Success in Agriculture
Nov. 18, 2016 - The Government of Canada says it is taking steps to address the concerns of import predictability and effective border controls for supply-managed commodities, while ensuring that Canadian processors who use dairy and poultry inputs can remain competitive in export markets.

The Duties Relief Program (DRP) enables qualified companies to import goods without paying duties, as long as they later export the goods. Earlier this year, Canada Border Services Agency verifications found that five participants in the Duties Relief Program were improperly selling supply-managed commodities in the Canadian market without reporting these sales and without paying the required duties. As a result, applicable duties, interest and penalties were assessed, and the importers' DRP licences were suspended.

Program consultations will be launched with industry stakeholders regarding potential changes to the DRP and the Import for Re-Export Program. In the interim, the Government is also exploring measures with dairy and poultry users of the DRP regarding inventory reporting in an effort to improve the predictability of these imports.

In its efforts to ensure appropriate tariff classification of spent fowl, the Government will also look at specific options regarding certification requirement for imports of spent fowl product, while ensuring that any such requirement would be fully consistent with Canada's international trade obligations. At the same time, Government officials are assessing the feasibility of using a DNA test to screen imports of spent fowl at the border.

Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) welcomed the news, saying that the consultations will hopefully result in a timely implementation of better rules to stop the distortions into the Canadian chicken market created by inappropriate program duplication and design, and circumvention of tariff classifications.

“Our farmers and processors have been afflicted by leakages in the market that have been occurring for many
years now, meaning they face uncertainty in their own production, and consumers face uncertainty in the
safety of their food,” says Dave Janzen, CFC chair. “We are hopeful that a meaningful consultation process will result in changes benefitting the chicken sector in Canada, and all Canadians.”

CFC goes on to say that addressing these critical issues will not affect the significant amount of legal imports of chicken that make Canada the 13th largest importer of chicken in the world. The Canadian chicken sector supports over 87,200
jobs from coast to coast in Canada, and contributes $6.8 billion to Canada’s GDP.
Published in Business & Policy
Nov. 8, 2016 - The Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture (CYSA) Competition has announced the winners of the 2016 competition which took place Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.
 
Senior Champion: Spencer Graling from St. Paul, Alta.; First Runner-up: Daniel Vander Hout from Waterdown, Ont.; Second Runner-up: Katelyn Ayers from Severn, Ont.
 
Junior Champion: Douglas Archer from Mount Pleasant, Ont.; First Runner-up: Maxwell Archer from Mount Pleasant, Ont.; Second Runner-up: Aleri Swalwell from Strathmore, Alta.
 
This 32nd edition of CYSA welcomed 30 competitors aged 11 to 24 from across Canada who offered their insight and solutions regarding the following topics:
  • What is the impact of public opinion on Canadian farmers?
  • How would you explain a GMO to a non-farmer?
  • What does the next generation of agriculture bring to the table?
  • How can we improve the media's perception of Canadian agriculture?
  • Old MacDonald had a farm - but what about Mrs. MacDonald?

"Once again it was wonderful to see the continuing interest of the very talented young people across Canada that want to speak out about agriculture. From a board perspective, we all take great pleasure in ensuring this exciting competition prevails annually to capture the thoughts of each and every participant," says Ted Young, CYSA chair.
 
CYSA also took the opportunity to present long-time board member and past president John J. MacDonald with a plaque recognizing his more than 10 years with CYSA and naming him honourary president. CYSA also presented a recognition plaque to honour board member and past president Richard Kutnz who is concluding his term on the CYSA board.
 
As announced after the Seniors final round the topics for 2017 will be:
 
  • Working in agriculture is more than just farming
  • Does digital farming have a place in the future of Canadian agriculture?
  • Farm gate to dinner plate: The importance of food traceability for Canadian consumers
  • How will we feed 9 billion people by 2050?
  • Food waste: What is the global impact and who is responsible for making a change?
This year also saw a change in board members with Gerry Sullivan (Nfld.) becoming past-president; April Stewart (Que.) stepping into the role of president; Christina Crowley-Arklie (Ont.) becoming vice-president; and Ted Young remains board chair.
 
Each year the renowned public speaking competition is held at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. The competition is open to youth ages 11 to 24 with a passion for agriculture whether raised on a farm, in the country or in the city.
 
Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture is a national, bilingual competition that gives participants an opportunity to share their opinions, ideas and concerns about the Canadian agri-food industry in a five- to seven-minute prepared speech.
 
Since the first competition held at the Royal Winter Fair in honour of the International Year of the Youth in 1985, it has gone on to become the premier public speaking event in Canada for young people interested in agriculture, with more than 900 participants in total over the years. For more information about CYSA visit www.cysa-joca.ca.
Published in Profiles
Nov. 8, 2016 - The Career Focus Green Jobs program is offering wage subsidies to help employers with an environmental focus hire new graduates. The program targets small and medium sized businesses to help reduce the cost barriers of hiring new graduates by subsidizing their salary by 50 per cent to a maximum of $13,500 per year. Its purpose is to help employers hire the talent they need and help recent graduates initiate a career.
 
“Agriculture is a natural fit for this green jobs initiative,” says Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC). “Canada’s primary producers are the frontline caregivers for much of our nation’s lands and waters and are therefore also the most invested in making sure heathy ecosystems are maintained.”
 
To qualify as a green job the job must have a green mandate or the employer needs to have an environmental focus. For example, the job must help reduce the consumption of energy and raw materials; limit greenhouse gas emissions; minimize waste and pollution; and protect and restore ecosystems.
 
Such opportunities may be found in non-profit environmental organizations; solar and wind technology companies; environmental science centres; watershed and water resource agencies, farms and farming co-ops; conservation organizations; museums and educational institutions; waste management companies; and information technology companies, among others.
 
For agriculture, as long as the company meets one of the following specifications they are considered eligible for the program: the farm/company has a sustainable mandate or focus which helps protect and restore ecosystems; it has developed and implemented systems to reduce waste within the industry; it produces organic products which reduce the use of chemicals; it conducts research on the environmental impact and resolutions within the industry; or it is an agricultural manufacturing company that develops equipment that reduces emissions and energy use.

The program is being administered by CAHRC partner BioTalent Canada and all applications must be submitted by Dec. 12, 2016 to offset employment costs until June 2017. For more information on the Career Focus Green Jobs program contact Jennifer Ash at 613-234-1402 Ext 221 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or  visit https://www.biotalent.ca/en/career-focus-green-jobs.
 
This initiative is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy.
Published in Farm Business
It’s one of the most, if not the most, efficient and high-tech poultry barn in Canada – a layer barn/egg cooling facility that offsets the consumption of electricity and natural gas heating through the use of solar electricity generation and many cutting-edge technologies.

The total estimated annual electricity and natural gas needs of the facility are between 80,000 to 120,000 kWh (with one GJ of natural gas consumption equivalent to 278 kWh). The existing solar panels generate about 29,000 kWh, so at this point, only about a third of the facility’s power needs are taken care of on-farm – but it’s a facility which holds many keys to how a layer facility might be designed and operated so that it produces as much energy as it consumes, known as “net zero.” Egg Farmers of Alberta describes the site as “establishing precedent for what additional solar (or other energy generation) would be required to get to net zero energy consumption,” and that it will “eventually provide all of the information we need to in order to communicate what a net zero layer barn looks like, and what it costs.”

The free-run aviary barn is owned by the Brant Hutterite Colony (population 105) in Brant, Alberta (near Lethbridge) and houses 13,000 laying hens. To help offset some of the construction costs, the colony received a $250,000 grant from the Alberta government. Its partners, Egg Farmers of Alberta (EFA) and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF), also secured some funding from Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (through Growing Forward 2) to help make the project a reality.

The idea for a net zero egg facility came about in 2014 after EFA had completed a “life cycle analysis”(an examination of resource use and other factors) of the province’s egg farms. It showed that on-farm energy use represents nearly 15 per cent of the climate change impact of egg production in Alberta. “EFA was and is in the process of building plans and strategies to improve the carbon footprint of egg production and this [project] was a natural fit,” notes EFA Industry Development Officer Jenna Griffin. “Similar projects were initiated with Pork and Milk, but each organization took it in a different direction and I believe we were the only ones that went down the path of building a commercial facility.”

To find an egg farmer partner, EFA sent information to all those in the province known to be building a new facility and narrowed it down to a few that met certain criteria. “For example, we wanted the facility to be near a major urban centre, and be of a size that was representative of an average Alberta egg farm,” says Griffin. “The intent was to give ourselves the best chance of successfully getting to net zero and to ensure that the data generated is applicable to most farms.”

