Sustainability

Jul. 27, 2012 - Soybean varieties that thrive even in soggy fields could result from studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. This would help increase profits for Mississippi Delta farmers who can see yield losses as high as 25 percent when they plant soybean crops in rotation with paddy rice.

This work is being conducted by former Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Tara VanToai, who now works as a collaborator at ARS' Soil Drainage Research Unit in Columbus, Ohio. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of ensuring international food security.

For more than two decades, VanToai has studied flood tolerance in soybeans in a range of environments, including greenhouses, laboratories, growth chambers, experimental fields and farm fields. She and her colleagues are finding and incorporating genes from non-native soybean varieties in an effort to supplement the narrow genetic base of U.S. soybeans and improve their tolerance to wet soil and associated diseases.

In one study, VanToai used outdoor "screenhouses"—which are greenhouses with screens instead of glass—to assess the flood tolerance of 21 soybean lines. This study included soybean lines native to Vietnam and Cambodia, lines developed via selection by farmers and gardeners, and lines from Australia, China, Japan and Taiwan that were created with modern breeding techniques.

The plants were grown in pots. When each plant was in full bloom, it was placed for two weeks in a bucket of water so that the water level was two inches above the soil surface. The screenhouse tests identified the top three flood-tolerant lines: Nam Vang, which is native to Cambodia; VND2, native to China; and ATF15-1, which is native to Australia. Plants from these three lines grew the tallest and produced the biggest seeds and highest yields. When the study was replicated in flooded experimental fields, the results were the same.

Read more about this work and other research VanToai has conducted on soybean flood tolerance in the July 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Published in Planting

Jul. 26, 2012 - New wireless integrated pest management technology will give farmers timely information on insect activity in their crops, allowing them to more efficiently use biopesticides and reduce their manual monitoring costs. Minister of Canadian Heritage and Member of Parliament James Moore (Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam) announced an investment of over $485,000 to SemiosBIO Technologies Inc. (SemiosBIO) to develop three value-added applications to help farmers improve pest management.

"Our Government's top priority is the economy, and investments in innovation are key to ensuring our economy remains strong well into the future," said Minister Moore. "This project will help farmers apply new and innovative technology to deter pests, ensure better crops, and ultimately grow their business. This is investment is great news for farmers and for BC's economy."

SemiosBIO will develop and test a pheromone tracking system for mating disruption pest control, a camera-monitored pest trap application to monitor insect population changes, and software for recording information. This innovative technology will improve safe pest management methods by enabling growers to monitor their crops and orchards for insect activity and take timely, targeted action with biopesticides, such as pheromones, or traditional pesticides if necessary.

"SemiosBIO is appreciative of the financial support it will receive from the Government of Canada," said Dr. Michael Gilbert, President and Chief Scientific Officer for SemiosBIO Technologies Inc. "Our innovations will enable growers to adopt efficient, sustainable alternatives for pest management and provide them with precise monitoring and record-keeping capabilities."

The new technology will reduce manual labour costs and bring improvements to efficiency, productivity, crop management, and organic farming. It will help meet a growing regulatory and consumer demand for efficient, effective alternatives for pest management. Improved records management will also help open new markets for Canadian crops.

This project is funded under the Agricultural Innovation Program (AIP)-a $50-million initiative announced as part of Canada's Economic Action Plan 2011. AIP is part of the Government's commitment to help Canadian producers benefit from cutting-edge science and technology. AIP boosts the development and commercialization of innovative new products, technologies, and processes for the agricultural sector. For more information about the AIP and other Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada programs, please visit www.agr.gc.ca.

Published in Federal

Jul. 25, 2012, Salt Lake City, UT - EcoScraps, a leading provider of organic, chemical- and manure-free lawn and garden products, today announced it received $1.5 million in series A venture financing. The round's lead investor was Utah-based KickStart. Other institutional investors included California-based DBL Investors and Utah-based Peterson Ventures.

"This represents a significant round of financing for EcoScraps and will be used to expand our products into new markets, continue developing our line of products, and attract new talent to our growing team," said EcoScraps CEO and co-founder Dan Blake. "Americans generate more than 30 million tons of food waste each year. Our company offers a sustainable solution to repurposing leftover fruits and vegetables."

EcoScraps diverts produce waste taken from local grocery stores and restaurants away from landfills, and turns it into compost and other lawn and garden products. The company's no-chemical, no-poop products are not only sustainable and contain twice the amount of essential soil nutrients than typical manure- and chemical-based soil products on the market, but are safe for kids and pets too.

"The strong support and adoption of EcoScraps is not surprising," said Clarke Miyasaki, managing director at KickStart. "Their business model is truly unique and profitable. By repurposing organic waste that would ordinarily sit in landfills, they have zero cost raw materials that keep costs down while creating an extremely high quality product. We see EcoScraps leading a new generation of environmentally-friendly and highly profitable companies in America."

