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.”

Your chance to spend some time on the farm this summer

AFA-Banack Open Farm Days Tent

Open Farm Days visitors learn about, and see, the grains grown on the Banack farm.

Consumers continue to be tremendously interested in how their food is grown. Getting farm producers and consumers together is one of the goals of Alberta’s Open Farm Days. This annual event provides an important connection for rural producers and their urban neighbours.

Open Farm Days also continues to be a popular event for farm producers, with a 28% increase in host farm participation when compared to last year. For 2016, a total of 90 host farms will provide real-world farm experiences for visitors on Sunday, August 21.

Once again, our Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Vice President, Humphrey Banack and his family will be participating as a host farm. Humphrey and wife Terry Banack will welcome visitors to their Camrose-area homestead and will provide information and demonstrations for those who attend.

“Open Farm Days is a very important event in Alberta,” says Humphrey Banack. “People come with questions and a real open interest in agriculture. Traceability and social license are hot topics for today’s consumer, and Open Farm Days allows us to have that important conversation with members of the public.”

8-AFA-Banack Open Farm DaysHumphrey and Terry say that Open Farm Days lets them provide visitors with a ‘mini-adventure’ with a hands-on look at how food is produced nearby in Alberta communities. This year, the Banacks hope to take visitors out harvesting and send them home with a bag of peas straight from the field that they can use in recipes at home. Check out this video for more information.

Host farms that offer Open Farm DaysFarm Experiences” showcase a wide range of farm businesses including honey and berry farms, petting zoos, flower farms, plus more traditional agricultural enterprises like livestock, crop and vegetable farms.

Open Farm Days also includes farm-to-table “Culinary Experiences” taking place on August 20 and 21. These events feature local chefs and producers that team up to provide unique field dinners, brewery tasting tours, cowboy gatherings and barbecues. Most of these events require ticket purchases in advance. Information can be found at http://www.albertafarmdays.com/.

“We understand how important it is to connect with the consumers of our product,” Banack says. “Open Farm Days gives us the opportunity to allow visitors to see exactly what we do, where we fit into their food system and how we are part of what they put on their tables everyday.”

This AFA video taken during Alberta’s 2015 Open Farm Days event on the Banack Homestead shows what visitors can expect from a farm visit.

We encourage you to make this fun event part of your summer plans!

Liability insurance can offer protection for farm markets and fairs

Liability insurance is, of course, important for every day situations that can occur on the farm—things like accidental property damage, unintended crop chemical drift and situations that arise from normal farming operations.

If an accident of this type occurs, much of the hard work of the farm business could be lost if you are not adequately insured. And it’s equally important that you are covered for risks that may occur when you are conducting business off the farm. iStock_000009114801Small

For example, if you transport your animals to 4-H shows or agricultural fairs, liability insurance can protect against injury to your animals. Do you plan to sell your product at a local farmers’ market? Many farmers’ markets may not cover individual vendors under the market’s group policy, and will require vendors to provide proof of liability insurance in order to participate in the market.

The Co-operators, an Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Corporate Partner, offers liability insurance options that can protect you and your farm business when you are conducting business away from your farm. Their off-farm liability insurance options include:

  • Animal shows and agricultural fairs liability: covering livestock when attending 4-H shows, plowing matches, or agricultural fairs
  • Farmers’ market liability: liability insurance protects your business against lawsuits in the crowded environment of a farmers’ market, where accidents can—and sadly do—happen

Beyond liability insurance, AFA producer members also receive exclusive benefits from The Co-operators that can help you save money, including:

  • up to 24 additional coverage options on your farm insurance
  • special travel and policy discounts
  • enhanced home insurance coverage
  • competitive plans for medical, dental, life and disability insurance

In addition to being connected to The Co-operators through our corporate partnership, AFA is proud of our long history as a member-owner of the company. Founded by a small group of prairie farmers in 1945, The Co-operators today continues to sponsor rural youth through 4-H and provide specialized farm insurance to producers across Canada. For more information on the liability insurance options offered by The Co-operators to farm producers in Alberta, contact your local Co-operators agent, or visit The Co-operators website.

To find out more about how you can become an AFA member today and save money through the special member benefits we have developed with The Co-operators, Mark’s Work Wearhouse and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA Canada), visit our website.

