From grain transportation to sustainable agriculture. What we’re working on today.

There was no shortage of issues, opportunities and challenges to discuss recently at the half-year mark in our year, and Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) shared these discussions with farmers at our 2018 Summer Meeting.

2018 has been a year of change in agriculture, with some issues continuing to squeeze producers – like grain transportation – and others new on the horizon, like environmental farm plans.

In late-June 2018, AFA Members and others interested in agricultural policy gathered in Camrose, Alberta to participate in discussions about emerging issues that will affect farmers in the coming year. Producer meetings are just one of the ways AFA’s Board stays in touch with what’s important to Alberta farmers.

Transportation and seed

iStock_000019270898medAFA President Lynn Jacobson, who continues to lead the organization in advocating on issues that matter to farmers, says grain transportation is one issue AFA has advocated on for years and is continuing to watch.

“At this point, it doesn’t look like the recent legislation that was passed will put us on equal footing with other industries,” he explains. “The railway still has the ability to ration and prioritize grain shipments. So, that’s an issue we are following very closely as we go forward.”

Another long-time issue for AFA discussed at the Summer Meeting is plant breeders’ rights. It’s a complex issue that has developed from national changes to plant breeders’ rights in 2015. The part of the topic that AFA is looking at is around farm-saved seed and royalty options.

“There doesn’t seem to be consensus in the agriculture community about where to go with it,” notes Jacobson. “We need a lot more discussion with producers if the government is going to change regulations, and the seed sector and commodity groups are going to have to be communicating more about it, too.”

Sustainability in agriculture

During the panel discussion on sustainable agriculture at the AFA Summer Meeting, Jacobson said attendees appreciated learning more about what the marketplace and customers are now demanding from Canadian producers. He says as a result, AFA has become more involved in the process of Environmental Farm Plans (EFP). This is a new area of investigation for AFA, and Jacobson is well positioned in the industry with his board position on a national EFP group.

“As we go down the road of sustainability and consumers and customers want to know what’s in their food and how it has been raised, EFPs are going to be more important,” Jacobson says. “It could get to the point that if you haven’t done an EFP and kept certain records, you may not be able to sell agricultural products to certain segments.”

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What’s on the horizon?

Jacobson will join agricultural groups from across Canada at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture ‘Lobby Day 2018’ in Ottawa on October 30. The purpose of the event is to have representatives from across the country share a unified perspective on Canadian agricultural priorities by meeting with MPs and senators from all parties.

These are just a few of the key areas that the AFA Board and Executive is working on to address concerns and opportunities in the agricultural sector. It’s a mission that requires perseverance and political effort, and one that Jacobson feels passionate about.

“It’s important that the voice of the producer is heard,” says Jacobson. “Bringing the views of Alberta farmers to all levels of government is how change happens.”

If you want to know more about AFA and its activities, or for information on becoming an AFA member or our upcoming annual general meeting, visit our website at www.afaonline.ca.

 

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.”

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.

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.

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!