In describing why Brant Colony went ahead, Brant egg manager Darrel Mandel highlights the collegiality within Alberta’s egg industry. “There is a passion for your fellow producer,” he says. “When one has achieved a new and efficient way to better his or her farm…it is shared…For us, it did not seem right to let this pass and not do it for the industry.” The agreement with EFA and AAF required that Brant Colony provide data about barn energy performance and also install a web cam inside the barn, and Mandel says that while “providing data did not seem to be such a big issue” at the time, “agreeing to install cameras, allowing tours, were some big things to consider, and there were multiple reasons why we felt that first off, why should the public see what we or our birds are doing? It seemed like a very strange and out-of-place puzzle piece…[but] then we asked ourselves, what is there to hide? Why is this making us afraid on sharing what we do best, that being caring for our animals?…Adding the cameras would not change our everyday lifestyle. We love our animals…They need to be treated with the best care possible. By doing that, it gives the consumer a healthier egg…and gives us farmers an accomplishment that we are proud of and willing to share, be it on live stream or face to face with the public.”                                                           

MAKING CHOICES
Using input from EFA and AAF, Brant Colony designed the building and purchased very high-efficiency systems and equipment. “The highest priority was for full laying-barn energy metering of electricity and natural gas,” notes AAF engineer Kelly Lund. “The next highest priority was for an investigation into using modern Heat Recovery Ventilator technology to save on heat energy.” Another main priority was choosing high efficiency equipment in the egg cooler. Electricity consumption is slashed low through the use of LED lights, which initially cost more but reduce light energy use by at least 80 per cent compared to incandescents, and have 30 times the lifespan.

The barn is heated through hydronics, a system wherein heat radiates from warm water circulated through a set of tubes, in this case hung from the ceiling. The water is heated using a natural gas boiler and circulated by electrically-powered pumps. Retaining as much heat as possible is very important to keep energy consumption down, but in a poultry barn, extra insulation won’t really help. That’s because barns lose about 80 per cent of their heat in the winter through ventilation – and that’s why a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) was included in the barn design.

HRV’s maintain air quality while preventing large amounts of heat from being exhausted outside through transferring heat from outbound warm barn air to the incoming cold fresh air. The airstreams pass through an elongated grid system and never mix. The amount of heat that can be retained depends on factors such as air velocity and the temperature difference between the airstreams. Moisture must be removed when the exhaust air temperature is reduced to the dew point. “In freezing weather, there is potential for frost build-up with this condensation,” notes Lund. “Most HRVs (including this one) have a defrost cycle they are able to run if required.”

The HRV system will become operational this fall. Lund says they are anticipating some potential problems in colder weather, “not so much with the heat exchanger itself, but with the method of interior air distribution, which is a free air jet to a central redistribution fan system. If the incoming airspeed is not fast enough (which could potentially happen in particularly cold weather when the incoming airflow rate is reduced to prevent freeze-up), the incoming air may not reach the target location within the barn to be properly circulated.” Brant Colony has looked closely at the situation with EFC and AAF, and also hired an independent engineer. Mandel says everyone has concluded they need to run a distribution duct in order to get a good air flow to the centre of the barn. “We have decided it is better if we wait until the flock gets depopulated in early 2017,” he says. “We will still try to do some initial HRV testing once the heating season starts to see what the air distribution pattern looks like, but are prepared to shut it down if we notice problems.”

When might this particular egg production and cooling facility reach ‘net zero’ energy consumption? Lund says once they have one to two years of data monitoring, they will have “a much better sense of the energy use” and of “the amount of solar panels it would take to make it fully net zero.” She adds that Brant Colony’s decision to go fully net zero will likely be based at some future point in time on “whether the marketplace was ready to reward that level of initiative.”

Mandel notes that overall, being involved in the initiative gave him and his Colony colleagues the impression that the barn really could not be efficient enough, which spurred them to continuously look for efficiencies in all aspects of construction and operation. Besides the HRV system which hasn’t begun operating yet, Mandel says everything else is functioning well. “We can see the energy loads of the equipment in the control system and in the boiler room, and the cooler unit and solar are showing positive signs that the research was a worthwhile cause.”
Published in Profiles
Nov. 1, 2016 - The Canada and Manitoba governments are investing more than $432,000 over two years to help Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) establish a new program to provide practical, on-farm expertise, resources and training to enhance on-farm safety.  The announcement was made by federal agriculture minister, Lawrence MacAulay and Manitoba agriculture minister, Ralph Eichler.

The farm safety program will offer access to agriculture industry-specific information to ensure agriculture employers understand the regulations, rights and responsibilities around safe workplaces and to identify safety risks on their farms.

“Many people in agriculture work outdoors with heavy equipment or livestock in locations that can be a far distance from emergency services, which can increase the risk of injury,” says Eichler.  “This program will give producers the information they need to comply with safety and health regulations and ensure safe work environments for themselves and their employees.”

Services will include:
  • information and resources on health and safety regulations, risk-specific tip sheets and signage and basic safety orientation for farm workers, supervisors and owners;
  • on-site safety advisors who will work directly with farm businesses to identify and address farm risks;
  • commodity-specific farm safety workshops; and
  • safety awareness training for farm workers and supervisors, as well as hazard-specific training.
The program will be administered by KAP, with leadership and guidance provided by a Manitoba farm safety council.  It will include representatives from a number of agriculture stakeholders, as well as organizations focused on workplace safety and health.

“Our goal is to provide resources for farmers that are practical,” says Dan Mazier, KAP president.  “Rather than just telling them to read through safety regulations, we are making someone available to show them what they can do to reduce accidents on their farms and comply with provincial regulations.”

SAFE Work Manitoba is a project partner and will provide funding, expertise and other resources to support the initiative.

“SAFE Work Manitoba commends KAP for taking this important step in establishing a farm safety program,” adds Jamie Hall, chief operating officer, SAFE Work Manitoba.  “This program will help make Manitoba’s farms safer for farmers, their families and for workers. We look forward to a continued partnership by working with KAP to bring safety information and resources to Manitoba farms.”

Work to establish the program will begin immediately. Funding will be provided through the Growing Forward 2 – Growing Actions program, which supports industry-led initiatives to increase competitiveness and develop innovative solutions for agricultural organizations.  For more information about Growing Actions and other programs, visit www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/growing-forward-2.

The federal and provincial governments are investing $176 million in Manitoba under Growing Forward 2, a five-year, federal-provincial-territorial policy framework to advance the agriculture industry, helping producers and processors become more innovative and competitive in world markets.

For more information on Manitoba’s agricultural programs and services, follow the Twitter account @MBGovAg  

KAP is Manitoba’s general farm policy organization, representing farmers and commodity organizations from across the province.  For more information about KAP, visit www.kap.mb.ca .
Published in Farm Business
October 25, 2016 - Corn Mazes, pumpkin picking, hayrides and Christmas trees. These are all reasons why visitors flock to farms in the fall and winter. Nothing is more enjoyable than spending time with your nearest and dearest enjoying the weather and an outing to a local farm. However, agritourism (activities that bring visitors to a farm or ranch) isn’t without risk. Anytime people are in a situation where they could be in contact with animals, farm equipment or other hazards like water, there is the potential for injury.

Agritourism is one venue for people to be visiting a farm, but other visitors come too. Open farm days are becoming more popular each year. And of course, family and friends enjoy coming to see where their loved ones work and live. It’s important to remember, these non-farm folks may not see the hazards or understand the risks of farm life, it’s up to you to tell them.

First of all, think about driving and parking on your farm. Moving vehicles and moving people aren’t the best combination. Having a designated area with clearly marked parking areas will help keep vehicles and people where they are supposed to be.

The point of visiting the farm is to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the farm. In order for visitors to have the best time possible, direct your visitors to the low hazard areas on the farm. Take into account the hazards that you have on your farm, it could be places like busy work areas, slurry pits, grain handling areas, or even animal pens. Each farm is unique, and it’s up to you to identify these areas. If you can’t direct visitors away from these areas, take steps to warn them with signage or even barriers like fences.

Keep trip, slip and fall possibilities to a minimum. Not everyone visiting your farm may be sure-footed or able to quickly compensate for slippery, rough, or cluttered surfaces. Walking through grassy areas with ant mounds or gopher holes might not seem too risky, however falls, especially for older adults, can lead to serious injuries and other complications. Asking everyone to walk on designated paths or roads can help avoid these mishaps.

If you’re providing food or if people are picnicking on your property, handwashing stations are a must. Keep in mind, if you are providing a petting zoo, handwashing is very important. It’s a good idea to make sure that people understand that washing up is a good idea after touching an animal.

Remember, if you’re putting people in motion on something like a hayride, you need to work out procedures and policies including mapping out a safe route that doesn’t cross public roads, safe equipment to operate the hayride, and rules for riders are clearly expressed. This list isn’t comprehensive, it’s up to you to determine the unique hazards and risks associated with your operation.

