Business & Policy

Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is offering support for customers growing fruit and vegetables or operating wineries facing financial hardship as a result of recent widespread frost throughout all three Maritime provinces.
Spring planting is only weeks away, and with it comes many expected as well as a few unexpected operating expenses. From crop inputs, fuel, wages and repairs, to small asset purchases, a Cash Advance from CCGA offers farmers financing below prime. Whether you grow a mix of field crops, or raise livestock, Cash Advance has options on 45 commodities.
While the proposed tax amendments will affect all private corporations, several of them will significantly impact tax planning for family farm corporations – an estimated 25 per cent of Canadian farms, according to Norm Hall, a producer in Saskatchewan and first vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Trimble has released Advisor Prime, a web-based data-sharing solution featuring a streamlined workflow for creating and sharing management zones and variable rate prescriptions.
Farmers can now submit their cash advance applications for the 2018-19 Advance Payments Program through the Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA). This year, CCGA is providing farmers with the earliest ever pre-application period as well as a reduced administration fee.Through CCGA, farmers can access advances on 45 field crop and livestock commodities. Farmers can apply for a cash advance of up to $100,000 interest-free and an additional $300,000 at prime. Combined, that amounts to $400,000 at a blended interest rate of below prime.Farmers wanting to apply for a cash advance are encouraged to call CCGA’s Winnipeg office at 1-866-745-2256 to apply over the telephone. They can also download an application form from CCGA’s website.For farmers who have short-term financing needs, CCGA will continue processing applications for the 2017-18 cash advance program through March. The final date CCGA can issue an advance under the current program is March 31, 2018, and the deadline for repayment on a 2017-18 grain advance is September 30, 2018. | READ MORE
The 28th Annual General Meeting of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission was held January 30 at the FarmTech Conference in Edmonton. Following the Annual General Meeting, the board elected Renn Breitkreuz from Onoway as the new chair, and John Guelly of Westlock as the new vice-chair.Alberta Canola is pleased to welcome two new directors to the Board: Andre Harpe of Valhalla Centre, replacing Greg Sears in region 2 Ian Chitwood of Airdrie, replacing Steve Marshman in region 8 The board of Alberta Canola would like to thank outgoing directors Greg Sears and Steve Marshman for all the hard work they have done on behalf of Alberta’s canola farmers.Greg joined the Board in 2012 and held many positions including Alberta representative to the Canola Council of Canada. Greg was chair for the last two years and the board has greatly appreciated his steady hand at the helm and his unflappable demeanor.Steve joined the Board in 2015 and represented farmers’ interests at the Clean Air Strategic Alliance. Steve brought a wealth of business experience to the board and this will be missed.Both Greg and Steve were also heavily involved in presenting farmers’ opinions to the Alberta government during Bill 6 consultations.Visit albertacanola.com/about for more information on the board of directors, the committees that guide the board, and Alberta Canola’s regions.Join Top Crop Manager Feb. 27 and 28 in Saskatoon, Sask., for the 2018 Herbicide Resistance Summit - Register now!
As of July 31, Canada's total stocks of wheat and barley were down from the same date a year earlier, while stocks of canola, oats, dry peas and lentils increased, according to the latest report from Statistics Canada. WheatTotal stocks of wheat were down 9.9 per cent to 6.2 million tonnes compared with July 31, 2017. The decline was due to a 22.5 per cent decrease in commercial stocks to 3.5 million tonnes. This was offset by a 15 per cent increase in on-farm stocks (+347,000 tonnes).Despite lower production, higher wheat quality in 2017-2018 (as stated in the latest Canada: Outlook for Principal Field Crop, published by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) compared with the previous year contributed to increased exports, which could have lowered commercial stocks.CanolaAt the national level, canola stocks were up 78.2 per cent to 2.4 million tonnes as of July 31, 2018. On-farm stocks, which are concentrated in the Prairie provinces, were behind the increase (+238.9 per cent to 1.4 million tonnes). Commercial stocks were 3.9 per cent higher compared with July 31, 2017, at 954,000 tonnes.Canola production in 2017/2018 reached a record high 21.3 million tonnes, while deliveries were down compared with the previous crop year, pushing up total stocks as of July 31, 2018.Dry peas and lentilsOverall stocks of lentils totalled 876,000 tonnes as of July 31, 2018, up 561,000 tonnes (+178.1 per cent) from the same date in 2017. The increase was due to higher farm stocks (+223.7 per cent). Meanwhile, total stocks of dry peas rose 116.7 per cent to 650 000 tonnes.Increases as of July 31, 2018, could be attributable to higher import tariffs introduced by India. Exports of both dry peas and lentils as of July 31 were down substantially from the same date last year, with dry pea exports declining 21.1 per cent to 3.1 million tonnes and lentil exports falling 36.8 per cent to 1.6 million tonnes.BarleyTotal barley stocks were down 40.8 per cent to 1.3 million tonnes as of July 31. Stocks held on-farm, which accounted for 81.4 per cent of total stocks, fell 42.8 per cent to one million tonnes. Meanwhile, commercial stocks declined 30 per cent to 233,000 tonnes.OatsAs of July 31, total stocks of oats were up 11.5 per cent to 784,000 tonnes year over year. Increases in both on-farm (+6.3 per cent) and commercial (+35.4 per cent) stock levels led to the overall rise.
