Business & Policy

With large dollars and major tax implications hanging in the balance, farmers need to take the time to carefully weigh financing options for any and every acquisition of farm equipment. Whether you should lease or buy your next major farm purchase cannot be answered with a one-size-fits-all set of rules, says Rick Battistoni, chartered professional accountant, and a partner with MNP, a national accounting, tax and business consulting firm. Rather, he says, one’s financing decisions depend on your farm’s specific needs, priorities and financial reality.
The latest calculator was released in January and is an update on a tool called CROPPLAN Financial Analysis. It was designed by two farm management specialists from Manitoba, Roy Arnott of Killarney and Darren Bond of Teulon.
Colin Penner teaches farm business management at the University of Manitoba. Earlier this fall, while his family was taking off another crop of wheat, oats, canola and soybeans near Elm Creek, Man., he was beginning his fourth year of instruction.
Delivering grain soon? Reduce your risk of not getting paid by following these recommendations.Before you make a grain delivery, make sure you're delivering grain to a company licensed by the Canadian Grain Commission. As part of its mandate to work in the interests of grain producers, the Canadian Grain Commission requires licensed grain companies to provide security to cover money owed to producers for grain deliveries. Unregulated grains and deliveries of any grain to unlicensed grain companies aren't eligible for compensation in the event that payment terms are not met. When you make your delivery, get a primary elevator receipt, grain receipt or cash purchase ticket that identifies the grain, grade, weight, price and date of delivery. Scale tickets are not accepted for compensation claims. Make sure you ask to be paid for your grain right away. The sooner you ask to be paid, the lower your risk of payment loss. When delivering multiple loads of grain to one company, it's a good idea to ask for payment after each load or every few loads. Wait until the cheque clears before you deliver another load. If a licensed company refuses to pay you for your grain, stalls on payment, or a financial institution denies payment on your cash purchase ticket or cheque, don't make any further grain deliveries and contact the Canadian Grain Commission."Grain producers should contact the Canadian Grain Commission immediately if they experience any trouble or delays getting paid. Waiting too long could put your eligibility for compensation at risk," said Patti Miller, Chief Commissioner, Canadian Grain Commission in a press release. For more information, visit: http://www.grainscanada.gc.ca/producer-producteur/licence/risk-risque-en.htm
A cash advance from the Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA) gives farmers more control to market their crops and livestock when the time and price is best.With a cash advance, farmers can access up to $400,000 in cash flow to pay necessary expenses such as inputs or capital purchases, while gaining more control to execute their marketing plan. With commodity prices fluctuating throughout the year, more time to trigger sales at optimal prices means better returns for your crop or livestock sales. The benefits of this advance include a low blended interest rate, marketing flexibility and it won't tie up your farm's equity. A cash advance is low-cost financing. With the first $100,000 interest-free and the next $300,000 at very low interest rates, farmers can borrow funds at a blended rate that’s well below prime. For farmers starting out, an added benefit is minimal collateral requirements, which include the grain or livestock itself and the security from your crop insurance or other BRM program. (The Advance Payments Program, is a financial loan guarantee program established under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada that gives farmers easier access to credit through cash advances.)Cash advance has three key benefits to farmers:1. Access to low-interest financing which lowers cost of production. With the first $100,000 interest-free and the next $300,000 at prime, farmers can borrow funds at a blended financing rate well below prime.2. Maximizes returns on commodity sales by providing more control and time to execute your marketing plan.3. Requires minimal collateral. There’s no signing over land or equipment that might be required by other types of financing instruments.For a list of the 45 commodities included in CCGA’s cash advance offering, visit ccga.ca/cash-advance or call 1-866-745-2256.
