craft something that works for them.

AFA’s 1st Vice President and seed grower Keith Degenhardt feels that, at the very least, Alberta crop producers should find out what’s being proposed with these new royalty options. More importantly, he says, producers can participate in the discussion at AFA’s Annual General Meeting in January 2019 and help shape the options before it’s too late.

“Although the discussion centers around plant breeders’ rights legislation, part of the issue is that producers will not have as much flexibility as they’ve had in the past,” says Degenhardt.

Degenhardt explains that revisions to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act in 2015 aligned the Act with the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91), and ‘farmers’ privilege’ was noted as an exception under the legislation. That means when a producer buys certified seed, the production from that seed can be regrown on their own farm to produce subsequent crops, provided that seed is not resold to other producers.

What’s on the table for royalties

The federal government, in conjunction with the seed industry and the Grains Roundtable, is now considering a royalty on farm-saved seed and, to date, has two options in mind. Under an end-point royalty, producers would pay when they deliver and sell grain. The other option is a trailing royalty where producers sign a contract and pay an annual royalty to plant breeders when using farm-saved seed.

AFA has been part of the discussion on Plant Breeders’ Rights for many years. In December, AFA President Lynn Jacobson and Board Member Humphrey Banack participated in a session on value creation models for cereals research and variety development in Canada. Degenhardt points out that at AFA regional meetings late this year, the reaction to these options was mixed, ranging from understanding to firm dislike.

“We heard one producer say they would rather pay more up front and not have their farmers’ privilege affected,” says Degenhardt. “That may be an option, but we don’t know if that increase is enough funding for breeding companies to reinvest in more and newer varieties.”

To Degenhardt, what’s at stake for the industry is that the current seed research and development model in Canada is at risk of being underfunded. He points out the federal government has indicated that money for investment in new seed varieties is not guaranteed. Producers require new seed varieties to continue to fight diseases, address pest pressures and improve traits that allow for better yields and market access. There’s a cost to that, and these new royalty options are an attempt to pay for that seed development.

“The present model is not raising enough dollars,” says Degenhardt. “Plant breeding is like a lottery, where breeders can make crosses, but they don’t always know which will create a superior line or if it will go to the variety stage. It takes years to develop new varieties – up to eight or 10 years.”

AFA-Grains-short.jpg

Producer input urgently needed

Degenhardt recognizes the need to generate more research funding for the plant breeders and keep the Canadian seed industry competitive and producers thriving. Even so, AFA is not certain the two options proposed are the best for producers.

“Producers can say they don’t like these two options and want something else,” Degenhardt explains. “At AFA, we think other methods should be explored with the input of farmers.”

Degenhardt encourages anyone who cares about this issue to attend the AFA Annual General Meeting in Leduc on January 17, 2019, where plant breeders’ rights and the options around creating value for the entire chain will be explored.

AFA President Lynn Jacobson points out in this AFA blog that getting direct input from producers at the AFA AGM is the best way to ensure producers have a say on the issue of royalties for farm-saved seed.

To attend the AFA AGM on January 17, 2019, producers can register here. Anthony Parker, commissioner with the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be there to explain the farm-saved seed proposal. AFA will develop a position on this issue at the AGM, so it’s important that there is good producer representation to add to the discussion.

“On any issue, you’ll never get everyone agreeing on the same thing,” says Degenhardt. “On this issue, producers have to decide if they support research, and if so, do they want to support one of these models or suggest another model?”

Look to AFA’s AGM for information on critical changes in agriculture for 2019

AFA’s Board and Executive will join AFA members and guests in Leduc, Alberta for the organization’s Annual General Meeting on January 16-17, 2019, with an eye toward getting producers’ input on some complex issues facing agriculture today.

AFA-AGM2018-1AFA President Lynn Jacobson points to three issues that currently have the potential to impact producers in a way they may not want. He says it’s not too late for Alberta producers to get involved in these issues, and the AFA AGM is a perfect place to start.

 Updates to Plant Breeders’ Rights legislation

“An issue AFA’s been involved with for about three years is Plant Breeders’ Rights,” says Jacobson. “The federal government is in the consultation phase of implementing changes around royalties paid for farm-saved seed, and it’s very important that producers understand what’s being proposed.”

