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Budget 2017 and agriculture: 5 things you should know

A major mandate for the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association, and for the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA), is to represent our industry to the government. We work hard to keep the lines of communication open, and to provide valuable information about the challenges our members face, and how that affects Canadians.

The recent federal budget, announced on March 22, 2017, is a testament to that dialogue. To learn how the budget has addressed the needs of the agricultural sector, we spoke with Cathy Noble of Noble Path Strategic Consulting. Noble Path provides consulting services to NCFA.

“Not only did this budget demonstrate a renewed interest by the government in the agriculture and agri-food sector, but it also addressed many priority issues upon which NCFA has advocated including labour, research, trade, food safety and infrastructure.” said Cathy.

Five agricultural priorities addressed

Cathy outlined some of the most pressing priorities that were addressed in the 2017 federal budget, and the commitments made:

#1 Temporary foreign workers

The budget includes support for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program, as well as amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to ensure that those immigration candidates who are most likely to succeed in Canada are granted express entry.

You can read more about why it’s so important for Canadian farmers to have access to temporary foreign workers in ‘Feeding the world: why the agri-food industry must be an economic priority.’

#2 Trade and market access

Reviews of, and investment in, rail service, gateways and ports will help Canadian producers get agri-food products to market. This will be boosted by the elimination of tariffs on many agri-food processing ingredients, strengthening the competitiveness of Canadian agri-food manufacturers both at home and abroad.

More trade commissioners will also be placed in strategic markets abroad to support this investment attraction, and new trade agreements with the European Union and Asia will be a boon for the economy as well.

To learn more about market access for Canadian beef, check out these posts on trade with the European market and Canada’s 58 most important beef export markets.

#3 Food Safety

Investments in core food safety inspection programming delivered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada, as well as food safety regulations will help build Canada’s global reputation for the highest standards of food safety.

#4 Agricultural science and innovation

The Liberals have committed to investing $70 million over six years to support agricultural discovery science and innovation, with a focus on addressing emerging priorities such as climate change and soil and water conservation.

#5 Agricultural policy framework

The next agricultural policy framework will be launched in 2018 where federal, provincial and territorial governments will renew their commitments to investing in this critical sector. As part of the development of the next framework, governments will consider the ways in which innovation in agriculture can help strengthen the sector as a whole, enhance our value-added exports and create stronger, more well-paying jobs for Canadians.

The full budget can be found on the Government of Canada website. And check out ‘Five feedlot issues to watch out for in 2017’, to see how many made the budget.

Enjoy some holiday fun with our cattle feeders crossword puzzle

With just three days to go until Christmas, we thought we’d have a little fun with this week’s blog post.

If you’ve been following our blog this year, you won’t have any problem with this crossword puzzle – just print it out to complete it. Scroll down to find the answers, and be sure to explore our blog for more information:

Cattle feeders crossword puzzle

Across

2) ACFA is the association for Alberta’s cattle ____________
4) The number of ‘pillars’ on which our social licence to operate is founded
6) The province that is the hub of Canada’s cattle feeding industry
7) A predominant cause of farm injury
9) Acronym for the tags attached to cows’ ears

Down

1) One of the possible keys to solving the agricultural labour crisis
3) The town where Alberta’s first feedlot was founded
5) The vacancy rate for on-farm jobs (per cent)
7) Feedlot cattle stand on these in wet weather
8) The percentage of Canada’s beef that is processed in Alberta

Cattle feeders crossword puzzle

How did you do? If you didn’t find all the answers, check below for the correct ones. In the meantime, we wish you a wonderful Christmas, with all the joys of the festive season.

Across Answers

2) FEEDERS
4) FOUR
6) ALBERTA
7) MACHINERY
9) RFID

Down Answers

1) TECHNOLOGY
3) STRATHMORE
5) SEVEN
7) MOUNDS
8) EIGHTY

The evolution of the cattle feeding industry: 7 decades in our history

As we’ve seen in previous posts, such as ‘Feedlots 101: everything you need to know about cattle feeding in Alberta’, this province is the hub of Canada’s beef industry.

