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.

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.

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’s Annual General Meeting explores the rapidly changing face of agriculture

Agriculture’s evolving landscape means that farm producers and ranchers need to be flexible and quick on their feet to manage change on the farm.

That’s why Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA) chose the theme Shifting Gears for their recent Annual General Meeting. Over two days in Red Deer, January 21 and 22, 2016, attendees at the AFA AGM heard about dynamic farm technology, climate change, production updates and the impact of Alberta’s farm safety legislation.

“Agriculture producers are accustomed to change and are very adept at shifting gears,” says AFA President Lynn Jacobson, who farms near Enchant. “This meeting gave our members a chance to see what’s on the horizon and offered innovative ways to meet those challenges.”

A series of expert speakers explored the issue of shifting gears from many angles:AFA-Rick McConnellRick McConnell from DYMAC Risk Management Solutions discussed new ways of assessing pasture production

AFA-Dr ErlerScientist Dr. Andre Erler with Aquanty Inc. presented observations on climate research in Western Canada

AFA-Shaun HaneyShaun Haney of RealAgriculture shared his insights into the digital age of farming by showcasing new farm technology like driverless tractors

AFA-David MyrolDavid Myrol with McLennan Ross LLP, an expert in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) law, explored the legal questions and facts surrounding Alberta’s farm labour legislation

AFA-Garth PattersonGarth Patterson with Western Grains Research Foundation spoke about agronomic capacity and funding for varietal research

AFA-Daryl BennettDaryl Bennett with Action Surface Rights looked at surface rental and the issue of abandoned wells on farms resulting from the downturn in the oil and gas industry

AFA-Markus WeberMarkus Weber with AgEagle featured drone technology and how it can be used for better profitability on the farm

AFA-Minister CarlierA highlight of the meeting was a provincial update provided by Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Hon. Oneil Carlier. Members had a chance to ask questions following the presentation, and discussions centered around actions for moving forward with the provincial farm safety and labour legislation.

AFA-Minister Carlier & QestionsMinister Carlier told the AFA delegates that the government is now focused on getting input on the legislation, adding, “We will take the time necessary to get this right.” He also thanked those in the room for their passion for the agriculture industry and the significant contribution farm producers make to the provincial economy.

In addition to speaker presentations on a wide variety of topics, the AGM is a time for AFA members to propose, debate and vote on resolutions dealing with issues that affect Alberta farm producers. Resolutions direct key priorities for AFA for the year ahead.

For 2016, AFA will continue its work on rail transportation costs, the development of a farm safety plan, ways to minimize waste in municipal areas, surface rental reimbursement for producers, plans for the Indian Head Shelterbelt Centre, commitment to varietal research and compensation to producers for carbon sequestering and trespasser damage.

Humphrey Banack, AFA’s 2nd Vice President who farms near Camrose, notes that the past year in agriculture put a spotlight on why it’s important for producers to be involved in policy decisions.

“In 2015, farmers saw tremendous change in agriculture and in politics,” says Banack. “I think producers have seen why understanding policy can be just as critical as knowing about production. As Alberta’s general farm organization, one of AFA’s areas of expertise is agricultural policy. We can speak to these issues on behalf of all producers to make sure their voices are heard.”

AFA’s President Jacobson agrees. “AFA deals with concerns that impact all farmers and ranchers in the province, not just issues that are commodity-specific,” he says. “We will be addressing the key concerns raised during this meeting with all levels of government to ensure a stronger agriculture industry for all.”

During the AGM, member-delegates re-confirmed the AFA executive team for another year with Lynn Jacobson as President, Keith Degenhardt as 1st Vice President and Humphrey Banack as 2nd Vice President.

For more information on AFA, visit our website at: www.afaonline.ca.

 

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!

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.