These are just a few things to think about when people come to visit your farm. So it’s essential to have a plan - one for keeping you, your family, your employees and your visitors safe on the farm. Walkthroughs, having an on-farm safety plan and committing to a safe farm can mean all the difference.

For more information about agritourism and how to make your farm safe for visitors, please visit safeagritoursim.org. For more information about farm safety, visit www.casa-acsa.ca.
Published in Business & Policy

Producers face a great many challenges, from increasing red tape to unaffordable land prices from market instability to climate change. But there’s one challenge that Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) CEO Tim Lambert thinks will trump the others: social license. Addressing the challenge head on, EFC created EggCentric TV, an online television network where eggs – and those who produce them – come first.

What is social license?
Generally speaking, social license refers to a community’s acceptance or approval of the businesses that operate within it. Social license sits outside of the regulatory system. It is not something that can be purchased; it is earned through transparency, solid communication, meaningful dialogue, and ethical and responsible behavior. The concept of social license isn’t new. In recent years, though, it has become increasingly important for businesses, like those operated by Canada’s farming community, to connect with the general public to establish open, genuine dialogue.

“I believe that the whole concept of social license and public trust is the next big challenge in not just agriculture, but the whole of society in business, faces,” said Lambert.  Transparency is key, he continued. “More and more, we need to communicate who we are, what we do and how we’re doing it.

Control the media, control the message
For too long, mainstream media has had the cornerstone on story telling. And while farmers were in the fields or in the barns, mainstream media was working on its next big exposé.

“The problem we have is who tells our story,” said Lambert. “On the cage side of the debate, the story is told by animal welfare or animal rights activists.”

Ordinary journalists, said Lambert, have tried to put “feel good” stories out and failed. “The major newspapers choose not to cover it from our side because there’s no excitement in telling a good news story,” he said.

Lambert knew, though, that Canada’s egg farmers had plenty of good stories to tell, so instead of seeking traditional coverage he decided to sidestep it altogether. The result: EggCentric TV.

“It’s a way of bypassing traditional media who will frame the story the way they want to tell it, not the way it is,” said Lambert. “We will be able to use this platform in so many ways, across the world, to tell the story of the egg industry and what a brilliant story it is.”

TELLING THE GOOD NEWS STORIES
When Lambert first starting exploring the idea of EggCentric TV he worried that there wouldn’t be enough content to justify the project. In order for the project to be a success, he knew that content would have to be regularly updated. Once they got going, though, he and his team quickly realized that content is virtually endless. “We started by thinking in terms of all of the cooking programs, so celebrity chefs and recipes,” he said. “But there’s a much bigger opportunity. A much broader opportunity.”

Today, EggCentric TV features healthy recipes created by Canada’s top celebrity chefs. Individual programs highlight the nutritional value of eggs, and show viewers how eggs are produced. They focus on animal care, different housing systems and how eggs are produced sustainably.

“EggCentric TV is the absolute ideal platform for us to build our public trust and social license,” said Lambert. “Why? Because it’s our platform.”

Sarah Caron is the lead on the EggCentric TV project. She says that the platform allows them to reach an ever-growing population of Internet users and digital video viewers. “Households around the world with connected TVs are expected to double in the next five years,” she said. “That is a growth of 835 percent in just 10 years.

“Streaming media gives consumers more convenience, more options and better programming than traditional TV can offer,” she continued. “This gives consumers control over what they watch – whenever and wherever they want.”

EggCentric TV is available through Apple TV, as well as Roku, a streaming media player that connect your TV to your home Internet connection. Roku is available in the US, the UK, Ireland, France and Mexico. Each month, new countries are added to that list.

“Eggcentric TV has been successful on Roku from the beginning, averaging over 1,000 visits per week from global users,” said Caron. “Worldwide interest in eggs is amazing. Eggcentric TV features engaging video content from social influencers and celebrity chefs. It aims to share simple and delicious recipes, [and offers] tricks and tips that inspire consumers to create and enjoy egg dishes at home.”

To build excitement, Roku and her team load content and share it on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. At last count, total social engagements, likes and retweets, reached over 300,000. Total impressions, the number of times an ad has been seen, reached 25.5 million.

“And we just have our own Canadian content up,” said Lambert.  

While EFC is committed to new content every week, the organization hopes that egg producers from other nations will join them in sharing the message. They too, he said, should view social license as the next big thing.

Published in Consumer Issues
October 19, 2016 - The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) refers to permitted business deductions in a number of sections of the Income Tax Act (ITA). However, these deductions can only be used if the taxpayer can show their business has a reasonable expectation of profit. The problem is that reasonable expectation of profit is not defined in the ITA so how is “reasonable expectation of profit” applied for tax purposes?  

Farm losses and restricted farm losses are a prime example of the interpretive confusion that might exist under Section 31 of the Tax Act. These rules limit the amount of losses from a farming operation that can be deducted from other income by taxpayers whose chief source of income is neither farming nor a combination of farming and some other source.

There is extensive case-law dealing with the issue of what a taxpayer's "chief source" of income is for this purpose. The last bench-mark case found in favour of a producer and ignored whether the source of income was a combination of farming or some other source. The court ruling did not factor the government’s contention that farm income had to be the main source of income.

The court decision didn’t last long because the federal budget of 2013 introduced a change to the Act that reinforced the government’s earlier interpretation of the legislation. The amendment states that if your chief source of income is not farming, then the restricted farm loss rules apply. Farm losses in this case may reduce income from other sources for the year only to the extent of the lesser of the farm loss for the year or $2,500 plus half of the farm loss exceeding $2,500 to a maximum of $15,000.

The deduction for the farm loss for a year is therefore limited to a maximum of $17,500 representing an actual loss of $32,500. Any farming loss which is not deductible currently by virtue of Section 31 becomes a "restricted farm loss".

There are subtle differences in the way CRA categorizes two sets of farmers.
  1. The taxpayer who does not look to farming or to farming and some subordinate source of income for his livelihood but carries on farming as a sideline business
  2. The taxpayer who does not look to farming or to farming and some subordinate source of income for his livelihood and who carries on farming activities with no reasonable expectation of profit.
Whether a taxpayer has a reasonable expectation of profit from his farming operations is a subjective or objective determination to be made from all of the facts.  Some of the criteria to be considered are:

  • Extent of activity in relation to businesses of comparable nature and size
  • Amount of gross revenue from farming in relation to the relevant expenses
  • Time spent in the operation as compared to other income earning activities
  • Profit and loss experience in the past years
  • Taxpayer's training
  • Taxpayer's intended course of action
  • Capability of the venture as capitalized to show a profit after charging capital cost allowance
As you might expect, the importance of documenting and supporting the above noted criteria will assist you in ensuring you can claim your farm losses.
Published in Farm Business

In 2014, Canadian farmers produced more than 595 million dozen eggs per year and had eight straight years of sales growth. According to a recent study by Egg Farmers of Canada, it takes 69 per cent less water and half the amount of feed today to produce a dozen eggs, while hens are producing nearly 50 per cent more and are living longer than they did 50 years ago.

Layer operations across the U.S. and Canada are progressing, and this fact is evident when visiting the layer operation at McGee Colony, recognized by Star Egg Company in 2015 with a first place finish in Saskatchewan for reaching the dozen eggs per bird and cost per dozen eggs quota.

As of 2014, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) listed the average Canadian flock size at 20,192 hens; however, Canadian egg farms can range from a few hundred to more than 400,000 hens. The average laying hen produces approximately 305 eggs per year (25.4 dozen). The Bovan standard is 353 eggs per hen housed at 78 weeks.

The flock of 16,200 Bovan White managed by Jerry Mandel and his father John Mandel boasted a production of 370 eggs per hen housed, with 106 grams of feed intake per hen per day at 78 weeks, in 2015. The number of eggs produced was above the Bovan standard, while the feed intake per hen per day was below the Bovan standard. Jerry and John emphasize that they had great help in earning the plaque from Star Egg Company that was presented to them at the Saskatchewan Egg Producers annual meeting.  

“Part of making this program work is good teamwork, with everyone making sure the hens get the best nutrition, health and management care,” said Jerry.

McGee Colony, located near Rosetown, Saskatchewan, is named after the site of the old village of McGee. The poultry barn and associated equipment are fairly new and well-maintained. Even so, there are challenges that need to be met.

The well water’s pH level measures around 9. This is closely monitored and adjusted to 6.5 via acidification of the water on a continual basis. As a result, chlorination of the water is achieved with a more acidic pH, as chlorination works at its optimum for water sanitation with a pH around 5–6.5.