"EcoScraps is perfectly positioned to become an industry leader," said Ben Capell, principal at Peterson Ventures. "The company's business model is unique and goes beyond anything we've seen. EcoScraps has gained an incredible amount of traction over the past year. The company's growing retail base already includes some of the nation's largest home improvement stores."

Founded just two years ago, EcoScraps is now manufacturing its products in Utah, Arizona and California. Currently, the company sells its sustainable manure- and chemical-free organic compost throughout Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and California.

"EcoScraps is led by a strong management team and is addressing the fast-growing market for green lawn and gardening products. Today's consumers want beautiful gardens that are also good for the planet, and EcoScraps is poised to become the leader in answering this important need," said Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Investors. "We are pleased to support the mission of EcoScraps and are confident in its future growth."

About EcoScraps

EcoScraps is an organic lawn and garden products manufacturer that was established in 2010. Its process recycles food waste into nutrient-rich products that help plants grow healthier in the most environmentally friendly way possible. EcoScraps has received several awards in its short history, including the 2010 Sparkseed Innovator honor, 2010 SOCAP Scholar and was named as one of the "Top 25 Most Promising Social Ventures in America" by Businessweek. To learn more about EcoScraps, visit: ecoscraps.com.

Published in Spraying

Jul. 24, 2012 - Are you passionate about farm safety? Do you operate a farm and want access to the latest tools and information on safe farming practices?  Do you work with an organization that's dedicated to preventing injuries and deaths on the farm? If you fit any of these categories or even just want to learn more, consider becoming a member of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association today!
 
Membership is easy. Just log on to CASA’s website at www.planfarmsafety.ca and click on the membership link. You can also register by phone at 1-877-452-2272. Membership is payable by credit card or cheque.
 
Your membership supports CASA’s work to prevent farm injuries in Canada.  And it has benefits.
 
First of all, your membership will help CASA  support  farm safety education for youth. This year, more than 14,000 children and participants will take part in Progressive Agriculture Safety Days across rural Canada, learning about everything from safe animal handling to sun safety, because the death of one child is too many.

It will also help CASA promote the Canada FarmSafe Plan, designed to put farmers in the driver’s seat, so they can implement a health and safety plan to protect themselves, their workers, and their families. The core plan is free to download on our website (www.casa-acsa/canadafarmsafeplan), The comprehensive plan is available for a discounted cost to members.
 
And those benefits?  If you’re a member looking for agricultural safety training displays or resources, order CASA’s agricultural safety teaching tools such as our chemical-look-a-like display, impairment goggles, or gravity flow grain wagons. Items can be ordered right from our website and CASA members can borrow teaching tools at no charge and receive free one-way shipping. Borrowing not enough? Members can purchase safety teaching tools for a significant discount.  

Every Monday, CASA members receive Communiqué, a weekly electronic roundup of ag safety news around the world.  Four times a year, you'll get a longer e-newsletter detailing national farm safety successes and challenges.  And you'll receive a discount to register for CASA's annual conference planned this year for October 10-12 in St John's, Newfoundland.

If you have any questions, please contact CASA at 1-877-452-2272.

Published in Companies

Jul. 19, 2012, Regina, SK - In 2011-12, customer service, knowledge of agriculture and a long-term commitment to the industry caused producers and agribusiness operators to choose Farm Credit Canada (FCC) for financial and business services. In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012, FCC had a record level of net disbursements, according to the report released today. A full copy can be seen here.

"The future of agriculture looks very bright, and we're fortunate to see this first hand with our customers," says Greg Stewart, FCC President and CEO. "Never has Canadian agriculture mattered more to Canada and the world, and we're proud to serve this innovative and diverse industry."

Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, FCC disbursed $7.1 billion to farmers, processors and suppliers along the agriculture value chain. Over 45,000 loans were disbursed with an average size of $156,000. The FCC portfolio grew to $23.2 billion and FCC continues to be Canada's leading agriculture lender.

As a self-sustaining, commercial Crown, FCC does not receive appropriations from the federal government. Net income is reinvested in agriculture and ensures that FCC remains financially strong and stable to serve the industry through all cycles. Driven by record disbursements, improved portfolio health, strong expense management, as well as a gain on the sale of a venture capital investment, net income was $565.1 million.

"Part of our profitability this year is attributed to the reduction of the amount FCC sets aside for potential losses, which means that our customers' financial positions have improved over the last year," says Stewart. "Canadian agriculture is a challenging and rewarding industry filled with forward-thinking and business-savvy people who love what they do. Our bottom line tells us that our customers have improved their financial health, which is good news for the industry."

"These are exciting times for Canadian agriculture and FCC is playing a key role in helping farmers succeed," says Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "Not only does FCC provide capital necessary for young and beginning farmers grow their farm business but they are committed to improving the entire industry. The Agriculture More Than Ever website is just one more way FCC is helping to strengthen the agriculture industry for the future."

