Celebrating agriculture in Alberta: the 2016 Harvest Gala

The fall season is a wonderful time to celebrate the abundant harvest produced by Alberta farmers and enjoyed by consumers around the province and the world. Each year, Alberta’s Ag for Life organization celebrates Alberta’s harvest with a gala celebration of food, fun and music.

The 2016 Ag for Life Harvest Gala celebration will take place on Friday, October 21 in Calgary. This is the fifth year for the Gala, and the event is well-known for presenting a unique fusion of urban and rural style, plus a glorious range of delectable locally-produced foods. A silent auction will also be available to raise funds to support the important educational programs that Ag For Life spearheads in Alberta.

The Fifth Annual Harvest Gala
Friday, October 21, 2016
6 pm to 11 pm
Calgary, Alberta

Ag for Life is a not-for-profit organization committed to building a greater understanding and appreciation of Alberta’s agricultural industry, and its fundamental connection to life. The Harvest Gala is one way Ag for Life reaches out to Albertans to tell the story of our incredible industry in this province. Other Ag for Life success stories include: Classroom Agriculture Program, Little Green Thumbs, Alberta Open Farm Days, City Slickers, Rural and Farm Safety Days and the Rollover Simulator Project.

Two Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Directors, Marion Popkin and Tony Jeglum, attended the Ag For Life Harvest Gala in 2015, along with over 500 other attendees. AFA supports this important event in agriculture, and we share Ag For Life’s passion for agricultural advocacy.

“This event is a great way to bring Alberta farmers together with their urban neighbours,” says Jeglum. “We also appreciate the important leadership that Ag For Life provides in improving farm safety, and sharing the story of how agriculture impacts the lives of Albertans.”

Tickets for the 2016 Harvest Gala event can be purchased online here: http://agricultureforlife.ca/event/2016-harvest-gala/

CleanFARMS provides safe disposal for obsolete agriculture materials

Unwanted chemicals and unused animal medications can stack up on a farm. Thankfully, there is a free, environmentally-responsible way to dispose of old or unwanted agricultural products in Alberta through the CleanFARMS program.

This fall, farmers and ranchers can visit one of 26 designated ag-retailers to safely dispose of unwanted, obsolete and expired agricultural pesticides and livestock/equine medications.

For 2016, there are two different time periods for the obsolete round up in Alberta:

  • Peace Region: September 21 through 23, 2016; and
  • Central Region (Red Deer to north of Edmonton): October 3 through 7, 2016

These CleanFARMS posters offer details on the collection sites, but you can also view this information online.

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The obsolete collection program is funded by the plant science industry and members of the Canadian Animal Health Institute (www.cahi-icsa.ca). Once obsolete materials are dropped off at a designated collection site, the products are then transported to a high-temperature incineration facility where they are safely disposed of.

Products accepted at the collection sites include:

  • Obsolete or unwanted agricultural pesticides (identified with a Pest Control Product number on the label).
  • Livestock medications that are used by primary producers in the rearing of animals in an agricultural context (identified with a DIN number, Serial Number or Pest Control Product number on the label). Needles and other ‘sharps’ are not accepted.

If producers are unsure if a product fits the scope of this collection, they can call CleanFARMS at 1-877-622-4460, extension 2223.

For producers outside Alberta’s Peace and Central Regions, the collection program will be offered in southern Alberta in the fall of 2018. The obsolete collection program is typically delivered in each region every three years.

CleanFARMS is a Canadian not-for-profit organization that is committed to environmental responsibility through the proper management of agricultural waste. The CleanFARMS program helps environmentally-conscious farmers, ranchers and producers manage the waste generated by their rural-based businesses.

Since the program was first delivered in 1998, CropLife Canada/CleanFARMS have collected over 400,000 kilograms of obsolete pesticides in Alberta. For more information on the program or the collection campaign, visit the CleanFARMS website at www.cleanfarms.ca

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.

AFA Summer Meeting keeps finger on pulse of agriculture issues

The Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Board met in mid-June for their annual Summer Meeting, and were pleased to host a number of guests from key industries that are connected to agriculture.