Alberta products stood out at the world's largest annual food trade show. Gulfood attracts about 100,000 visitors from all over the world and took place February 18 to 22, 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Alberta’s delegation was comprised of a range of companies offering commodities like pulses, cereals and grains, to value-added products including honey, halal beef and lamb. | READ MORE
As of March 31, 2018, total stocks of wheat and barley were lower compared with the same date in 2017. Meanwhile, total stocks of canola, corn, soybeans, oats, dry peas and lentils were up. Many of the increases were a result of increased on-farm stocks.WheatTotal wheat stocks were at 16.4 million tonnes as of March 31, 2018, down 3.9 per cent from the same day a year earlier. This decrease was the result of lower stock levels being held on farms, down 1.3 per cent to 12.5 million tonnes, as well as an 11.3 per cent decrease in commercial stocks to 3.9 million tonnes. Farm stock levels in Saskatchewan decreased by 5.6 per cent to 5.7 million tonnes, while farm stocks in Alberta increased 4.9 per cent to 4.4 million tonnes.CanolaAs of March 31, total canola stocks were up 14.4 per cent from the same day a year earlier to 9.1 million tonnes. This increase resulted from a 18.2 per cent rise in on-farm stocks to 7.5 million tonnes. On-farm stocks in Saskatchewan were up 15.3 per cent to 3.8 million tonnes, while they increased 22.7 per cent in Alberta to 2.7 million tonnes. Commercial stocks, however, edged down 0.8 per cent to 1.6 million tonnes.Corn for grainCorn for grain stocks were up 4.3 per cent from the same date a year earlier to 8.7 million tonnes. Commercial stocks were down 25.5 per cent to 2.1 million tonnes, while farm stocks were up 19.1 per cent to 6.7 million tonnes. Farm stocks in Ontario increased 34.1 per cent to 3.7 million tonnes.SoybeansSoybean stocks increased 38.7 per cent to 2.6 million tonnes as of March 31, likely the result of record production of 7.7 million tonnes in 2017. On-farm stocks were up 58.1 per cent to 1.5 million tonnes. Manitoba was the main driver, as on-farm stocks in the province increased by 150 per cent to 700,000 tonnes. Meanwhile, commercial stocks increased by 18.3 per cent to 1.1 million tonnes.Barley and oatsTotal barley stocks decreased 25.5 per cent to 3.4 million tonnes as of March 31, after a 10.7 per cent production decline in 2017. Farm stocks decreased 28.3 per cent compared with the same day a year earlier to three million tonnes. However, commercial stock levels increased 12 per cent to 355,000 tonnes.Total oat stocks increased 19.8 per cent to 2.1 million tonnes compared with March 31, 2017. Both on-farm stocks (+21.8 per cent) and commercial stocks (+4.9 per cent) contributed to the overall increase. These stock levels follow a 15.3 per cent rise in oat production in 2017 over 2016.Dry peas and lentilsTotal stocks for lentils increased 34.8 per cent from March 31, 2017, to 1.5 million tonnes, mainly driven by on-farm stock levels that rose 41.1 per cent to 1.4 million tonnes. Meanwhile, stocks of dry peas rose 12.7 per cent to 1.9 million tonnes. These increases continue a pattern seen for the commodities in the last stock report taken on December 31, 2017. The current stock increases as of March 31, 2018, could be attributable to a rise in import tariffs introduced by India. Exports of both dry peas and lentils on March 31, 2018, are down substantially from the same date last year, with dry pea exports declining 40.7 per cent to 1.8 million tonnes, and lentil exports down 49.6 per cent to one million tonnes.