Alberta farmers get chance to have a say about federal-provincial policy

Many Alberta producers will be familiar with the Growing Forward 2 (GF2) programs that are part of a federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) partnership that seeks to help the agriculture and food industry achieve its full potential by focusing on productivity, profitability and competitiveness in Canada’s agricultural industry.

With the GF2 program set to expire on March 31, 2018, Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) directors want to make sure that Alberta farmers, ranchers and food processors are part of the discussion for the new agricultural policy framework (APF) that is developed.

“AFA is working with agricultural stakeholders all across the country to ensure that the unique views and circumstances of Alberta’s farmers and food producers are well represented in any new policy,” says Humphrey Banack, AFA’s 2nd Vice President. “The federal government is asking for feedback online, and since these programs impact many areas of agriculture, I would encourage all producers to take a few minutes to provide their input.”

Banack is referring to the May 9 announcement by federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay asking for stakeholder feedback as they draw up plans for the next APF. The federal government has set up a website with an online questionnaire designed to seek input from producers about where the program is working well and where challenges exist.

Banack is also the 1st Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), and has been part of a committee formed in 2014 to develop policy recommendations to inform the next APF. The committee tabled recommendations that were adopted at the CFA Annual General Meeting in February 2016. The full report with recommendations can be found on the CFA website.

Introduced in April 2013, GF2 focuses on three priorities for the agricultural sector: innovation, competitiveness, and market development. The programs within GF2 aim to help the industry respond to future opportunities and challenges and to achieve its full potential as a productive and profitable sector of the Canadian economy.

As part of AFA’s mandate of advocating on behalf of Alberta farmers and ranchers, AFA directors are integrally involved in policy development and feedback, through their interactions with national and provincial government representatives and agricultural groups. The Growing Forward programs are just one example where AFA directors share their expertise to move agricultural policy development forward.

“In Alberta, Growing Forward 2 represents a federal-provincial cost-share investment of more than $400 million for risk management, research and development,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson. “AFA is representing Alberta’s farm and ranch owners at the government level, but it’s important that the policy makers hear directly from producers, too. These are all critical pillars of our industry.”

Shedding light on the new farm labour and safety regulations

AFA-David Myrol

David Myrol, a partner at McLennan Ross LLP, speaks to AGM delegates about farm labour and safety laws.

At the Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Annual General Meeting in January, guest speaker David Myrol, a lawyer and partner with McLennan Ross LLP, shared his expertise on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) law.

Myrol is a nationally-recognized expert practicing almost exclusively in OHS law and is involved with many of the leading OHS cases in Alberta. His take on the new Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act that came into force on January 1, 2016: it’s complicated.

“The devil is in the details,” Myrol said at the AFA AGM on January 21. “There are lots of grey areas, the legislation is not drafted clearly, and specific regulations will be passed in the future.”

Myrol sought to bring clarification to the producers in the room by sharing an overview of OHS. He also shared insight into what he has seen in Alberta during his time as OHS Crown Prosecutor.

“From my point of view, this legislation was inevitable,” he said. “OHS legislation was needed to protect workers employed by food producers who own large operations. I believe that the intent of the legislation is aimed more at that category of employer than the small family farm.”

Myrol explained that the OHS Act is an enforcement tool that is meant to “ensure the health and safety of workers as far as reasonably practicable”. The Act, Myrol explained, is administered by Alberta’s Ministry of Labour and gives broad powers to OHS Officers who can:

  • enter work sites
  • inspect and investigate work sites
  • seize and sample
  • compel statements

Officers can issue stop work orders, write tickets, issue administrative penalties, and impose fines and jail as a result of commencing a formal prosecution. Myrol says that the case law for the most part presumes guilt, and therefore it is the responsibility of those charged to prove due diligence. In Alberta, from 2004 to 2014, there have been between seven and twenty-two prosecutions per year, with penalties between $2,000 and $1.5 million.

Delegates at the AFA AGM were reminded by Myrol that the OHS Act is just one of the acts that the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act amended. The other legislation includes the Employment Standards Code, the Labour Relations Code and Workers’ Compensation Regulation.

Myrol said that much of the confusion occurred because the changes affected so many different areas. “To be fair to the government, these are tough areas to come up with language that gives absolute clarity for producers,” he said.

