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This week, Lakeland College staff announcedthe new bachelor of agriculture technology degree starting fall 2021 at the Vermilion campus. “It's designed for students who currently have a diploma, a degree, another degree from another institution, or other ag schools, as well as diploma students in agriculture. So, they would funnel into the degree, take two additional years of schooling, and exit with a degree in agriculture technology. It's the first of its kind in Canada,” said Josie Van Lent, the dean of agriculture technology and applied research at Lakeland College. The development of this new program came from consultations with the industry as well as requests from students wanting to stay and learn more at the college, said Van Lent. “This degree is really built in response to industry feedback. Then we progressed with developing the outline of the program in terms of what courses should be offered and the learning outcomes. Then we went back to industry and asked if these were the right outcomes, if they wanted to tweak them, or if they had any more feedback for us. It was a pretty robust process involving industry, which is so important to us,” she told Farms.com. The ag industry is looking for graduates with a skill set that includes the ability to deal with the new technology that’s in ag right now and this new program provides that, said Van Lent. This program “is a reflection of where the industry is going. We're seeing more and more technology being embedded in our equipment and the use of technology on farms. Whether it's artificial intelligence, sensors or data management programs, we're certainly seeing a great deal more technology on farms. So (there is a) need to have individuals that are trained to deal with that technology,” she said. This new program will also have an advisory committee that guides it and helps fine tune it moving forward, said Van Lent. Anyone interested in the program or interested in the advisory committee can contact Van Lent or Lakeland College.
Canada's top ag minister delivered a keynote speech to the 2021 summit of state agriculture and rural leaders conference, that was held online. Marie Claude Bibeau pledged to work with the incoming US administration to further strengthen the bilateral trading relationship the two countries enjoy. Bibeau also spoke of the many challenges that COVID put on farmers, processors and the entire food value chain. In 2019, bilateral trade in agriculture and agri-food between Canada and the US reached 60 billion dollars. It's very likely that Tom Vilsack, who served as USDA secretary in the Obama administration will return to the job after Joe Biden takes over as president this month. Canada's top ag minister, Marie Claude Bibeau also mentioned ASF (African Swine Fever) in her speech last week to the summit of state ag and rural leaders conference. Right now, there are no confirmed cases of African swine fever in north America. The disease devastated the hog industry in China over the past two years, and more recently sent the industry in Germany into a tail spin as well, after the disease showed up in wild boar. Farmscape reporter Bruce Cochrane spoke with John Ross, the executive director of the Canadian Pork council. He says both countries are jointly working on an action plan, that includes preparedness and communication. Ross says even a single confirmed case in Canada would be devastating. "For Canada, where we export the better part of 70% of what we produce, an outbreak of African Swine Fever would be devastating and the simple reason is the initial reaction from Canada's trading partners will be to close their borders." "The challenge that we have and the complexity of this problem is that you have an animal health disease that spreads," comments Ross. In order to, one, prevent its introduction into Canada, and secondly, prevent its introduction on any of our farms, at the border, Canada Border Service Agency has a lead role to play here as well as the Canada Food Inspection Agency."
The Ontario government announced the plan for the next stage of COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the province in a statement on Jan. 13. Phase Two of the plan will include frontline workers, including those working in the food processing industry. Representatives from the agriculture industry expressed gratitude that these workers are deemed critical essential workers and included in this phase of vaccination. “We recognize first responders, healthcare workers, and those in long-term care must be prioritized in terms of first access to vaccines. However, we are thankful meat processing essential workers have been identified as a priority for phase two of the vaccination rollout,” Rob Lipsett, president of Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO), said in a Jan. 14 joint statement from BFO and the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association (OCFA). Mike Conlin, president of the OCFA, agreed. “Prioritizing workers in meat production and inspection to receive early immunization of the COVID-19 vaccine will help reduce and/or mitigate further disruptions in the meat supply chain, reduce implications for farmers, and protect the welfare of animals and security of our food supply,” he said in the statement. Phase Two individuals could receive doses as early as March 2021, and expected to be completed by the end of July 2021, followed by Phase Three (general population) vaccines beginning in August 2021, said the release from the provincial government. Other groups that will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase Two are older adults (beginning with age 80+), individuals living and working in high-rosk congregate settings, individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers, and other frontline workers including teachers and first responders, according to the Jan. 13 release.