While North American farmers are in the process of wrapping up a fourth-straight bumper harvest, according to the BMO 2016 North American Agriculture Report, foreign exchange developments have yielded very different experiences for producers in Canada and the United States. "In the United States, the lofty greenback, which has gained 20 per cent on a trade-weighted basis since the start of 2014, has been yet another bearish factor for crop prices and revenue," said Aaron Goertzen, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "Canadian producers, in contrast, have benefitted from a drop in the loonie, which is down 17 per cent against the U.S. dollar since the start of 2014 and has provided a like-sized lift to crop prices north of the border." Mr. Goertzen added that as a result of the weaker loonie, domestic crop prices in Canada are 18 per cent below all-time highs – compared to nearly 30 per cent in the United States – and have risen five per cent from their recent low in mid-2014. The lower loonie has been a particularly fortunate development given the country's mediocre crop yields over the past few years. Canadian Outlook In Canada, composite crop yields, which consist of corn, soybeans, wheat and canola, picked up modestly on last year's subpar result. However, they remained on-trend overall as a near-record crop of canola on the prairies was offset by a decrease in corn and soybean yields in Ontario. "Canadian producers have undoubtedly been supported by the weaker loonie," said Adam Vervoort, Head of Agriculture Banking, BMO Financial Group. "This means now, with extra capital available, is an ideal time to invest in technology, which is driving the current string of bumper crops we've seen on a North American scale." He added, "Those producers who have adopted modern agricultural practices, particularly in the corn space, have grown trend crop yields substantially. There's still room for autonomous, satellite-informed equipment to be refined and used, as the innovation trend shows no sign of slowing down." Producers in Canada's Western regions, namely Alberta and Saskatchewan, have experienced a more difficult season impacted by weather challenges since October that have delayed their harvest timeline. However, the prairies remain on track for a near-record crop of canola. Mr. Vervoort affirmed that producers in the West could have potentially seen stronger results weather permitting, but have managed to still sustain a decent crop turnaround. "The harvest conditions have not been ideal, but we continue to work with farmers negatively impacted by adverse weather." While Canadian producers benefitted from a timely fall in the loonie that lifted crop prices north of the border, it also raised the cost of internationally-priced inputs like energy and fertilizer. Most producers face a wide variety of Canadian dollar-dominated expenses though, so margins have ultimately benefitted on balance. From mid-2014 to early this year, the weaker Canadian dollar also caused food prices to inflate four per cent yearly. Consumers have been somewhat relieved as a result of the partial bounce-back of the dollar in the latter half of the year and a decrease in livestock prices.
Analysts say wet weather is behind the movement of some grains into feed markets in Canada, according to FeedNavigator.com. | READ MORE
The U.S. will capture a higher share of the global wheat market this season as poor weather that’s hurt French and Canadian crops helps the second-largest exporter step up shipments from a 44-year low last season, according to Bloomberg.com. | READ MORE
Cereal grains and other major food crops can become contaminated with mycotoxins, which are naturally occurring toxins produced by mold that grow in certain conditions. Some of the mycotoxins familiar to the grains industry include Ochratoxin A, Deoxynivalenol (DON) and others, which are not only regulatory and international trade concerns, but also potential health issues. Mycotoxins can develop at various crop stages, pre-harvest, harvest and in storage, but cannot be detected visually and have no taste or smell.
Saudi Arabia’s main state wheat buying agency has told grains exporters it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley in its international tenders, European traders said on Tuesday, as a diplomatic dispute between the two countries escalates.
The Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) issued a statement urging the federal government to be more active in helping farmers maintain their businesses and minimize the effects of ongoing trade disputes with the United States. 
July 20, 2018 - Japan resumes purchases of Canadian wheat after testing showed no evidence of genetically modification in imported wheat. 
South Korea has resumed imports of Canadian wheat after testing and finding no evidence of genetically modified wheat in commercial shipments.
WASHINGTON - The leaders of the U.S. National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) in a joint statement today urged Canadian and U.S. officials to preserve the strong, longstanding trade relationship between the two countries.
Argentina recently authorized the use of genetically modified soybean seeds resistant to herbicides other than glyphosate, as the European Union (EU) debates whether to extend the license of weed-killers containing the ingredient.The EU debate comes amid concerns the active ingredient in Monsanto Co.'s popular weed-killer Roundup causes cancer. That has caused concern in the South American country, the number one exporter of soybean meal and soybean oil and number three raw soybean exporter, that its exports to the EU could be in jeopardy.In a statement, the Agriculture Ministry said the SYN-000H2-5 seed needed different herbicides which had not raised health concerns around the world. Syngenta AG and Bayer AG had requested government approval for the seed. For the full story, click here.
