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!

Agriculture Leaders Debate

National Agriculture Leaders debate is Sept. 30
Register for the webcast and be there on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

(Updated post-debate: see link below for the recording of the event.)

With the federal election fast approaching, party leaders have been criss-crossing the country making their pitches to voters. In a series of debates, leaders have presented their plans for the economy, foreign affairs and other issues.

Tomorrow, Wednesday September 30, agriculture gets its turn in the spotlight. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is hosting a special online webcast event, the National Agriculture Leaders debate. The debate, which takes place in Ottawa, will be broadcast online. Debate participants are:

  • Hon. Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
  • Malcolm Allen, NDP Agriculture Critic
  • Mark Eyking, Liberal Agriculture Critic
  • Andrew West, Green Party; and
  • Yves Lessard, Bloc Québécois.

The debate takes place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Alberta time.

What’s on the agenda? The debate will allow each party to present its platform for the agriculture industry. CFA has also gathered video questions from farmers across the country. The parties’ agricultural representatives are there to answer those questions.

“This debate is an opportunity for parties to share their vision for how best to advance Canada’s agriculture industry,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson, who’s also a member of CFA’s Board of Directors. “For this campaign, CFA is focusing on three issues of great importance to producers in Alberta and the rest of Canada: labour, business risk management and trade. I expect the debate will be a lively, informative discussion of these and other issues.”

Missed the webcast?

The National Agriculture Leaders debate can be viewed here.

Says Jacobson: “Many people have observed that agriculture has rarely been discussed in a significant way during this campaign. Here’s our chance. I invite AFA members, and all Alberta farmers, to attend the National Agriculture Leaders debate webcast.”

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.

AFA sees common ground with new government

The election of a majority NDP government on May 5, 2015, was a historic moment for Albertans. While the change in government may introduce some uncertainty in the short term, AFA President Lynn Jacobson sees a solid basis for partnership with the incoming administration.

“We look forward to working with the new government,” says Jacobson. “Many of the NDP platform items, such as a diversified economy and an improvement in grain transportation, also match our goals. These are issues we have been working on for quite a while.”

As we have since 1959, AFA will advocate on issues of importance to Alberta farmers, ranchers and food producers. Jacobson has already reached out to Premier-Designate Rachel Notley’s office to request a meeting with the new NDP rural caucus once it is announced.

On a diversified economy

AFA couldn’t agree more that the prosperity of our province not only depends on our oil and gas industry, but on having a diverse economy that emphasizes our agriculture industry. AFA is ready to share our knowledge and to work with the new government to perpetuate Alberta’s long-standing international reputation as leaders and innovators in agriculture.

On the issue of grain transportation

Although there has been some improvement in this area, grain shipments are still not moving at a level AFA would like to see. Jacobson chairs the Canadian Federation of Agriculture Transportation Committee, which in turn is a member of the Agriculture Industry Canadian Transportation Act Review Coalition. The coalition represents a majority of Canada’s largest agricultural product shippers and processors as well as a broad cross-section of grower-funded organizations. The coalition is working to ensure Canada has a competitive rail system that meets the needs of producers and exporters. AFA has also been active with the Government of Alberta Transportation Task Team.

Jacobson says he looks forward to reviewing in detail the new government’s priorities for agriculture and sitting down with its caucus in a mutually constructive spirit. He believes that there is great opportunity to advance the industry together.

“As Alberta’s largest producer-funded general farm organization, AFA is non-partisan,” Jacobson says. “Since we are not bound by any political party or sector or group, we are available to listen to producers across all agricultural sectors and be an advocate for the changes they are looking for.”

Farm Credit Canada shares outlook for 2015

As Clem Samson looks forward, he sees a lot of reasons to be optimistic.

Samson, Vice President of Western Operations at Farm Credit Canada (FCC), attended AFA’s Annual General Meeting in January 2015 and shared what his organization sees as key global and domestic economic trends poised to impact agriculture in the next five to 10 years.

“One of the big things we see is an increasing prosperity in the middle class, especially for people in under-developed countries,” Samson says. “Studies show that when people begin to make more money, the extra income goes into buying more high-quality food and proteins. That’s good news for agricultural producers.”

