AFA ensures agriculture stays top-of-mind during election and beyond

AFA advocates on behalf of Alberta farmers to keep agriculture a high priority among candidates, politicians and policymakers in Alberta and across Canada.

RailwayAs we move towards the April 16, 2019 election in Alberta, there are many issues on the minds of Alberta farmers. Many of these challenges not only affect Alberta farmers, but producers and growers across Canada. As the province’s general farm organization, AFA is focussed on issues in all sectors of the industry, from crop production, livestock management, value-added food production and more.

Here are just some of the current agriculture issues we’re staying on top of for our farm members.

AFA discusses canola market access with Minister of International Trade Diversification

AFA was pleased to join with Alberta Canola and other members of Canada’s canola value chain to meet with the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification on April 11, 2019 to discuss the issue of market access for canola seed into China.

Challenges persist for canola producers in Alberta, and across the country, as China continues its ban on Canadian canola seed. With China accounting for 40% of canola exports, farmers will now have to make difficult seeding decisions for the 2019 crop season with this growing uncertainty looming on the horizon.

“We were very happy to be at the table and afforded the opportunity to meet with Minister Carr and other colleagues within the industry to discuss this critical issue,” said Humphrey Banack, director of AFA. “It’s no secret that China represents a huge piece of our canola export market, so it’s good to see our government working quickly to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

Learn about Minister Carr’s three-pronged approach discussed in our meeting on April 11, 2019 here.

AFA Director speaks to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future

AFA Director Humphrey Banack spoke with the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future on March 14, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta. The discussion served to share the potential impacts on agriculture of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

“While some beneficial results were achieved for some sectors within agriculture, we are well aware that others will be hurt by some of the concessions included in this new trade deal,” Banack says.

For the full transcript of the meeting and to read the presentation given by Humphrey Banack, click here.

Bill 6, the WCB and farm labour: how much of an issue is it?

When it comes to Bill 6, the farm and ranch workplace legislation, there are different approaches being proposed among leaders of each political party that include repealing it, changing or enhancing it or keeping it as is. AFA President Lynn Jacobson feels that after early pressure from farm groups several years ago, the government did consult with farmers prior to implementing the final legislation, and that a lot of the initial negative reaction has now settled down as discussed in this article.

Despite the WCB injury claims being on the rise in 2018, other farm leaders, like Jody Wacowich, executive director of AgSafe Alberta, feels the reason for a higher number of claims could be attributed to increased knowledge and enrollment numbers. More here.

How will shipping oil by rail affect grain movement?

Grain transportation has long been a focus of AFA’s advocacy, as new cropping seasons and pressures bring new challenges getting grain to port. With the latest government proposal to move oil by rail, AFA is back advocating for farmers to ensure that any solution to solve the oil and gas backlog will not adversely affect farmers already experiencing issues with rail transportation.

“The railways and government have given assurances, but we won’t really know how it all plays out until the trains start moving,” AFA President Lynn Jacobson said. Read more on this issue here.

AFA helps craft an extension for farmers with new driver training requirements

TransportationWhen the government announced plans to implement driver training for new Class 1 and Class 2 commercial drivers on March 1, 2019, AFA heard from our farm members that the short notice for this new requirement right before the 2019 cropping season would put undue stress on their operations.

AFA voiced this concern and was invited to be part of the Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) working group that successfully pushed for an extension for farmers/farm workers on MELT training for Class 1 licences. While farmers still need to meet the new MELT standards, farmers and farm workers will have until November 30, 2019 to apply for an extension to comply with the MELT program for new commercial drivers. More information and the application for extension here.

For 2019 and beyond, AFA will continue its work on improving grain transportation, value creation for varietal research, grain contracting, and other priorities outlined at our January 2019 Annual General Meeting.

If you want to participate in these policy decisions and have your voice heard, become an AFA member today by visiting our website at http://www.afaonline.ca/membership.

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.

Shedding light on the new farm labour and safety regulations

AFA-David Myrol

David Myrol, a partner at McLennan Ross LLP, speaks to AGM delegates about farm labour and safety laws.

At the Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) Annual General Meeting in January, guest speaker David Myrol, a lawyer and partner with McLennan Ross LLP, shared his expertise on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) law.

Myrol is a nationally-recognized expert practicing almost exclusively in OHS law and is involved with many of the leading OHS cases in Alberta. His take on the new Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act that came into force on January 1, 2016: it’s complicated.

“The devil is in the details,” Myrol said at the AFA AGM on January 21. “There are lots of grey areas, the legislation is not drafted clearly, and specific regulations will be passed in the future.”

Myrol sought to bring clarification to the producers in the room by sharing an overview of OHS. He also shared insight into what he has seen in Alberta during his time as OHS Crown Prosecutor.

“From my point of view, this legislation was inevitable,” he said. “OHS legislation was needed to protect workers employed by food producers who own large operations. I believe that the intent of the legislation is aimed more at that category of employer than the small family farm.”

Myrol explained that the OHS Act is an enforcement tool that is meant to “ensure the health and safety of workers as far as reasonably practicable”. The Act, Myrol explained, is administered by Alberta’s Ministry of Labour and gives broad powers to OHS Officers who can:

  • enter work sites
  • inspect and investigate work sites
  • seize and sample
  • compel statements

Officers can issue stop work orders, write tickets, issue administrative penalties, and impose fines and jail as a result of commencing a formal prosecution. Myrol says that the case law for the most part presumes guilt, and therefore it is the responsibility of those charged to prove due diligence. In Alberta, from 2004 to 2014, there have been between seven and twenty-two prosecutions per year, with penalties between $2,000 and $1.5 million.

Delegates at the AFA AGM were reminded by Myrol that the OHS Act is just one of the acts that the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act amended. The other legislation includes the Employment Standards Code, the Labour Relations Code and Workers’ Compensation Regulation.

Myrol said that much of the confusion occurred because the changes affected so many different areas. “To be fair to the government, these are tough areas to come up with language that gives absolute clarity for producers,” he said.

So what does this all mean for producers? In wrapping up, Myrol offered this advice: producers should answer the government’s call for input on how the changes are implemented. He strongly encouraged farmers and ranchers to get involved with the government consultation process and/or give feedback to the government directly or through industry and safety associations.

The Alberta government recently announced they are establishing six discussion roundtables to work with the agriculture community and other stakeholders in developing regulations in this area. More information can be found on the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry website.

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.

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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.

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.