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Planning it right: Albertans collaborate on the best use of public lands

posted Sep 19, 2017, 1:53 PM by Action for Agriculture

The public forest lands of Alberta’s Porcupine Hills and upper Oldman drainage (Livingstone planning area) have been in need of better care for many years now. New land use plans, scheduled for public consultation and finalization this fall, may finally address that need. If so, it will be because government finally teamed up with grassroots Albertans to get it right. Commitments to protect and better manage Alberta forest reserves go back more than 40 years. The Peter Lougheed government brought in the Eastern Slopes Policy in 1977.

As the climate changes, farmers look to adapt

posted Sep 17, 2017, 10:44 AM by Action for Agriculture

Farmers across Canada and around the world are changing the way they operate as climate swings become more severe.

Kevin Auch is in his aging 9750 John Deere combine, harvesting canola in southern Alberta. This year's drought, now unleashing consequences in the form of fires and low crop yields, hit his area hard. But Mr. Auch's hopper has more grain in it than he expected, in part thanks to one of the ways he is adapting to climate change.

Mr. Auch is chugging through his fields with a straight-cut stripper header on the front of his combine, rather than a conventional straight-cut header. Both devices feed standing crops into combines, but stripper headers clip off just the plant heads, which contains the seeds. Conventional straight-cut headers mow down plants closer to the ground, which means putting more straw through combines.

This tweak alone results in Mr. Auch's land holding more moisture throughout the year, all while his combine consumes about 20 per cent less fuel because it does not need to chop up as much straw.

Water Technology Farms

posted Sep 17, 2017, 10:39 AM by Action for Agriculture

Farms on the Kansas High Plains have long produced a bevy of crops and livestock, from wheat and corn to cattle and hogs. Now, a new type of operation is taking root in the southwest and northwest parts of the state called water technology farms.

Last year, Tom Willis established the first of what are now 15 water technology farms in Kansas on his grain and forage operation, T&O Farms, LLC, based near Garden City.

Willis, a Finney County farmer and ethanol business owner, says through the three-year pilot research program he hopes to reduce the total amount of water he uses to produce crops by 50%.

“I want to prove that we can conserve water and still achieve profitable yields using the technologies we are pioneering on my farm,” he explains.

Open Farm Days: five years of rural bounty

posted Aug 10, 2017, 5:46 PM by Action for Agriculture

Alberta Open Farm Days visitors have even more opportunities to harvest family fun and discover Alberta’s hidden gems on Aug. 19 and 20.

OFD Photo12

Minister Ricardo Miranda and Geoff Stewart, owner/head distiller of Rig Hand Distillery (left); Minister Oneil Carlier sampling Old School Cheesery products (right)

A bumper crop of family-friendly fun activities awaits as farmers, ranchers and ag-tourism operators invite visitors to experience informative tours and culinary events that help highlight the importance of agriculture to the province. This year, there are more than 100 Alberta Open Farm Days host sites and over 20 culinary events across Alberta.

For the first time, and based on popular demand, culinary events and open houses will take place on both Saturday and Sunday. This change makes it even easier for visitors to experience more of what Alberta Open Farm Days has to offer.

“Saddle up for a countryside road trip to meet the producers who grow your food and the chefs who help make it taste great. Now in its fifth year, Alberta Open Farm Days is a celebration of the rural lifestyle and an education about where our food comes from. I encourage all Albertans and visitors to start planning for this outstanding staycation opportunity at a variety of host sites across the province.”

Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism

“Alberta has a well-earned reputation for high-quality agricultural products, thanks to the hard work and commitment to excellence of our forward-thinking producers and agri-businesses. Open Farm Days is a great opportunity for Albertans to learn more about how our food is produced and how our province’s agri-food industry is growing and evolving.”

Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

Farmers and ranchers will open their doors and welcome visitors at farms across the province. They will offer educational tours, opportunities to buy locally grown and made products and activities like hayrides and petting zoos. Admission to farms is free, but there may be costs for some activities.

Top Alberta chefs will be featured at one-of-a-kind culinary events as they prepare dishes using locally grown products. There is a range of costs to participate in the culinary events. Be sure to plan ahead as some events sell out.

“Agriculture plays a vital role in the well-being of our rural communities, our province and our lives. Ag for Life is proud to support Alberta Open Farm Days as a way to showcase the hard work and dedication of our farmers and ranchers across the province.”

Luree Williamson, CEO of Agriculture for Life

Visit the Alberta Open Farm Days website for details, including a full listing of culinary events and participating farms. Be sure to use the helpful trip-planning tool to chart your Alberta Open Farm Days road trip.

Alberta Open Farms Days, which began in 2012, is a collaborative project presented by the Government of Alberta, Ag for Life, the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies, Travel Alberta and participating farms, ranches and agricultural societies. 

$2 million through Growing Forward 2 to help Calgary food processors

posted Jul 14, 2017, 11:49 AM by Action for Agriculture

The Village Brewing Co. is one of five Calgary food processors growing their businesses thanks to government grants. 

