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.”

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.”

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.”