Federal election issues AFA is watching

As we move towards the October 21, 2019 election in Canada, many pressing issues are on the minds of Alberta farmers and growers across Canada. AFA is working to ensure agriculture remains a high priority topic among politicians and candidates in the upcoming federal election.

Along with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and Canada’s provincial general farm organizations, we are monitoring these key agriculture issues for the next federal election.

Market access and trade

There are significant market challenges facing Canada’s agriculture sector in 2019. With the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) signed but still not fully ratified, there’s uncertainty around this renegotiated NAFTA trade deal. Urgent challenges persist for Canadian producers who are feeling the impacts of closures in key international markets, especially with China.

Canada’s farm organizations are advocating for reform of the federal government’s business risk management programs to make them more responsive to farmer needs. Stability is needed in our sector so producers can sustain their operations and continue to invest in the future.

Grain transportation

train-1391314_1920This issue has long been a focus of AFA’s advocacy efforts, and it continues to be top-of-mind with the 2019 harvest underway. Canada’s rail transportation system is still struggling to meet the increased demand of grain movement and this trickles down to create costly delays for Canada’s farmers.

With the Alberta government considering contracting private companies to move the province’s oil by rail, AFA continues to advocate for farmers to ensure rail traffic will not adversely affect those already experiencing issues with getting grain to port.

Proposed changes to seed royalties

Late in 2018 and early in 2019, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency held a series of public meetings to gauge feedback on two proposed models of collecting royalties on farm-saved seed. Now, with the upcoming federal election, the government consultation process is on hold.

Our previous blog discusses this issue in detail.

To allow producers to have input on the proposed changes before the federal government consultations resume, AFA, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and the Keystone Ag Producers of Manitoba have created an online survey for producers. The survey www.seedroyaltysurvey.com is open until mid-October.

AFA recognizes that fall is a busy time for Alberta farmers, but we encourage as many producers as possible complete the survey to make sure their input is included in this important discussion. More here.

Seeking candidates’ positions on agriculture

PPiC Debate Promo - participant picsTo get the perspectives of each federal party on agriculture, the CFA is hosting the AG Leaders’ Debate on Tuesday, September 24, 2019.

The theme of the Debate centers around CFA’s national advocacy campaign, Producing Prosperity in Canada www.producingprosperitycanada.ca. See our previous blog here.

Debate questions will focus on the three main benefits agriculture brings to the Canadian economy: Food Security, Environmental Stewardship and Economic Growth. Participants will not have the questions in advance but have been informed of the theme of the debate.

Public distribution of the debate will be through CFA’s Facebook and YouTube channels at 7:00PM EST on Tuesday, September 24.

Debate participants include:

  • Marie-Claude Bibeau/Liberal
  • Luc Berthold/CPC
  • Alistair MacGregor/NDP
  • Kate Storey/Green Party

AFA: advocating for all sectors in agriculture

As the province’s general farm organization, AFA is focused on issues in all sectors of the agriculture industry, from crop production, livestock management, value-added food production and more. Our mandate has remained constant through the years: to work for the benefit of all farmers, ranchers and/or agricultural enterprises and give them a voice in shaping the future of Alberta’s dynamic agricultural industry.

“There is no shortage of issues when it comes to agriculture and policy,” says AFA president Lynn Jacobson. “AFA’s priority is to ensure Alberta producers are kept informed about these important election issues and that we’re advocating on their behalf on the subjects that matter most to them.”

Farm Safety Update

Marion Popkin, an Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Director since 2012, says agriculture safety is her personal mission. She’s passionate about advocating for improved farm safety, and attends industry meetings to keep current.

afa-casa-meeting-octoberPopkin recently attended the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) Annual General Meeting in Prince Edward Island in October (pictured here in the yellow jacket). The meeting put her in touch with new research and resources to share with others concerned about farm safety in Alberta.

“There is so much research going on with agricultural safety, and so many seriously bright people working on this issue,” Popkin says. “One of the challenges, though, is getting this information out to organizations that can help make a difference.”

Popkin points to two initiatives presented at the meeting. These safety solutions address two of agriculture’s most pressing safety challenges: children’s welfare and roll overs.

1. The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety

Popkin was thrilled to hear about this organization’s guidelines for adults who assign farm tasks to children aged 7 to 16 years. The guidelines are based on an understanding of childhood development, agricultural practices, principles of childhood injury, and agricultural and occupational safety.

“The age-appropriate guidelines are voluntary, but incredibly helpful because they are specific to agriculture, which can have many unique scenarios,” Popkin says. “The information deals with the competency of children based on their age, weight and height. So many of the questions we have are answered, and it’s available online for free.”

2. Roll Over Protection

According to Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre, farm machine roll overs cause the highest number of agricultural deaths in the province. Rollover Protection Structures (ROPS), in the form of roll bars or cages, are available for farm machines but can be expensive or hard to find, especially for older tractors.

At the meeting, Popkin discovered that the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) helps farmers source after-market structures. She also heard that Agrivita Canada Inc. is helping to create low-cost plans for farmers with basic welding skills to build and install their own ROPS. The Agrivita project aims to provide an alternative to the high cost of retrofitting tractors with ROPS.

“These meetings not only deliver great information, they provide opportunities for partnerships for AFA,” says Popkin. “Farm safety has long been a key area for AFA. It’s great to hear about workable, practical solutions that we can share for the benefit of our farm communities.”

Farm & Ranch Legislation Update

AFA’s 2nd VP, Humphrey Banack, is a participant of one of the technical working groups reviewing the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act. Banack is helping review existing requirements and exceptions for the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Code. The working group has met several times since June 2016.

afa-humphrey-banack-farm-safety

AFA’s 2nd VP, Humphrey Banack

“Overall, our group is looking at health-specific parts of the Code and whether or not these aspects should apply to farms and ranches, with or without modifications,” says Banack. “We are also sharing ideas about training and support for the agriculture community to successfully implement the OHS practices.”

Banack says some examples of areas being reviewed include worker competencies, emergency preparedness, hazard assessment, first aid, ventilation systems, fixed and portable ladders, plus other practical modifications to legacy buildings and equipment.

“Ultimately, it’s about making sure there is a safe working environment while also ensuring that these regulations allow businesses to operate profitably,” notes Banack.

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.

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.”