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Ag Business

Saskatchewan to Invest $11 Million in Funding for Ag Crops

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tomato and syringe

By Emily Folk

Saskatchewan to Invest $11 Million in Funding for Ag Crops

CropSphere is an annual conference, held seven years running in Saskatchewan, designed to inform and empower the Canadian agricultural industry on the latest developments, partnerships and technologies.

One of the most important news items out of the conference tends to be the announcement by the Saskatchewan government of its latest investments in the Agriculture Development Fund (ADF). This tradition continued on January 14, 2020, when Agriculture Minister David Marit announced a slate of crop-focused research initiatives to further empower the ADF as well as farmers and industrial growers across the country.

$11 Million for 47 New Ag Research Projects

The Agriculture Development Fund is part of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). CAP is a federal-provincial funding system that’s on track to spend $388 million over five years on strategic agricultural research across Saskatchewan. Agriculture Minister Marit said of the ADF’s efforts, “We know these investments pay off. In fact, for every dollar we invest in research, there is a nine-to-one return on our investment.”

One of ADF’s goals is to increase the production of Saskatchewan crops to 45 million tons by 2030, and the value of those crops to $10 billion by the same year.

The $11 million in ADF funding comes from federal and provincial governments. Plus, additional money — to the tune of $8.7 million — comes from partners such as Western Grains Research Foundation, the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commission, Saskatchewan Forage Seed Development Commission, Genome Canada and many others.

These 47 new agricultural technology and methodology projects cover a wide range of opportunities and concerns. Each one supports the overarching mission of raising the value of crops produced in Saskatchewan and beyond and improving the yield of Canada’s primary agricultural products, including wheat, corn, soybeans, barley and oats.

The announced projects include research in the following areas:

  • Mitigation techniques for herbicide-resistant crop plants.
  • New methods for detecting and controlling clubroot and other diseases.
  • New technologies to efficiently separate starch proteins from different types of flour.
  • Ways to improve the diversity and stability of wheat crops to ensure they won’t fall victim to disease.
  • Methods for screening lentil and pea variants for resistance to root rot, fusarium avenaceum and other fungi.
  • Visual analytics tools to reduce labor costs, improve the effectiveness of crop inspections and spot problems.

Receiving funding for ADF projects involves competing with other researchers. Interested parties must demonstrate how their product or methodology solves an existing pain point or addresses the larger goal of boosting crop outputs.

No avenue of scientific research is off the table as long as it demonstrates merit. The material sciences regularly turn out new products for dealing with crop spoilage, pests and other factors that cause harvested crops to spoil before their time. Other projects focus on demystifying the genome of key cash crops and creating new variants that can shrug off environmental stresses.

A Call to Arms to Feed the World Sustainably

Sustainability is one of the major undercurrents any time the ADF announces a new round of agricultural research funding. Data indicates there will be 3 billion more people to feed in 2050 than in 2010. Experts also predict a 56% food gap between the calories produced by agriculture in 2010 versus the calories required to feed the population by 2050.

Research like this reveals that business-as-usual isn’t sufficient. Agricultural experts cannot meet needs without ongoing research into crop yields and resistance, soil health, efficient ways to use water and fertilizers and new crop variants that resist extreme weather.

As Agriculture Minister Marit indicated, the ROI from funding these scientific efforts is high. However, putting a price on feeding the world’s hungry is more complicated.

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.  You can read more of my work by clicking this link:   Conservation Folks.

 

 

 

Other stories from Emily Folk:

What the USMCA Might Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

Extreme Weather Patterns Causing State of Agricultural Emergency in Canada

 

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Ag Business

Alberta needs to fill agriculture jobs, amid a Covid- 19 created foreign worker shortage

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Albertans out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have a new resource to find a work in the province’s essential agriculture businesses and companies that make-up the food supply chain.

“There are great job opportunities on Alberta farms and ranches.” Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry announced at the Alberta Legislature as the government launched a new web-based support page called, Agriculture Job Connector. Dreeshen added, “this new website will help Albertans find an exciting new job in this essential service.”

A pork farm worker in an open sow housing unit in Alberta. Photo Courtesy/Maple Leaf Foods

Alberta is not the only jurisdiction in Canada and around the world that is having problems filling farm and food supply chain jobs.

In the United Kingdom, due to temporary farm worker restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers have been scrambling to find workers so the crops can get planted and to stop crops from rutting on the trees or in the fields. Britons, usually make up only one percent of the temporary farm workforce. Citizens have responded to calls for a “new land army” to help fill the farm and food chain jobs. Up to 70,000 workers are needed. People looking for work have flocked to websites, searches for terms including “fruit picker” or “farm worker” surged by 338% and 107% respectively, with applications up 83% in the last month.

Alberta’s beekeeping industry and honey producers depend on temporary foreign workers during the busy season. Photo Courtesy/Alberta Beekeeper Commission

Family farms and companies throughout Alberta’s food supply chain rely on the “federal temporary foreign workers (TFW) program” to hire seasonal and full-time jobs that Albertans do not historical fill. Although the federal government recently announced loosing some of the TFW rules, the industry is nervous about a worker shortfall.  The coronavirus’ on-going world-wide travel restrictions, along with a mandatory 14-day quarantine, once a foreign worker arrives,  has raised serious concerns about a possible pending foreign worker shortage.