The flock is an integral part of the colony. The feed is produced on-farm in a computerized mill, and the grains are grown specifically for use by the flock. Being located in the Rosetown area means wheat is the cereal of choice, not corn. By milling their wheat, McGee Colony was able to change to a larger screen (a 1-inch screen) with several advantages:

  • There are less broken kernels. This reduces feed separation as it goes through the travelling hopper feed delivery system.
  • Whole wheat causes more feed grinding in the gizzard, so more endogenous enzymes are mixed with the feed. Feed passage is then slowed, allowing for better digestion and thus gut health.
  • Less electricity is required.
  • Faster feed throughput is achieved at the mill.

The integration of the poultry unit on the farm means the field crop operation is influenced by the poultry operation and the poultry operation is in turn influenced by the field crop operation. Manure is handled so that it is dried as rapidly as possible and initial moisture content is observed constantly.  Incoming water, as mentioned above, is treated to optimize pH as well as with chlorine. This combination helps to avoid excessively wet droppings.  

McGee’s rations do not contain meat meal, so their nutritionist at EMF Nutrition pays close attention to the osmotic balance of the ration, which also helps to reduce the fecal moisture. The inclusion of a yucca plant extract technology helps to reduce ammonia in the barn while also lowering the amount of ventilation required in the winter to remove ammonia, thus allowing for ease of maintaining daytime temperatures at 20 degrees Celsius and nighttime temperatures at 22 degrees Celsius in the winter.  

The manure, which is removed to the storage room at the end of the barn, has heated air from the barn drawn over it as it is exhausted from the barn. This also helps to further dry the manure. The dry manure is then removed from the storage area and allowed to cure before it is applied as fertilizer on the fields.  From this process, less nitrogen escapes from dry manure. The less the nitrogen escapes from the manure and the better bound the nitrogen is, the higher the nitrogen content is in the manure that is applied to the fields.  

McGee Colony also includes an enzyme technology in their rations to increase the digestibility of plant-based ingredients, thus reducing the need for supplemental phosphorus and decreasing the phosphorus levels in the manure. By lowering manure phosphorus and increasing nitrogen, McGee Colony can minimize the land required to accept the phosphorus while maximizing the amount of nitrogen applied from the manure. This nutrient management plan helps to reduce the nitrogen fertilizer required to meet the needs for next year’s crop.

Next year, the colony will be using a foliar-applied source of micronutrients on the land growing wheat for the poultry unit. This micronutrient application helps to optimize plant growth and harvest yield. Higher yield means less land required to grow crops for the poultry unit and more land for cash crops. Higher yield also means more nutrients removed, and the poultry manure can be spread over the land with less time and less fuel.

McGee Colony has also implemented some of the programs other successful layer operations have shared within the industry. Dave Coburn of Coburn Farms spoke about its “Best Flock Ever” (Canadian Poultry, April 2012), and mentioned including the Alltech Poultry Pak® program in addition to the use of large particle sizes to stimulate the gizzard. Both of these methods were implemented in the Coburn Farms program to improve gut health and ultimately egg production.   McGee Colony has also incorporated both of these programs to maximize their eggs per quota and feed efficiency. With these programs in place, in addition to improving soil management and yield with effective soil nutrient management, McGee Colony is successfully building a sustainable agricultural program.  

“The eggshells are better, even with the older 70 week birds, and we have less eggshell cracks than before,” said Jerry. “The birds are keeping their feathers longer and they always appear to be active.”

Published in Producers
Oct. 14, 2016 - The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has created a way to help agricultural associations save money, engage members and improve revenues through a powerful new phone app. After rigorous testing, the Ag Smart-Association App (ASApp) was launched recently via the Apple and Google App stores.
 
The innovation that ASApp brings to the industry is the ability for an organization to reach its members on the screen of their choice. Smartphones are the most-used mobile business device and ASApp leverages push-notifications to alert members to the latest stories and news in real-time.
 
“Smartphone Apps, like ASApp bring the best of your website to your members’ mobile phones,” explains Andrew Hurrell, business development and stakeholder engagement with CAHRC. “It helps ag associations to engage their members, save money and generate revenue by providing self-managed mobile application services.”
 
If controlling costs while delivering better services to your members is important to your ag organization, a smartphone application is a great solution to consider. ASApp brings newsletters, journals, conferences and event programs right to the phones of association members – with all information easily updated by staff via the web interface.
 
Increased revenue streams are possible through ASApp by using it for membership renewals, advertising directories, and sponsor’s offers and benefits. Beyond the traditional communications capabilities, the smartphone app can engage your membership to help with advocacy by asking members to perform activities through the app.  
 
Finally, usage analytics and easy to administer member surveys help to provide important insights to associations about their membership.
 
Each association’s version of the app is customized for branding and functionality, allowing ASApp to adjust menus, content and features as desired. When offered by national or provincial organizations, ASApp is free to users and is always ON with real-time notifications. This creates a wide range of applications for member engagement allowing members to: sign-up and renew memberships with payment processing; register for events; participate and vote during events; access multilingual content; be included in association contact directories; access secure log-in areas; and engage in social media feeds, among other functions – as well as full access to CAHRC provided employer tools including the Ag Employer Toolkit and CAHRC’s national job board, AgriJob Match.
 
The app design is compatible with both Android and Apple smartphones and follows best practices in mobile user interaction design and suability. As with other mobile applications it is intuitive requiring no end-user training. For more information on CAHRC’s ASApp visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.
Published in Farm Business

Oct. 14, 2016 - Farming is a unique type of business that causes financial planning to take on dimensions not often seen in other industries. This is reflected in the Income Tax Act, which has numerous provisions for things like farm income, tax deductions, various subsidies, and more.

 It can feel at times overwhelming and hard to keep up-to-date. Fortunately, there are people with the knowledge and expertise who can help.

Engaging an accounting or tax planning firm can give your farm the ability to grasp the nuances of the tax laws and get the most tax deductions and minimal liabilities possible.

Navigate an ever-changing landscape
Small businesses and farms are subject to various types of subsidies and tax quirks that the provincial and federal governments use to help spur growth or respond to situations like droughts or cold snaps.

Tax legislation relevant to farming and small business are regularly tinkered with as government tries to respond to industry shifts, projections and predictions, or other concerns that may or may not be more hype than substance.

Knowledge is power when dealing with subsidies, and managed accounting can give you the power needed to keep track of the benefits you qualify for as well as how to take advantage of them.

Reconcile reality with government
Government works best when things can be precise and measured. As any farmer knows, nature doesn't always care for timetables. This can lead to situations where seemingly trivial differences in how an animal or piece of equipment is used can affect how it gets classified for tax purposes.

Tax planners can help you interact with this sort of bureaucratic matter and ensure you don't inadvertently run afoul of the Canada Revenue Agency or miss out on a tax deduction you should've been able to claim.

Accounting for it all
Among the various types of income that need to get reported are profits from property or livestock sale, breeding fees, renting fees, incidental income, all taxable subsidy and conservation payments, and gross income from other sources.

Expenses can include things like feed, pest management products, fertilizer, and more.

Even if you don't have an upcoming tax filing to make, this all results in a great deal of numbers to keep track of. Accounting services can help you stay on top of your income and expenses so you can have a full and accurate view of your financial situation.

FBC is Canada's Farm & Small Business Tax Specialist, providing tax accounting and bookkeeping services to over 20,000 farms and small businesses from Ontario to British Columbia. Our complete financial planning for farm and small business owners takes a long-term approach to address your specific needs at all stages of life and business, minimizing your taxes year after year. Year-round services include tax planning, tax optimization, business consulting and audit protection.

 
Published in Farm Business
Controlling highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks is a costly business. Quarantine, culling and depopulation, poultry movement control and increased biosecurity amount to high costs for the industry. So, too, does establishing transparent communication with both the public and producers.

Compensating farmers – and not compensating them – brings costs of its own, as proper compensation facilitates reporting and disease control. Unfortunately, not all compensation schemes are created equal, and lack of compensation is a problem that extends far beyond geographical borders. One could say that its consequences are global in scale.

Compensation around the world
At this year’s International Egg Commission (IEC) conference in Warsaw, HPAI was a hot topic. Concerned poultry producers from around the globe met in an economics workshop to listen to Peter van Horne speak about compensation schemes around the world. Van Horne is a poultry economist from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

There are a lot of regulations in the EU on how to compensate, said Van Horne as he dove into his presentation. The European Union clearly says where there is an outbreak of AI and birds are culled, farmers are compensated for the market value of that bird – both pullets and layers, he said.

“The EU, at the same time, says that it is very important that all of the member states have good control of the outbreak,” he continued. “If there’s an outbreak in one country, the neighbouring countries are also impacted.”

The EU compensates 50 per cent of direct losses because it believes that it’s in the best interest of all member states to do so. The EU, however, does not compensate for consequential losses, so all of the empty periods on the farm. That’s the risk of the farmer. How governments operate at the state level is their decision, said van Horne.