"Agriculture producers also saw the value of their assets increase this past year due to the strong value of Canadian farmland, which has risen steadily over the past decade. This increase was combined with historically low interest rates and strong crop prices," says FCC Chief Operating Officer Remi Lemoine.

Financial highlights:

  • Net disbursements of $7.1 billion
  • Total portfolio growth of $1.8 billion to $23.2 billion
  • Net income of $565.1 million, which is reinvested in agriculture and ensures that FCC remains self-sustaining
  • FCC paid a dividend of $17.5 million to its sole shareholder, the Government of Canada
  • Allowance for credit losses decreased by $33.4 million to $622.1 million
  • Debt-to-equity ratio improved from 7.7:1 to 7.1:1 in 2011-12
  • Impaired loans decreased by $25.5 million to $285.1 million and impaired loans as a percentage of loans receivable decreased 0.3 per cent to 1.2 per cent
  • Renewal rates on loans decreased by 0.5 per cent to 97.2 per cent
  • FCC Ventures, the corporation's venture capital business, funded $8.5 million in new investments

Highlights of FCC's contribution to rural Canada:

FCC re-invested in agriculture:

  • organized 265 FCC Learning events that over 27,000 people attended  
  • provided management publications such as the Knowledge Insider, AgriSuccess, the weekly FCC Express agriculture e-newsletter and e-learning webinars and videos
  • rewarded $1 million toward 120 rural capital projects in communities across Canada - www.agrispirit.ca
  • awarded $50,000 through the FCC Expression Fund to support the use of Canada's official languages in Canadian communities - www.fccexpressionfund.ca
  • distributed $100,000 to 10 farm safety champions across the country through the FCC Ag Safety Fund

  • FCC honoured five women from across Canada who are active leaders in agriculture with the FCC Rosemary Davis Award - www.fccrosemarydavisaward.ca
  • Working with community partners and customers, the FCC Drive Away Hunger campaign raised awareness about hunger and collected a record 2.4 million pounds of food across Canada

"Every day, Canadians are touched by agriculture and our entire FCC team is proud to be part of this great industry," says Stewart.

The FCC annual public meeting will be held in Guelph, on August 15, 2012. A full copy of the report can be found at http://www.fcc-fac.ca/en/AboutUs/Profile/annualreport_e.asp?main=6&;sub1=media&sub2=annualreport">FCC Annual Report.

About Farm Credit Canada

As Canada's leading agriculture lender, FCC is advancing the business of agriculture. With a healthy portfolio of more than $23 billion and 19 consecutive years of portfolio growth, FCC is strong and stable - committed to serving the industry through all cycles. FCC provides financing, insurance, software, learning programs and other business services to producers, agribusinesses and agri-food operations. FCC employees are passionate about agriculture and committed to the success of customers and the industry. For more information, visit http://www.fcc.ca/.

Published in Federal

Jul. 17, 2012, London, ON - This is a brief summary of a research project by Dr. Amy Turnbull, A&L Biologicals Agroecology Research Services Centre, London, Ontario.  It looked at the impact of sulphur on tomato root disease and vine decline symptoms.  Root and soil samples for the study were taken from processing tomato fields in Essex and Chatham-Kent.

Six tomato fields were visited in 2011. Healthy and diseased plants were pulled from three fields, while only healthy plants were taken from two fields and only diseased plants from one field. The soil surrounding the roots was analysed for nutrients. A higher concentration of sulphur was observed in healthy soil compared to diseased soil when comparing between plants pulled from the same field.

Sulfate was then tested in growth room studies. Sulfate sources were magnesium sulphate, ammonium sulphate and ferrous sulphate. Controls were magnesium chloride, ammonium chloride, and ferric chloride. Chemicals were added to 50 ppm and 500 ppm to naturally infested soil collected from a field with tomato vine decline symptoms. No difference in disease severity was noted in sulphate-treated plants using the amount of lesions on the roots or shoot biomass as indicators of disease.  These trials were repeated twice with five plants per treatment.

Report from Dr. Amy Turnbull, A & L Biologicals Agroecology Research Services Centre, London, ON.

Published in Research

Jul. 13, 2012, Waterloo, ON - The Canadian government has invested $1.5 million for Martin's Family Fruit Farm to create a new line of apple crisps and cider. The project is expect to, in the next four year, increase demand for Canadian apples, offer a premium to growers on second-grade apples and create up to 30 new full-time positions.

Photo: (Left to right) Todd Cowan (Woolwich Township Mayor), Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, Kevin Martin (President, Martin's Family Fruit Farm) and MP Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga) trying apple crisps at the announcement.

Kevin Martin, the president of Martin's Family Fruit Farm says that this project stemmed from strategic planning throughout the company as a way to create value-added products from lower grade apples. "We experimented with various products and we landed on dehydrated apple crisps because we felt it fit into our company objectives as well as being on trend with consumers desire for a healthy snack," he said.