The amount of debt Canadian farmers collectively carried relative to the value of their assets increased in 2016 for the first time since 2009, putting operators at heightened risk of going out of business should the next two or three years treat them poorly.Further, roughly 70 per cent of farm assets are tied up in land. The value of land is expected to continue to climb but not as fast as it has in the past, according to Farm Credit Canada (FCC), the country's largest agricultural lender. READ MORE
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
As of July 31, Statistics Canada reports that the country's total stock levels for wheat, canola and lentils are down from the same date a year earlier. Meanwhile, barley and oat stocks increased compared with July 31, 2015.Wheat Total stocks of wheat fell 26.8% from July 31, 2015, to 5.2 million tonnes as of July 31, 2016. This decline was the result of a 29.2 per cent drop in commercial stocks to 3.0 million tonnes and a 23.1 per cent decrease in stocks held on farms to 2.2 million tonnes. Alberta reported the largest decline of on-farm stocks, down 44.4 per cent to 495 000 tonnes. Saskatchewan also reported a decrease, down 14.7 per cent to 1.5 million tonnes. Canola At the national level, canola stocks fell 20.7 per cent to 2.0 million tonnes as of July 31, as a result of decreases in both on-farm stocks and commercial stocks. Meanwhile, canola crushing was at record levels for the crop year ending July 31, 2016. On-farm stocks, which are concentrated in Western Canada, declined 25.9 per cent compared with July 31, 2015, to 915 000 tonnes. Commercial stocks were 15.8 per cent lower compared with the same date in 2015 at 1.1 million tonnes. Barley Total barley stocks grew 18.6 per cent to 1.4 million tonnes as of July 31. Stocks held on farm, which accounted for nearly 90 per cent of total stocks, rose 23.3 per cent to 1.3 million tonnes. Meanwhile, commercial stocks fell 9.9 per cent to 155 000 tonnes. Oats As of July 31, total stocks of oats were up 38.2 per cent compared with July 31, 2015, to 930 000 tonnes. Increases in both on-farm (+30.5 per cent) and commercial (+59.5 per cent) stock levels led to an overall rise. Lentils Overall stocks of lentils fell 80.0 per cent from July 31, 2015, to 73 000 tonnes as of July 31, 2016. Commercial stocks were down 11.6 per cent to 38 000 tonnes. Meanwhile, stocks held on farms fell 89.1 per cent to 35 000 tonnes. These were the lowest on-farm and commercial stock levels since July 2010.
August 31, 2016 - Canada and China have been embroiled in a dispute about the acceptable level of "dockage" - or foreign material such as weeds and other crops - in Canada's canola exports to China. Now, the previously held deadline of Thursday Sept. 1 for Canada to cut the level of foreign material in its deliveries by more than half, has been extended, according to an announcment by Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. "We're happy to reassure Canadian farmers that (at) the Sept. 1 deadline we will be able to continue with the current regime of canola and we (will) work together very closely towards a long-term solution in the coming days and weeks ahead," Trudeau says. | READ MORE.
August 29, 2016 - Noting that on Sept. 1, China will be imposing unfair and commercially unreasonable restrictions on the imports of canola, Manitoba's agriculture minister, Ralph Eichler, has written to federal minister of international trade, Chrystia Freeland, supporting the federal government’s efforts in resolving the restrictions China intends to place on canola imports. “I have sent a letter to the minister to encourage and support the federal government in their negotiations with China on removing their intended dockage requirements for canola,” says Eichler.  “Our concerns are for the commercial viability of increasing restrictions on our canola exports to China.  We support the efforts of the federal minister to work with the Chinese government to address their concerns regarding blackleg in canola and avoid restrictive trade barriers.  This is a key international market for the industry and we hope that this can be resolved in a timely manner.  There is a lot at stake for producers in Manitoba and it needs to be emphasized to our international trade partners that policy decisions need to be made based on science.”Manitoba produced 2.86 million tonnes of canola in 2015, generating $1.1 billion dollars of farm cash receipts.  Canola amounted to 36 per cent of the total farm cash receipts for crops in Manitoba in 2015.
As Canada, the United States and Mexico continue to work towards modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Government of Canada remains committed to hearing from Canadians from across the country about trade.The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and the Honourable Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada-U.S. Relations), held a roundtable with Canadian agricultural stakeholders, ranging from beef to dairy to grains. Discussions focused on how the sector can maximize the benefits of a modernized NAFTA and look at ways to make North America an even stronger agricultural market."A strong NAFTA is important for our farmers and our economy. Millions of sector jobs across North America are supported by NAFTA, which has helped grow agricultural trade between our three nations to $85 billion annually. Our Government will continue to work together with Canadian farmers to ensure trade remains an engine of growth and prosperity for our nations," said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
The gatekeepers of Canada's rich agriculture exports are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade export terminals as they prepare the country to become an ever-growing bread basket to the world.Canadian grain shipments have been steadily rising and hit a record high in the previous crop year. And Canadian companies are making long-term bets on the growth of crop exports. READ MORE
Collaboration, communication and co-ordination are front and centre as Canadian Pacific prepares to deliver best-in-class service in the 2017-18 crop year.