Farmers can now view the 2020 version of the clubroot distribution map for Saskatchewan. The Government of Saskatchewan and Sask Canola recently releasedthe map that shows which rural municipalities (RM) have fields with visible clubroot symptoms or the clubroot pathogen detected with no visible symptoms. “We see an increase in the number of fields that are infected by either the DNA and/or have physical symptoms,” said Alireza Akhavan. “The total number of fields that have physical symptoms of clubroot now is 75 across the province. The total number of fields that have DNA of the pathogen, but they don't have the physical symptoms, (is) 29.” Akhavan is the provincial specialist in plant disease with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture based in Regina. Clubroot is slowly spreading in the province, but we still have a low number of fields infected compared to Alberta, said Akhavan. “What is scary is if we look at the situation of clubroot in our neighbouring province of Alberta, which has now more than 3,000 already known infected clubroot fields. Compared to them, we have a very low number of fields,” Akhavan told Farms.com. “Saskatchewan is in a very good position to manage the disease.” The ministry puts out this map each year to help producers be aware of the risk in their area and manage accordingly as their RM may change on the map, said Akhavan. “If a producer sees that the RM is now changed to be coloured blue, yellow or orange, then that means they need to think proactively on their own fields to have these practices of clubroot management in effect,” he said. Since clubroot can spread exponentially without proper management, producers can use practices such as crop rotation, using a clubroot resistant variety of canola and good sanitization practices of equipment, shoes and anything else that may enter an infected field, said Akhavan. In 2020, the ministry and Sask Canola offered producers the opportunity to test their soil for clubroot. Sask Canola covered the cost and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) assisted in distribution of the soil bags. Last year, Discovery Seed Labs tested 231 soil bags for the clubroot pathogen and 11 returned positive results. “It’s important that farmers test their soils and send the soil bags to the lab to be tested, then they know if the pathogen is there,” said Akhavan. “Finding the DNA of the pathogen in a field has no regulatory consequences. So, it's good information for the producer. The producer can implement management to keep the pathogen low and avoid the actual disease from happening and avoid associated yield loss.” If a producer wants to know more information about club
Representatives from the Government of Saskatchewan and commodity groups in the province recently announced$9.8 million in funding for 39 crop-related projects. Provincial commodity groups and Saskatchewan’s Agricultural Development Fund (ADF), which is supported through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, are funding these projects. Of the 39 projects, nine are pulse-specific research projects funded by Saskatchewan Pulse Growers and ADF. “It was a great collaboration between crop associations and the Saskatchewan government and we're really proud of the fact that we were able to invest $1.2 million towards these nine different projects,” said Brad Blackwell, director and former chair of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG). With the funding from ADF and SPG, the nine projects total $4.8 million in funding. The research projects involve crops such as chickpeas, peas and dry beans, said the SPG release. “These projects are all focused on things that are really important to pulse crop growers. We're looking at investing in chickpea breeding, looking at new chickpea cultivars and investing in dry bean breeding. We also have some investments in pea breeding for peas with root rot resistance,” Blackwell told Farms.com. Additional funders of the nine projects include Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission, Alberta Wheat Commission, Manitoba Crop Alliance and Western Grains Research Foundation.