India’s decision to impose a steep tariff on pea imports could jeopardize $1 billion worth of pulse trading with Canada, which may cause farmers there to trim their pea acreage by nearly one-third.Earlier this month, India imposed a 50 per cent import tax on peas, as pulse prices fell below their government-set support levels because of record output.The duty is expected to lift domestic pulse prices and spur farmers in India, the world’s biggest buyer of pulses, to boost pulse plantings, reducing import requirements in 2018. READ MORERelated: Statement by the Government of Canada on pulse exports to India
Despite being at opposite ends of the planet, Canada and Australia have long been soul sisters, But it’s in agriculture where the similarities come to the fore, with very similar commodity profiles, particularly for grain, dairy and protein.And despite very different target markets, trade agreements and government attitudes, each country’s agricultural communities are after one thing — a profitable and expanding appetite for their produce. | READ MORE
A meeting of Trans-Pacific Partnership countries in Vietnam this week provides a window of opportunity for Canada to take the next step in TPP implementation, increasing the value of canola exports and benefiting the entire canola value chain. The 11 country members are meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Week, November 6 to 11.“The canola industry is urging the federal government to advance the TPP during these discussions,” says Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada. “Implementing the TPP will increase value-added processing in Canada, maintain existing markets and ensure that Canada remains competitive to other oilseed producing countries.”The United States has decided not to proceed with TPP negotiations. However, implementing an agreement with the remaining 11 countries would provide Canadian canola a competitive advantage over competing oilseed products entering TPP countries, such as U.S. soybean oil into Japan.Japan is a long-standing and consistent market for canola seed, but tariffs of approximately 16 per cent have prevented oil exports. As agreed to during the TPP negotiations, the TPP would open new markets for value-added canola products by eliminating canola oil and canola meal tariffs and establishing more effective rules to prevent non-tariff barriers. When tariffs are fully eliminated in Japan and Vietnam over five years, exports of Canadian canola oil and meal could increase by up to $780 million per year.In addition, Australia already has a free trade agreement with Japan that is eliminating tariffs on Australian canola oil. As a result, Canadian canola oil currently faces a six per cent higher tariff than Australian canola oil – a competitive disadvantage that will grow each year that the TPP is not implemented.“Australia is able to ship value-added product to Japan, while Canada cannot,” says Everson. “Each year that passes without implementation means that Canada falls further behind our main competitor in the Asia-Pacific region – risking our current $1.2 billion annual exports to Japan.”The TPP is an important enabling step for the canola industry to increase value-added processing and productivity. The industry’s strategic plan, Keep it Coming 2025, includes the objective of nearly doubling the amount of canola processed in Canada over the next 10 years. Processing 14 million tonnes of canola in Canada requires that barriers to exporting canola oil and meal are removed – such as tariffs that the TPP would eliminate.
As global warming intensifies droughts and floods, causing crop failures in many parts of the world, Canada may see something different: a farming expansion.Rising temperatures could open millions of once frigid acres to the plow, officials, farmers and scientists predict.This story is part of our special report Rising Heat: A warming planet braces for a sweltering future. For the full story, click here.
The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) and the Canada Institute of the Wilson Center are pleased to co-publish a short piece on approaches to food safety co-operation in Canada and the United States. With NAFTA renegotiation talks in full swing, it is a critical time for a conversation on protecting and improving our shared food supply chain. As think tanks and think networks, CAPI and the Wilson Center know the importance of good debate and a robust marketplace for ideas. This short piece, written by Rory McAlpine and Mike Robach, encourages just such debate."The contents of the piece represent an opportunity for our two organizations to present to our respective stakeholders on the frontlines of Canada-US economic policy some new thinking on important food safety issues," said Don Buckingham, President & CEO of CAPI. "Food safety is not just about consumer protection, it's about enhancing the competitiveness of the Canada-US agri-food supply chain around the world. A well-functioning food safety regime helps to increase global demand for safe and wholesome North American food products."Laura Dawson, Director of the Canada Institute of the Wilson Center added: "During a period of trade upheaval and fractured supply chains, it is particularly important to bring practical suggestions to the table that will build trade, increase competitiveness and safeguard the protection of consumers."The short piece is available here: Risk and Reward: Food Safety and NAFTA 2.0
While attending Farm Tech in Edmonton this year, Darrell Bricker, CEO for IPSOS Public Affairs, spoke as the keynote to hundreds of farmers, crop scientists and industry professionals about the future of consumers – “the new Canada” – and what this means for agriculture.
Canadians looking for the real story about their food can now visit five additional farms and food processing facilities in virtual reality.Using 360° cameras and virtual reality technology, the FarmFood360° website gives Canadians the chance to tour real, working farms and food processing plants, without having to put on workboots or biosecurity clothing. It’s the latest version of the highly successful Virtual Farm Tours initiative, which was first launched by Farm & Food Care in 2007.Farm & Food Care teams in both Ontario and Saskatchewan partnered with Gray Ridge Eggs, CropLife Canada, Ontario Sheep Farmers and the Canada Mink Breeders Association to publish new virtual tours of a sheep farm, an enriched housing egg farm, an egg processing facility, a western Canadian grain farm and a mink farm. Visitors can access these tours on tablets and desktop computers, as well as through mobile phones and VR (Virtual Reality) viewers. Interviews with the farmers and plant employees have also been added.“We know from experience that bringing Canadians to the farm is a highly effective way to connect people with their food and those who produce it. The same certainly goes for food processors. But unfortunately, many Canadians never have the chance to visit either a farm or a food processing facility. Utilizing this new camera technology helps us take this tried-and-true outreach method to a much wider audience,” says Kelly Daynard, executive director of Farm & Food Care Ontario. The website now gets almost a million visitors a year, enabling many more Canadians to visit farms from the comfort of their own home.These new additions – as well as three dairy farm and food processing tours published earlier in 2017 – were launched as part of an interactive exhibit at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. More tours will be filmed and added to the FarmFood360° library in 2018.“So many Canadian farmers grow grain. Touring a Saskatchewan farm that grows crops like canola and wheat showcases the technology and innovation that farmers use every day on their farms,” says Nadine Sisk, vice-president of communications and member services for CropLife Canada. She added, “The videos also highlight the care that grain farmers put into their work, and the food they produce while at the same time ensuring that they take care of the environment.”Farm & Food Care is a coalition of farmers, agriculture and food partners proactively working together to earn public trust and confidence in food and farming. Find out more at www.FarmFood360.ca or www.FarmFoodCare.org.
