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.”

Proposed royalties on farm-saved seed: what AFA wants you to know

iStock_000006354562MediumConsultations have just begun on proposed royalties to be paid by producers for farm-saved seed. Although this topic has been discussed for some time, an AFA Board member says it’s time for Alberta producers to get involved in the discussion to help craft something that works for them.

AFA’s 1st Vice President and seed grower Keith Degenhardt feels that, at the very least, Alberta crop producers should find out what’s being proposed with these new royalty options. More importantly, he says, producers can participate in the discussion at AFA’s Annual General Meeting in January 2019 and help shape the options before it’s too late.

“Although the discussion centers around plant breeders’ rights legislation, part of the issue is that producers will not have as much flexibility as they’ve had in the past,” says Degenhardt.

Degenhardt explains that revisions to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act in 2015 aligned the Act with the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91), and ‘farmers’ privilege’ was noted as an exception under the legislation. That means when a producer buys certified seed, the production from that seed can be regrown on their own farm to produce subsequent crops, provided that seed is not resold to other producers.

What’s on the table for royalties

The federal government, in conjunction with the seed industry and the Grains Roundtable, is now considering a royalty on farm-saved seed and, to date, has two options in mind. Under an end-point royalty, producers would pay when they deliver and sell grain. The other option is a trailing royalty where producers sign a contract and pay an annual royalty to plant breeders when using farm-saved seed.

AFA has been part of the discussion on Plant Breeders’ Rights for many years. In December, AFA President Lynn Jacobson and Board Member Humphrey Banack participated in a session on value creation models for cereals research and variety development in Canada. Degenhardt points out that at AFA regional meetings late this year, the reaction to these options was mixed, ranging from understanding to firm dislike.

“We heard one producer say they would rather pay more up front and not have their farmers’ privilege affected,” says Degenhardt. “That may be an option, but we don’t know if that increase is enough funding for breeding companies to reinvest in more and newer varieties.”

To Degenhardt, what’s at stake for the industry is that the current seed research and development model in Canada is at risk of being underfunded. He points out the federal government has indicated that money for investment in new seed varieties is not guaranteed. Producers require new seed varieties to continue to fight diseases, address pest pressures and improve traits that allow for better yields and market access. There’s a cost to that, and these new royalty options are an attempt to pay for that seed development.

“The present model is not raising enough dollars,” says Degenhardt. “Plant breeding is like a lottery, where breeders can make crosses, but they don’t always know which will create a superior line or if it will go to the variety stage. It takes years to develop new varieties – up to eight or 10 years.”

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Producer input urgently needed

Degenhardt recognizes the need to generate more research funding for the plant breeders and keep the Canadian seed industry competitive and producers thriving. Even so, AFA is not certain the two options proposed are the best for producers.

“Producers can say they don’t like these two options and want something else,” Degenhardt explains. “At AFA, we think other methods should be explored with the input of farmers.”

Degenhardt encourages anyone who cares about this issue to attend the AFA Annual General Meeting in Leduc on January 17, 2019, where plant breeders’ rights and the options around creating value for the entire chain will be explored.

AFA President Lynn Jacobson points out in this AFA blog that getting direct input from producers at the AFA AGM is the best way to ensure producers have a say on the issue of royalties for farm-saved seed.

To attend the AFA AGM on January 17, 2019, producers can register here. Anthony Parker, commissioner with the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be there to explain the farm-saved seed proposal. AFA will develop a position on this issue at the AGM, so it’s important that there is good producer representation to add to the discussion.

“On any issue, you’ll never get everyone agreeing on the same thing,” says Degenhardt. “On this issue, producers have to decide if they support research, and if so, do they want to support one of these models or suggest another model?”

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.

 

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.

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.”

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.

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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.

With gratitude, we thank our corporate partner, FCC

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This profile features the partnership that Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) has with Farm Credit Canada (FCC). We’re proud to team up with this dynamic group that does so much for agriculture in Canada!
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Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is an important player in our country’s agriculture industry. As Canada’s top agricultural lender, FCC plays a vital role in supporting and strengthening our industry’s agribusinesses: from primary producers to companies that specialize in agri-food products.

FCC is a financially self-sustaining federal Crown corporation, reporting to Parliament through the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. As an organization, FCC focuses on efforts that support Canadian agriculture, and give back to communities across Canada. They have over 1,700 employees in 100 offices throughout rural Canada.

FCC serves agriculture businesses in a wide variety of ways, helping producers and agribusinesses succeed by offering the following core services:

• Financing and Insurance: for primary producers, agribusinesses and young farmers
• Ag Knowledge: news articles and events to help producers manage production, marketing, human resources, technology, finances, business planning, and more
• Resources and Tools: innovative accounting and farm management software, calculators and specialized training
• Community Support: 4-H support, community funding, food bank drives and other partnerships

Beyond offering tailored products for agriculture, FCC staff are committed to sharing their expertise and knowledge with others in the industry. Each year, a representative from FCC attends our AFA Annual General Meeting to bring the latest advancements and outlooks to AFA members who attend our event.

In January 2016, we heard from Rob Schmeichel, FCC’s District Director from Edmonton, Alberta. Rob spoke passionately about the importance of telling agriculture’s story and being an agricultural advocate in today’s world with consumers so focussed on transparency and social license. All in attendance appreciated his enthusiasm, and his important message.

“In the years that AFA has partnered with FCC, we’ve admired their collaborative approach to business and the many ways they support agriculture across the country,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson. “AFA and FCC personnel connect on a very deep level because we all share such a strong passion for agriculture. It’s a very rewarding partnership and we’re grateful for their friendship.”