The federal and provincial governments are providing nearly $2 million through Growing Forward 2 to help Calgary food processors expand capacity and improve efficiency so they can grow their businesses. 

Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay and Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier made the announcement at the Village Brewing Co. which has received over $104,000 through the Growing Forward 2 initiative. The funding has allowed the business to add a canning line and centrifuge to its craft brewery.

“Agri-business is a key driver of growth in the Canadian economy and a source of well-paying jobs for the middle class. Our government is proud to support these innovative projects that will support Canadian farmers and the broader supply chain through their increased production of value-added agri-food.”

Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

These investments help achieve the government's plan to create good jobs in food processing and help food processors develop products that reflect changing market tastes and new opportunities.

“The continued growth and success of our agriculture sector is built on its diversity. Alberta offers a wide range of high-quality products and we are helping get those goods from farm to table by supporting the growth and development of Alberta’s food processors, as they create new products and new markets for their products.”

Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

“This funding helps us continue to invest in growing our company by significantly improving our brewing operations. In particular, the funding helped us purchase the first centrifuge in Alberta, which will allow us to produce beer that is more consistent and stable. Funding also went towards a new canning line which was purchased from a Calgary manufacturer, which will allow us to add new products to our portfolio.”

Stephen Anderchek, business manager, Village Brewing Co.

Last year, Alberta’s value-added sector, including food and processing manufacturing sales, was worth $14.6 billion and was the largest manufacturing employer in the province, representing more than 22,400 jobs.

Four other agri-food processors in Calgary will also benefit from Growing Forward 2 grants:

  • CadCan Marketing & Sales Inc. – to purchase equipment to develop a gluten-free pellet formula for its air-puffed, low-fat and gluten-free snack products.
  • H. Hein Foods – to implement new equipment to improve efficiency, expand capacity to meet increased demand and diversify production for poultry, beef and pork products.
  • Just BioFiber Structural Solutions – to purchase and install a commercial-scale plant to turn hemp stalks into building material.
  • Basha International Foods Inc. – two grants to increase its processing capacity.

The Growing Forward 2 initiative is a federal-provincial-territorial partnership that provides programs and services to drive an innovative, competitive and profitable Canadian agriculture and agri-foods sector. In the past five years, Growing Forward 2 has invested more than $406 million in Alberta’s agricultural sector.

Alberta Beef Producers Environmental Stewardship Award

posted Jul 12, 2017, 5:41 AM by Action for Agriculture

ABP Environmental Stewardship Award call for nominations

The Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) is seeking nominations for the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Award (ESA).
The ESA recognizes cattle producers whose natural resource stewardship practices contribute to the environment and enhance productivity and profitability. We are asking producers to take this opportunity to share the unique environmental practices employed on their operation and to present the positive story about cattle producers' contribution to the environment.
Nomination forms are available on the ABP website at:
http://albertabeef.org/uploads/CallforNominationspdf-658.pdf, from the ABP office or from your local delegate. All cattle producers are encouraged to either enter or nominate another producer who is taking strides towards sound environmental production practices. 
A team of judges made up of ABP delegates, the 2017 ESA winner and an industry associate will review the submissions and tour the nominated ranching operations. Each applicant will be scored on predetermined criteria unique to the practices they implement in their business.
The winner will receive a commemorative gate sign, a video highlighting their ranching operation and an all expenses paid trip from anywhere in Alberta to the 2017 ABP Annual General Meeting in Calgary, where the award will be presented at a formal banquet. The competition is open to all cattle producers. Deadline for nominations is July 15, 2017 and the winner will be announced December 2017.

Funding connects students to agribusiness

posted Jun 13, 2017, 4:49 PM by Action for Agriculture

New funding for Alberta’s Green Certificate Program (GCP) is providing more opportunities for students to explore potential careers in agribusiness.

Education will partner with Agriculture and Forestry and invest up to $400,000 annually to cover the course fees for students enrolled in a range of GCP offerings, including:

  • beekeeper production technician
  • cow-calf beef production technician
  • dairy production technician
  • equine technician
  • feedlot beef production technician
  • field crop production technician
  • greenhouse technician
  • irrigated field crop production technician
  • sheep production technician
  • swine production technician

The program has been well received by the agriculture industry. However, schools have identified that the single largest barrier to participation in the GCP is the course fees.

“Our government is committed to protecting and improving education and preparing students for their futures. The Green Certificate Program is designed to connect students with our agricultural industry, and I am pleased to provide funding that ensures students no longer have to pay fees to access this outstanding program.”

David Eggen, Minister of Education

“Covering the fees for the Green Certificate Program will give more students access to specialized education. We are committed to supporting families by alleviating costs and improving growth in rural programs and the agricultural industry.”

Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

“We are pleased to see support for programs that reflect the needs and interests of students, particularly in rural areas. This will help boards continue to provide valuable educational choices in the communities that they serve.”

Mary Martin, president, Alberta School Boards Association

“The Green Certificate Program provides more choices for students to develop the confidence, skills and knowledge they need for the real world. Through the program, we are able to attract more students to the agriculture industry and foster employability skills that support the development of a skilled and educated workforce.”