The farm supplements over 60 per cent of its apply supply with produce from 40 local Ontario growers. The investment in Martin's Family Fruit Farm will help dozens of local farmers maximize their resources and increase their competitiveness with the United States.

Martin added that the $1.5 million government investment will be used to purchase production line equipment, primarily a large dehydrator, and to help cover marketing expenses.

The new production line will slice apples into rings (with the skin left on), and dehydrate and package them without any additives or preservatives. The production equipment and processing capacity required for these types of crisps does not currently exist in the sector. The by-products from apple crisp production will be used to produce apple cider.

The costs of the dehydrated apple snacks and cider have yet to be finalized, but Martin says that they will be available starting November 2012 in various retail outlets.

For more information, visit Martin's Family Fruit Farm.

Published in Marketing

Jul. 6, 2012, Ottawa, ON - Fifteen Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals were awarded at a banquet dinner at 4-H Canada’s Annual General Meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland last month.

The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal honours Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life, who have built and continue to build this caring society and country through their service and achievements.

Of the 60,000 medals designated for Canadians, 33 were given to the Canadian 4-H Council to honour the significant contribution of individuals to the 4-H movement in Canada, with 13 to be presented nationally and 20 provincially.

The national Diamond Jubilee Medal recipients were honoured in St. John’s in front of colleagues, 4-H members, fellow volunteers and staff. The recipients, in alphabetical order, are:

Rob Black, President, Canadian 4-H Council
Lyndon Carlson, Former President, Canadian 4-H Foundation
George Klosler, Former President, Canadian 4-H Council
Marie Logan, Former President, Canadian 4-H Council
Mike Nowosad, Chief Executive Officer, 4-H Canada
Valerie Pearson, Vice-President, Canadian 4-H Council, and Executive Director, Saskatchewan 4-H Council
Judy Shaw, Former President, Canadian 4-H Council
Bertram Stewart, Former President, Canadian 4-H Council
Matthew Tweedy, Chair, Canadian 4-H Council’s Youth Advisory Committee
Dori Gingera-Beauchemin, Former President, Canadian 4-H Foundation
Elizabeth Crouse, Former President, Canadian 4-H Council
Robert McAuley, Former President, Canadian 4-H Council
James Hewitt, Former President, Canadian 4-H Foundation
Hilda Bellows, Co-Chair, provincial 4-H council, and long-time member of the 4-H program
Gerry Sullivan, Former President, provincial council, and long-time member of the 4-H program
 
“The presentation in St. John’s, amongst long-time 4-H volunteers and supporters was wonderful” said Erin Brophy, Communications and Marketing Manager at 4-H Canada. “This medal recognizes the dedication, commitment and passion for 4-H in Canada of individuals who are striving to make 4-H the best youth organization in Canada.”

For nearly a century, the 4-H program has been providing youth across Canada with the skills and confidence to grow into leaders of tomorrow. Without these volunteers, the program would not be on the precipice of celebrating 100 years, or have the solid foundation for future growth.

The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal has been created in celebration of Her Majesty’s 60th anniversary of accession to the throne as Queen of Canada.
 
About 4-H in Canada

One of the country's longest-running and most respected youth organizations, 4-H allows Canadian youth to explore, learn and discover, while expanding their horizons. In 2013, 4-H will celebrate its 100th Anniversary, and 100 years of creating leaders across Canada. More than 8,000 trained volunteer leaders help more than 26,000 4-H members develop self-confidence and learn a wide variety of skills through hands-on project work. For more information about 4-H in Canada and the 100th anniversary, please visit www.4-h-canada.ca.

Published in Vegetables

July 6, 2012, Guelph Ont – Farmers now have access to support for on-farm projects that will help protect Ontario’s lakes, rivers and other water sources. The new opportunity will provide cost-share funding for the 2012 cropping year for commercial greenhouses, landscape nurseries and vegetable farms to implement best management practices (BMP) that focus on improving water quality, water quantity and water management issues.

“We are pleased this new support is available to help affected farmers implement water management environmental improvement projects identified in their Environmental Farm Plans,” says Joan McKinlay, president of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA). “Farmers across Ontario make a valuable contribution to our provincial economy and they recognize the importance of operating their farm businesses in ways that are sustainable and environmentally responsible.”

To qualify for funding of either 30 or 50 per cent up to the category caps, eligible Ontario greenhouse, landscape nursery and vegetable farm businesses must have a peer-reviewed Third Edition Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) in place. As well, they must have selected a BMP from a pre-approved list specific to this funding opportunity that relates directly to an action identified in their EFP. Portions of six specific BMP categories are eligible for cost-share funding under this new initiative:

  • Horticultural facilities runoff control,
  • Upland and riparian area habitat management,
  • Improved pest management,
  • Nutrient recovery from wastewater,
  • Irrigation management, and
  • Resource Planning.

“We welcome the launch of this program to help with water management in the commercial greenhouse, landscape nursery and vegetable sectors,” says Mark Wales, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). “On-farm efforts to protect our water quantity and quality will provide benefit to all Ontarians.