So what does this all mean for producers? In wrapping up, Myrol offered this advice: producers should answer the government’s call for input on how the changes are implemented. He strongly encouraged farmers and ranchers to get involved with the government consultation process and/or give feedback to the government directly or through industry and safety associations.

The Alberta government recently announced they are establishing six discussion roundtables to work with the agriculture community and other stakeholders in developing regulations in this area. More information can be found on the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry website.

AFA members take their business on the road

We love to give a shout out to our AFA members! Here’s a great story on what can happen when you are willing to look at things in a different light. Congratulations to the Morris family on the new addition to their business!

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Arnie and Shirley Morris have been successful quail egg producers for the last three decades. From their Ardrossan, Alberta farm, they supply western Canadian retailers with about 10,000 of these delicate eggs each day.

When the opportunity to sell quail meat arose, they knew ramping up their production would be no problem. Finding a processing facility for the tiny birds was another matter.

Quails raised by the Morris family

Quails raised by the Morris family

“Processing plants don’t really have the equipment to handle small birds,” says Shirley Morris. “We made so many calls, and just couldn’t find a plant to do it. We knew we weren’t the only producers looking for this, and that there was demand for it.”

Where others saw closed doors, the Morris family saw potential. They decided to buy a custom mobile processing plant and became quail processors themselves. Inside the 28-ft. trailer, they can process quails, game birds and chickens plus create packaged meat for consumers.

Inside the Morris family mobile processing plant trailer

Inside the Morris family mobile processing plant trailer

“For other farmers that raise chickens or pheasants, we’ll bring the processor to them,” Shirley says.  “It can also be a way to bring this great-tasting, high-quality meat to chefs and restaurants.”

As Shirley explains, the mobile plant gives them a unique way to take advantage of new markets, like the farm-to-table movement. They can process up to 600 birds a day, plus vacuum-seal the meat and sell it either fresh or frozen.

Fresh Bry-Conn Quail (10 pack)

Fresh Bry-Conn Quail (10 pack)

Growing this side of their farm business has not been all smooth sailing, but Shirley notes they have some terrific support both on and off the farm. Their children are now involved in the processing business.

The Morris family also works closely with provincial meat inspectors to ensure the product meets the highest quality standards plus regulations for food safety, packaging and labelling. Shirley also credits Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) and Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) staff as being instrumental in helping get this venture off the ground.

“This was a new area for us, so we had a lot of questions,” says Shirley. “AFA staff spent so much time helping us find the information we needed. We are so grateful for everyone’s help. It’s great to see what you can do with just 30 acres.”

The Morris family farm was also recently featured in The Western Producer. Click here to see the story and a video tour of the trailer!

Agriculture Leaders Debate

National Agriculture Leaders debate is Sept. 30
Register for the webcast and be there on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

(Updated post-debate: see link below for the recording of the event.)

With the federal election fast approaching, party leaders have been criss-crossing the country making their pitches to voters. In a series of debates, leaders have presented their plans for the economy, foreign affairs and other issues.

Tomorrow, Wednesday September 30, agriculture gets its turn in the spotlight. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is hosting a special online webcast event, the National Agriculture Leaders debate. The debate, which takes place in Ottawa, will be broadcast online. Debate participants are:

  • Hon. Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
  • Malcolm Allen, NDP Agriculture Critic
  • Mark Eyking, Liberal Agriculture Critic
  • Andrew West, Green Party; and
  • Yves Lessard, Bloc Québécois.

The debate takes place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Alberta time.

What’s on the agenda? The debate will allow each party to present its platform for the agriculture industry. CFA has also gathered video questions from farmers across the country. The parties’ agricultural representatives are there to answer those questions.

“This debate is an opportunity for parties to share their vision for how best to advance Canada’s agriculture industry,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson, who’s also a member of CFA’s Board of Directors. “For this campaign, CFA is focusing on three issues of great importance to producers in Alberta and the rest of Canada: labour, business risk management and trade. I expect the debate will be a lively, informative discussion of these and other issues.”

Missed the webcast?

The National Agriculture Leaders debate can be viewed here.

Says Jacobson: “Many people have observed that agriculture has rarely been discussed in a significant way during this campaign. Here’s our chance. I invite AFA members, and all Alberta farmers, to attend the National Agriculture Leaders debate webcast.”