Ontario students are some of the most affected by the pandemic. On top of the general lockdown restrictions, some students are trying to figure out how to learn in a new environment. “The school year started out very new with a lot of different protocols and trying to figure out how the day-to-day in-class learning would work” Maryn Hunter, a Grade 10 student from Smiths Falls, Ont., told Farms.com. Hunter, who lives on her family’s dairy farm, is now attending school remotely from home. “It’s a whole new routine to figure out the different platforms teachers are using, scheduling your time and even having the motivation to do the work,” she said. Not only is she learning from home, but so are her three younger brothers. The commotion around the house as four people try to attend class, plus simply being at home, creates several distractions. “Finding the motivation to be engaged is challenging when I know I could be doing something else,” she said. “It helps having people in my classes that work together, but it’s still tough sometimes.” When she feels like her attention may be slipping, Hunter takes time for herself. A short walk or even a quick glance at her phone helps her recalibrate throughout the day. “If I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, I feel like the best thing for my brain is to take my mind off of what I’m doing for five minutes,” she said. “Getting outside for fresh air always helps me when I need a break.” In addition, the pandemic means Hunter is missing out on extracurricular activities. She’s on the school’s rugby team, involved in 4-H, participates in dance and enjoys hanging out with her friends. All of that has been taken away, and it has taken a toll on her mental health, she said. “I was doing rugby four days a week in the nicer months,” she said. “I don’t have the social life I used to have, it’s more isolating and I’m not doing anything anymore. I keep in touch with my friends over text and Snapchat about what’s going on in our home lives but there are friends I haven’t seen in over a year. “I’m very lucky that I can still work and see my animals, but it’s hard to look on the bright side when all you hear about is the negatives about what’s going on.” Mason Lunn is receiving his ninth-grade education in Elgin County through a hybrid approach. Some days he’s in class and some days he’s learning remotely. “It can be complicated because you’re having to stick to two completely different routines,” he told Farms.com. Lunn notices differences in his attention depending on how he’s learning on a specific day. “Sometimes being at home isn’t great for me because I feel like I should go do something,” he said. Lunn works on his family's cash crop farm to keep himself busy and stays in touch with
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) recently welcomed Erika DeBrouwer to their Simcoe office as the new tree fruit specialist. She has production, business and research experience with crops such as pears, peaches and apples. “I have been fortunate enough to have grown up on a fruit tree farm, which provided me with hands on experience as to how a fruit tree farm operates,” DeBrouwer told Farms.com. This breadth of experience includes understanding “equipment needs, maintenance procedures, weather mitigation strategies, production requirements, storage solutions, packing and processing systems, and marketing plans.” DeBrouwer also completed a Master of Science degree in the crop science department at the University of Guelph. Her research focused on “the postharvest physiology of ‘Honeycrisp’ apples, where I was further exposed to fruit tree production, research setup, data collection, project planning and more technical skill development,” she explained. In her new role she plans “to focus on both research and extension work,” she added. “I want to continue to provide Ontario growers with new strategies and implementations to drive industry success.” DeBrouwer looks forward to continual learning at OMAFRA “but most of all - working directly with growers. I really want to help them succeed and hope that I can provide consistent advancement of information and expansion in knowledge transfer,” she added. Labour efficiency is one of the most prominent challenges facing tree fruit growers in the province today, DeBrouwer said. “We have come a long way to develop practices and technologies that continue to improve labour efficiency within the apple sector,” she explained. “At OMAFRA we will continue to develop approaches, materials and technologies to further advance the sectors resilience and adaptability regarding labour.”