Cost-share funding will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. The eligible invoice date for all projects is September 15, 2011 or later; the claim submission deadline is December 15, 2012. For more specific details, farmers are encouraged to contact their local OSCIA representative or visit www.ontariosoilcrop.org.

Published in Fruit

June 26, 2012, Toronto, ON - A new report released today by BMO Bank of Montreal reveals what Canadians feel is a significant impact on farming as a result of youth moving from farms to urban centres.

The BMO Farm Survey, conducted by Pollara, asked Canadians living in both rural and urban areas what they feel are the challenges as demographics shift for farm operators. The survey revealed the following:

  • Family farms: 62 per cent saw a negative impact on family farms
  • Transfer of Knowledge: 61 per cent believe the migration impacts the ability of farmers to transfer knowledge to the next generation
  • Rural Way of Life: 55 per cent believe the move of young people from rural to urban areas has a negative impact on the 'rural way of life'

These concerns are expressed by urban dwellers to the same extent as rural dwellers - and sometimes more.

According to migration trends from Statistics Canada, rural areas have experienced a net reduction of young people under the age of 25. Furthermore, based on the Census of Agriculture, farm operators under the age of 35, as a percentage of total farmers, declined from 9.1 per cent in 2006 to 8.2 per cent last year.

"A farm is more than a business; it's vital to Canada's economic strength, and this survey highlights the value Canadians place on family farms being able to survive and prosper," said David Rinneard, National Manager, Agriculture, BMO Bank of Montreal. "BMO has been a major supporter of the agriculture industry and has committed $10 billion in additional credit over the next three years to businesses across Canada."

"It is easy enough to take agriculture for granted when you have a grocery store full of food, but to sustain this, we need young people in agriculture. A main area of focus for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is intergenerational transfers and building long-term profitability into farming operations," said CFA President Ron Bonnett. "BMO's study shows all Canadians are sharing similar concerns and recognize the importance of the sector, and this is encouraging. Broad public support is what's needed to secure the future of our farms and food," added Mr. Bonnett.

Survey results cited are from online interviews with a random sample of 1,011 Canadians 18 years of age and over, conducted by Pollara between May 18 and May 23. A probability sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/-3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

BMO's roots in the Canadian agricultural sector date back to 1817, when it first began working with farmers. BMO Bank of Montreal provides customized loan and deposit solutions to Canada's agri-business owners, the single largest core commercial sector that the bank serves. For Canadian businesses, including those in the agriculture and agri-food sectors, looking to innovate, enhance productivity, and grow their business, BMO Bank of Montreal recently announced a credit boost of $10 billion over the next three years.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $525 billion as at April 30, 2012, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions. For more information, visit: www.bmo.com

Published in Research

June 19, 2012, Quebec City, QB - Farmers are always looking for ways to improve their farming practices, increase their productivity and maintain the sustainability of the environment. The Centre Eau, Terre et Environnement of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique will receive an investment of more than $250,000 to improve an integrated computer model that examines the economic and environmental impacts of implementing beneficial management practices (BMPs) on the farm and on a broader landscape scale.

"This program allows farmers to make more informed decisions about which beneficial management practices are right for their farm, which in the end, means more money in their pocket and less stress on the environment," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

The investment for this computer model is part of the $14-million Growing Forward Watershed Evaluation of Beneficial Management Practices (WEBs) project. The WEBs project, established in 2004 as the first of its kind in Canada, operates within nine small agricultural watersheds across the nation in order to better understand the environmental and economic performance of BMPs. Previous to this study, the costs and environmental benefits of BMPs had seldom been measured on a broader landscape scale. Results from the WEBs projects are providing a foundation for understanding the broader applicability of these BMPs within a specific region. Farmers can use this knowledge to maintain high agricultural productivity, while minimizing the impacts of farming on the environment. Results can also be used in planning future agricultural policies and programming.

The refined computer model will help farmers and land managers decide which BMPs will be most effective in improving soil and water quality by providing a framework to maintain agricultural productivity while minimizing the impact of farming on the environment.

Over 70 other federal, provincial, academic and non-governmental organizations are also partners in this national project, which will run until 2013.

For more information about the WEBs project, please visit: www.agr.gc.ca/webs.

To find out more about Growing Forward and its initiatives, please visit: www.agr.gc.ca/growingforward.

Published in Irrigating

May 28, 2012, Regina, SK - Canadian producers are invited to share their stories of pride about living and working in the agriculture industry on Facebook, Twitter and a new website called www.agriculturemorethanever.ca.

Agriculture More Than Ever is a multi-year initiative to change perceptions about agriculture. It's designed to close the gap in perceptions between producers and the public. A Farm Credit Canada (FCC) survey of 4,500 producers and agribusiness operators revealed that 80% feel their farm or business will be better off in five years and 79% would recommend a career in an agriculture-related field. Although most producers are optimistic, they tend to downplay what they love about the industry when talking about it. So perhaps it's no surprise that a recent survey of the Canadian general public revealed a prevailing assumption that agriculture was unlikely to have a bright future. It's this disconnect that Agriculture More Than Ever is designed to address.

