New AFSC board appointed

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AFSC Board Chair Jennifer Wood and Minister Oneil Carlier.

A new board of directors will provide oversight and accountability at the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC).

The eight-member board was selected through an open recruitment process and includes individuals with a wealth of experience in agriculture, agribusiness, rural entrepreneurship and board governance.

AFSC’s previous board of directors was dismissed in June 2016 after an examination by Alberta’s Chief Internal Auditor raised concerns about oversight of senior executive expenses and procurement practices. For almost a year, an interim board, appointed by Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, led the organization in providing services to Albertans. The newly appointed board of directors assumes its responsibilities immediately.

The new board:

Jennifer Wood (Edmonton): Jennifer Wood, who will serve as AFSC board chair, is a professional agrologist, a partner in a private equity holding company that focuses on the agribusiness sector and co-operates her family cattle ranch. Wood has 15 years of board experience in a variety of roles, across sectors.

Gerald (Jerry) Bouma (Edmonton): Jerry Bouma, is a partner in an agri-food management consulting firm and has more than 35 years of experience in strategic planning, business and marketing management and market research in the agri-food sector. Bouma has a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics and decades of varied board experience.

Gordon Cove (Red Deer): Gordon Cove has experience in the agri-food industry including policy, program funding and international market and business development. Cove has served on multiple boards, has participated in board governance training and was the most recent president and chief executive officer of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.

Peter Galloway (Fort Saskatchewan): Peter Galloway is a professional agricultural coach and manages a fourth-generation family farm operation, producing, processing and marketing cereal grains, pulses and oilseeds. Galloway has more than 25 years of board governance experience in the areas of agriculture and co-operative, non-profit financial (banking) services.

Jo-Ann Hall (Stony Plain): Jo-Ann Hall has more than 30 years of experience with the Alberta Public Service, most recently as an Assistant Deputy Minister with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. Hall has experience in the development of leadership capacity and financial management, as well as a background in accountability.

Harvey Hagman (Mayerthorpe): Harvey Hagman has served on a number of boards related to agriculture and rural development. Hagman is president of the Hagman Cattle Company. He recently finished a Professional Director Certification Program and has received Professional Director and Professional Director Government designations.

Anna Harder (Camrose): Anna Harder is a Chartered Professional Accountant with a focus on agriculture and agribusiness and has a background in agricultural work in grain and mixed farming. Harder’s board governance experience, of approximately 30 years, has focused on social services.

Kiren Singh (Canmore): Kiren Singh is a financial executive with more than 25 years of risk management, insurance, credit and capital markets experience, holding senior roles in the energy industry. Singh is actively involved in the community supporting organic farming, sustainable land development and agri-tourism and is a director and chair of the Finance and Audit Committee of Travel Alberta. She has a Master’s of Business Administration and is a CFA charter holder.

Innovative program targets native bee habitat

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Syngenta Canada and the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC) have teamed up to work with Prairie farmers to establish Operation Pollinator sites on farms.

Operation Pollinator is a program focused on research and partnerships to enhance biodiversity and promote the health and well-being of bees and other pollinators that play an important role in both agriculture and our broader ecosystem.

To enroll in the program, producers agree to convert one-to-two acres of lower-productivity land to establish a dedicated Operation Pollinator site. In exchange for dedicating the land, participating producers receive a provision of high-quality, pollinator-friendly wildflower seed, agronomic advice and assistance to help offset site establishment costs.

“The goal is to maintain this new pollinator habitat over the long term to maximize the benefits for bees, the broader Prairie landscape, and farmers,” says Dr. Paul Hoekstra, senior stewardship and policy manager at Syngenta, and program lead in Canada.

In Alberta, the SCCC is collaborating with the Agriculture Research and Extension Council of Alberta.

A secondary benefit of the program is to improve understanding of how land management models focused on the creation of pollinator-friendly habitats impact biodiversity and soil health.

Sites can take a few years to fully establish themselves as a sustainable, ongoing pollinator habitat. “We are continually learning from these experiences, in terms of what works and, equally importantly, what doesn’t work,” says Hoekstra. “At the end of the day it’s important that the participating farmers see value in the use of their land in this way and how it complements and contributes to the rest of their farm operation.”

Farmers wishing to sign up can visit the SCCC website where they will find details regarding participation in the program.

Expanding Opportunities for Young Canadians in Agriculture

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The federal government has announced a two-year investment of up to $5.2 million for the Agricultural Youth Green Jobs Initiative to attract young Canadians to green jobs within the agriculture and agri-food sector.

The initiative follows through on a Government of Canada commitment made in Budget 2017 to help create good, well-paying jobs and to support young Canadians as they transition into the workforce.