The upcoming Monday, Jan. 18 is ‘Blue Monday’. This name is given to the third Monday in January, when the post-holiday financial pressure and blues combine with dark and gloomy weather and fading optimism of the new year to create a particularly depressing day. For farmers in Ontario, this year’s Blue Monday will also fall during a second State of Emergency and stay-at-home order to address rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across the province. There has perhaps never been a better time to focus on mental health. “The pandemic has all of a sudden exponentially increased whatever pre-existing mental health conditions were already there,” Chad Bouma, a clinical therapist from Waterloo region, told Farms.com. “For people who have been able to manage their mental health for the majority of their lives, the pandemic has, for a lot of individuals, been the fire starter in a lot of ways.” The past ten months have “been a really unpredictable time for the entire population,” he said. For farmers in particular, there might be increased pressure from caring for ill family members, volatile commodity markets, and trying to continue doing business through processing and manufacturing plant shutdowns. “There’s just so many complexities for a farmer that I think the general public doesn’t have a good understanding of,” Bouma said. The pandemic has heightened the uncertainty in an already risky and stressful industry. “It’s hard to quantify what (the impact of the pandemic) looks like as far as increase of stress in one particular area of their life,” he explained. “I think for farmers the blanket effect of (stress) being higher across all aspects of their working and personal lives is probably pretty significant.” Managing that stress will be key to staying mentally resilient. “It’s probably unrealistic for us to assume that we’re going to be able to manage all the things at once,” Bouma said. “Farmers (typically) manage all their problems at the same time very well. So there might be a bit of a disillusionment from their perspective.” For a demographic that is used to juggling multiple stressors and finding innovative solutions, the inability to do so may be extra challenging. “I think the biggest thing is just the self-awareness piece … becoming self-aware of what we can and can’t control,” he explained. “That doesn’t make us feel better, but it’s a big start to the battle of being able to understand what strategies that are going to help us most effectively.” Farmers “lives revolve around so much uncertainty, the weather being the best example of that,” he added. “It’s important to recognize that feeling like you don’t have control does not mean that you’re failing.” Farmers should be aware of some signs to look out for that indicate personal strategies are no longer enough to maintain mental health, and professional help might be advisable. Early warning signs might include
As technology and precision ag practices continue to advance agriculture, the modern farmer not only has to juggle growing crops and/or raising livestock on their operation, they now must also add farming the data to their repertoire. Agriculture has come a long way when it comes to the amount of data collected but managing this data can still prove to be a daunting task for farmers, explained Krista Klompstra to attendees of the Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase. “The struggle we run into is how do we make use of all [the data],” explains Klompstra. “Can it help us run our operation better? Smoother? More profitable? I think that’s what excites me about Granular Business – it helps us simplify the way we plan and communicate, allows us to make real-time decisions and make use of all the data that is available to us.” Klompstra is the Digital Business Manager at Granular, a leading farm management software owned by Corteva Agriscience. Granular Business’ software enables farmers to get better control over their operations by performing several tasks throughout the season and in real-time including: analyzing profits, identifying efficiencies and cost-savings, measuring yield variability, as well as forecasting revenues and profits, to name a few. “Granular Business is big and has many ways that it can help growers,” says Klompstra. “There are four [areas] where we usually find the biggest impact for farmers.” To be more efficient and communicate better; To track your input and crop inventory levels in real-time; To know your cost of production, down to a specific field; To make use of all the data on the farm. Communication is key on any farming operation, especially during planting and harvesting. “In the heat of the season when it’s all chaotic and everyone is running around, how can we really communicate well? Not only what has to be done, but what has been done by hour and by equipment so that we have a real-time view of what’s happening,” states Klompstra. As an operation manager within Granular Business, farmers can assign workers to specific tasks, at specific times, on specific fields, and with specific equipment. Another major benefit of using the software is knowing your cost of production, right down to the field. Using the Profit Analyzer, farmers can review year-over-year revenue, costs, and overall profitability of specific fields. Granular Business also helps farmers track their inputs and crop inventory levels in real-time, allowing farmers