Although ranching in Alberta started as early as the 1860s, cattle feeding didn’t develop as a distinct sector until much later than that. Here’s a very condensed history, showing how cattle feeding has evolved over the years: Read more

Meet the team: Jennifer Brunette, manager of events and member services

For any industry association, getting its members together in one place can be a monumental task. Here at ACFA that task falls to Jennifer Brunette, our manager of events and member services. This week on our meet the team series, we’re going to get to know a little about Jennifer and her work.

Before joining ACFA, Jennifer studied event management and public relations at Mount Royal University, and her training has stood her in good stead. She plays an instrumental role in ACFA’s day-to-day operations, as well coordinating events such as Big on Beef, our annual golf tournament, and – most importantly – the Alberta Beef Industry Conference.

The conference is hosted in conjunction with the Alberta Beef Producers, the Alberta Livestock Dealers and Order Buyers Association, the Alberta Auction Markets Association and the Western Stock Growers Association, and Jennifer does a great job of pulling together an event that unites beef producers, processors and suppliers from Alberta and around the world.

“I love dealing with our suppliers and producers,” said Jennifer. “I get to work with such a diverse group of people, and reach out to a lot of industry stakeholders. I take a great deal of pride in making sure that we showcase our sponsors and participants at the highest level possible.”

img_0359Jennifer grew up around ranch operations and feedlots, and yet her journey to this industry was not a direct one. As a teenager in Oliver, B.C., she went from high school into a position with a local credit union. Her career was going well, and she didn’t anticipate any reason to change.

But then Jennifer had an accident that put a wrench in her plans. After being involved in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident, she was told that she might never walk again, and so began seven years of intensive therapy and the greatest challenge of her life.

“I was 21 when it happened, and that accident took a chunk of my youth,” said Jennifer. “I persevered through years of intensive therapy. Regaining the ability to walk on my own two feet has been one of the biggest achievements of my life. It has also given me the ability to approach life with passion and determination; I no longer take the simplest things for granted.”

Now Jennifer lives in Calgary with her husband and her two boys, aged three and six.

We asked Jennifer for one final word about her work with cattle feeders and the association – “Everyone who works in this industry is very passionate and driven to move the industry forward in a positive light. Our members and board are such an amazing group of people. I have great respect and admiration for the work they do, not only for the industry but on their own operations as well,” she said.

Check out these other posts in our meet the team series, in which we introduce Bryan Walton, CEO, Page Stuart, past board chair, Martin Zuidhof, board chair, and Casey Vander Ploeg, manager of policy and research.

3 challenges facing Alberta’s beef industry

Beef is big business in Alberta – but like any business owners, ranchers and cattle feeders must navigate regulations, market conditions, public opinion and much more in their bid to stay competitive and profitable.

This was the subject of a recent article in Alberta Beef Magazine, in which ACFA chair Martin Zuidhoff and vice-chair Ryan Kasko were asked about cattle feeders’ new and old challenges. Read more

Are feedlot operators prepared for an emergency?

In any industry there are two types of emergency – those that affect a single operator, and those that affect the entire sector. While the first can be devastating for the business involved, the second can have serious consequences for an entire industry, and for its contribution to the Canadian economy.

That’s why Alberta’s feedlot operators have produced a Feedlot Emergency Preparedness Plan. It’s a comprehensive tool to help cattle feeders prepare for, and respond to, an emergency that causes widespread losses across the cattle feeding industry.

To learn more about the tool, we spoke with Matt Taylor, of Livestock Intelligence. Matt is a specialist in animal health emergency management and consults on animal health systems and the broader livestock industry, and he coordinated the development of the tool.

Here’s what Matt told us:

Q: Why do feedlot operators need to prepare for a disease outbreak?

Matt: The tool was developed in response to a long-held feeling that, even though feedlot producers have done their best to protect against potential risks, they were not protected against the possibility of a major event impacting the sector as a whole. The goal is to give feedlot operators and their staff a tool that allows them to better prepare for such an eventuality. In reality, any such emergency will most likely be a disease outbreak, so that is the focus of the plan.

Q: How was the tool developed?