Samson says FCC is keeping an eye on several global and domestic trends that will impact Canadian agriculture. Here’s an overview of what he sees.

Global Economic Trends

  • it is expected that about 60% more food will be required to feed the world by 2050
  • it’s estimated that between 2013 and 2020, the global middle class will double from 2 billion to 4 billion people
  • increasing prosperity in the middle class in Asia will see diets starting to mirror diets in the West
  • a November 2014 Conference Board of Canada World Ranking Food Safety Performance report indicated that Canada is #1 in global food safety performance
  • the U.S. continues to be our largest trading partner, and represents 52% of our agriculture and agri-food exports, about $28 billion of agricultural goods ($9.2 billion primary, $18.9 billion food manufacturing)
  • China has become Canada’s second-largest agricultural market
  • pork is a significant need for China, and it’s expected that China will import over 400 million metric tons over the next 10 years
  • once the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) is implemented, 95% of European Union and Canadian agricultural tariffs will be eliminated
  • by 2028, according to the United Nations, India is projected to overtake China in terms of population, surpassing 1.45 billion people. India is already a strong importer of Canadian pea, lentil and chickpea crops

Domestic Economic Trends

  • appreciation of farmland values will continue, but could slow a little
  • farm wages have increased an average of more than 3% per year over the last 10 years
  • by 2020, it’s estimated that Canada will have more than 2 million new immigrants, representing about $27 billion in additional food purchased in Canada over the next five years
  • the millennial generation (born 1980 – 2000) is having a growing impact on food and how it is produced
  • value-added food products will present new opportunities for Canadian producers

To Samson, all these opportunities and signs of continued growth mean a bright future for agriculture. He encouraged the participants at AFA’s AGM – and all western producers – to do a good job of sharing what they do.

“We have so much to be proud of,” he says. “But, we need to get out there and tell our story. Let’s share what a great industry agriculture is.”

Farm Credit Canada provides financing and other services to more than 100,000 primary producers, value-added operators, suppliers and processors along the agriculture value chain. For more information on Farm Credit Canada, visit the FCC website: https://www.fcc-fac.ca/en.html.

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.”

March 15-21 is Canadian Agricultural Safety Week

Farm businesses are a complex combination of highly specialized and technical equipment. Growth in a farm business can also increase the number of people who are involved in that business.

Tragically, in a few cases, all this can add up to fatalities and injuries. In Canada, too many people die in farming accidents each year. Many of those incidents are preventable.

Humphrey Banack, Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) 2nd Vice President, says agriculture has been identified as a ‘high risk’ industry, and even one death or serious injury is too many.

“We’re an industry that operates in our own backyard,” says Banack, whose family farms 5,000 acres near Camrose. “Safety on farms is critical. I know neighbors who have been injured, and even killed, on farms. We have to look at safety and plan to be safe.”

Banack and his wife, Terry, feel passionate about farm safety. In 2014, they joined nine other Alberta farmers to volunteer-test a pilot safety program being developed by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). The pilot encouraged farmers to document their farm safety practices as a way of managing safety risk on the farm.

Banack says because there are a lot of moving parts with a farm business, it can sometimes be a challenge to teach someone new about the wide variety of safety protocols on a farm. That’s why the Banacks have created a written farm safety plan, and encourage other producers to do the same.

“It’s not something you do once and it’s done,” he says. “A good on-farm safety plan is constantly being updated as the farm business grows and evolves.”

Banack says the AFA Board will continue to push for progress in the area of farm safety. AFA is actively involved in initiatives like those being brought forward by ARD to improve our province’s farm safety record.

Banack also recommends that producers check out the information available through Canadian Agricultural Safety Week which occurs March 15 through 21, 2015. This annual public education campaign focuses on the importance of safety in agriculture and provides producers with resources and information to make their farms safer.

More information on Canadian Agricultural Safety Week can be found at www.agsafetyweek.ca. For videos featuring the Banacks speaking about farm safety, visit the Alberta Federation of Agriculture YouTube Channel and click on the videos in the ‘AFA In The News’ playlist.