A Canadian beef farmer has created a program to connect her farm with students across the country. Julie Mortenson, who raises Hereford cattle with her husband and in-laws near Nokomis, Sask., launched the Classroom Cattle program in October to help tell the story of Canadian beef production. “I decided to create a program that would connect Canadian teachers teaching pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 with cattle on our farm,” she told Farms.com. “The classes can virtually adopt one of the calves on our farm.” The idea to start such a program came after seeing a U.S. farmer doing something similar. “I saw on Facebook that a dairy farmer was offering to send classrooms a picture of a heifer calf and some other materials,” she said. “I saw that, thought it was a great idea but figured we could go even further with it if we did our own program.” About 1,200 kids from rural and urban communities, different grades and provinces are part of Classroom Cattle’s inaugural year. The program wraps up at the end of May. After the virtual adoption, Mortenson emails each teacher a package including a presentation about the farm for background information, monthly updates and pictures of the calf. The virtual adoption also includes a virtual visit to view the calf in real time. In addition, Mortenson sends each classroom a physical package which includes items like pieces of cow hide, feed samples and ear tags. The program teaches students about the beef industry overall, how their calf is cared for, what it eats, where it lives and how it fits into the food system and byproduct uses. “I don’t want them to see the calf as just a pet, I want them to understand how beef production is run in Canada,” she said. “Our farm is a Verified Beef Production Plus ranch and I want to share a little more about what sustainable ranching is and why sustainability is important.” The program started with two cows – one heifer calf and one bull calf, which the students are encouraged to name. Some of the names for the bull calf include “Calfy Crisp,” “Big Red,” “Oreo” and “Steak.” When interacting with a classroom, Mortenson uses the name the individual class gave to the calf to create a more personal environment. Some of those conversations with classrooms, however, have been sensitive in nature. The heifer calf passed away from bloat early in the program and Mortenson had to discuss that topic with the students. “I was really hesitant to reach
Canada and the United Kingdom will recognize some of each other’s organic products as equals. The United Kingdom-Canada Organic Equivalency Arrangement (UKCOEA) came into effect on Jan. 1. The arrangement “means that organic products certified under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Canada Organic Regime or UK organic system may be sold and labelled as organic in both Canada and the UK,” Tia Loftsgard, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA), told Farms.com. If a product is certified by a CFIA-accredited organization or by a UK-approved body, the process eliminates ag products from requiring separate certification to the Canadian standards and vice versa. Canada has similar arrangements with other seven other jurisdictions: United States, Taiwan, Switzerland, Japan, the European Union, Ireland and Costa Rica. The partnership with the U.S. is unique. Not only does it allow organic products from both countries to flow across the border, it also allows certified products from a third country into the U.S. and Canada and deemed as equivalent. Having these kinds of arrangements help facilitate trade, Loftsgard said. “They reduce the burden and expense of certifiers from other jurisdictions having to come to our region to verify that we meet their standards,” she said. Loftsgard outlined two goals she has for COTA and organic exports overall. Currently, available export data is unreliable. Finding a new and concrete method to track organic exports is important, she said. “There’s no good tracking mechanism for exports, but anecdotally we know it’s growing,” she said. “I’m on a data group with Stats Canada and Agriculture (and Agri-Food) Canada to figure out what’s going on. Having correct data will help move the needle with our Canadian government about how important the organic sector is on the world scale.” COTA is currently collecting data on a marketing report on 2020 sales statistics. The general consensus is organic producers have fared well even during the pandemic, Loftsgard said. Another priority is market access. Representatives from different countries have contacted COTA about product availability, Loftsgard said. “We have buyers from places like Korea and the Netherlands participating in our matchmaking program,” she said. “We get people looking for organic oats or adzuki beans or any other number of products.”