Matt: The first step was to form a steering committee to guide the process — a group of ‘gurus’ if you will — including people with knowledge of the veterinary profession as feedlot practitioners and from a regulatory perspective, emergency management professionals, and representatives from various service aspects and other segments of the industry itself, like Alberta Beef Producers and Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

Then we identified the key activities that operators were going to be involved in, while the sector was being ‘hit’ by a major disease outbreak — everything from identifying something unusual and responding to that unusual event, and receiving confirmation from CFIA or Alberta Agriculture of a major foreign animal disease event, through to containment, stopping cattle movement, vaccination, depopulation and more. Then we just identified the steps involved in doing those activities at the feedlot. 

One of the last steps was quite significant actually, as it hadn’t been done in Canada’s beef sector before – we did a simulation exercise, with participation from CFIA, Alberta Agriculture, and Alberta’s Emergency Management Agency, testing these guidelines in scenarios that were as real as we could make them, in order to see where we needed to make some final revisions.

Q: Has the tool been tested in a real life emergency?

Matt: That’s part of the problem! When an event never happens, people often wonder why they should prepare for it. Canada’s beef industry has been very fortunate in not having had a major disease outbreak with sector wide impacts — not withstanding our experience with BSE, which has been significant. But BSE is a very atypical disease that doesn’t ‘spread’ or have ‘operational’ impacts upon a multitude of operations, though it certainly had widespread financial impacts.

Other sectors of Canada’s livestock industry have had major disease outbreaks that affected the whole sector – for instance PED and circovirus in the swine industry, and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the poultry industry. But the reality is that there are diseases capable of having a much greater impact on Canada’s beef industry than any of these, or BSE. We know that, from observation of foot and mouth outbreaks in the UK and elsewhere.

So the short answer is: no, we’ve not tested these particular guidelines in a real-life outbreak. Hopefully we don’t have to. However, a few fire drills, a few false calls, would be a good thing so we could test our capacity to respond effectively. The task now is to steadily improve our guidelines so feedlot operators know how to respond effectively and are prepared to do so.

To learn about other initiatives spearheaded by the ACFA, check out these blog posts:

3 things you should know about Canadian beef

The availability of certified humane beef has been a hot topic in the last few days, and that’s not a discussion we plan to wade into here. But if the debate has got you wondering about animal husbandry practices — as they pertain to beef — we’ve got answers for you.

Read more

Agricultural labour shortage? How the industry is looking for a solution

Last week on this blog, we learned 12 facts about the agricultural labour shortage, and why it matters to Canadians. This week we’re going to take a look at some of the solutions being explored to help with this chronic crisis.

At the ACFA we have a variety of initiatives aimed to help with recruitment and retention, but there are many other programs in place aimed at helping solve the challenge. Here are three of them:

1. The Canadian Agricultural and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan (WAP)

Supported by almost 70 agricultural associations, the WAP is a long-term strategy to address the issue of the chronic shortage of labour. Its stated goals include increasing the supply of workers, and also improving the knowledge and skills of workers.

“Communicating the labour shortage issue is part of the work of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan (WAP),” said Janet Krayden, stakeholder engagement specialist with the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council. “It’s important, because this work is essential to providing Canadians with food and it involves unique and special skills of workers.”

2. The temporary foreign worker program

Canadian farmers always employ Canadians wherever possible, but sometimes they simply can’t build a workforce large enough to run their operations. Often, the only way they can run efficiently is by supplementing their Canadian workforce with temporary foreign workers.

3. Career Connections

In an earlier post, we discussed Career Connections, an innovative educational program from Acme School, which is helping teach students about the opportunities available to them in their rural communities. You can read more in ‘How cattle feeders are helping create a future for young people in agriculture’.

Career connections farm tourThere is no simple solution to the labour crisis, in part because there is no simple cause. But, initiatives like these are all helping us deal with a chronic and worsening problem.

Stay tuned for future blog posts, as we will undoubtedly return to this important topic.

 

5 must-know facts about the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association

Cattle feeders

The Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA) has led the industry for more than four decades. We are the voice of cattle feeders who raise a substantial percentage of beef produced in Alberta.

Here, in five brief points, is a snapshot of who we are, what we do, and why you should be interested:

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Animal health initiatives from Alberta’s cattle feeders

Over the last few weeks, on this blog, we’ve been explaining the different ways cattle feeders are working to build public trust. So far, in this social license series, we’ve talked about animal care, community investment and environmental stewardship. This week we’re taking a look at the fourth ‘pillar’ underpinning our social license to operate: animal health and production.

Read more