Business & Policy

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Programs (SAWP) is a model to governments and agricultural organizations around the world, providing Ontario fruit and vegetable growers a vital source of supplementary labour.Not only does the 51-year-old program benefit farmers and Canada’s economy, but also it gives the seasonal workers well-paying employment, benefits and educational opportunities not available to them at home.Recent media coverage has highlighted numerous misperceptions and inaccurate generalizations about SAWP and Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Among them:Myth: Unemployed Canadians who want to work on fruit and vegetable farms are being denied jobs because growers are hiring temporary seasonal workers through SAWP.Reality: SAWP was created in 1966 to help farmers respond to a shortage of agricultural labour and the program continues to serve the same role today. SAWP is a Canadians-first program, which means that seasonal labour is hired from participating countries only if agricultural operators cannot find domestic workers to fill vacancies.Myth: Seasonal labour hired through SAWP are paid less than Canadian workers.Reality: Seasonal workers hired through SAWP receive an hourly wage set by Employment and Social Development Canada. The hourly rate is not less than the provincial minimum wage rate or the local prevailing rate paid to Canadians doing the same job, whichever is greatest.Myth: Seasonal workers hired through SAWP aren’t covered by the same employment rights as Canadian agricultural workers.Reality: Workers hired through SAWP fall under the same employment rights as Canadians receive, such as WSIB, certain Employment Insurance benefits, occupational health and safety and provincial health care during their term of employment.Myth: Housing for seasonal workers on agricultural operations is not subject to any guidelines.Reality: Seasonal housing — provided at the expense of the employer —must be inspected annually by local Ministry of Health officials. Water is tested to ensure it meets safety standards and the housing unit is inspected to ensure it meets provincial guidelines. Employers are required to maintain seasonal housing units in good repairAbout the Seasonal Agricultural Worker ProgramCanada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is administered in Ontario by Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.). More information about the program can be found at farmsontario.ca
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is pleased to see that Finance Canada has considered the feedback contributed by CFA and other farm groups with regard to the Tax Fairness proposals, and has proposed changes that have addressed a number of the key concerns identified by Canadian farm businesses.Since the government announced these proposed rules, CFA has raised continued concerns with potential consequences to intergenerational farm transfers, and is pleased to see that capital gains from qualified farm property would be excluded from Tax on Split Income. CFA is also pleased to see further clarification and definition on the contributions required for both capital and labour, and looks forward to further dialogue with government officials to ensure the diverse contributions of farm family members are adequately accounted for."This announcement provides greater clarity on Income Sprinkling and CFA looks forward to continued engagement with Finance Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency to ensure application of the rules is streamlined, clearly communicated and applied in a clear, objective fashion for all businesses," says CFA president Ron Bonnett."I believe the progress we've seen on this front, since the initial announcement in July, shows that collaboration and communication are critical for effective policy-making. We believe these changes are important for shaping Canada's tax policy to enable the continued success of family farms in Canada, including the next generation of young farmers," added Bonnett.CFA awaits draft legislation and will fully analyze the proposed changes once a bill is introduced in Parliament. CFA maintains concerns that the implementation timelines are very tight and don't give businesses much time to adapt. Farm leaders look forward to working with Finance Canada to ensure any remaining issues are adequately addressed."The Canadian government has set a huge goal of increasing agriculture exports to $75 billion by 2025. We need to ensure we get policies right to meet these ambitious growth targets. By continuing to work together, we can make Canada and Canadian food a true powerhouse in terms of feeding to world's growing population," said Bonnett.We look forward to continued dialogue with Finance Canada to clarify these issues, and ensure further proposals align with the government's ambitious growth agenda for the sector.
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
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.