EOS Data Analytics is developing crop simulation technologies to be used at the field level for farmers By Ryan Ridley Farms.com The goal of yield forecasting is to make reasonable management and financial decisions and to minimize risks. Attendees of the Farms.com Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase tuned in to Lina Yarysh’s presentation on ‘Yield Forecasting as a Key to Sustainable Use of Fertilizers’. Yarysh is a Satellite Solution Consultant for Agriculture and Forestry at EOS Data Analytics, an automated cloud-based geographic information system (GIS) analysis service. “Companies nowadays have been working on putting yield prediction into action, in a practical way,” says Yarysh. Yield prediction can answer the following questions for growers and seed producers: What crops are more efficient to produce considering climate shift? Especially applicable for multi-year crops. What is the reasonable amount of fertilizers to use to gain the highest productivity? How to predict the performances of new hybrids in various environments to breed for better varieties? “Currently, we are trying to apply crop simulation technologies for building various scenarios to make it possible for farmers to use this technology at the field level,” she explains. EOS Data Analytics (EOS) can easily forecast yield in a province or region with over 80 percent accuracy, the more difficult challenge is meeting that same accuracy at the farm and field level. The accuracy of forecasting is lower at the field level due to lack of historical data and low spatial variability of weather data. Another major goal for the company is to provide fertilizer recommendations for 2021, reaching the highest possible yield using yield modeling. While creating field forecasts for Canada, the team discovered that some fields include lakes and woodlots, which created a challenge for EOS. “It’s not very easy to understand the vegetation of crops from space when you have a lot of other objects there in the field,” adds Yarysh. So, how is EOS tackling these challenges? Using the EOS Crop Engine, which includes analysis of soil type, weather and crop phenology, the company can predict yield scenarios by adding satellite data at every stage of crop development. This allows EOS to narrow down the possible crop scenarios to the one that is most likely. To get a better idea of the different vegetation on a specific field, EOS divides the fields into several productivity zones, allowing the company to capture all the vegetation in a field rather than the average. By understanding the heterogeneity of vegetation in a field, EOS can include it into the modelling to increase yield forecast accuracy. The company found that accuracy and variability increased with LAI assimilation. “We include the values for the different zones in the field into prediction
Producers are going to continue to see an increase to their production costs coming from the carbon tax, said a recent releasefrom the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS). APAS reps released updated numbers that show the cost of producing wheat could go up to more than $12.50 per acre in 2030 because of the carbon tax. “The costs are very significant on an average wheat crop,” said Todd Lewis, president of APAS. “That's hundreds of millions of dollars out of the western Canadian economy every year, and really there's no way for farmers to recoup those costs because we can't pass them along.” This estimate used the new numbers announced by the Government of Canada in December 2020 stating the carbon tax will increase to $170 per tonne by 2030. It also used key indirect costs that are not exempt from the carbon taxation such as electricity and grain drying, said the release. APAS reps plan to continue to fight for exemptions for producers and give them the recognition they deserve, said Lewis. “In a lot of cases (farmers are) world leaders in carbon management, and that's really what agriculture is all about is in a lot of ways is managing carbon, and we've done a pretty good job of and continue to,” Lewis told Farms.com. APAS reps are working on developing cost estimates for other crop and livestock commodities. The most recent estimates and calculations can be found here.
Alberta’s minister of agriculture and forestry has publicly denounced what transpired at the U.S. Capitol last week. “Minister (Devin) Dreeshen denounces all forms of political violence, including what took place in Washington, D.C. (on Jan. 6),” Justin Laurence, Dreeshen’s press secretary, told Farms.com in an email. “Voters are the ultimate deciders and that must be respected by all. Minister Dreeshen is focused on the lives and livelihoods of all Albertans.” Calls for the provincial ag minister to address the incident at the Capitol, where some of the president’s supporters breached security while a joint session of Congress worked to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election, come as a result of Dreeshen’s involvement with the Trump campaign. Dreeshen volunteered with the president’s campaign for eight months in 2016, traveling to 28 states and shadowing Ivanka Trump while she worked with volunteers and visited polling stations. Working with the Trump campaign provided insight into the U.S. political process, he said. “I couldn’t vote for (Trump), right, so to me it was, couldn’t vote for Hillary (Clinton) or for him, as a Canadian I just went down and participated in their election process,” Dreeshen told StarMetro Edmonton in July 2018. Dreeshen also documented his time with the Trump campaign in 2016 in “Inside the Trump Campaign,” which he wrote for The Hill Times. Devin Dreeshen at a Donald Trump election night event in New York City on November 8, 2016. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The Executive Director of the Canadian Pork Council says the focus of Canada's African Swine Fever Action plan revolves around four pillars, preparedness, business continuity and communication. The topic "What is Canada Doing to Face the Threat of ASF?" was discussed last week as part of a Swine Innovation Porc on line African Swine Fever preparedness seminar. John Ross, the Executive Director of the Canadian Pork Council, says Canada's African Swine Fever Action plan is built on four pillars. Clip-John Ross-Canadian Pork Council: The four pillars, biosecurity, really this is this whole prevention space that is so important and none of this other exercise that we have to go through happens if we can just avoid the disease all together so we have a big focus on biosecurity at the border and on our farms. There's a section on preparedness. This is about getting ready. Do we have the procedures in place, do we have the right surveillance program in place, do we know how to use things like pen side testing, do our labs know how to test, a whole series of preparedness exercises that will enable us to respond quickly if we have to and to respond in a very effective manner. Business continuity, a big piece. You can imagine, if 70 percent of our sales are stopped, either sales of pork or sales of live pigs because we break with ASF. How do we keep that entire chain intact while we don't have access for 70 percent of our sales and so we have a business continuity group that's investigating that space. Last but not least is the communications exercise and it is an extraordinarily complex one, quite a big span of work to be done in that group.