During this pandemic, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is working to reinforce that the, ‘agriculture and agri-food industry has never been more critical to the health and safety of Albertans and to our economy.’ Dreeshen added, “Thank-you to all who continue to work that keep our food supply safe.”

A combine works a field of wheat in Alberta. Photo Courtesy/Alberta Wheat Commission

Alberta’s Agriculture Job Connector has opportunities for both skilled and non-skilled workers. Some posted job openings are for one person, others need up to as many as 50 new hires. Job openings in Alberta can be found through these links, Alberta Alis, AgCareers.com, Career in Foods, Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association and Grasslands Recruitment Specialists. A sampling of some of the openings in Alberta, with the offer salaries can be found through the  links below.

A woman works at a beef cattle operation in Alberta.

Some of the jobs open in Alberta from the links above;

Click here to read more on Todayville Edmonton.

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Ag Business

What the USMCA Might Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

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Canada, USA, Mexico flags

We welcome guest writers to all of our Todayville platforms. Here’s a submission from Emily Folk.  Emily is passionate about agricultural sustainability and more of her work can be found on her site, Conservation Folks. In this story, Emily Folk explains the USMCA Impact on Agriculture. 

What Could USMCA Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?

The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been in the news a lot lately. The leaders of the respective nations signed the trade agreement on November 30, 2019, and ratification is pending. You can think of the USMCA as an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA after publicly speaking unfavourably about it. The USMCA is the result of that vow. The agreement spans several areas, such as the origin of automobile parts and new labor laws in Mexico that make it easier for workers to unionize. The USMCA also has a “sunset clause” that makes its terms expire after 16 years. Plus, every six years, the leaders of the countries involved must agree on whether to extend the deal.

Some agriculture-specific stipulations also exist within the USMCA. Additionally, the agreement notably mentions biotechnology. Here’s a closer look at how the USMCA might change these two industries.

More Exporting Opportunities for Farmers

One of the key points often mentioned about the USMCA is that parties expect the agreement to cause a $2 billion increase in U.S. agriculture exports, triggering a $65 billion rise in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Canada and Mexico are currently the top two exporting markets for American farmers, supporting more than 325,000 American jobs. In 2018, the food and agricultural exports destined for Canada and Mexico totaled more than $39.7 billion.

The USMCA also opens exporting opportunities that did not exist before. Now, U.S. dairy farmers will have expanded access to send products such as fluid and powdered milk, cheese and cream to Canadian parties. There will also no longer be U.S. tariffs on whey and margarine. This change is notable, considering the Canadian dairy market produced roughly 17% of the United States’ annual output over the past three years.

In exchange, Canada will give the United States new access to chicken and eggs, plus increased access to turkey. Plus, all other agriculture products traded between the U.S. and Mexico will be under a zero-tariff model.

Moving Forward With Agricultural Biotechnology

Another improvement associated with the USMCA is that it looks at agricultural technology more broadly than other trade agreements have.

For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a proposed trade agreement between 12 nations — only addressed biotechnology regarding recombinant DNA (rDNA). That process involves joining the molecules from two different species, then inserting the product into a host to create new genetic combinations. Instead, the USMCA opens possibilities for all kinds of agricultural technology, including gene editing. Moving ahead with biotechnology could be crucial for addressing pressing matters that affect agriculture, such as water scarcity.

Approximately 700 million people suffer from water scarcity, and that number could double by 2025. Also, the agriculture industry is the greatest user of water. Things must change — both to address the growing water scarcity problem and to give farmers more options for growing things without using so much water.

Biotechnology has already helped, and it seems highly likely to continue spurring progress. In one example, scientists altered the expression of one gene common to all plants. This change led to a 25% increase in the plants’ water-use efficiency without adversely impacting yield or photosynthesis.

As part of the USMCA, Mexico, Canada and the United States agreed to improve information sharing and cooperation about biotechnology matters related to trade. That change could speed new developments, resulting in positive outcomes for all involved groups and the world at large.

Fairer Agricultural Grading Standards

A grading system for agricultural products defines trading procedures. For example, commercial buyers of a product grown in another country refer to the grading standards to set expectations about a product’s quality. The USMCA specifies that Canada will evaluate U.S. imported wheat and assign it a grade no less favourable than it would give Canadian-grown wheat.

Canada will also no longer require country of origin statements associated with inspection certificates or quality grades. The United States and Canada will discuss issues related to seed regulations under the USMCA, too.

Concerning Mexico and the United States, the two countries agreed to non-discriminatory grading standards and services. Moreover, a dialogue will begin between the two countries to flesh out the details for quality standards and grading regarding trade.

A Promising Future

It’s too early to say what the real-life effects will be of the changes outlined here. But, the commitments laid out within the USMCA seem like they’ll represent clear improvements for agriculture professionals, as well as everyone who benefits from their goods.

 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.  You can read more of my work by clicking this link:   Conservation Folks.

 

 

 

Extreme Weather Patterns Causing State of Agricultural Emergency in Canada

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