But how do you determine the market value of a layer? Do the eggs she could have laid determine her worth or is the farmer simply compensated for the value of the bird? Turns out that there’s no clear answer.

In the Netherlands, value is assigned to pullets beginning at seven weeks. Feed costs are also calculated and included up to a maximum of 23 weeks. There are two main points where market value is determined, at the beginning and at the end. Since there is no market for hens at 50 weeks of age, value is simply estimated. Value is also based on revenue that would have been earned from the eggs. Consequential costs, including the costs to destroy the birds, transport, and the cleaning and disinfection of farms, are not covered.

“The Dutch say that there should be a maximum that the farmers can pay,” said van Horne. “There is a fund with levies. For five years the levies go into a fund and then there is a certain amount of money compensated from this fund to give compensation payments to the farmers – so there is a ceiling because otherwise it would be too expensive for the farmers.”

“When there’s a big outbreak, like 2003, there are very, very high losses with a lot of birds culled, then it’s just only the first part [that is] paid by the farmers,” he continued.

Belgium’s compensation scheme, said van Horne, is very straightforward. With regards to direct losses, the EU pays 50 per cent and farmers pay the remaining 50 per cent. Regarding the cost of control, the EU pay 50 per cent and the Belgian government pays the remaining 50 per cent. Consequential losses are at the risk of the farmer.

In Germany, direct losses are paid by the EU (50 per cent), by the government (25 per cent) and by the farmer (25 per cent). The scheme is similar for control costs, although Germany is a little more complicated as the various states have different regulations. Like Belgium and the Netherlands, there is no compensation for consequential losses. There are, however, insurance companies that will cover consequential losses.

In France, farmers don’t have to pay anything for control or direct losses. The EU pays the 50 per cent, and the government pays 50 per cent. Consequential losses are not covered, but like Germany, there are insurance options.

Like the other EU member states, Spain gets 50 per cent compensation for direct losses. While van Horne couldn’t speak with great certainty on what happens beyond that, he did say that there are plenty of public-private insurance schemes in place.

Outside of Europe farmers have very different schemes. Australian farmers, for instance, are only compensated for direct losses. The amount of compensation is dependent on the type of disease. Diseases fall into three categories – one, two or three. The government compensates 100 per cent of direct losses for those diseases that fall into category one. Diseases that fall into category two, like HPAI H5 and N7, are paid for by the government and industry at 80 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Category three diseases, such as HPAI other than H5 and N7, and LPAI subtypes H5 and H7, are paid for 50 per cent by government and 50 per cent by industry.

In Indonesia, where there’s no clear preventative or control program, farmers are offered little to no compensation. This creates an additional problem, van Horne pointed out. That is, when farmers are not compensated, they are not motivated to report cases to the government. In many cases, they take the birds to market as quickly as possible. Sometimes, though, farmers are offered credit schemes to return to farming once the crisis is over.

“There should be compensation to motivate the farmers to be involved in solving the problem,” said van Horne.

This has been a problem in South Africa where there is no compensation for consequential losses. “The difficulty we have, if it’s a controlled disease, then the government will depopulate,” one South African farmer said at the workshop. “But you don’t know what you’re going to be compensated when they depopulate.”

“It’s never happened with chickens, but it’s happened with ostriches and cattle, so we don’t have any poultry experience,” he clarified. “But it is a practical problem for us, and private insurance is too expensive.”

Just as schemes vary in other parts of the world, they differ from country to country in North America as well. Although no official details on Mexico’s compensation scheme could be found, a Mexican farmer at the workshop, Sergio Chavez, quoted a price of $0.50 per bird. Chavez’s concern went beyond compensation, though. In 2012, there was a major outbreak in Jalisco, he explained. This was particularly problematic for the industry, as Jalisco represents 55 per cent of Mexican production.

“I think that’s important to measure – the social impact, the political impact – because what happened at that time?” he asked. “The prices to the consumer skyrocketed – doubled or tripled.”

Until 2012, U.S. poultry farmers hadn’t faced large outbreaks, so they didn’t have a compensation scheme in place. “If you don’t have a problem then you don’t know how to compensate for it,” said Chad Gregory, president and CEO of United Egg Producers. “Clearly, with the high-path AI outbreak of 2015 where we lost 35 million layers... we got intimately familiar with indemnity, and the formula and the areas that it was lacking.”

The first figures, said Gregory, weren’t good. The U.S. government came to a figure by calculating costs, including the costs for buying in and moving chicks, feed, vaccinations and service costs. One of the big problems was that the government was taking 90 per cent or more for dividends, earnings and taxes, he said.

“You’re left with about $1.00 to $1.10,” he said. “They add that to the figure to start of layer capitalization – so $4.25 to 4.50 – that is what she’s worth at 19 weeks.”

“That doesn’t come anywhere close to helping pay for the bird or helping the farmer staying in business,” he concluded. “We had a lot of upset farmers last year.”

The U.S. government also paid for cleaning and disinfecting, but Gregory says they hired contractors who had no idea what they were doing. “It took five times longer and it wasn’t done well,” he said.

Since then the U.S. government has changed the rules about virus elimination. The farmer now gets a cheque for around $6.45 per bird. “The total package is very fair,” said Gregory. “We think the reimbursement package is nice.

In Canada, the order to have animals destroyed as part of disease control activities comes from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) under the Health Animals Act.

“The amount of compensation is the market value, as determined by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, that the animal would have had at the time of its evaluation if it did not have to be destroyed,” explained Tammy Jarbeau, media relations person for CFIA.

The maximum amount established for this type of animal is in the Compensation for Destroyed Animals Regulations. If there is no readily available market for the animals, said Jarbeau, the market value is estimated using CFIA economic models. These models take into consideration factors such as incomes and costs for feed and bedding.

AI is a global issue
Avian influenza, unfortunately, is here to stay. As it affects farmers globally, prevention and controls programs, as well as compensation schemes are necessary to prevent its spread, especially as migratory birds don’t recognize geographical and economic borders. The meeting in Warsaw was a good start, though, as it provided a space to increase dialogue between affected countries.
Published in Business & Policy

 

Chickens, like all vertebrates, are governed by a circadian rhythm that is governed by the natural light/dark cycle of day and night. As such, chickens mostly rest and are inactive at night, especially when it is dark.  Although they do rest during the daylight hours, most of their feeding and activity is performed during this time.   

Studies show that just as in humans, major abrupt changes to the day/night cycle of the chickens, such as waking up the chickens at night with loud noises, will lead to stressed and anxious chickens.

In addition, studies have shown that loud noises such as found near airports, rail road tracks or loud hydraulic or pneumatic equipment and machinery close to the chickens leads to lower egg production, stunted growth, higher blood pressure, stress and fatigue in the birds.  A study has shown that loud noise simulating noisy ventilation fans and operational machines found at slaughterhouses led to increased plasma corticosteroids, cholesterol and total protein.1 This study recommended the control of noise pollution near the chickens and chicks.

Other studies show that noise levels past the 85 dB level can lead to a decreased feed intake of between 15 to 25 per cent.  Lower feed intake stunts chicken growth — something the poultry farmer or processor does not want.

But all is not lost. Below are some tips and advice to reduce the noise level to an acceptable and healthier level leading to happier and healthier chickens – both psychologically and physically.

First identify the sources of noise pollution equipment. Use a sound measuring tool if necessary.

  1. Erect sound barrier secondary glazing in windows.
  2. Establish your chicken farm in a quiet area away from airports and industrial areas and rail yards.
  3. Maintain your ventilation fans and feeding machines making sure they are not producing excess noise.
  4. Try to buy machines that produce the least noise possible.
  5. Avoid repairs and renovations with noisy equipment, especially during the rest and sleep hours of the chickens
  6. Muffle noisy equipment.
  7. Make sure that family members do not honk the car horn too often during chicken sleep hours.
  8. Investigate “active noise control” - a noise cancelation anti-noise system that produces sound waves of the same amplitude as the noise pollution, but in opposite polarity causing a cancelling of the noise pollution.
  9. Train employees and family members to respect the sleep hours of the chickens - they should not be screaming out to each other, joking etc. around sleeping chickens.

We simply see that it’s about common sense and respect. We need to respect the fact that chickens are living beings that need many of the same things that we need, including a good night’s sleep and some peace and quiet during the day. We just have to sensitize ourselves by imaging how we feel when we are woken up while we are asleep. We feel grouchy the next day and are less productive in the office. If we internalize this reality, we will treat the chickens with more respect, which not only is the proper thing to do, but it is actual good business sense.

The results will be healthier, bigger chickens.  Thus, everybody gains by respecting the chickens needs not to be exposed to high levels of noise pollution: the commercial poultry farmer, the backyard chicken farmer enthusiast, the processor and the chickens.