The Director of Risk Management with HAMS Marketing Services says early indications are that 2021 will be a much more profitable year for pork producers than 2020. COVID-19 was the dominant factor influencing live hog prices over the past year. Tyler Fulton, the Director of Risk Management with HAMS Marketing Services, says we know from 2020 that, in the event we have disruptions in the supply chain, it has vey negative consequences and June, July and August were examples of that where prices were lower than 140 dollars per hundred kilograms in some weeks resulting in losses of 20 to 30 to 40 dollars per pig. Clip-Tyler Fulton-HAMS Marketing Services: I think there's some early evidence that suggests that 2021 will be a lot better. We think that the breeding herd is going to be down substantially. You would that after a tough year like 2020 that there might be some pullback in production gains. The latest Hogs and Pigs Report kind of indicated that and I think that, if current forward prices are representative of where cash markets will be then I think we can expect to see a profitable summer. Right now producers are very active in hedging the summer months and they can lock it in at better than 200 dollars a pig. By any measure that's a good level to be hedged at and I think it's a great indication that we might be able to recover some of the equity loss that we saw last year.
The Director of Risk Management with HAMS Marketing Services is advising pork producers to take advantage of excellent opportunities to lock in profitable forward contracting prices. Disruptions in the supply chain caused by COVID-19 throughout 2020 negatively impacted the price producers received for their hogs resulting, for example, in losses ranging from 20 to 30 to 40 dollars per pig in June-July. Tyler Fulton, the Director of Risk Management with HAMS Marketing Services, says early evidence suggests 2021 will be a lot better and, right now, producers are very active in hedging the summer months. Clip-Tyler Fulton-HAMS Marketing Services: We know that we can expect a fairly large U.S. hog slaughter over the next two months with expected weekly kills of around 2.6 million hogs. To put that into perspective, compared to three years ago, that's a 10 percent jump for that time frame. It's not typically the peak season by any stretch but what we know is that we've been on a fairly good stretch of growth and that maybe it's this year coming up that we'll start to see a little bit of moderation in that trend and, hopefully as a result, see some more sustained higher prices into the fall months. So producers need to be keeping tabs and even keep a benchmark as to their expectations for this fall and the latter half of 2021 and be prepared to cover off some of that price risk by taking forward contracts for example at hopefully profitable levels.