Under the initiative, support is available to fund youth internships, both on the farm and with organizations engaged in the agriculture and agri-food sector for environmentally beneficial activities.

Funding will be available in two streams: The Green Farms stream will provide matching funds of up to $10,000, to help a farmer hire high school or college students to support environmentally beneficial activities on the farm.

The Green Internships stream will provide matching funds of up to $16,000 to help organizations involved in the agricultural industry hire young graduates to pursue environmental activities, services or research that benefit the agriculture sector.

Applications for both streams started April 26.

Farmer directors deliver Alberta’s grain industry messaging and priorities in Ottawa

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Team Alberta, along with the Grain Growers of Canada, were in Ottawa last week meeting with various parliamentarians to discuss priorities for Alberta grain farmers to ensure a viable and profitable crop sector.

“This collaborative outreach couldn’t have happened at a better time. There is a lot of good news for agriculture right now, most notably Agriculture’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the federal budget and Canada’s goal to grow agri-food exports to $75 billion annually by 2025,” said Mike Ammeter, a director with Alberta Canola. “We were pleased by the prospect that the government views agriculture as an engine for growth and are committed to collaborate with them to unleash that growth.”

Alberta’s four major crop commissions that make up Team Alberta agree that aggressive progress in transportation, trade, research and innovation are not only needed to achieve Canada’s ambitious growth plan, but they are essential for our competitiveness. While in Ottawa, Team Alberta also raised the issue of cash ticket deferrals and the impact it may have on their membership.

“As farmers, our success is directly tied to the effectiveness of Canada’s transportation system and the ability to get our product to market, so we continue to share the message that accountability is the only way to make real gains,” added Jeff Nielsen, president of Grain Growers of Canada. “It is imperative a system is put in place that gives shippers the ability to negotiate meaningful, reciprocal, service level agreements and ensure a basic level of accountability for rail companies.”

“Alberta grain farmers are major exporters and to grow our exports we need free trade agreements with key global markets, such as the United States (U.S.), China, European Union (E.U.) and Japan,” added Warren Sekulic, director with the Alberta Wheat Commission. “Non-tariff barriers to trade are our number one concern for market access. Biotech and pesticide regulations, and phytosanitary measures continue to impede our crops from getting into foreign markets.”

Alberta’s farmers are among the most innovative and sustainable in the world. They adopt and invest in technology, research and innovation that will increase efficiency and reduce costs, but also have tremendous benefits to the environment. Many of these practices stem from investment by growers in science and research.

“Team Alberta recommended that the federal government put peer reviewed science and risk based approach at the core of its regulatory decisions and future investments in innovation,” said Tim van der Hoek, director with the Alberta Pulse Growers.

The Team Alberta outreach mission included a delegation of directors and staff from the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission, Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Alberta Barley, Alberta Wheat Commission, and Grain Growers of Canada. The delegation met with representatives from all political parties and shared a united message about how the government can support Canadian farmers.

“Alberta is a significant contributor to Canada’s agricultural economy and Team Alberta saw tremendous value for our members sitting down with officials in Ottawa to discuss how the Canadian government could have a role to help achieve greater success for Alberta’s agriculture industry,” said Dave Bishop, vice-chair of Alberta Barley.

Legislation to re-empower agricultural commissions

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Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier (front left) meets with Alberta Beef Producers’ Bob Lowe (front right), Roland Cailliau (rear right) and Tom Lynch-Staunton (rear left) at the Alberta legislature on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

The Alberta government is supporting agricultural commissions by giving producers more autonomy to choose which service-charge model works best for their industry.

The Marketing of Agricultural Products Amendment Act 2017 was tabled in the legislature today, April 11, 2017. Amendments to the act would give each commission the ability to determine whether their service charges, also known as “check-offs,” should be refundable or non-refundable. Service charges are collected when an agricultural product is sold, or it is a base charge to each member of the commission.

“With this amendment, government would restore autonomy to agricultural commissions and their members,” said Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. “We want them to have the power to determine their own service-charge model, because a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach doesn’t make sense in today’s diverse agriculture.”

Legislative changes in 2009 made all commission service charges refundable and Alberta became the only jurisdiction in Canada with mandatory refundable service charges.

Under the proposed amendments, members could change their commission’s service-charge model through a plebiscite.

Marketing of Agricultural Products Act (MAPA)

MAPA was established in 1965. It enables producers to create agricultural commissions, provide services and help regulate sectors within the agricultural industry. Commissions use service charges to fund operations and activities that benefit their industries, such as product marketing and promotion, trade missions and support for research.

Before 2009, agricultural commissions had the option of refundable or non-refundable service charges. In 2009, MAPA was amended to require all commissions to issue refunds of their service charges at the request of any producer members. The 2009 amendment specifically applied the mandatory refunds to the commissions for beef, lamb, potatoes and pork, which previously had non-refundable models.