Ronnie P. Cons is EVP of C&C Packing Inc., a leading Canadian distributor of meat and poultry. He can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Visit at www.CCpacking.com

 

1Stress in Broiler Chickens Due to Acute Noise Exposure (2009) Chloupek et. Al  Acta Veterinaria Brno, 78:93-98.

 

Published in Welfare
After 10 years as editor of Canadian Poultry magazine, I have decided it's time for me to move on to a new adventure.  This decision has been bittersweet; I will greatly miss my colleagues and everyone that I have met in this great industry during my tenure.  

When I started with Annex Business Media, publisher of Canadian Poultry, I was new to the poultry industry and the learning curve was steep.  I'm thankful to the company for providing me with a fantastic opportunity to learn, but it's the people of the Canadian poultry industry from which I have learned the most and I am forever grateful.

In the past ten years, I’ve witnessed the industry grapple with many challenges, from trade to animal welfare.  Without a doubt it has been the latter, as well as the issue of “social license” that has had the greatest impact, and the two issues I have found myself covering the most in the magazine in recent years.  

The Canadian and U.S. poultry industries have been under a rapid transition away from what has always been done - what’s been “industry standard” – and are navigating a new world of housing birds and rearing them without drugs.

But I am confident that the industry has the knowledge and support it needs to traverse this new reality.  Canada in particular has a strong poultry research base and innovative companies that are dedicated to helping poultry producers.

One thing that has always stood out for me, and that I will remember fondly, is the passion of the people in this industry.

Thanks for allowing me to be part of your world for the past ten years. I leave the magazine in great hands, and wish Lianne Appleby success as the new editor.

Lianne Appleby returns as editor
Lianne Appleby is excited to return as editor of Canadian Poultry, beginning immediately. Having studied animal science at the University of Guelph, Lianne completed a Master of Science degree in broiler nutrition.  Combining a passion for writing and science, her first “editor” assignments were with the University of Guelph/OMAFRA publication “Nuggets” and the Poultry Industry Council’s “Fact Sheets” during her student career.  From there, she worked in communications and government relations with Chicken Farmers of Ontario, before moving to Beef Farmers of Ontario as communications manager and editor of Ontario Beef magazine.  Prior to joining Annex Business Media, Lianne served as marketing and communications manager with Hybrid Turkeys. In 2013, her first assignment with Annex was editor of Canadian Poultry magazine during Kristy Nudds’ maternity leave.

Most recently, Lianne has been the Digital Editor for all of Annex Business Media’s agriculture publications (Manure Manager, Top Crop Manager, Potatoes in Canada, Canadian Poultry and Fruit and Vegetable magazine). Lianne looks forward to once again working with her poultry industry peers.
Published in News
Numbers found on cans of tuna provide the combination to unlock a wealth of information. It’s yet another example of the food system recognizing consumer demand for information and embracing transparency.

Chicken of the Sea’s traceability website allows consumers to enter a 10-to-15 digit number found on the bottom of certain tuna products. In return, the consumer can read a description of the species; where the seafood was caught, including a map and a species-specific stock status report from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation; the fishing method used; the fishing vessel; where the seafood was processed; where the seafood was canned; and general information on the company’s sustainability initiatives. The company says it will eventually expand the program to its entire shelf-stable line.

“It is important for our customers to have an opportunity to know the story behind their fish,” said Chicken of the Sea’s director of sustainability. “Traceability is an essential step.”

Former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman recently suggested that the long and contentious GMO labeling law debate could force a transparency revolution. There’s no doubt that farmers and food makers need to be aggressive in opening their doors and letting consumers see how food is produced, but in reality, a transparency revolution is already underway.

Chicken of the Sea’s new program is a good example, but only one of many.

Hershey’s commitment to increased transparency and move to simpler ingredients goes back to 2015. The company’s website now provides an A-to-Z glossary of all its ingredients with easy-to-understand descriptions.

Leading food, beverage and consumer products companies last December unveiled SmartLabel to empower consumers to access a myriad of information with a simple bar code scan or click of a website.  The technology puts nutritional information, ingredients, allergens, third-party verifications, social compliance programs, usage instructions, advisories and safe handling instructions at consumers’ fingertips in a standardized format.

At California’s JS West and Companies, a leading egg producer, cameras in the barns allow online visitors to see what the hens are doing 24 hours a day. Visitors to the site are welcome to leave comments about what they see.

New Jersey-based Catelli Brothers has installed a 12-camera system at its veal plant that monitors the facility in real time. A third-party generates a daily report on animal treatment.

At Indiana’s Fair Oaks Farms, the doors are open for thousands of visitors every year to look through glass walls to see how real dairies produce milk and how pigs are born and cared for. The founders of the company say they have nothing to hide and want the public to see how their animals are treated.

CFI research proves that increased transparency is a powerful tool to earn consumer trust. People today expect transparency and want to see how food is produced. Consumers want the ability to engage and get questions answered promptly and in easy-to-understand language. They want to see how food is produced, who’s producing it, what’s in it and how it impacts their health.

A growing number of farms and food companies are engaged in the transparency revolution and pulling back the curtain, which should be applauded. Critics who intentionally disregard the progress toward greater transparency only serve to discourage it by refusing to give credit where credit is due. So, food system critics are encouraged to be transparent about genuine progress among food producers just as producers who have yet to embrace transparency need to be encouraged to build on the positive momentum. There is no denying the ability of transparency to increase
consumer trust. n

Reprinted with permission from the Center for Food Integrity (CFI).  CFI’s vision is to lead the public discussion to build trust in today’s food system and facilitate dialog with the food system to create better alignment with consumer expectations. For more information, visit: www.foodintegrity.org
Published in Consumer Issues

 

It should be evident after reading our cover feature this month that agriculture has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of Canadian consumers with respect to methods of production and the food products produced.

While it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in the agriculture business that consumers are confused about food, just how confused they really are is perhaps worse than originally thought.

In early June, Farm & Food Care Canada held a “Public Trust Summit” in Ottawa, Ont., with the intention of “encouraging continuous collaborative discussions amongst farm and food system leaders, while developing concrete actions for earning public trust.”  Participants included representatives covered the gamut of food production, including all livestock sectors, crop and seed production, to government and academia.  

Farm & Food Care Canada launched a new division at the event known as the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI). It’s an international affiliate of the U.S. Center for Food Integrity, which has been assisting the food system “meaningfully engage with their most important audiences on issues that matter” for nearly 10 years, and was the first organization to introduce the concept of building public trust.

Before its launch the CCFI conducted a web-based survey earlier in 2016 of approximately 2500 Canadians to get a benchmark on the trust the average Canadian has in Canadian food and food production.  The respondents were then segmented into three groups - “Moms”, “Foodies”, and “Millenials” – to gain additional insight, as these groups are considered the most influential, and interested, in information about food.

93 per cent of consumers in the survey indicated they knew little, or nothing, about farming.  However, compared to a similar survey conducted by Farm & Food Care in 2006, Canadians’ positive impressions of agriculture have increased by 20 per cent. This, combined with the fact that 60 per cent of respondents indicated they would like to know more about farming, is an opportunity for Canadian agriculture to make a connection with consumers, Farm & Food Care Canada CEO Crystal Mackay said at the event.

What will be the challenge moving forward is how to make this connection.  The CCFI and Farm & Food Care are working on five action points, but made it clear that “re-gaining public trust must be everyone’s responsibility.”

Opportunity exists for farmers and farm organizations to help regain trust as the CCFI survey results showed that 69 per cent of respondents favourably viewed farmers as credible sources of information, and 52 per cent of respondents felt farmer associations were credible sources.

Unfortunately, results indicated that animal rights organizations are also viewed with some credibility, so it will be paramount moving forward that farmers and farm groups try to engage with consumers in more effective ways.  It’s the clear the old methods of reaching consumers aren’t hitting the mark, but Mackay says the entire industry needs to share successes and failures in engagement with each other and “commit to making mistakes”, reminding attendees that the whole concept of public trust is new territory.

But she stressed that fear of failure can’t hold an organization back.  As she said at the Summit, “if you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not doing enough.” 

 

Published in Consumer Issues

It was during one particular panel discussion that the need for the “Public Trust in Agriculture Summit” became crystal clear. The Summit was held in early June in Ottawa, with speakers and participants in attendance from all aspects of food production, from seed companies, chefs and farmers, to academics, farming associations and large companies like Maple Leaf Foods. This ground-breaking inaugural event was intended to “encourage continuous collaborative discussions amongst farm and food system leaders, while developing concrete actions for earning public trust.”

And this is exactly what the panel discussion involving five typical urban Canadians exposed – a distinct sense of mistrust towards the Canadian agri-food system. The level of knowledge about farming among the panelists was – for many of the audience members who live and breathe food production on a daily basis – shocking. But to be fair, many attendees also recognized how difficult it is for anyone outside of agriculture, the health care system, forestry or any other complex sector of our economy to make time to learn the basics, let along keep up with the many changes in practices and policy that are standard today.