As Jacobson explains, after years of discussions, the federal government is considering two options for changing seed royalties through either an end-point royalty or a trailing royalty. Although the recommendations came out of discussions with the seed sector and plant breeders, that doesn’t mean these are the only ways forward. Jacobson insists that producers still have a chance to speak out and propose other options, but the time has come to be heard.

“There is an opportunity for other options if producers want that, but they’re going to have to be vocal about it,” explains Jacobson. “If they don’t get involved soon, this will just become a reality they’ll have to live with, without having a say.”

Jacobson points out this is precisely why it’s important for AFA members to attend the organization’s AGM: to be updated on critical developments in agriculture and to have a voice on these kinds of issues.

At the AFA AGM in Leduc on January 17, members will hear presentations on a variety of subjects, and vote on resolutions. Producers in attendance impact policy and opportunities in agriculture for the coming year. That’s because the resolutions agreed upon at the AGM are passed along to policy makers in government and within provincial and national agriculture organizations.

Jacobson says that as a general farm organization, AFA covers issues that touch every part of the industry, from agricultural plastics to grain transportation and seed. He notes two other emerging topics will be discussed at the AGM that he feels should be on Alberta producers’ radar: grain transportation and potential changes to the Canadian Grain Commission.

Bill C-69 and the Trans Mountain Pipeline

iStock_000019270898medThe oil industry isn’t the only one feeling the effects of delays in the Trans Mountain pipeline. Many agriculture groups are concerned that using the railway as an alternative transportation system for crude oil shipments will create undue stress for the agriculture industry, which is already dealing with a filled-to-capacity rail system.

Over the last several years, there have been issues getting agricultural products to market on Canada’s rail system in a timely manner. Bill C-69 introduced by the federal government in February 2018 could cause additional delays that may result in increased traffic on Canada’s railways. AFA wants the interests of the agriculture industry to remain a key part of this conversation. This topic will be explored at the AGM in January 2019.

Canadian Grain Commission changes on the horizon

In early-October 2018, an Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table Report concluded that changes are needed for how the Canadian Grain Commission regulates Canada’s grain industry if the industry is to remain competitive. The report suggested that the Canada Grain Act be ‘modernized’ to remove duplicate services currently performed by the Canadian Grain Commission plus review the wheat class system to take into account market realities.

These recommendations will begin rolling out in 2019. Jacobson notes this issue will be on the AGM agenda so that producers can be made aware of the potential impact of these changes.

 Being an AFA member means producers can create change

AFA invites all interested producers to attend the AGM, but only members can submit and vote on resolutions for these important issues. If a producer wants to help set the priorities and direction for AFA’s policy efforts in 2019, it all begins at the AGM.

Becoming an AFA member is easy – just sign up online here. For producers, the membership cost is only $150 per year, or just over $12 a month, and comes with many benefits. Once you have your AFA membership, register online for the AFA Annual General Meeting on January 17,  2019 in Leduc.

AFA-AGM2018-OneilCarlierThe AGM will include presentations from AFA and industry as well as a provincial update from the Hon. Oneil Carlier, Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. A President’s Reception takes place on the evening of January 16 to kick off the meeting.

Jacobson says AFA would love to see producers of all kinds in attendance at the AGM, whether they grow crops, raise livestock or produce value-added food. Afterall, he points out, if AFA doesn’t hear from those producers affected by these issues, it’s hard to fight for what producers want.

“We sometimes get a low turnout at the AGM, and we often hear farmers are frustrated when they feel changes are made without their input,” notes Jacobson. “This is an opportunity to become a member of our organization, spend the day with us and be part of the change you want to see.”

Join AFA today for great benefits and a voice in AG policy

With benefits that include significant discounts for insurance, vehicles, travel costs and farm safety courses, an AFA membership offers great value for Alberta producers and agribusinesses.

We’ve streamlined our membership pricing, so producers in Alberta pay only $150 a year for an AFA membership, while commodity organizations, non-profits, businesses and/or co-operatives that serve the needs and interests of agricultural producers pay only $500 per year.

Not only will you or your company get access to great benefits, but if you have an interest in shaping agricultural policy in the province, this is the place to be. As an AFA member, you’ll have a chance to vote on policy decisions that impact agriculture and participate in helping to set the direction of our organization each January at our annual general meeting.

