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.”

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.

CleanFARMS Obsolete Pick Up

Ever wondered if there is an environmentally-responsible way to dispose of old or unwanted agricultural products in Alberta?

Now there is! The Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) is working with CropLife Canada/CleanFARMS to collect unwanted, obsolete and expired agricultural pesticides and livestock/equine medications from Alberta’s agri-business and equine industries.

This program is offered for free to the province’s farmers, ranchers and producers. 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 not accepted.

For 2015, the collection will take place from Monday, October 26 through Friday, October 30 at 20 different sites across southern Alberta. 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.

This poster from CleanFARMS shows the collection sites, but you can also view this information online.

6270-CleanFARMS Obsolete Pesticides Poster (AB)_WEB-1

For producers outside southern Alberta, the collection program will be offered in the northern half of Alberta at approximately 20 ag-retail locations in the fall of 2016. The obsolete collection program is typically delivered in each region of the country every three years.

CleanFARMS is a Canadian not-for-profit organization that is committed to environmental responsibility through the proper management of agricultural waste. We all want safe, healthy and sustainable environments. The CleanFARMS programs help environmentally-conscious farmers, ranchers and producers manage the waste generated by their rural-based businesses.

The last time the obsolete collection program was delivered in Alberta in 2012 and 2013 a total of 96,381 kgs of obsolete pesticide were collected. Since the program was first launched in 1998, CropLife Canada/CleanFARMS have collected over 300,000 kgs of obsolete pesticide. 2015 marks the first time that livestock/equine medications will be collected as part of the CleanFARMS program in Alberta.

For more information on the program or the collection campaign, visit the CleanFARMS website at http://www.cleanfarms.ca.

Insurance tips to help you avoid risks on the farm this summer

The Co-operators is an AFA corporate partner and has many different types of farm insurance specifically designed for our agriculture sector. That includes property, contents, machinery, livestock, producer, hobby farms, accident insurance and more.

Did you know that being an AFA member also gives you exclusive access to coverage and savings on a variety of insurance products from The Co-operators? Remember to tell your agent you are an AFA member to get your discount!

These seasonal tips from The Co-operators will help prevent problems on your farm.

Drought conditions may increase hazards on your property

By summer 2015, many areas in Alberta have seen the driest conditions in 50 years. For farms with organic materials like hay and feed, plus large mechanical equipment, dry weather can mean additional potential fire hazards on the farm.

  • Keep the yard clear of brush and other flammable debris as sparks from machinery or stray cigarettes can turn litter into kindling. Keep flammable items away from heat sources.
  • Never discard smoking materials on the ground or in plant pots. Improperly extinguished smoking materials can smoulder undetected for days before igniting a fire.
  • Proper airflow and ventilation in buildings helps disperse flammable chemical vapours, silo gases and other hazardous by-products.
  • Maintain electrical equipment and keep wires safely enclosed in metal or PVC pipes to protect them from exposure to weather and animals.
  • Refuel equipment outdoors, away from open flames and as far from buildings as possible, to allow harmful vapours to dissipate.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain portable fire extinguishers. Keep extinguishers easy to find in each farm building, especially near mechanical equipment and storage areas that contain flammable materials.
  • Never leave portable heating units unattended, and avoid using heat lamps, solar lamps, trouble lights or heated watering bowls in your pets’ outdoor home (e.g., dog house). Portable electrical heating systems or temporary installations commonly contribute to fires.

When you’re away, keep your property safe

With the summer season here, extra steps may be needed to keep your home or cottage secure, and your property safe.

If you are planning to leave your house or vacation property unattended for stretches of time, call your insurance company to find out if they have a time limit for occupancy absences. Most insurance companies specify the time your property can be unoccupied and still benefit from insurance protection. You may need to have someone check the property every few days or shut off your water supply.

Next, leave your property with that ‘lived-in’ look to help deter vandals. These steps will help make your home or property look lived-in while you are away:

  • keep window coverings closed
  • put interior lights on timers
  • if applicable, have mail collected at least every 72 hours
  • have someone shovel snow or plow roads in the winter, or cut lawns or trim bushes in the summer

Remember, if you have a cottage or seasonal property, you may require a different policy for coverage. These Co-operators seasonal policies offer many kinds of coverage to suit your needs.

For more home insurance tips and information, visit The Co-operators’ Answer Centre or contact a local Co-operators financial advisor.

New water project welcome news for farmers

It’s no secret that water-related events can have a devastating impact on agriculture. Whether it’s a catastrophic flood, wet fields at seeding time or extended drought, farmers are often faced with either too much water or not nearly enough.

What’s more, science lacks a solid understanding of why these events occur. For Camrose-area farmer Humphrey Banack, it’s hard to pick an issue of more direct importance to farmers.

“With recent disastrous water events in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, we all know how devastating flooding can be,” says Banack. “Although the attention sometimes centers on the impacts to urban properties, water-related events can be a major risk for primary agriculture, too.”

As a farmer managing 5,000 acres, Banack has had his share of battles with insufficient or excess moisture. He recalls the wet spring of April 2011 in the Camrose area as one of the worst.

Now, as 2nd Vice President with the Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA), Banack is involved in a new, large-scale effort to remove some of the mystery surrounding water events in rural Alberta.

On March 17, 2015, Member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin Blaine Calkins, on behalf of Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, announced $1.3 million in federal support for AFA to develop a unique computer model that will better identify the risk and impacts of overland flooding and drought in agricultural areas. Federal funding is being provided through the AgriRisk Initiatives program.

The project’s focus will be to construct and showcase a suite of complex hydrologic models to assess interactive water movement throughout the South Saskatchewan River Basin. Under each water‐related risk assessment, the model will build maps that define risk zones within the study area. The model will then quantify the frequency, geographical extent and severity of water-related events.

To execute the project, AFA will team up with private consultants experienced in agriculture risk and with world-renowned hydrologic and climate change scientists to generate the computer simulation model. The three-year project will begin April 1, 2015 and continue through March 31, 2018.

Banack notes that this project fits perfectly with AFA’s mandate. As Alberta’s largest producer-funded general farm organization, AFA supports a sustainable agriculture industry with viable farm incomes. The data collected under this project could contribute to better flood risk analysis and eventually lead to the development of overland flooding insurance products. Spearheading effective farm risk management tools for farmers is a key priority area for AFA.

“Many people don’t know that Canada is the only G8 country where overland flooding is not an insurable risk,” Banack says. “The federal funding provided to AFA will allow us to begin immediately in addressing the important area of water and risk assessment in agriculture, potentially paving the way for practical insurance solutions for producers.”