"Image matters. To attract the people, skills and investment needed to meet the growing demand for food, those of us involved in agriculture have a responsibility to promote the industry," said Greg Stewart, FCC President and CEO. "As Canada's leading agriculture lender, FCC is uniquely positioned to support an effort to improve perceptions Canadians have about an industry that contributes $130 billion dollars to our national economy. This doesn't mean there aren't industry challenges, but overall, the future of agriculture has never looked more promising."

Changing perceptions is an industry-wide initiative.

"FCC is excited to work with partners across the industry to show Canadians that agriculture is modern, vibrant and diverse which provides tremendous business and career opportunities," said Lyndon Carlson, FCC Senior Vice-President, Marketing. "We look forward to engaging farmers and agribusiness professionals across the value chain to share the stories behind the industry and enlighten Canadians about Canada's role as one of the world's leading food-producing nations."

Agriculture is a major economic force in Canada:

- The agri-food industry is Canada's largest employer, accounting for one in eight jobs or 2.2 million people.

- Canada is the fifth largest exporter of agri-food and seafood products in the world. Agriculture accounts for more than $44 billion in exports.

- 97% of population growth over the next 20 years will take place in developing countries. When those countries gain additional income, they will spend it on food. Canada is one of few countries that can deliver.

Canadian agriculture is a modern, vibrant and diverse industry, filled with forward-thinking people who love what they do. For the industry to reach its full potential and to ensure its long-term viability, Agriculture More Than Ever asks those involved in the industry to champion agriculture by engaging in more frequent discussions regarding what's going well within the industry - filling in information gaps, responding to misguided perceptions and telling the success stories about the industry, online and offline. The story of Canadian agriculture is one of success, promise, challenge and determination. The greatest storytellers are the 2.2 million Canadians who live it every day. To join the cause or learn more, visit: www.agriculturemorethanever.ca or on Twitter: @AgMoreThanEver or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/agriculturemorethanever.

About FCC

As Canada's leading agriculture lender, FCC is advancing the business of agriculture. With a healthy portfolio of more than $23 billion and 19 consecutive years of portfolio growth, FCC is strong and stable - committed to serving the industry through all cycles. FCC provides financing, insurance, software, learning programs and other business services to producers, agribusinesses and agri-food operations. FCC employees are passionate about agriculture and committed to the success of customers and the industry. For more information, visit www.fcc.ca.

Published in Food Safety

May 22, 2012, Frazee, MN – Don and Norma Smith couldn’t understand why their sheep stopped producing lambs in the mid-1990s. When half the animals died mysteriously over one winter, they gave up on the profitable hobby that had won blue ribbons for their kids at the Minnesota State Fair.

It was only later that they figured the problem might be connected to the use of chlorothalonil on the potato fields that had grown up around their small farm on the sandy soil in west-central Minnesota. READ MORE

Published in Fruit

May 16, 2012, Guelph, ON - Farm & Food Care held its inaugural board meeting and elected its first executive at a meeting in Guelph on May 11th.

John Maaskant will serve as the first chairman of Farm & Food Care.  John is the Chicken Farmers of Ontario representative and the past chair of the Ontario Farm Animal Council. He and his family farm near Clinton, Ontario.

“We are excited about the future of this organization as we build on our strong foundation and look forward to the future,” said Maaskant.  “Farm & Food Care’s work will benefit the whole agri-food sector by cultivating awareness and building appreciation for food and farming.”

Larry Lynn, representing Grain Farmers of Ontario, has been chosen as the organization’s Vice Chair.  Rounding out the executive is Treasurer Joe Hickson representing the Seed Growers’ Association and Executive member at large Heather Copland representing Grober Inc.

All four executive members formerly sat on either the board of directors of the Ontario Farm Animal Council or AGCare - Agricultural Groups Concerned about Resources and the Environment. The organizations amalgamated to become Farm & Food Care Ontario in January which has been operating with an interim board of directors until this meeting.

Other directors include:

  • Lianne Appleby - Hendrix Genetics
  • Marinus Bakker – Ontario Bean Producers’ Marketing Board
  • Bruce Christie – Nutreco Canada Inc.
  • Beth Clark – Ontario Pork
  • Jim Poel – Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers’ Association
  • Gerald Rollins – Ontario Cattlemen’s Association
  • Ed Scharringa – Christian Farmers’ Federation of Ontario
  • Murray Sherk – Dairy Farmers of Ontario

At the meeting, the board focused on setting direction for the coming year, approving a business plan and financial statements. Board members will go through a strategic planning exercise in June.

