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.

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.”

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.

 

Shedding light on the new farm labour and safety regulations

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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.

Celebrating Food Freedom Day 2016

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The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) raises awareness of the agriculture and food industry each year by celebrating Food Freedom Day, the date when the average Canadian has earned enough income to pay for their annual grocery bill.

This year, Food Freedom Day falls 40 days into the year, on Tuesday, February 9. For 2016, this date is three days later than in 2015 due to a slight increase in the price of food. It’s estimated that Canadians will spend 11% of their disposable income on food in 2016, compared to 10.4% the previous year.

“While we have definitely seen the price of groceries going up recently, we have to remember that we have a very secure and abundant food supply in Alberta and across our country,” says AFA Director Grace MacGregor, who farms near Hughenden, Alberta. “That is certainly something to celebrate compared to many places in the world.”

Canadians enjoy one of the lowest food costs worldwide

The CFA indicates that Canada consistently ranks 5th in the world for cheapest food costs. Slightly higher food costs this year are due to a weaker Canadian dollar. That’s increased the cost of grocery items that are imported into Canada like nuts, vegetables and fruits.

So how can we help keep those grocery prices in line with our family’s budget while still maintaining a strong local food system? MacGregor has this advice:

  • purchase products available in winter thanks to Alberta’s greenhouse growers, like red peppers, cucumbers or carrots
  • buy foods that are in-season as much as possible (see note below about the Explore Local website)
  • preserve or freeze summer-fresh fruits and vegetables when prices are lower
  • contact a local livestock producer who can provide fresh or frozen meat products year-round
  • incorporate items into your diet that are available year-round, like artisan cheeses, eggs, honey, barley, yogurt, pulses (beans, peas and lentils), dried herbs and butter.

MacGregor notes that it’s important for all of us to understand that taking these steps as consumers means we can positively impact our Canadian food system. She says those looking for great information on sourcing local food in Alberta, and even how to figure out what’s in season, should visit the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Explore Local website.

For MacGregor, buying locally produced foods can also have added benefits for the environment. “We live in a global marketplace where it is possible to buy a pineapple from the Philippines or Brazil year-round. These choices can mean higher grocery costs, but can also result in a larger environmental footprint because of the distance these specialty foods need to travel.”

“Albertans have amazing choices for buying locally-sourced products,” MacGregor adds. “We’re lucky to live in such an abundant province.”

For more information on Food Freedom Day, visit the CFA website: http://www.cfa-fca.ca/programs-projects/food-freedom-day-2016. Interested in how Food Freedom Day is calculated? Click here to see!

AFA’s Annual General Meeting explores the rapidly changing face of agriculture

Agriculture’s evolving landscape means that farm producers and ranchers need to be flexible and quick on their feet to manage change on the farm.

That’s why Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) chose the theme Shifting Gears for their recent Annual General Meeting. Over two days in Red Deer, January 21 and 22, 2016, attendees at the AFA AGM heard about dynamic farm technology, climate change, production updates and the impact of Alberta’s farm safety legislation.

“Agriculture producers are accustomed to change and are very adept at shifting gears,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson, who farms near Enchant. “This meeting gave our members a chance to see what’s on the horizon and offered innovative ways to meet those challenges.”

A series of expert speakers explored the issue of shifting gears from many angles:AFA-Rick McConnellRick McConnell from DYMAC Risk Management Solutions discussed new ways of assessing pasture production

AFA-Dr ErlerScientist Dr. Andre Erler with Aquanty Inc. presented observations on climate research in Western Canada

AFA-Shaun HaneyShaun Haney of RealAgriculture shared his insights into the digital age of farming by showcasing new farm technology like driverless tractors

AFA-David MyrolDavid Myrol with McLennan Ross LLP, an expert in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) law, explored the legal questions and facts surrounding Alberta’s farm labour legislation

AFA-Garth PattersonGarth Patterson with Western Grains Research Foundation spoke about agronomic capacity and funding for varietal research

AFA-Daryl BennettDaryl Bennett with Action Surface Rights looked at surface rental and the issue of abandoned wells on farms resulting from the downturn in the oil and gas industry

AFA-Markus WeberMarkus Weber with AgEagle featured drone technology and how it can be used for better profitability on the farm

AFA-Minister CarlierA highlight of the meeting was a provincial update provided by Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Hon. Oneil Carlier. Members had a chance to ask questions following the presentation, and discussions centered around actions for moving forward with the provincial farm safety and labour legislation.

AFA-Minister Carlier & QestionsMinister Carlier told the AFA delegates that the government is now focused on getting input on the legislation, adding, “We will take the time necessary to get this right.” He also thanked those in the room for their passion for the agriculture industry and the significant contribution farm producers make to the provincial economy.

In addition to speaker presentations on a wide variety of topics, the AGM is a time for AFA members to propose, debate and vote on resolutions dealing with issues that affect Alberta farm producers. Resolutions direct key priorities for AFA for the year ahead.

For 2016, AFA will continue its work on rail transportation costs, the development of a farm safety plan, ways to minimize waste in municipal areas, surface rental reimbursement for producers, plans for the Indian Head Shelterbelt Centre, commitment to varietal research and compensation to producers for carbon sequestering and trespasser damage.

Humphrey Banack, AFA’s 2nd Vice President who farms near Camrose, notes that the past year in agriculture put a spotlight on why it’s important for producers to be involved in policy decisions.

“In 2015, farmers saw tremendous change in agriculture and in politics,” says Banack. “I think producers have seen why understanding policy can be just as critical as knowing about production. As Alberta’s general farm organization, one of AFA’s areas of expertise is agricultural policy. We can speak to these issues on behalf of all producers to make sure their voices are heard.”

AFA’s President Jacobson agrees. “AFA deals with concerns that impact all farmers and ranchers in the province, not just issues that are commodity-specific,” he says. “We will be addressing the key concerns raised during this meeting with all levels of government to ensure a stronger agriculture industry for all.”

During the AGM, member-delegates re-confirmed the AFA executive team for another year with Lynn Jacobson as President, Keith Degenhardt as 1st Vice President and Humphrey Banack as 2nd Vice President.

For more information on AFA, visit our website at: www.afaonline.ca.