Three groups presented on a wide range of issues that have the potential to significantly impact Alberta’s agriculture industry. AFA provided input and ideas.

Alberta Utilities Consumer Advocate

Established in October 2003, the Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) has a mandate to educate, advocate, and mediate for Alberta’s residential, farm, and small business electricity and natural gas consumers.

Since agriculture businesses can be greatly impacted by utility rates – especially large users like producers with hog barns, food processors or greenhouses – a UCA representative shared an overview and answered questions about Alberta’s Electricity Regulatory System.

New Agricultural Policy Framework

Alberta producers may be familiar with the Growing Forward 2 (GF2) programs that are part of a federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) partnership. These programs seek to help the agriculture and food industry reach its full potential by focusing on productivity, profitability and competitiveness in a global market.

The current program expires March 31, 2018, and federal and provincial policymakers are now gathering producer input on the future of the next agricultural policy framework (APF). Read more about this on our recent blog (link May AFA blog).

Representatives from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry met with the AFA Board at our Summer Meeting to discuss the impacts of potential refinements and opportunities for Alberta farmers in the new policy.

“AFA’s mandate of advocating on behalf of Alberta farmers and ranchers means AFA directors are integrally involved in policy development and feedback,” says Rick McConnell, AFA Interim Executive Director. “Helping to shape the next stage of the APF is just one example where AFA directors share their expertise to move agricultural policy development forward.”

Alberta’s Crop Insurance Programs

As changes and updates to crop insurance programs occur in Alberta, AFA is involved in consultations with Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) to provide the perspective of Alberta’s crop and pasture producers.

During this session, AFA provided feedback on crop damage compensation for wildlife and vandalism, on-farm best management practices, refinements to coverage and premium assessment, advancing electronic interaction between AFSC and their clients as well as the potential to expand use of weather-based products.

AFA’s Board and Directors will continue to be proactive with these types of discussions and ensure that agriculture’s voice is heard loud and clear.

Calling agriculture students: apply for the AFA scholarship today!

AFA is proud to help students who are using their talents to further their studies in agriculture with our annual scholarship. We’d love to add your name to the list!

Each year, the AFA Scholarship awards $500 for one student to use towards studies in a post-secondary agriculture or related program. The deadline to apply for this year’s scholarship is August 1, 2016. The scholarship is awarded each November.

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

  • a Canadian Citizen or permanent resident of Canada, and an Alberta resident
  • attending a designated post-secondary institution in Alberta
  • enrolled full-time in the second or subsequent year of post-secondary study in a program related to the field of agriculture.

Applications are available online, but students can also call Student Aid Alberta Service Centre at 1-855-606-2096 for more information.

Students don’t have to be an AFA member to apply for the scholarship, but it helps since preference is given to applications submitted by AFA producer members, their children and their grandchildren. This is just one benefit to being an AFA producer member.

Congratulations to recent AFA scholarship winners!

Here is a brief overview on AFA’s last two scholarship winners. We are proud to help these students with their education!

  • Wilson Leung of Edmonton, Alberta was the 2015 recipient of our annual AFA scholarship. Wilson completed his degree in Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Alberta, and is now pursuing a degree in Environmental Health at Concordia University of Edmonton. Wilson is studying strategies related to agriculture including food safety inspection, risk assessment and environmental management.
  • The 2014 scholarship was awarded to Nadine Jensen of Claresholm, Alberta, then in her third-year pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Biotechnology at the University of Lethbridge.

Want to give a hand to the next generation in agriculture?

Tax-deductible donations are welcome and encouraged! AFA welcomes contributions from any business, group or individual to help keep the AFA Scholarship fund sustainable for years to come.

For more information, or to donate in the name of the AFA Scholarship, call the Alberta Scholarships Program at 780-427-8640. As we mentioned earlier, donations are tax deductible.