AFA Member Benefits

iStock_000010421895MediumCheck out these AFA membership benefits from our corporate partners that – when used – will earn your AFA membership fees back in no time:

  • significant Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA Canada) fleet discounts on new vehicles, which can translate into savings of thousands of dollars
  • enhance your farm insurance coverage from The Co-operators Insurance for a fraction of the retail price
  • AFA members also receive discounts on farm, home and travel insurance from The Co-operators Insurance
  • NEW AFA Travel Discount Program gives members an exclusive worldwide travel discount service, saving you an average of 10-20% below-market price on all hotels and car rental suppliers around the world – anywhere, anytime. We’ll negotiate the best deals and provide a comparison price for you
  • save between 10-20% on St. John Ambulance’s public rates for first aid classes and get a special discount on their ‘Safety on the Farm’ module
  • members receive 10% off purchases made at Mark’s Work Wearhouse

AFA producer members (active or retired commercial agricultural producers, farming partners, or farming corporations) also receive these additional benefits:

  • special consideration for yourself or a family member for AFA’s annual $500 scholarship for post-secondary studies in agriculture or a related field at universities and colleges throughout Alberta
  • a $150 discount on a new one-year Farmers of North America (FNA) membership; a $400 discount on a new three-year FNA membership; a $650 discount on a new five-year FNA membership.

Agriculture Advocacy

AFA has been busy working on many developments in agriculture both provincially and federally this year. We advocate broadly for agriculture, not just for one group or commodity. Whether at the regional, provincial or national level, we represent our members on these producer-related agricultural issues:

  • trade and taxation
  • transportation and infrastructure
  • grain movement, grading and handling
  • plant breeding
  • energy, carbon capture and storage
  • surface rights
  • water-related risk
  • animal care
  • labour and employment standards
  • agricultural safety
  • business risk management

“We’re always looking for new and returning members who are passionate about agriculture,” says Shannon Scofield, Executive Director of AFA. “We are a collaborative organization that wants input from Alberta’s farm and ranch producers, commodity groups, agri-business and anyone who wants to have a say in how agriculture will develop and grow in Alberta and across Canada. There’s never been a better time to become an AFA member.”

AFA AGM- Farm Meeting

Signing up for an AFA membership is easy!

AFA’s annual membership year runs from November 1st to October 31st.  You can join online in minutes or download and print your application form by visiting our website: http://www.afaonline.ca/membership. A summary of benefits is listed below.

AFA Membership grid 2018

From grain transportation to sustainable agriculture. What we’re working on today.

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

iStock_000019270898medAFA 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.”

iStock_000021185812small-crop

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.

 

Helping the next generation of agriculture in Alberta

AFA Scholarship

Do you know a person studying agriculture who would be a good candidate for our Alberta Federation of Agriculture scholarship? If so, encourage them to apply by the August 1, 2018 deadline.

AFA is seeking students who are attending a post-secondary institution in Alberta who want to use their talents to make a contribution to agriculture. The AFA Scholarship annually awards $500 for one student to use towards their studies in a post-secondary agriculture or related program.

To be eligible for the AFA scholarship, an applicant must be:

  • a Canadian Citizen, a Permanent Resident and be an Alberta resident (visa students not eligible)
  • attending a designated post-secondary institution in Alberta
  • enrolled full-time in the second or subsequent year of undergraduate post-secondary study in a program related to the field of agriculture.

AFA Scholarship-womenAFA producer members, their children and grandchildren will be given preference for this scholarship. This is just one benefit to having an AFA membership, but you don’t have to be an AFA member to apply for the scholarship.

Apply by this year’s deadline Wednesday, August 1, 2018 by following this link to the online application. The recipients will be selected based on academic achievement in an agricultural program. AFA members will form the review committee and make the selection.

 AFA scholarship winners

Some of our previous AFA scholarship winners studied at the University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge. We’d love to add your name to the list of winners. Apply today!

Want to give back to agriculture in our province?

Are you a business, group or individual who would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the AFA Scholarship Fund to ensure its sustainability for future years? To donate in the name of the AFA Scholarship, call our AFA head office in Lacombe: 1-855-789-9151.