Canada and the United States (U.S.) benefit from a long-standing history of bilateral cooperation, especially in agricultural trade. The Government of Canada is working closely with the U.S. Administration, as well as state and local officials, to strengthen the robust Canada-U.S. partnership and to ensure continued support for millions of trade-dependent middle-class jobs on both sides of the border.As part of these efforts, Minister Lawrence MacAulay travelled to Oregon and Idaho to promote the benefits of agricultural trade. The Minister's first stop was in Portland, where he took part in the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Summit, an annual event that brings together state and provincial representatives, as well as industry stakeholders, to discuss opportunities for growth and cooperation within the region. At PNWER, Minister MacAulay delivered a keynote address where he highlighted the almost $12 billion in Canada-U.S. agriculture and agri-food trade generated by PNWER member states and provinces in 2016.The Minister also participated in the summit's feature agricultural session, where he emphasized that nearly nine million U.S. jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada. While in Portland, the Minister also got a first-hand look at the value of the Canada-U.S. integrated supply chain, touring the Canpotex facility at the Port of Portland, and visiting a local brewery that uses Canadian ingredients in several of its beers.Minister MacAulay's next stop was Sun Valley, Idaho, where he gave a keynote address and met with state officials and industry representatives at the annual meeting for the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture (WASDA). His final stop was in Boise, where he discussed bilateral agricultural trade opportunities with key members of the Idaho business and agriculture community.
Canada’s minister of agriculture and his Mexican counterpart say they’re looking to increase trade between the two countries despite concerns the U.S. wants to review the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).“[There’s] many products they can produce on the fresh market side, and others that we need in this country, and there’s many products we have like canola and other products we want to export to Mexico. And that’s what we’re working on today,” said Agricultural Minister Lawrence MacAulay, after meeting with Mexico’s agriculture secretary. | READ MORE
Canada and the European Union have finally agreed on a date for provisional application of the oft-delayed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.The provisional application of the massive deal will come into effect on Sept. 21, according to a joint-statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, issued at the G20 summit meeting in Hamburg Saturday morning. | READ MORE
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
by Tom Lutey Apr. 2, 2016 - With falling grain prices, Montana farmers say they'll plant a million fewer acres of wheat this season than they did two years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The slide from 5.9 million wheat acres in 2014 to 4.9 million acres in the 2016 prospective plantings report, is the sharpest decline in several years. Since 2014, wheat prices have fallen nearly 30 per cent, enough to strip the profit from some farms. Wheat is still Montana's largest crop. The state would rank fourth nationally for wheat acres in 2016, the report indicated. Nationally, production is expected to be down nine per cent. "Some people are getting $3.90 a bushel for wheat. That's pretty serious business," said George Haynes, Montana State University economist, noting that the price drop would be too much for some farms. Those former wheat acres are going into other things, namely lentils, which are at 500,000 acres this spring, a nearly fourfold increase in the past two years. Lentils are a niche crop that is doing well as a result of global demand and challenging weather conditions in 2015 that cut supplies. Lentils averaged almost $28 per hundredweight at the end of 2015, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. The Montana Department of Agriculture has promoted lentil production for several years and the state now is the nation's largest lentil producer. "The continued growth of pulse crops, including lentils is reflective of the diversification by Montana farmers," said Ron DeYong, Montana Department of Agriculture director. "Prices for lentils have been strong. We expect demand to continue to grow as we develop more trade opportunities and consumers learn about their benefits during the International Year of Pulses." Other big gains in acreage went to dry beans, which have more than doubled in two years to 80,000 acres. Barley crossed the million-acre mark for the first time in three years, up 80,000 acres from 2014. Garbanzo beans have more than doubled in acres in the last two years to 68,000 acres. Sugar beet acres were expected to be at 42,000, a slight decline. Some of the alternatives to wheat come with contracts guaranteeing the firm price before the seeds are even in the ground. Lola Raska, of the Montana Grain Growers Association, said malt barley is an attractive option to farmers because of an early contract, which protects farmers from market swings during the season. Malt barley must have low levels of protein, otherwise it makes for cloudy beer. The protein is kept in check by pouring the water on during the growing season. If the protein levels are low, the contract price is honoured. There's a possibility, Raska said, that farmers will take note of the declining acres in spring wheat and decided to go against the trend. High protein, hard red spring wheat is niche crop primarily in Montana and North Dakota. North Dakota farmers indicate they will plant a million fewer acres this year than they did last year. Montana farmers expected to cut spring wheat plantings by 450,000 acres. Cuts like that could drive up the Spring wheat price for those who plant, Raska said. Farming and livestock sales contribute roughly $4 billion to Montana's economy annually.  
