A prosperous agriculture industry benefits us all

vegetables-pixabystockCanadians live in a country where local food is plentiful, the food quality is outstanding and there is a strong agricultural community working to ensure our food is accessible and abundant.

In addition, the Canadian agricultural industry is a huge engine for growth and prosperity for our country and our citizens. This kind of prosperity doesn’t just happen by chance. It comes about through hard-working farm and ranch owners, a strong agricultural workforce, and an industry committed to efficiency, technology and a robust national food policy.

To highlight the many benefits of agriculture to the lives of Canadians and the economy, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is spearheading an advocacy campaign Producing Prosperity in Canada. This initiative is supported by Canada’s provincial general farm organizations, like AFA, who work to provide a unified voice and advocate for Canadian farmers at all levels of government.

General farm organizations are non-partisan and represent producers of all commodities. These farm families operate farms and ranches from coast-to-coast producing blueberries, beef, chicken, pork, wheat, barley, canola, chickpeas, lentils, honey, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, corn, sugar beets and so much more.

The goal of the Producing Prosperity in Canada campaign is to identify Canadian agriculture as a sector that benefits all of Canada and to show that investments made in agriculture have far-reaching impacts in economic growth, food security and environmental stewardship. Here are just a few ways agriculture contributes, and why investments in this industry will be key for a prosperous future.

Economic growth

Canadian agriculture is a significant employer of skilled labour, with the agriculture and agri-food sectors accounting for one in eight jobs in 2014 and employing around 2.3 million people. Agriculture drives our national economy through job opportunities, tax revenues and rural economic development. In 2016 alone, Canada’s value exports in this sector totaled $56 billion and generated nearly $112 billion, or 6.7% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP).

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Food security

Canadians enjoy one of the most diverse offerings of food and value-added products in the world. This post from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada calls agriculture “a colossal contributor to the lives of all Canadians”. Along with feeding Canadians, our country’s agricultural products, foods and beverages can be found around the globe, as shown here.

Our Canadian food system is known for its safe, high-quality food, produced in an efficient and affordable manner. Canadians spend less than most other countries on groceries and have an amazing variety of locally and nationally grown foods at their fingertips.

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Environmental stewardship

Agricultural lands contribute to our environment in many ways from fresh water and clean air, to erosion control and climate regulation. Rural farms are also a haven for wildlife and contribute to diverse habitats such as prairie grasslands, riparian areas and wetlands.

The many advances in agricultural land management practices over the last three decades – and improvements to modern farm equipment – have contributed to considerable gains in soil quality and the reduction of carbon emissions.

Government representatives, academics and the industry continue to work together to invest in plant science, research and technologies that help farmers grow more crops on less land, while reducing their carbon footprint. Advancements in technology help improve water use efficiency, harness solar and wind power and create new seed varieties that are resistant to drought, diseases and other pests.

duck-pixabystockHow you can help

CFA has created a website of resources, including videos, infographics and a pledge form to help spread the word about Producing Prosperity in Canada. Please feel free to use the resources to help build awareness and spread the word on this important topic. https://producingprosperitycanada.ca/

“The three pillars of economic growth, food security and environmental stewardship are the building blocks of a prosperous future for us all,” says Lynn Jacobson, AFA President. “We look forward to working with CFA and our partner farm organizations to meet with political representatives and candidates to remind them of the importance of agriculture as we move towards a federal election.”

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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.”

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

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.

AFA Summer Meeting: a chance to discuss challenges and opportunities in agriculture

The Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) will hold their 2018 Summer Meeting on June 26 and 27, 2018 in Camrose, Alberta.

AFA Members – and those interested in agricultural policy – are invited to attend the working session on June 26 to participate in discussions about the emerging issues that will most affect farmers in the coming year. There will also be a presentation on sustainable agriculture.

AFA AGM- Farm Meeting2AFA Director Humphrey Banack says he always looks forward to challenging debate and discussion when those passionate about agriculture get together.

“During the AGM, we gather with producers to debate and discuss top issues in agriculture, then use those policy directions to draw the future of agriculture forward,” says Banack. “The June Summer Meeting is an important way to check in on how we’re doing for the year and discuss emerging issues that have developed since January.”

After the day of discussions on June 26, the meeting will conclude with a networking barbeque to give those in attendance an opportunity to connect with each other and share good food, good company and discuss issues in agriculture in a more informal way.