“Their level of knowledge…on some questions, it was pretty good, [but] on others it was not good at all – industry’s fault, not theirs,” notes attendee Robin Horel, president and CEO Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council (CPEPC). “It certainly emphasized some of the information that was shared from the public survey [presented at the Summit; more on that later] – that consumers get much of their information from friends and family and do not trust industry or government.”

Horel highlights a point during the panel which occurred after the participants had been asked quite a few quiz questions on various aspects of food and farming, with the moderator letting them know in each case if they were correct or incorrect. “[The moderator’s feedback] seemed to be accepted every time by the panelists until the question of hormones in poultry came up,” he notes. “All panelists believed that poultry contained hormones, and when the moderator corrected their belief, they did not believe her, even though on all the previous misconceptions, they did believe her. Then when she asked what it would take to convince them – examples like government, scientists, etc. – they still stuck to their belief and said that they would not be convinced!”

Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) director Dianne McComb also attended the Summit, and says that because she’s on the EFO Public Affairs Committee and has therefore had a lot of exposure to the general public’s level of agri-food knowledge, she “wasn’t too shocked” at the panel responses. “A few others at my table were shocked, or absolutely blown away,” she says, “seeing the panelists’ understanding and that they were in some cases so far away in their opinions from the facts and reality.” (See sidebar for some quotes from panelists.)

If the reason for the Summit hasn’t been made clear yet, let’s dig into brand new survey research presented at the event, conducted by Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), which had its launch at the Summit. (The CCFI is a division of Farm & Food Care Canada, a charity with a vision to earn public trust in food and farming. It’s also an affiliate of the well-established U.S.-based Center for Food Integrity. Both organizations are made up of members representing the diversity of the entire food system. In Canada, that includes Dow AgroSciences and Tim Hortons.

The survey results may shock you. The CCFI’s brand new poll of over 2,500 Canadians found that a whopping 93 per cent know little or nothing about farming. Exactly 50 per cent are unsure about whether our food system is going in the right direction, and 21 per cent believe it’s on the wrong track. Yes, that’s less than a third of Canadians who believe our food system is going in the right direction.

So, it’s clear that the trust of many Canadians in farming and food production has been lost to some extent. This isn’t hard to understand. There was an extremely serious listeria outbreak involving lunchmeats in 2008 resulting in 22 deaths (with new recalls in May 2016), and major outbreaks of swine flu and BSE before that. In recent years, several serious instances of animal cruelty were caught on tape and created national headlines, shaking many Canadians to the core. Then there are all the countless media stories and weighty books – sometimes published within the same year – containing conflicting claims about the health benefits, non-benefits and even detriments of food items like eggs, coffee, whole grains, various types of fat and even certain vegetables and fruits. Indeed, it’s hard not to understand where consumers are coming from and how hard it is for them to keep trusting the food system at this point.

But what’s more serious – and especially relevant to farmers – is that because trust in the food system has been lost, consumers (as well as retailers and restaurant chains such as McDonald’s responding to consumers) are now in a position where they are all but dictating on-farm practices. One stunning example is the demands for Canadian egg farmers to convert to cage-free hen housing (see story this issue). Another example is the strong consumer pressure to abolish sow gestation crates, and the current growing pressure to raise poultry without antibiotics. Demand for no added hormones in beef and for more GMO-free product availability and labelling is also increasing. Outside of farming, strong demands also exist in some instances for restaurants (for example, Earl’s in Western Canada) or grocery stores to carry local – or at least Canadian – products.

Taking stock
Once trust has been lost in any arena, it’s hard to build it back up again. But the Summit highlighted the fact that for farmers, it’s no longer only a quest to regain public trust in agriculture, but to keep their ‘social licence’ – their very ability to dictate their own farming practices and have the general public believe them competent to look after animals, crops, the land – a ‘freedom to operate’ if you will. On that note, here are some more CCFI survey results to ponder. Less than a third (only 29 per cent) of Canadians believe Canadian farmers are good stewards of the environment. Almost three-quarters believe videos of farm animals being treated poorly are “representative of normal livestock farming.”

“Control has already been lost,” noted Summit presenter Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity in the U.S. He and other presenters suggested that perhaps building public trust in the food system starts with accepting that the social licence of farmers may henceforth always be shared to some extent with the consumer. Several speakers pointed out that this reality – that consumers these days have a great deal of influence over farmers and the food system – is not yet accepted or believed by many in agriculture. Nor is the fact that most Canadians know little or nothing about the day-to-day reality of farming understood by many of us who produce this country’s food. So, on the whole, the Summit presented a new ‘normal’ that farmers should strive to get used to as quickly as they can.  

A CCFI statement published in a Summit booklet summarizes the situation well. “We see consumer alienation from agriculture and the food system expressed through concerns about nutrition, food safety, affordability, environmental sustainability, animal well-being and other issues. Some argue that maintaining public trust is a worthy goal, but not relevant to success in business. This outdated notion fails to recognize the financial benefit of maintaining trust of stakeholders who can determine the level of social license or social control an organization enjoys…Once lost, either through a single event or a series of events that reduce or eliminate stakeholder trust, social license is replaced with social control. Social control is regulation, legislation, litigation or market demands designed to compel the organization to perform to the expectations of its stakeholders. Operating with a social license means more flexibility and lower cost. Operating with a high degree of social control increases costs, reduces operational flexibility and increases bureaucratic compliance.”

Taking action
It was stressed over and over again at the Summit, that re-gaining public trust must be everyone’s responsibility. The CCFI, Farm & Food Care, private companies, food and farming associations and individuals were all encouraged to bridge the gap that currently exists between consumers and farms. For its part, the CCFI will continue to research consumer opinions, questions and concerns. Its ‘Public Trust Research’ will benchmark consumer attitudes about food and agriculture against U.S. and Canadian data gathered since 2001. In addition, the CCFI will develop and highlight best practices, models and messages that build trust, and hold future Summits.

Horel thinks the CCFI is “likely a good thing.” The CPEPC Board has asked CCFI to make a presentation and will then decide if CPEPC should become a member.

McComb also thinks the CCFI is a positive step because it’s connected to its well-established U.S. counterpart and can draw on its experience. “We’re being forced by special interest groups and a lack of understanding and pseudo science,” she notes. “Consumers need to make choices and their choices are being taken away by these groups, so we need to reach around these groups and help consumers make their own choices. People want to know food is affordable and safe. And we do have affordable and safe food. The answers that we have in agriculture, the good answers, we haven’t informed consumers about them. With eggs, it’s things like the fact that the carbon footprint of farms is much lower than it was years ago, and at the same time, crop productivity is up, hen productivity is up, the soil is still vibrant and so on. Those are tremendous positives.”  

McComb says the Summit was valuable “because the whole focus of it was the commonality of our problems and the things we need to face.” She believes “Consumers are confused. They have lost touch with agriculture today and we as a whole agriculture sector need to reconnect with the people who buy our products. I think it was a great start. I sat at tables, and I know others did too, with a great variety of people around me. We all thought we are islands, maybe, but we are not. We have lots of commonalities. The Summit helped us make connections, understand the problem, and come up with plans and solutions.”

EFO is working with Farm & Food Care and CCFI on concrete plans on topics like better understanding food-related trends, best public communication practices and more. “When we say agriculture, they [consumers] think food,” McComb notes. “We say food safety and they want safe food. We talk about biotechnology and they wonder about GMOs and steroids and hormones. We talk efficiency and they talk affordability. We have to modify our language and need to speak factually and passionately.”

Alison Evans, communications manager at Egg Farmers of Canada, found the Summit to be “an interesting event,” and notes that “the concepts of social license and public trust are very important to our farmers…We are active participants in a range of initiatives that promote dialogue and action on these matters, and value collaboration that benefits the entire sector. We will look forward to hearing more about the planned initiatives of the CCFI with interest.”

Turkey Farmers of Canada (TFC) Chair Mark Davies attended part of the Summit and TFC Manager of Corporate Communications Robin Redstone attended the entire event. “We felt it was a useful event and we certainly welcome the dialogue on what we agree is an important issue for the Canadian food and agriculture sector,” Redstone notes. “Going forward, TFC will continue in our efforts to address the public’s demand for information and transparency, and our organization will be assessing the proposal for involvement put forth by the CCFI.”

For its part, Farm & Food Care is working on five action points. CEO Crystal Mackay pointed out at the Summit that results for Google searches must be improved, in terms of offering Canadians more
balanced and accurate information about food and farming. (The top 10 ranked results for a Google search for the words ‘cage free,’ for example, turned up only animal rights websites and a Wikipedia entry.) Secondly, Farm & Food Care is going to invest in new online content, for example expanding its Virtual Farm tours to Virtual Farm and Food Tours. In addition, it will continue working to reach ‘thought influencers’ in Canadian society, such as Foodies, bloggers and Moms, to support the development of new resources and research, and to continue to build networks and momentum.