About Farm & Food Care

Farm & Food Care Ontario is the first coalition of its type in Canada, bringing together tens of thousands of farmers and related businesses with a mandate to provide credible information on food and farming in Ontario. To learn more about Farm & Food Care Ontario or to support the organization’s efforts, visit www.farmfoodcare.org.

Published in Provinces

May 4, 2012 – Can organic agriculture feed the world?

Although organic techniques may not be able to do the job alone, they do have an important role to play in feeding a growing global population while minimizing environmental damage, according to researchers at McGill University and the University of Minnesota.

A new study published in Nature concludes that crop yields from organic farming are generally lower than from conventional agriculture. That is particularly true for cereals, which are staples of the human diet – yet the yield gap is much less significant for certain crops, and under certain growing conditions, according to the researchers.

The study, which represents a comprehensive analysis of the current scientific literature on organic-to-conventional yield comparisons, aims to shed light on the heated debate over organic versus conventional farming. Some people point to conventional agriculture as a big environmental threat that undercuts biodiversity and water resources, while releasing greenhouse gases. Others argue that large-scale organic farming would take up more land and make food unaffordable for most of the world’s poor and hungry.

“To achieve sustainable food security we will likely need many different techniques – including organic, conventional, and possible hybrid systems – to produce more food at affordable prices, ensure livelihoods to farmers, and reduce the environmental costs of agriculture,” the researchers conclude.

Overall, organic yields are 25 per cent lower than conventional, the study finds. The difference varies widely across crop types and species, however. Yields of legumes and perennials (such as soybeans and fruits), for example, are much closer to those of conventional crops, according to the study, conducted by doctoral student Verena Seufert and geography professor Dr. Navin Ramankutty of McGill University and Dr. Jonathan Foley of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

What’s more, when best management practices are used for organic crops, overall yields are just 13 per cent lower than conventional levels.

“These results suggest that today’s organic systems may nearly rival conventional yields in some cases – with particular crop types, growing conditions and management practices – but often they do not,” the researchers write.

Improvements in organic management techniques, or adoption of organic agriculture under environmental conditions where it performs best, may help close the yield gap, they indicate.

“Our study indicates that organically fertilized systems might require higher nitrogen inputs to achieve high yields as organic nitrogen is less readily available to crops. In some cases, organic farmers may therefore benefit by making limited use of chemical fertilizers instead of relying only on manure to supply nitrogen to their crops,” Seufert says. “At the same time, conventional agriculture can learn from successful organic systems and implement practices that have shown environmental benefits, such as increased crop diversity and use of crop residues.”

Yields are only part of a set of economic, social and environmental factors that should be considered when gauging the benefits of different farming systems, the researchers note. “Maybe people are asking the wrong question,” Dr. Ramankutty says. “Instead of asking if food is organically grown, maybe we should be asking if it’s sustainably grown.”

The results point to a need to get beyond the black-and-white, ideological debates that often pit advocates of organic and local foods against proponents of conventional agriculture, Dr. Foley adds. “By combining organic and conventional practices in a way that maximizes food production and social good while minimizing adverse environmental impact, we can create a truly sustainable food system.”

Published in Research

Apr. 26, 2012, Gatineau, QB - With record high farm incomes and a positive economic outlook for the Canadian agriculture industry as a backdrop, Agriculture Ministers met today and launched the final stage of negotiations of the next agriculture policy framework for the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. Ministers agreed that the new framework will focus on investments in innovation, competitiveness, market opportunities, adaptability and sustainability. Ministers aim to sign the agreement at their next annual meeting in September and to have the new framework in place by April 2013.

"Just as farmers constantly adjust their farm practices to suit changing market or weather conditions, so too must governments review and adapt programs so they continue to support the evolving needs of the agriculture industry," said federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "By focusing on innovation, market development and the long-term prosperity of the farm gate, federal, provincial and territorial governments will be able to help farmers capitalize on new innovations, emerging market opportunities, and increasing global demand for safe, high quality food."

Ministers called for stronger government-industry partnership to foster a culture of innovation and to ensure investments and priorities are aligned with the needs of the sector. Ministers also discussed the need to continue to engage the entire value chain including the food processing industry.

FPT governments will continue to work closely with industry to create new market opportunities through science, market access, and food safety. Governments will strengthen their efforts to create and maximize opportunities for Canadian farmers, producers and processors to sell their safe, quality products to consumers here at home and around the world. Ministers also reiterated their support for advancing Canada's trade interests in free trade negotiations to benefit Canada's agricultural and agri-food sector, while maintaining support for Canada's supply management system.

"I am pleased that all jurisdictions are united in our resolve to ensure the policies and programs outlined in the successor framework agreement will support the evolving needs of the industry," said meeting co-chair Brad Cathers, Yukon Minister for Energy, Mines and Resources. "Together we are building a solid foundation to help producers and processors remain competitive and successful, now and well into the future."