Here’s the agenda for the Tuesday, June 26, 2018 meeting:

10 am – noon:  Issue Update & Policy Development: What AFA has been up to this year

Noon: Lunch at Camrose Resort Casino

1 – 3 pm: Discussion on the top emerging issues facing our industry in the coming year

3 – 3:15 pm: Break

3:15 – 4:30 pm: Sustainable Agriculture Panel

4:30 – 5 pm: Issue/Debate Wrap Up

5:30 pm: Steak BBQ at the Park Pavilion, Camrose Exhibition Trail RV Park

On Wednesday, June 27, AFA will hold their regularly-scheduled board meeting, of which AFA Regional Directors and former AFA board members are welcome to attend.

Please RSVP for this event so we can assess attendance and plan for our barbeque. Contact AFA’s Executive Director Shannon Scofield by email at shannon.scofield@afaonline.ca, or call us toll-free at 1-855-789-9151 or contact the AFA Director in your area.

afa-humphrey-banack-farm-safetyHumphrey Banack, who farms near Camrose, Alberta, reminds producers that it’s never been more important to speak up and drive agricultural policy decisions. He stresses that meetings like this are a direct channel for producers to let their voice be heard.

“At AFA, our people are working for a stronger industry for all,” says Banack. “Past discussions like this have laid the foundation for some significant changes in agriculture. It’s great to know you can have such an impact at a grassroots level.”

Have your say on Alberta’s agriculture issues and policy

Sometimes, when people hear the word ‘policy’, they can feel that these larger issues are outside their control and hard to affect. At Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA), we know that just isn’t true.

As Alberta’s general farm organization, AFA works hard to ensure that farmers and ranchers have a voice in issues, challenges and opportunities that affect Canadian agriculture, and Alberta producers.

iStock_000021185812small-cropHere are just a few recent actions AFA has taken on agriculture issues and policy:

  • when Bill C-49 wasn’t moving fast enough for producers and the industry, we joined Canadian farm groups to ask the government to move quickly to stabilize the rail systems by passing Bill C-49 with amendments;
  • on March 21, 2018, AFA presented to the Senate on climate change and shared our perspectives on the potential impacts for the agriculture and agri-food sectors;
  • on May 22 AFA presented to the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry on Bill C-74 (Part 5) on the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act and how AFA feels that agriculture interests should be considered;
  • at AFA’s 2018 AGM, members passed a resolution asking us to investigate recycling options for agricultural plastics like grain bags, and we’re looking into this challenging issue.

AFA advocates broadly for agriculture, not just for one group or commodity. Wherever it’s needed – whether at the regional, provincial or national level – we represent our farm and ranch members on agricultural issues like taxation, grain transportation, labour and employment standards, and more.

Every day, decisions are made on legislation, policy and changes in the industry that affect your farm business. When you make your views heard – through organizations like AFA – you can have an impact on how these matters move forward.

Getting involved

AFA-Minister Carlier & QestionsThose wishing to get more involved in crafting the direction of the industry can do so in many ways.

Have you joined AFA? Becoming an AFA member costs as little as $125 per year for agricultural producers, farming partners, or farming corporations. As an AFA member, you’ll receive a monthly email update on issues in Canadian agriculture, a chance to table and vote on resolutions at our Annual General Meeting, and will be invited to attend our Summer Council Meetings. You’ll also receive exclusive AFA member benefits that allow you to save on vehicles, travel, insurance and more.

Already an AFA member? Plan to attend our next event: the AFA Summer Council Meeting in Camrose on June 26 & 27. With so much going on in Canadian Agriculture, we wanted a summer meeting for producers to meet with AFA’s regional directors and executive, plus other AFA members. We’ll discuss issues and opportunities in agriculture at the AFA Summer Council. Watch your email for details.

Want to share your opinions on agricultural happenings? Find us on Facebook and like or follow our page. Post your comments on our updates of importance to Alberta’s and Canada’s agriculture industry. Or, if you’re on Twitter, we would enjoy connecting with you there.

“AFA gives Alberta’s farm and ranch members a voice,” says Shannon Scofield, Executive Director of AFA. “There are many ways to be involved in our organization, giving Alberta famers a chance to be part of the process of influencing the policy that directly impacts Alberta’s farms, ranches and agri-businesses.”