MAPA also governs the Alberta Agricultural Products Marketing Council, the provincial agency that oversees the operations of marketing boards and commissions, administers regulations under MAPA and provides advice to government.

Agricultural commissions in Alberta

  • Alberta Barley Commission
  • Alberta Beef Producers
  • Alberta Beekeepers Commission
  • Alberta Canola Producers Commission
  • Alberta Elk Commission
  • Alberta Lamb Producers
  • Alberta Oat Growers Commission
  • Alberta Peace Region Forage Seed Commission
  • Alberta Pork Producers Development Commission
  • Alberta Pulse Growers Commission
  • Alberta Wheat Commission
  • Alfalfa Seed Commission
  • Potato Growers of Alberta

Heightened Risk from Pea Leaf Weevil in 2017

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Pea leaf weevil and feeding damage on field pea. (Photo: Shelley Barkley, AAF)

Research shows that treating pea seed with a systemic insecticide product is the most effective control measure to prevent pea leaf weevil damage.

According to a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, properly inoculated annual legume crops, such as field pea and faba bean, produce most of the nitrogen they require for growth through the growing season via nitrogen fixation carried out by nodules on plant roots.

“Hence, field pea and faba bean are generally grown on nitrogen deficient soil without much, if any, additional synthetic nitrogen fertilizer,” says Neil Whatley. “When the pea leaf weevil insect pest feeds on the nodules of pea and faba bean seedlings, this natural nitrogen source is greatly compromised, inhibiting optimal pea and faba bean growth throughout the remainder of the growing season as well as decreasing crop yield.”

The pea leaf weevil was reported in southern Alberta in 1997 and remained for several years south of Hwy 1. Since 2013, this insect’s geographic range has greatly expanded into central Alberta, extending as far north as Sturgeon County, north of Edmonton, with lower levels of feeding reported in east central Alberta.

“Given that 2016 survey levels were high in the aforementioned areas, there’s a high risk of infestation in the same areas if winter and spring conditions are favourable,” notes Whatley. “A potential predictor of population increase is precipitation in August. As many areas with high weevil populations in 2016 experienced August precipitation, pea and faba bean producers in these areas are advised to plan control strategies for the 2017 crop year.”

Feeding damage on faba bean. (Photo: Shelley Barkley, AAF)

After spending the winter as an adult beetle in perennial legumes, adults are attracted to annual and perennial legume crops in spring, including field pea, faba bean, lentil, alfalfa and bean. “However, egg laying only takes place in soil near field pea or faba bean seedlings, so root nodules of lentil and alfalfa, for example, are not affected. Just prior to egg laying, adult pea leaf weevil insects feed on the margins of seedling leaves resulting in a notched or scalloped leaf appearance, which is not expected to reduce yield. After hatching from eggs, the worm-like larvae proceed downward into the soil where they primarily feed on root nodules resulting in decreased nitrogen fixation by pea and faba bean plants.”

Spring weather conditions can alter the timing and severity of pea leaf weevil damage, says Whatley.

“Weevils arrive early to pea and faba bean fields if warm temperatures above 20 C persist for more than a few days in late April or early May, potentially corresponding with higher yield losses. Alternatively, if cool weather occurs during the same period, yield is generally not as compromised, especially when the crop advances past the sixth node stage before the weevils arrive. In either case, field scouting is required to make control decisions on a field by field basis. It’s also advised not to seed into cold soil.”

Yield losses may occur when there are more than 30 per cent of seedlings (three out of 10 plants along a seed row; assess groups of 10 plants in multiple rows) with feeding damage on the clam leaf before the sixth node stage in peas. The clam leaf is the most recently emerged leaf.

“Most research hasn’t shown that control of weevils using foliar insecticide prevents yield loss. The ineffectiveness of foliar spraying probably arises because weevils have already laid enough eggs to significantly damage root nodules when sprays are applied or because healthy weevils immigrate after spraying,” says Whatley. “According to research on the Prairies, nodule protection is more effective when pea seed is treated with a systemic insecticide product prior to seeding. Faba bean may be similarly protected, but this requires investigation.”

If feeding damage is only apparent on the older, lower leaves and not on the newer clam leaf, says Whatley, the weevil has probably already laid eggs and spraying would be of no value.

“As such, producers should scout for damage on the clam leaf and not on lower leaves. Since pea leaf weevils migrate into field pea and faba bean fields, foliar damage is initially observed along field edges. Foliar insecticides applied early in an infestation to field edges may be a sound economic decision; however, additional on-farm research will provide more clarity.”

Whatley adds limited spraying would also reduce the risk of affecting beneficial species, such as ground beetles, that may help manage pea leaf weevil populations through predation.