Canada and the United States share deeply integrated economies and enjoy the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship in the world. As negotiations on a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continue to progress, the Government of Canada is working hard to strengthen the Canada-U.S. trade relationship and create new opportunities for producers and food processors on both sides of the border.As part of these efforts, Minister MacAulay travelled this week to Nashville, Tennessee, where he delivered a keynote address to the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) annual convention. Minister MacAulay reiterated the importance of NAFTA as an engine of growth and prosperity for Canada, the United States and Mexico.While in Nashville, Minister MacAulay participated in a roundtable with key U.S. agricultural producer and business groups to discuss opportunities for cooperation, hosted a breakfast for all State Farm Bureau Presidents, met with Zippy Duvall, President of the AFBF, with Kevin Paap, Minnesota State Farm Bureau President, and with Jai Templeton, Commissioner of Agriculture for Tennessee, to discuss bilateral trade opportunities. He also met with AFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers. "The Canada-US relationship is strong, balanced and beneficial to both of our great nations. The Government of Canada is committed to continue working with the United States to strengthen our partnership for the good of our businesses, our jobs, our citizens and our economies."- The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Quick Facts Canada and the United States are each other's largest trade partners for agriculture and agri-food, with bilateral agriculture trade reaching $62 billion (CAD) ($47 billion (USD)) in 2016. Canada is the top agriculture and agri-food export market for 29 states. Canada-United States trade supports millions of middle class jobs on both sides of the border. The AFBF is a non-partisan, non-sectarian national organization that represents farm and ranch families at all levels. The AFBF convention is a gathering of more than 5,000 delegates bringing together agricultural producers from all levels and sectors representatives from the local, state and national levels.
FarmLink Marketing Solutions senior market analyst Neil Townsend says shipments are ahead of last year at this time.
The European Commission recently published an implementing decision that will allow Canadian canola continued access to the EU biodiesel market. The decision affirms the greenhouse gas emission reductions achieved when Canadian canola is used to make biodiesel according to a detailed life cycle methodology that reflects the entire canola growing process.“This decision means continued access to an important market for Canadian canola,” says Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada (CCC). “The Canola Council has worked hard on this over the past two years and this confirmation is very good for the entire value chain.”The European Commission’s decision details the greenhouse gas emission intensity of Canadian canola production, a requirement for access to the EU biodiesel market. As of January 2018 all EU biodiesel must demonstrate greenhouse gas emission reductions that are greater than 50 per cent compared to fossil diesel, a requirement that must also be met for canola biodiesel in the U.S.According to the values published by the EU Commission, biodiesel produced from Canadian canola will meet this requirement, resulting in emission reductions of more than 50 per cent versus fossil diesel.“This decision shows the environmental benefits of using canola for biodiesel,” says Everson. “The EU is far ahead of North America in using renewable fuels which creates a good export opportunity for us.”To arrive at its decision, the Commission considered a report on the lifecycle emissions of Canadian canola that was submitted by the Government of Canada. It outlined emissions from all stages of canola production including fertilizer, field emissions and fuel used by farm equipment. It calculated how these emissions change based on specific geographical differences such as moisture levels and soil types. Over the last two years this involved close cooperation between the CCC and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.“We’re thankful for the efforts of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, including Minister Lawrence MacAulay, in helping to support today’s decision,” says Everson. “The value of canola is determined by export demand, and today’s decision allows us to keep serving the EU market.”Over the last three years, average annual exports of seed, oil and meal to the EU have totaled approximately $200 million. In 2016, 597,000 tonnes of canola seed and 37,000 tonnes of canola oil were shipped to the EU.
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade, issued the following statement today on the export of Canadian pulses to India:“The Government of Canada is deeply concerned and disappointed with the recent regulatory and tariff decisions made by the Government of India affecting Canadian pulse trade.“We have been steadfast in our efforts to find a mutually acceptable way forward with the Government of India to provide stable, sustainable access for Canadian pulse exports to India.“In addition to efforts by Government of Canada senior officials to seek a long-term solution, we have also been actively engaged with our counterparts directly, most recently during the Government of Canada’s mission to India by Ministers Champagne, Bains, and Garneau. Despite these efforts, progress has stalled and a solution to this important issue remains elusive.“The most recent derogation for the fumigation of pulses expired on September 30, 2017 and, for the first time since 2004, a renewal of the extension has not been granted by the Government of India to Canada. Other trade partners have received extended derogations to December 31, 2017, indicating that India is applying discriminatory treatment to Canada.“To this, on November 8, 2017, India announced a 50% tariff on dry pea imports from all countries, a decision that was made without advance notice.“The Government of Canada stands ready to work constructively with the Government of India, in close consultation with the Canadian pulse industry, to resolve this issue and obtain a commercially viable solution, helping to ensure India’s long term food security.“Canada is a safe and reliable global supplier of pulses, which account for a large share of Canada’s exports to India. In 2016, Canada’s exports of pulses, including dry peas, to India were worth over $1.1 billion and accounted for 27.5 percent of Canada's global pulse exports.”
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
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
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
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.
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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