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!

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!

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.

AFA scholarship helps next generation of agriculture students

AFA is proud to support students who are using their talents to further their studies in agriculture. The AFA Scholarship annually awards $500 for one student to use towards their studies in post-secondary Agriculture or a related program.

AFA ScholarshipAlthough you don’t have to be an AFA member to apply for the scholarship, it does help. If you are an AFA producer member, preference is given to applications submitted by you, your children and your grandchildren. This is just one benefit to being an AFA member.

To be eligible for the AFA scholarship, an applicant must be:

  • a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident and be 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.

The deadline to apply for the upcoming scholarship is August 1, 2015. You can apply online or call 780-427-8640 or email: scholarships@gov.ab.ca for more information. The scholarship is awarded each November.

Recent AFA scholarship winners

Here are two of the most recent AFA scholarship winners.

  • 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.
  • The 2013 scholarship was awarded to Michelle Cradduck of Taber, Alberta, then in her third-year pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Lethbridge with plans for a career in agricultural research. Since that time, Michelle has put her AFA scholarship to good use, and will soon be finishing her Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Lethbridge. She has worked in research studying the genetic make-up of wheat and related opportunities for that crop, and she is so excited about where the research is heading. She is very grateful to her university professor for opening the door to her current research project, and for the help she has received from the AFA scholarship. We will be watching with interest what this emerging agricultural researcher will bring to the table!

Apply for the AFA scholarship today! We’d love to add your name to the list!

How can you give back to agriculture?

Any business, group or individual can donate to the AFA Scholarship fund to ensure its sustainability for future years. Donations are tax deductible. For more information, or to donate in the name of the AFA Scholarship, call the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund Endowment Program at 780-427-8640.