Engineers at Rice University’s Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Center have found a catalyst that cleans toxic nitrates from drinking water by converting them into air and water.The research is available online in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Catalysis.“Nitrates come mainly from agricultural runoff, which affects farming communities all over the world,” said Rice chemical engineer Michael Wong, the lead scientist on the study. “Nitrates are both an environmental problem and health problem because they’re toxic. There are ion-exchange filters that can remove them from water, but these need to be flushed every few months to reuse them, and when that happens, the flushed water just returns a concentrated dose of nitrates right back into the water supply.”Wong’s lab specializes in developing nanoparticle-based catalysts, submicroscopic bits of metal that speed up chemical reactions. In 2013, his group showed that tiny gold spheres dotted with specks of palladium could break apart nitrites, the more toxic chemical cousins of nitrates.“Nitrates are molecules that have one nitrogen atom and three oxygen atoms,” Wong explained. “Nitrates turn into nitrites if they lose an oxygen, but nitrites are even more toxic than nitrates, so you don’t want to stop with nitrites. Moreover, nitrates are the more prevalent problem.“Ultimately, the best way to remove nitrates is a catalytic process that breaks them completely apart into nitrogen and oxygen, or in our case, nitrogen and water because we add a little hydrogen,” he said. “More than 75 percent of Earth’s atmosphere is gaseous nitrogen, so we’re really turning nitrates into air and water.”Nitrates are toxic to infants and pregnant women and may also be carcinogenic. Nitrate pollution is common in agricultural communities, especially in the U.S. Corn Belt and California’s Central Valley, where fertilizers are heavily used, and some studies have shown that nitrate pollution is on the rise due to changing land-use patterns.Both nitrates and nitrites are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets allowable limits for safe drinking water. In communities with polluted wells and lakes, that typically means pretreating drinking water with ion-exchange resins that trap and remove nitrates and nitrites without destroying them.From their previous work, Wong’s team knew that gold-palladium nanoparticles were not good catalysts for breaking apart nitrates. Co-author Kim Heck, a research scientist in Wong’s lab, said a search of published scientific literature turned up another possibility: indium and palladium.“We were able to optimize that, and we found that covering about 40 percent of a palladium sphere’s surface with indium gave us our most active catalyst,” Heck said. “It was about 50 percent more efficient than anything else we found in previously published studies. We could have stopped there, but we were really interested in understanding why it was better, and for that we had to explore the chemistry behind this reaction.”In collaboration with chemical engineering colleagues Jeffrey Miller of Purdue University and Lars Grabow of the University of Houston, the Rice team found that the indium speeds up the breakdown of nitrates while the palladium apparently keeps the indium from being permanently oxidized.“Indium likes to be oxidized,” Heck said. “From our in situ studies, we found that exposing the catalysts to solutions containing nitrate caused the indium to become oxidized. But when we added hydrogen-saturated water, the palladium prompted some of that oxygen to bond with the hydrogen and form water, and that resulted in the indium remaining in a reduced state where it’s free to break apart more nitrates.”Wong said his team will work with industrial partners and other researchers to turn the process into a commercially viable water-treatment system.“That’s where NEWT comes in,” he said. “NEWT is all about taking basic science discoveries and getting them deployed in real-world conditions. This is going to be an example within NEWT where we have the chemistry figured out, and the next step is to create a flow system to show proof of concept that the technology can be used in the field.”NEWT is a multi-institutional engineering research center based at Rice that was established by the National Science Foundation in 2015 to develop compact, mobile, off-grid water-treatment systems that can provide clean water to millions of people and make U.S. energy production more sustainable and cost-effective. NEWT is expected to leverage more than $40 million in federal and industrial support by 2025 and is focused on applications for humanitarian emergency response, rural water systems and wastewater treatment and reuse at remote sites, including both onshore and offshore drilling platforms for oil and gas exploration.Additional study co-authors include Sujin Guo, Huifeng Qian and Zhun Zhao, all of Rice, and Sashank Kasiraju of the University of Houston. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the China Scholarship Council.