Research being conducted by the University of Saskatchewan shows pork producers can reduce their feed costs without increasing the carbon footprint of their operations by selecting low cost high fibre feed ingredients. Scientists with the University of Saskatchewan are evaluating the carbon footprint left when using high fibre feed ingredients, specifically wheat mill run and culled peas, in swine rations. Dr. Denise Beaulieu, an Assistant Professor Monogastric Nutrition with the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, says the greenhouse gases of primary concern are Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide. Clip-Dr. Denise Beaulieu-University of Saskatchewan: They're not equal in terms of global warming potential so, when we do the final calculations, we do calculations that look at different global warming potential from those gases. We were interested primarily in looking at by-products from the grain industry and we specifically looked at a product called wheat mill run. This is left over from milling wheat. If you make the flour from the wheat and that goes to human consumption, then you have a high fibre by-product, wheat mill run. Then we also looked at the addition of peas to the diet. Very often, after a farmer sells his peas, there will be peas left that do not make human food grade so these are often used to feed pigs and what would be the effect of feeding these on greenhouse gas output. Primarily what we wanted to do was see if the potential increase in greenhouse gas production from the pig and from the manure would be offset by the potential decrease in producing the feed.
Blaine Pedersen, minister of Agriculture and Resource Development in Manitoba, recently announced a new rural service delivery modelfor Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) offices in the province. In the new model, 21 offices are closing staring April 1 in: Altona; Ashern; Birtle; Deloraine; Fisher Branch; Gladstone; Glenboro; Grandview; Hamiota; Lundar; Morris; Pilot Mound; Russell; Shoal Lake; Somerset; Souris; St–Pierre–Jolys; Ste. Rose du Lac; Teulon; Vita; and Waskada. Seventeen offices will remain open across the province to continue to offer services. Of the 17 offices, 10 agricultural services centres will provide services such as insurance and lending, five will focus on resource management and two will focus on mineral or petroleum services. “MASC had various services at different offices. So, this is consolidating them into one office, which will make it much more customer and client friendly,” said Pedersen during a media call. “In addition, we're creating nine non-public facing offices. These deal mainly with water, Crownland, our research, our research technologies, particularly happening in agriculture and our other resources.” This new delivery process was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic forced offices to close March 2020. Many offices were averaging two people per day coming into the office pre-COVID, some even averaging two people a week, said Pederson. “There was definitely need for modernization here,” he said. “I was talking to a farmer yesterday about this after the announcement, he said, ‘Well, I haven't been in MASC office for years.’ So, we're trying to catch up to the farm sector where they are right now.” With this change, no employees are losing their jobs, in fact some new jobs are being created out of this, said Pedersen. “The people will continue to live in these communities where the offices are closing,” he said. “We want to make this as seamless as possible and support those communities that the people are living in now and will continue to work with the communities with the municipalities.”
Manitoba farmers and those working in the ag industry can now take virtual mental health literacy training through the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP). This training program is called In The Know and researchers at the University of Guelph developed it, said Thea Green, program manager with KAP. The Guelph team “did a lot of research to understand Canadian farmers’ mental health challenges and developed this program specifically for Canadian farmers, and people who work directly with Canadian farmers, to provide them with background information so that they have more confidence and more knowledge with recognizing and responding to mental health struggles in both themselves, and the people they love and work with,” Green told Farms.com. The program was piloted in Ontario and Manitoba is the first province to start offering it outside the research realm, said Green. KAP staff wanted to offer this training because they want to help farmers in the province be successful, sustainable and profitable. “If farmers are struggling with their mental health, it's really hard to achieve success in those other areas,” said Green. “We would like to provide this training for 500 or more farmers and people who work directly with farmers to create an informed and caring network of people within the ag community that we can lean on for support and start to recognize and respond to any mental health struggles that they see.” The 34 sessions run from Jan. 18 until March 31 and are free. KAP hired a mental health professional with lived farm experience to facilitate all the sessions, said Green. “It’s very important that the person understands agriculture, the stresses that farmers face, and the entire industry and how it functions, so that they aren't suggesting things that work in other industries that aren't appropriate for agriculture, because agriculture is so unique,” she said. The four-hour sessions have limited space, but the hope is to offer more of this type of training if the first round of sessions fill up, said Green. “We're hoping that all 34 of our sessions are completely full, which really gives that indication that this is needed. Then we can look at how we could continue to support farmers’ mental health going forward,” she said. Those interested in the training can register and find out more information here. This program funding is provided through KAP and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.