Martin Zuidoff, board chair, Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association

Quick facts

  • The GCP was developed by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry in 1975 as a way to address labour market needs for Alberta’s agriculture sector.
  • On average, 750 students participate in the GCP each year.
  • Like the Registered Apprenticeship Program, each of the Green Certificate specializations provides students with access to the first level of an agricultural-like apprenticeship.
  • The GCP provides students with opportunities to enter a variety of agriculture-related, structured learning pathways as a part of their senior high school program and to earn a credential leading to a career in agribusiness.
  • Students learn on the job, under the direction of experienced farm personnel and under the supervision of teachers.      

Call for hosts for fifth annual Open Farm Days

posted May 6, 2017, 4:46 AM by Action for Agriculture

Farmers and ranchers are invited to share stories, educate and expand their markets as hosts for Alberta Open Farm Days, Aug. 19-20.

Alberta Open Farm Days

Producers and ag-tourism operators can sign up using the online registration form available at the Alberta Open Farm Days website. The application deadline for host farms is May 31.

“The popularity of Open Farm Days demonstrates the appetite Albertans have for culinary tourism, learning more about rural life and discovering the hidden gems our province has to offer. I encourage farmers and ranchers to take advantage of this outstanding opportunity to showcase their operations and expand their markets.”

Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism

“Open Farm Days continues to grow each year, highlighting some of our most innovative producers and agri-businesses. It offers Albertans a firsthand look at where and how our food is produced and offers our agriculture sector an opportunity to promote the significant contribution it makes to our province.”

Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

New for 2017, farm-to-table culinary events and open houses will now be held throughout the entire weekend. This added flexibility means there will be even more opportunities to showcase and experience Alberta agriculture and country hospitality at its finest.

This year’s Open Farm Days follows a record-breaking 2016 event that included:

  • 92 host farms and 26 culinary events
  • more than 17,800 visits
  • $134,280 in on-farm sales

“Ag for Life is pleased to be a founding partner of Open Farm Days and to celebrate the program’s fifth year here in Alberta. We encourage producers to take part in this year's event, help tell agriculture’s story and showcase where food comes from.”

Luree Williamson, CEO of Agriculture for Life 

“We love opening our doors and sharing the amazing experiences that farm life has to offer. We have participated in Open Farm Days for the last three years and it gets busier and better every year.”

Christina Sturgeon, Flying Cross Ranch

Alberta Open Farm Days is a partnership of Alberta Culture and Tourism, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies, Agriculture for Life and Travel Alberta.

AFSC streamlines – crop inspection

posted Apr 26, 2017, 2:59 PM by Action for Agriculture

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier issued the following statement after meeting Alberta crop commissions and discussing farmers’ concerns on unharvested crops:

“Growing up on a farm, I know farmers work hard to bring the best yield of crops every year, but sometimes their best efforts could be subjected to the vagaries of weather and markets.

“I heard the concerns brought forward by the crop commissions and I commend them for reflecting the views of their members because I value farmers’ input on how we can best address this situation I am committed to meeting with them again.

“Balancing the need to expedite crop insurance claims with protecting producers’ hard-earned premium payments is important to me. That’s why I’ve asked the Agriculture Financial Corporation Services (AFSC) to streamline inspection procedures to assist insured producers in completing planned harvests. I’ve also asked that the agency be prepared to move quickly if conditions don’t improve.

“These actions will help producers spend less time worrying about last year’s crop, and more time preparing for the coming growing season.

“AFSC has always provided good support for our farmers and I have asked that they provide me, as soon as possible, with a fulsome assessment of the current situation and with a plan to expedite crop insurance assessments.

“The success of our farmers and our rural communities is essential to Alberta’s success, and through existing programs and services our government is committed to helping farmers make their lives better.”

Review to explore greener community power generation

posted Apr 21, 2017, 12:19 PM by Action for Agriculture

To make it easier for Albertans to generate their own electricity, the province will explore ways to enable more small-scale, community-owned generation from greener sources, such as wind or solar.

The province is directing the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to conduct a formal study of this issue to help inform government as it develops policy to meet the demand for more local electricity generation owned by individual Albertans and communities. The review will explore opportunities to enable this growth.

“Albertans have a growing interest in powering their own homes or communities and putting clean electricity back into the grid. Exploring ways to enable smaller-scale projects like these is the next logical step in promoting green electricity and helping us meet our target of 30 per cent renewable power by 2030. I look forward to the AUC’s report.”

Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy

The AUC will meet with utilities, consumer groups, developers and other interested stakeholders to assess the supports and barriers around accommodating more small-scale, community electricity generation in Alberta. The AUC is an arms-length government agency with extensive expertise and experience in electricity utility regulation and analysis. It will present a final report to the energy minister by the end of 2017.

“We look forward to providing a thorough report that informs the government about options that are available to promote the long-term growth and sustainability of small-scale, renewable electricity generation.”

Willie Grieve, chair, Alberta Utilities Commission

Supporting more community generation is one of several Government of Alberta actions to promote more green electricity and energy efficiency. This builds on recent steps forward including:

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