Matt Dykerman hopes that creating a division of Farm & Food Care in Prince Edward Island will help teach Islanders where their food comes from, including family farms like his.“Sometimes in the business, farmers like myself can forget to share our stories with the people who are consuming the fruits of our labour,” says Dykerman, owner of Red Soil Organics in Brookfield. “I am hopeful that Farm & Food Care PEI will engage consumers in a meaningful discussion on how food is produced and the hard work that goes into making it grow.”Farm & Food Care is a coalition of farmers, agriculture and food partners and government working together to provide credible information on food and farming. Prince Edward Island is the third Canadian province to launch the organization, and the provincial government will invest $100,000 in it over the next year. For the full story, click here.RELATED: Farm & Food Care Ontario unveils updated flagship publication
Messages and the medium must change to improve food literacy among future consumers, according to a new study released today by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). The Food Literacy Attitude and Awareness Research Project set out to gain a better understanding of the current state of food literacy among Ontario consumers, and use the insights to guide future programs, resources and information.OFA, together with an advisory committee including the Nutrition Resource Centre – Ontario Public Health Association, Ontario Home Economics Association, AgScape, and Farm and Food Care Ontario, surveyed three distinct consumer groups to measure their level of food literacy and provide baseline information, with support from the Government of Ontario in partnership with the Greenbelt Fund.“We wanted to gauge the current knowledge level of parents with kids at home, teenagers and early millennials,” says Keith Currie, OFA president. “Food literacy is a very timely topic, and one that needs more attention and support because it is so closely tied with public health. We need to understand what consumers – both current and future – are aware of so we can accurately focus resources and information in the future. This study provides an insightful starting point.”The project included two in-person focus groups to gather qualitative information on food literacy that was used to gather 1,003 online surveys for quantitative information on local food, meal planning, purchasing, preparation and consumption in the home, and information sources used by consumers.According to the study results, the current ways of reaching teenagers with food literacy messages are neither effective nor impactful. Dietitians generally target their messages to parents and should revise their messages and focus to target teens directly. Most food skills are learned at home, passed from parent to child, making it vital that parents are comfortable with food preparation and have a good knowledge and understanding of health and nutrition.Other study highlights include: Nearly 25 per cent of all respondents didn’t know any of the food groups Millennials seek health and nutrition information from a wide variety of sources, compared to other consumer groups surveyed Less than 50 per cent of parents surveyed know the safe cooking temperatures for a variety of meat and poultry items Overall, there is a clear understanding of local food products but not of farming practices or food production Local food knowledge does not differ significantly depending on where the respondents live (rural, urban, suburban) “The information we gather now serves as a guide for OFA and other partners to identify future needs, including public policy, to develop stronger food literacy components in our curriculum and through other programs and resources,” says Currie. “We are already working with a registered dietician to develop a meal plan for teenagers to help them understand how to put together a properly, balanced meal. This will be a great addition to our www.SixbySixteen.me program.”“It is important for Ontarians to know about where the food on their plate comes from and the great benefits our agriculture sector brings to the economy,” said Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Fund. “These insights provide an important benchmark to measure progress on local food literacy, and I am confident that our ongoing work with the OFA and other farm organizations will continue to move the needle, particularly among younger Ontarians.”The complete Food Literacy Attitude and Awareness Research Project report is available at www.ofa.on.ca.
More New Brunswick students are digging into agriculture this year thanks to the launch of the new Agriculture in the Classroom program.The program supports teachers with educational resources and provides hands-on learning experiences to students. The program is designed to connect more students with agriculture and nurture an appreciation for the nutritious food grown in the province.The Agriculture in the Classroom project will receive $60,000 from the New Brunswick Food and Beverage Strategy. It will also receive $19,900 from the Growing Forward 2 program that is cost-shared on a 60-40 basis between the federal and provincial governments. For the full story, click here. Related: Government invests over half a million dollars to develop education surrounding the agriculture sector
Local Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia and Jean-Claude Poissant, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Agriculture, announced $2.9 million in funding at a press conference for two McGill projects aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions caused by water and fertilizer use in agriculture.
Small planes have been flying over local farms and taking aerial photos for decades. Now, individual farmers are able to get an aerial view of a field using a small remote-controlled drone equipped with a camera. But Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has been receiving information from a far more sophisticated data collection network for at least the past 30 years, according to Leander Campbell. Campbell, a geographer who specializes in geomatics, works as a remote sensing specialist with the Earth Observation team at AAFC. He says most of his work is on the AAFC Annual Space-Based Crop Inventory. He gets his data in the form of imagery from satellites and uses it to produce an accurate national crop map. “The crop map, the one I work on, is at a 30 metre resolution so each pixel is a 30 metre by 30 metre square. It covers all of Canada,” he explains. Campbell adds one of the crops mapped in year one of the crop inventory in 2009 was soybeans. Since then, the data has shown how the crop is spreading west and north on the Prairies.Campbell extracted only the soybean fields (in yellow) from Manitoba crop maps for the years 2009 and 2012.Photo courtesy of Leander Campbell, AAFC. The network Campbell gets his data from consists of several international satellites. The American satellite Landsat-8 provides optical data to create crop maps anyone can download. In addition to these data, Campbell’s team also uses microwave data from the Canadian RADARSAT-2 satellite. The combination of optical and microwave data has been shown to produce more accurate maps than maps created from either single source. These maps are created and validated