2017 pea leaf weevil forecast

Consultation on draft Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada

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A draft of the Plant and Animal Health Strategy is now available online for consultation, and the government is encouraging producers to take part.

Given the increasingly complex and constantly changing risks to Canada’s plant and animal resources, the goal of the strategy is to ensure their ongoing protection, thereby contributing to economic growth and the protection of human health and the environment. This will be accomplished by increasing collaboration and coordination among all those who play a role in plant and animal health, as well as by making prevention a priority.

The strategy was developed collaboratively by government, industry and other partners in plant and animal health, and builds on the feedback gathered last fall through the online discussion document as well as the National Plant and Animal Health Planning Forum held December 6 and 7, 2016.

There are multiple methods to provide feedback on the draft strategy:
– Complete a short questionnaire
– Attend a webinar to learn more
– Host a discussion
– Join the conversation on social media @CFIA_Canada.

Read the draft strategy. The consultation will be open until April 30, 2017.

New canola calculator matches seeding rate to risk factors

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New seeding rate and plant stand calculators from the Canola Council of Canada (CCC) will help canola growers set an accurate seeding rate that balances the good start canola needs with their profitability goals and appetite for risk.

“The tools at canolacalculator.ca aim to drive a deeper understanding of plant density and seeding rate targets, and will assist growers in making decisions that improve their yield in a profitable, tangible way,” says Ian Epp, agronomy specialist with the CCC.

Why build them? Growers often default to seeding rates of 5 lb/ac or lower, regardless of seed size or field conditions. These tools will help growers as well as agronomists and seed retailers make more refined decisions.

“Growers often recognize a disconnect between what they should be doing and what they end up doing in the time crunch of spring seeding,” Epp says. “These simple and intuitive tools provide a quick and clear indication of how seed survival, seed size and target stands influence the required seeding rate.”

What do they do? With the target density calculator, users position sliding scales to determine the level of risk for various factors that influence plant stand targets. If weed competition is expected to be very low, for example, the calculator will set a lower target stand. But if spring frost risk is high, the calculator sets a higher target stand to compensate.

The seeding rate calculator has three modes. In seeding rate mode, users input thousand seed weight (TSW), target plant density and estimated seed survival, and the calculator computes the required seeding rate. In plant survival mode, users enter the number of plants per square foot that emerged along with known TSW and seeding rate, and the calculator gives the seed survival rate. In plant density mode, the calculator takes TSW, seeding rate and estimated seed survival to give the number of plants that should emerge.

“The CCC has been recommending plant density of seven to 10 plants per square foot,” Epp says, “but emerging research which can account for equipment change, seed costs, seed size and improved vigour of hybrids indicates that growers may find situations where lower plant densities can still meet their goals.”

Because yield potential is known to drop off with stands of around four plants per square foot, the CCC recommends at least six plants per square foot to provide a buffer against season-long plant loss.

Canada’s canola industry has a goal to reach average yields of 52 bu/ac by 2025. The CCC estimates that improvements in seeding and plant establishment alone can contribute three bu/ac.

New Precision Seeding Field Demonstrations announced at Olds College

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Olds College, Agri-Trade Equipment Expo, Olds Regional Exhibition and dmg::events (Canada) Inc. are partnering to develop and organize a new Precision Seeding Field Demonstration showcase at Olds College.

The season-long demonstration will feature contributions from seed, chemical and fertilizer suppliers, with the focus on demonstrating equipment from seeding through to harvest. According to a news release, the Precision Seeding Equipment Demonstration plots are an excellent addition to the highly anticipated FutureFarm Canada Expo.

Field demonstrations will begin in spring with an initial seeding showcase. This will be followed up by demonstration field days (chemical application and harvesting) throughout the growing season, with the pinnacle event being held in conjunction with FutureFarm Canada Expo, July 6-8, 2017 at Olds College. The Expo is a trade show focused on scientific advancements and innovations required for tomorrow’s agriculture businesses and future farm generations.

LCRC receives recommendation for interim registration on first variety

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The first variety from Limagrain Cereals Research Canada’s (LCRC) cereal breeding program has been recommended for interim registration.

GP202 is a Canadian Western Special Purpose (CWSP) wheat that boasts high yields and the lowest accumulated DON levels among the CWSP varieties put forward for support at the Prairie Grain Development Committee (PGDC) meeting on March 2 in Winnipeg.

According to a news release, low DON levels make the variety ideal for producers looking for a feed wheat variety. Other end users have also expressed interest in evaluating the variety for their purposes. It will be commercialized by LCRC partner Canterra Seeds through its network of seed grower shareholders, beginning in spring 2017.

Related story: Limagrain Cereals Research Canada