Jan. 4, 2016 – Winter will be dominated by El Niño, which usually means limited precipitation for western and southeastern Canada, according to the latest weather outlook from Farm Credit Canada. That could start the spring 2016 crop year off on a drier-than-usual start, especially in Alberta and parts of British Columbia. | READ MORE
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
Improving food literacy – the ability to make healthy food choices – through activities such as hands-on cooking, exposure to new foods, and farm and gardening activities can help build the skills required to plan, purchase and prepare healthier foods. These activities help encourage children to make healthy eating choices and supports healthy living.The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, recently announced funding for the Farm to School: Canada Digs in! Initiative. This innovative program, launched today, aims to empower and educate students in schools and on campuses about healthy eating. She was joined by Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.Farm to School: Canada Digs in! will bring healthy, locally grown food into schools, and provide students with hands-on opportunities to learn about healthy food options, meal preparation, sustainable food systems, local food production, marketing and distribution. Program activities will allow children and youth to benefit from greater availability of healthy, local and sustainable foods in schools and on campuses across Canada. This project also supports the Government of Canada's Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to make healthy food choice the easy choice.
New research was released this week by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), studying consumer concerns and expectations surrounding food transparency and the overall food system. Canadians feel the food system is headed in the right direction, proven by an increase from 30 per cent in 2016 to 43 per cent of Canadians this year.While consumer confidence is increasing, an equal number of Canadians (43 per cent) say they aren’t sure if the food system is on the right track, down from 50 per cent in 2016. These findings are significantly different than the American consumers’ findings from 2016, which showed more definitive opinions with 55 per cent choosing right direction and only 23 per cent saying they were unsure. The 2017 CCFI Public Trust Research occurred in-the-field in June, asking 1307 Canadians about top life concerns, specifically their level of concern, trust and transparency expectations related to food and how it’s grown. Those polled clearly identified food companies to be the most responsible for providing information about food and how it’s grown. Other food system partners including farmers, government, restaurants and grocery stores also ranked highly as being responsible for transparency. “Canadians are looking for credible information to make informed decisions about their food,” stated Crystal Mackay, President, CCFI. “This research reinforces that everyone in the Canadian food system, from the farm through to grocery stores and restaurants, should engage in conversations about food.” Those polled are personally concerned and want more information about specific topics, including food safety, environment and farm animal treatment. Consumers are looking for information on food company websites such as third party audits, track record, practices and policies that demonstrate their values. When studying these elements of transparency, accuracy rose to the top as the most important attribute to Canadians. Many Canadians are unsure about their food or how it’s grown, but want to learn more. Canadians ranked the rising cost of food and keeping healthy food affordable as their top two life concerns above rising energy costs, healthcare and the economy for the second year in a row. These findings and other insights are key areas for discussion when leaders from across the entire Canadian food system meet at the CCFI Public Trust Summit in Calgary this week. Find out more by reading the full 2017 CCFI Public Trust Research report on www.foodintegrity.ca
The Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN), now in its 20th year, continues to provide timely crop insect pest risk and forecasting tools for growers and the industry across Western Canada. As technology and forecasting tools advance, so does the ability of the network to provide relevant insect pest information related to scouting, identification and monitoring tools and information, plus links to provincial monitoring and support relevant to the Canadian Prairies.
A global ban on genetically modified crops would raise food prices and add the equivalent of nearly a billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, a study by researchers from Purdue University shows.
Apr. 18, 2016 - Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has released a short video on Fusarium to help producers understand more about the disease. Fusarium graminearum is a hazardous and infectious disease that costs Alberta producers between $3 and $8.7 million annually due to reduced yields and downgrading. "The effects of Fusarium graminearum on cereal crops in Alberta are devastating," says Michael Harding, research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). "So a short video was created outlining how to manage it, in an effort to bring awareness about this important fungal disease." The short video, "Stop Fusarium Before it Stops You," depicts the fusarium spores as little cartoon monsters running amok in Alberta. The video briefly outlines the causes and symptoms of the pest, and speaks to management practices to help stop Fusarium at the farmgate: "This is everything from selecting healthy seed that has been tested and proven to be free of Fursarium, to utilizing fungicidal seed treatments, to rotating crops, to employing in-crop fungicides, to irrigating at the right time," says Harding. In 1999, Fusiarum graminearum was added as a declared pest under Alberta's Agricultural Pests Act. View Stop Fusarium Before it Stops You.  
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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