Let’s finish with some pertinent quotes from some of the Summit presenters, starting with UK-based food industry researcher and commentator Dr. David Hughes: “There are no passengers here. We all need to take action individually and collectively.”

Arnot stressed that information on farming and food must be more readily available, “We have to get past ‘There is nothing to hide, but it’s none of your business,’” he said. Arnot also put emphasis on a long-term view: “Success will not be defined by where you’ll be in 12 months from now. Three, five, ten years is what matters.”

“This is a moving target,” Mackay stated. “This is new territory…We need to commit to making mistakes.” She advised everyone to go back and look at their website and other materials and commit to helping each other and providing feedback across sectors. “If you’re not making mistakes, you’ve probably not doing enough,” she said. “It’s a movement – you have to move.”

Mackay believes the CCFI findings point to a huge opportunity to make a better connection between Canadians and their food. With the survey showing that 60 percent of Canadians would like to know more about farming practices, she’s very right. The overall survey results, however, suggest an uphill battle ahead.

The Public Trust Research Report is available at: http://www.farmfoodcare.org/canada/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2016-Public-Trust-Research-Report.pdf

Published in Emerging Trends
October 3, 2016 - Aches and pains are common afflictions of everyday life. Stiff knees, sore feet and back pain are all too common. Back injuries can be chronic (long-term) or short-term and can affect everyone at some point in their life. Back pain, especially lower back pain is a common work-related issue that affects many farmers from farms both small and large.

Back pain can be caused by many factors and can affect anyone, young or old. Farmers are especially at risk because work done on the farm can include activities that are factors for developing back pain. Some risk factors for developing back pain include:
  • Lifting objects heavier than 25 pounds or repeatedly lifting lighter objects,
  • Awkward body posture while working
  • Driving farm equipment for long periods of time that cause your whole body to vibrate,
  • Slips and fall
Most lower back pain caused by overexertion is short-lived and usually resolves on its own. However, having back pain for any amount of time can be a real problem. If severe enough, back pain can lead to a hard time walking or sitting, let alone doing any farm work!

What can be done to help reduce the risk of having back pain? There are some easy steps to remember to help reduce the likelihood of spending the next few days in pain.

Start by recognizing high-risk activities. Are you spending an extraordinary amount of time in equipment? Are you lifting awkward or heavy loads? Is there a tripping hazard that could lead to a fall? Once you realize that there could be a potential for creating back pain, take some steps to help yourself.
  • Avoid prolonged, repetitive tasks (ask somebody to help out and take turns)
  • Practice good lifting hygiene (use your legs)
  • Alternate between heavy and light work tasks
  • Take frequent rest breaks
  • Before starting a task, consider how it could be done differently.
  • Address tripping hazards
There are also things that you can do to strengthen your body against the suffering of back pain. Don’t wait until you are in severe pain to start! Exercising, strengthening your core, stretching and eating well can not only safeguard against back injury, it can also lead to optimal health.  

If you’re back pain doesn’t resolve itself or is unbearable, seek the advice of a doctor or other medical professional. Don’t ignore the pain and hope it goes away. Medical treatment and rehabilitation may enable you to continue working and functioning. By addressing the issue, you could prevent further pain.

For more information about farm safety, visit the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association website at www.casa-acsa.ca.
Published in Business & Policy
Sept. 28, 2016 - I can’t. I don’t want to. You can’t make me. Coming from a child, talking about a math problem or a difficult chore, adults would accuse them of having a negative attitude. But children are not the only ones that can suffer from a negative attitude. Could a negative attitude be preventing you from having a safe farm?

Having a safe farm is a priority for almost all farmers. But is this just all talk? According to an survey conducted by Farm Credit Canada, 75 per cent of farmers feel the work on their operation is done safely most of the time, however more than 40 per cent of the same respondents have reported a personal injury, family member injury or employee injury on their operation. This begs the question – if most work is being done safely, why are people still getting hurt?

Time, money, old habits. These are common responses when asked what obstacles to improving safety are. However, a negative attitude towards safety can impact job performance and increases the chance of getting injured. One of the biggest negative attitudes when it comes to safety is “accidents happen”, or “it was a freak tragedy”. These statements are simply untrue.

Recognizing that accidents are not only predictable but preventable as well, is the first step in having a good attitude around safety and injury prevention. Sometimes it might be uncomfortable or time consuming to think about safety and injury prevention, but those inconveniences are minor when it comes to preventing an injury or even a fatality.

When it comes to day to day attitudes, first, avoid becoming fatigued or overly hungry or thirsty. No human does their best under these conditions. Being tired can slow down your reaction time and can influence your decision making skills. Being hungry, well, that can just make you irritable, easily annoyed and even reckless. Addressing basic needs like rest, food and drink can go a long way in maintaining a good attitude.

Another negative attitude that can affect your farm and your safety is complacency. After performing a job many times without a problem, you may believe you’re experienced enough to skip steps. That’s exactly when an injury can happen. It’s important to follow your established safety procedures each and every time you perform a task.

Emotions are good and normal. It’s ok to be upset or angry at a situation. But it’s not ok if you let those emotions get in the way of performing your task correctly. Being angry or upset can lead people into being reckless or in making hasty decisions. Take the time to calm down, or to figure out a solution before performing your task. Sometimes, a task can be frustrating. We’ve all been in the position where, no matter what you do, nothing you do seems to go right. This can be annoying, frustrating and infuriating! Walk away, calm down and then restart. This goes for everything from fixing machinery to sorting calves. Take a moment (it doesn’t have to be hours) to take a few deep breaths. Regroup. And restart.

Lastly, ask for help! You aren’t in this life alone. Many people including agri-retailers, medical professionals, family members, neighbours and friends are there for you. We all need help sometimes. It can be as simple as asking for clarification on a new crop protection product from your local ag rep or as complex as dealing with a health crisis. Not knowing, or feeling overwhelmed is totally ok, just ask for help when you need it.

Maintaining a positive attitude will help reinforce the importance of doing farm work safely. Having a good attitude about farm safety costs no dollars, but it is an investment in time and in thinking and that investment can pay off in spades in having an injury-free farm.

For more information about farm safety, visit www.casa-acsa.ca.
Published in Farm Business
Sept. 26, 2016 - Adrian and Jodi Roelands of Roelands Plant Farms Inc. have been selected as Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2016. The winners were announced at the Ontario regional event in Stratford, Ontario on Sept. 13.

Roelands Plant Farms Inc. is a greenhouse in south western Ontario where Adrian and Jodi custom grow premium cucumber, tomato and pepper seedlings for sale to vegetable production greenhouses. Since construction of the greenhouse in 2013, they have since expanded twice, bringing their total operation to 12 acres. The industry uses computer technology to automatically control almost every aspect of climate, and the increasing amount of automation available to growers enables them to produce extremely high quality vegetables while keeping costs competitive.

“The Ontario OYF region put on a great event in conjunction with Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock to showcase the OYF nominees,” says OYF vice president East Carl Marquis. “Adrian and Jodi really demonstrated their passion for agriculture and I’m excited for them to represent the region at the national event this fall.”

Both Adrian and Jodi have been involved in agriculture their whole lives. Adrian grew up on a farrow to finish hog operation, and Jodi grew up working alongside her family on their broiler breeder operation. Even before they got married, it was evident that farming together was in their future - it was just a matter of how and when.

In 2012 Adrian and Jodi made the decision to venture out on their own, and by early 2013 they had started construction on four acres of greenhouse propagation space on a newly purchased farm. The operation started with just the two of them, and quickly grew to 60 full-time employees and another 100 staff seasonally. Managing a farm like this has meant learning a lot of new skills quickly, and adapting their management styles accordingly.

One of the principles that guide Adrian and Jodi is to remain committed to their agricultural roots, and endeavour to be a leader into the changing future of farming. They see the future of the family farm being much different than the past - it will be larger, more productive and technology based, and will employ more highly-skilled staff.

Celebrating 36 years, Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ program is an annual competition to recognize farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture. Open to participants 18 to 39 years of age, making the majority of income from on-farm sources, participants are selected from seven regions across Canada, with two national winners chosen each year. The program is sponsored nationally by CIBC, John Deere, Bayer, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through Growing Forward 2, a federal, provincial, territorial initiative. The national media sponsor is Annex Business Media, and the program is supported nationally by AdFarm, BDO and Farm Management Canada.

Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2016 will be chosen at the National Event in Niagara Falls, Ont. from Nov. 29 – Dec. 4, 2016.
Published in Producers

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