using data collected by people in the field. For the Prairies, “we have agreements with the provincial crop insurance companies,” Campbell says. “It’s not a perfect system but we’re about 85 per cent and 90 per cent accurate and working to improve that.” Satellites don’t stay in orbit forever and Campbell says a backup is always an asset. Canada has plans to launch a constellation of three microwave satellites in 2018, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), to gather data that’s even more detailed and precise than what’s available now. “There are more uses than I ever thought of,” Campbell says. For instance, crop placements, crop monitoring, research, commodity marketing, land use management and even flood forecasting in Manitoba. Microwave data collected by the European SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) satellite allows Campbell’s team to operationally measure soil moisture in the top five centimetres of soil. He says most people don’t realize the Earth naturally radiates very low-level microwave energy and a satellite in space can pick up the variations in waves. Water absorbs microwave energy. When the microwaves radiate out from the Earth and pass through the soil, some of them are captured by moisture in the soil.  According to Campbell, in September 2015, Statistics Canada did not do a farmer survey, opting to use AAFC climate data to complete their crop yield forecast. Satellite data can describe how agriculture land is changing or evolving over the years, whether it’s farmland expanding by eliminating small woodlots or urban expansion covering agricultural land. These phenomena can be monitored year over year using the AAFC crop maps. Campbell has compiled maps that helped document the areas where clubroot is developing in canola. Scott Keller, a farmer from Camrose County in Alberta, contacted AAFC, asking Campbell if he could map Camrose County to determine how often canola was grown in particular fields. Keller wanted to determine which fields grew canola most often, either in a tight rotation over multiple years or in succession, in order to determine if there was a correlation between the escalation of clubroot and the rotation schedule.Map created by Campbell to monitor canola crop frequency in Camrose County, Alta. Photo courtesy of Leander Campbell, AAFC. That’s just one way satellite data can support crop management. Campbell says he’s confident that as computer technology and Internet costs come down, AAFC will be able to create more products from data because they can monitor specific areas once or several times over a growing season, or over years. Campbell and his six colleagues who create the crop maps, soil moisture reports and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) reports have an international presence as well. “I know some of our maps are incorporated into more global crop assessments for global market information, especially the NDVI maps,” Campbell says. He explains that several nations around the world use satellite imagery to monitor their own crops. They meet on a monthly basis and compare data on major crops like corn, wheat, rice and soybeans through an organization called GEOGLAM. The group’s website states its vision is to “use coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations to inform decisions and actions in agriculture through a system of agricultural monitoring.” https://cropmonitor.org Canadian farmers can access existing maps and data products online from the AAFC website. Because these maps are highly detailed, producers may experience difficulty downloading them on devices while in the field, but they can still view them online. According to Campbell, that’s the sort feedback he needs to hear from farmers. “In our little world we have all these high-end computers and that works fine for us, but it may not be the most practical thing for others,” Campbell says. And, he’s looking forward to finding more ways to help farmers and make the website more user-friendly. As satellite mapping matures, both farmers and scientists will view agriculture in new ways and Campbell is enthusiastic about the possibilities. “It’s a really exciting time to be in our field,” Campbell says. This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Top Crop Manager West
Urban sprawl has some Ontario farmers, agricultural organizations and even politicians looking to the north as the future for agriculture in the province. It is, after all, where producers can find cheaper land – typically priced between $1,000 to $1,500 per acre – and lots of it.
Sept. 7, 2916 - Canadian farmers are in a strong position to meet their financial obligations, despite plateauing farm incomes and slowing land appreciations, according to Farm Credit Canada's (FCC) 2016-2017 Outlook for Farm Assets and Debt Report.“This financial strength allows the industry to invest even more in the innovation and productivity it will need to feed an ever-growing world population,” says J.P. Gervais, FCC’s chief agricultural economist.In 2015, the debt-to-asset ratio on Canadian farms remained historically low at 15.5 per cent, compared to the previous five-year average of 15.9 per cent and the 15-year average of 16.7 per cent, according to the report.A low debt-to-asset ratio is generally considered better for business, since it provides financial flexibility and lowers risk for producers.FCC’s Outlook for Farm Assets and Debt Report provides an overview of the balance sheet of agriculture, focusing on the financial health of the sector. It also looks at the affordability of assets relative to farm income, with a special focus on farmland values.“After a prolonged period of strong growth in farm asset and land values, our projections indicate a deceleration in both increasing land values and farm debt levels,” Gervais says.The report analyzed three key indicators of the financial health of Canada’s agriculture sector: liquidity, solvency and profitability. It found that farm liquidity, which looks at the ability of producers to make short-term payments, and solvency – the proportion of total assets financed by debt – have remained consistently strong over the past five years.In 2015, farm profitability, calculated by comparing net income to total assets, was slightly below the five-year average due to strong farm asset appreciation, especially in farmland values.“Land is the most valuable asset a farmer owns and the most important input for agricultural production,” says Gervais, noting that land made up 67 per cent of the value of total farm assets in 2015, compared to 54 per cent in 1981.“As farming becomes more profitable, farmland becomes more expensive,” he said. “However, when asset values are increasing more quickly than net farm income, overall profitability begins to soften. This reflects the cyclical nature of the business.”From 2001 to 2011, the value of farmland and buildings appreciated on average 7.2 per cent per year, doubling over that timeframe. From 2012 to 2015, average annual appreciation was 11.7 per cent and total appreciation was 39.4 per cent.Gervais says a combination of low interest rates and strong crop receipts was the primary cause of the rapid rate of asset appreciation in recent years. He projects appreciation will slow down with the expectation of lower crop prices over the next two to three years.