The next annual meeting will be held September 12-14, 2012, in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Published in Federal

Apr. 2, 2012, Ottawa, ON - Responses are mixed on the agriculture side in response to Canada's Economic Action Plan 2012, introduced in late March by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. On one hand, the government is cutting over $300 million from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), but there are also a number of funding additions to encourage trade, food safety and reimbursement for flood damage.

The cuts

According to the 2012 budget, "[the] Agriculture and Agri-Food portfolio organizations will streamline their operations and reduce operating costs, while making sure services are provided to farmers and the agriculture industry in the most cost-effective and efficient way."

The description goes on to mention that the AAFC and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will merge and integrate a variety of functions, including research goals, to make it "easier for farmers and industry to get the information on technological advances they need to succeed."

The CFIA saw its budget cut from current levels to decreases of $2.1 million in 2012-13, $10 million in 2013-14 and a staggering $56.1 million by 2015. These cuts will be accomplished by transforming how it interacts and delivers services to clients with regards to permits, licences and registration, as well as for the provision of technological, interpretive and specialized advice.

The document also states that the CFIA will have to change how they monitor and enforce non-health and safety food labelling regulations through the introduction of a web-based label verification tool that will allow customers to bring concerns directly to the approppriate companies and associations. Lastly, the budget states that, "the Government will also repeal regulations related to container standards to enable industry to take advantage of new packaging formats and technologies, while removing an unnecessary barrier for the importation of new products from international markets."

The additions

While there are a large number of cuts, some areas of the AAFC do receive a financial boost. For example, the budget proposes funding for the Canadian Grain Commission of $27 million in 2012-13 and $17 million in 2013-14. This will allow the commission to move to "a sustainable funding model" and realign its fee structure for services.

Food safety also received some attention in the budget, with $51.2 million being split between the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and the CFIA, to continue enhanced surveillance, early detection and improved response capabilities to foodborne illness emergencies.

"Time and time again we have demonstrated that food safety is a priority for this Government," added Minister Ritz in a press release from Marketwire. "Our Government's Budget, once again, reaffirms our strong commitment to consumers and the food industry."

Of great relief to many farmers that struggled in the 2011 floods was a $99.2 million commitment over three years to fund "permanent flood mitigation measures."

The budget also focused on international trade and partnerships to help expand and open export markets. It proposes to undertake the most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canadian history, strengthening trade with the United States, the European Union, Japan, India, China and many more to help reduce red tape and making it easier for farmers and industries to do business.

This will be accomplished by having the AAFC consolidating the delivery of grants and contributions programs out of only one branch.

What's next

With the budget only recently announced, there is a lot that is still unknown about where the cuts for the AAFC will come from. But, with the agriculture sector being one of the most stable and resilient during the economic downturn according to the budget, the future is uncertain whether these will help or hinder the industry.

Canadian 2012 Budget

Published in Fruit

Mar. 21, 2012 - Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) is neither surprised nor concerned that electricity prices from renewable sources under the Feed-in tariff (FIT) are expected to drop by at least 25%.

The Government of Ontario has demonstrated leadership by passing the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) and should aggressively leverage its smart investment, maximizing ratepayer benefit while strengthening the emerging green economy.

The prices paid for renewable energy under the FIT are based on a "cost plus a reasonable return on investment" model.  The scheduled two-year review of the FIT program was always intended to transparently adjust prices as costs fell.

By 2014, Ontario will phase out all of its remaining coal and by 2016, 25.62 TerraWatt hours (25,620,000,000 kWh) of power will need to be replaced as four of the province's 20 nuclear reactors come to the end of their lives.  There are options for replacing this power generation and almost all are cheaper than rebuilding Darlington nuclear facilities.

A portfolio of sustainable energy, options including: conservation, FIT procured renewables, combined heat and power (CHP) and potentially water power imports from Quebec, represents a real bargain both environmentally and economically.

The two-year review and revitalization of the FIT program has always been in the cards. It shouldn't be delayed - it is time for Ontarians to move forward and seize the opportunity!

Background - How and Why Renewable Energy is critical to affordable energy

Contrary to rhetoric espoused by some, a portfolio of sustainable energy (conservation, CHP, water power imports and FIT procured renewables) is the cheapest option as we rebuild and reinvest in our long neglected electricity grid and replace our retiring coal and nuclear.  For electricity buying Ontarians, more important than the FIT review is challenging the assumption that an expensive rebuild of our nuclear plants is necessary. 

In just over two years Ontario's FIT, combined with growing global demand for renewable energy has driven down the cost of renewable energy generating technology.

Renewable power under the FIT program with its fixed twenty-year contract will keep the average price of power lower in Ontario as we begin to invest and to pay for fuel costs associated with new natural gas and nuclear power.

To ensure this investment in the future is not burdensome, Ontarians need to continue building upon their conservation efforts - after all the lowest cost power is the power we don't use. A renewed focus on energy conservation will lead to businesses, homeowners and industry consuming less and saving on their bills.

Published in Fruit
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