2016 Census of Agriculture coming to your mailbox & online

Canadian census information is used in a wide variety of applications: to set policy, for governments to develop farm programs and to get a glimpse into the broad trends in agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture, completed every five years, is due to roll out again in May 2016. Farmers and ranchers are busy any time of the year, but especially in the jam-packed spring planting season. Even so, our Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) President is encouraging all producers to fill out the census questionnaire.

“It’s completely understandable that when farmers and ranchers are asked to complete surveys, that request is not always heartily embraced,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson. “However, the census is an essential tool for Canadian agriculture. It allows policymakers to ensure that the plans they are creating are based on the facts.”

As the President of Alberta’s only general farm organization, Jacobson is familiar with the value of agricultural census information. He attends many meetings – local, national and international – where politicians, farm leaders, agricultural organizations and policymakers constantly refer to the information gathered in the most recent agricultural census. As Jacobson says, quality in means quality out.

“The census covers information from crops and livestock to land management and farm labour,” notes Jacobson. “Some of these areas – like farm labour – are high-profile topics right now. Up-to-date information helps keep agriculture groups better informed on issues that affect everyone’s future.”

Early in May, farmers and ranchers in Alberta can expect a letter in the mail from Statistics Canada that has a secure access code and information about how to complete the questionnaire online. Statistics Canada says that this year’s process is 30% more streamlined than in 2011, with features like auto-totals and the ability to skip information that does not apply to your operation. Respondents are also no longer required to provide detailed farm expenses.

The questionnaire can be completed by anyone who is knowledgeable about the farming operation. Information gathered by Statistics Canada is kept confidential as required by the Statistics Act.

“At the end of the day, I know how hard it is to find the time to provide this information,” Jacobson says. “A lot has changed in agriculture since the last census in 2011, so our organization is encouraging everyone to make the time to complete the questionnaire. Farmers are legally required to participate, but we feel the more important point is that the census captures much-needed information to ensure future planning for the agriculture industry is on target.”

More information on the 2016 Census of Agriculture can be found on the Statistic Canada website: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/ca2016#features.

March 13-19 is Canadian Agricultural Safety Week

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Agriculture has been cited as one of the more hazardous industries in which to work. The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) reports on their website that in an average year, around 100 farm-related deaths occur nation-wide. Marion Popkin, Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Director, thinks that number is too high.

“Agriculture is an industry with unique safety challenges because the farm family is so closely tied to the business,” she says. “When you live where you work, the risks can be magnified.”

As a passionate agricultural safety advocate who represents AFA at a variety of industry safety meetings, Popkin says farm producers care deeply about safety, but there are always improvements that can be made.

To that end, Popkin applauds the efforts of one annual farm safety initiative: the Canadian Agricultural Safety Week (CASW) that strives to make safety on Canadian farms a priority through their yearly public awareness campaign.

This year’s CASW theme is: ‘Be an AgSafe Family’ by ‘Keeping Kids Safe’. The campaign focuses on empowering farm families with the information they need to help keep kids safe while preserving the farming lifestyle.

In Popkin’s view, although the Canadian Agricultural Safety Week campaign brings an important focus to the issue of agricultural safety each year, farm managers need to make farm safety a year-round goal.

“A good on-farm safety plan evolves as the farm business evolves,” she says. “It’s not something that you do once and put aside. It needs to take into account how the people living and working in the environment grow and change, too.”

Popkin says there are many valuable resources available to farm families to help them manage the issue of farm safety. She notes the CASW website is a great place to find guidelines for safe play areas, a safety contract and many other resources to ensure the family farm remains a safe place to work and live.

Popkin also points to the Alberta Government website for those looking for safety workshops available in 2016. This government website offers links to on-going initiatives like online safety resources for children of different ages, plus funding options available for education or training support.

Farm safety is an area that AFA has been actively involved in for years. Visit the AFA YouTube Channel for a video featuring AFA Vice President Humphrey Banack speaking about the importance of farm safety.

For more information on the many activities taking place during Canadian Agricultural Safety Week from March 13 through 19, 2016, visit these websites.