June 21, 2016 - The Harrington research farm in Harringon, P.E.I., is breaking new ground, becoming the first Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada facility in the country to have part of its operation certified organic. The organic block is just 10 of the facility's approximately 400 hectares, but has been getting good reviews from organic growers in the region. READ MORE.  
Apr. 26, 2016 - Honey bee colonies in the United States are in decline, due in part to the ill effects of voracious mites, fungal gut parasites and a wide variety of debilitating viruses. Researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently completed the first comprehensive, multi-year study of honey bee parasites and disease as part of the National Honey Bee Disease Survey. The findings reveal some alarming patterns, but provide at least a few pieces of good news as well. The results, published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016, provide an important five-year baseline against which to track future trends. Key findings show that the varroa mite, a major honey bee pest, is far more abundant than previous estimates indicated and is closely linked to several damaging viruses. Also, the results show that the previously rare Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus has skyrocketed in prevalence since it was first detected by the survey in 2010. The good news, however, is that three potentially damaging exotic species have not yet been introduced into the United States: the parasitic tropilaelaps mite, the Asian honey bee Apis cerana and slow bee paralysis virus. "Poor honey bee health has gained a lot of attention from scientists and the media alike in recent years. However, our study is the first systematic survey to establish disease baselines, so that we can track changes in disease prevalence over time," said Kirsten Traynor, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at UMD and lead author on the study. "It highlights some troubling trends and indicates that parasites strongly influence viral prevalence." The results, based on a survey of beekeepers and samples from bee colonies in 41 states and two territories (Puerto Rico and Guam), span five seasons from 2009 through 2014. The study looked at two major parasites that affect honey bees: the varroa mite and nosema, a fungal parasite that disrupts a bee's digestive system. The study found clear annual trends in the prevalence of both parasites, with varroa infestations peaking in late summer or early fall and nosema peaking in late winter. The study also found notable differences in the prevalence of varroa and nosema between migratory and stationary beehives. Migratory beekeepers -- those who truck their hives across the country every summer to pollinate a variety of crops -- reported lower levels of varroa compared with stationary beekeepers, whose hives stay put year-round. However, the reverse was true for nosema, with a lower relative incidence of nosema infection reported by stationary beekeepers. Additionally, more than 50 per cent of all beekeeping operations sampled had high levels of varroa infestation at the beginning of winter -- a crucial time when colonies are producing long-lived winter bees that must survive on stored pollen and honey. "Our biggest surprise was the high level of varroa, especially in fall, and in well-managed colonies cared for by beekeepers who have taken steps to control the mites," said study co-author Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD. "We knew that varroa was a problem, but it seems to be an even bigger problem than we first thought. Moreover, varroa's ability to spread viruses presents a more dire situation than we suspected." For years, evidence has pointed to varroa mites as a culprit in the spread of viruses, vanEngelsdorp noted. Until now, however, much of this evidence came from lab-based studies. The current study provides crucial field-based validation of the link between varroa and viruses. "We know that varroa acts as a vector for viruses. The mites are basically dirty hypodermic needles," Traynor said. "The main diet for the mites is blood from the developing bee larva. When the bee emerges, the mites move on to the nearest larval cell, bringing viruses with them. Varroa can also spread viruses between colonies. When a bee feeds on a flower, mites can jump from one bee to another and infect a whole new colony." Nosema, the fungal gut parasite, appears to have a more nuanced relationship with honey bee viruses. Nosema infection strongly correlates to the prevalence of Lake Sinai Virus 2, first identified in 2013, and also raises the risk for Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. However, the researchers found an inverse relationship between nosema and Deformed Wing Virus. Some viruses do not appear to be associated with varroa or nosema at all. One example is Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus, which causes loss of motor control and can kill individual bees within days. This virus was first detected by the survey in the U.S. in 2010. At that time, less than one per cent of all samples submitted for study tested positive for the virus. Since then, the virus' prevalence roughly doubled every year, reaching 16 per cent in 2014. "Prior to this national survey, we lacked the epidemiological baselines of disease prevalence in honey bees. Similar information has been available for years for the cattle, pork and chicken industries," Traynor said. "I think people who get into beekeeping need to know that it requires maintenance. You wouldn't get a dog and not take it to the vet, for example. People need to know what is going on with the livestock they're managing." While parasites and disease are huge factors in declining honey bee health, there are other contributors as well. Pesticides, for example, have been implicated in the decline of bee colonies across the country. "Our next step is to provide a similar baseline assessment for the effects of pesticides," vanEngelsdorp said. "We have multiple years of data and as soon as we've finished the analyses, we'll be ready to tell that part of the story as well."    

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