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How farm tours can help the agriculture labour crisis

One day in mid-July, a group of people from across Canada, toured Chinook Feeders in Nanton, Alberta to get an on-the-ground feel for what goes on in a cattle-feeding operation.   

The group from Agriculture in the Classroom – an organization dedicated to enhancing the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of agriculture in everyday life – was just one of many such tours that happen at Canadian farms throughout the year.

cattle being vaccinated and implanted

An industry working together

Even though the people touring Chinook Feeders on that day were already involved in agriculture or food production, it’s helpful for them to be aware of all the different types of agriculture being practised. What better way for them to become ambassadors for an industry that has so many career opportunities and possibilities for job seekers?

Karen Carle, the Alberta representative for Agriculture in the Classroom explained: “for this year’s tour in Alberta, we wanted to highlight the diversity of the agriculture and agri-food industry. In addition to the feedlot, we toured a spin (small plot intensive) farm in Calgary, an oilseed innovation company, an elk farm and a honey producer. In addition, we held sharing sessions where we come together to collaborate and learn from initiatives going on in each province. This year we also had a public trust panel to learn from industry experts and explore the role ag education can play in building public trust.”

Aside from the tours, Ag in the Classroom’s primary activity is providing curriculum-based teaching resources to schools. Some of their initiatives include:

    • Canadian Agricultural Literacy Week (CALW). More than 95,000 students and 3,500 classrooms have been visited by industry speakers and readers across Canada.
    • Development of a national high school teaching tool, All About Food, with a comprehensive fact book and accompanying interactive website, with teacher guide.
    • International Year of Pulses education components in partnership with Pulse Canada for 2016.

Ag in the Classroom uses these tools to help ensure that young people have complete, balanced information about the opportunities available to them in agriculture.

Why is it important to get agriculture into the curriculum?

Canadian farmers are dealing with a chronic labour crisis. There are many reasons for this, including rising retirement, the seasonal nature of the work, the often harsh working conditions and the long hours. Another reason is the tendency for young people to want to head for the cities after leaving school. Ag in the Classroom provides an opportunity for students to see the flip side of those factors and discover the many careers available and the opportunities that exist.

“Many teachers want their students to learn about agriculture, but without the right programs and resources to support them, they don’t always know where to start,” said Karen. “Ag in the Classroom is really about providing accurate, balanced, current and science-based information about agriculture and packaging it in a way that teachers can use in the classroom. With most people removed from life on the farm, and so much misinformation circulating online, Ag in the Classroom’s role is more important than ever.”

Another program that teaches students about careers in their rural communities is Career Connections, which we featured in ‘How cattle feeders are helping create a future for young people in agriculture’.

You can read more about the agricultural labour crisis in ’12 must-know facts about the agriculture labour crisis (and why it matters to Canadians)’.

3 ways the IAC supports agriculture during Stampede

For ten days in July, the City of Calgary is all about livestock. The Calgary Stampede and Exhibition is a chance for people from around the world to don their cowboy duds and have some rodeo fun. For Alberta’s beef industry, though, it’s no vacation. Producers showcase their businesses and skills and become ambassadors for one of Alberta’s primary industries.

An organization that truly comes into its own during Stampede is the International Agriculture and Agri-Food Committee (IAC). Comprised of members and sponsors from all along the agriculture value chain, the committee provides a link between different agricultural communities, and with the people they feed.

IAC Committee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the committee works hard all year organizing events and tours, the ten days of Stampede are a whirlwind of networking and educational opportunities designed to build community and support for the industry.

3 highlights of the committee’s Stampede activities

#1 “Where in the World Do You Farm?” This drop-in reception in the Agrium Western Event Centre is a chance for farmers from across the world to meet, network, and learn about business opportunities.

#2 The Agriculture and Agri-Food International Reception. Held in the Palomino Room on the Wednesday of Stampede week, this reception brings together government officials, dignitaries, industry members, producer associations and sponsors.

#3 The Canada-Mexico Agribusiness Opportunities Seminar. Now in its second year, the seminar is hosted in conjunction with the Consulate of Mexico in Calgary. It provides participants with a better understanding of the agribusiness prospects that exist between Canada and Mexico, and provides information on some of the ways these two countries are working to support mutual economic growth within the sector.

According to Bryan Walton, ACFA’s President and CEO, and an IAC committee member, “the ultimate goal is to spread the word of Stampede, promote the agriculture industry here and encourage return visits. It’s a great opportunity to do some serious business in a relaxed setting.”

In 2017, the IAC hosted more than 2,000 people in the drop-in reception room, and fed 430 people at the reception dinner. That’s a lot of contacts made, and a great deal of networking!

The work done to support trade and industry growth during Stampede is in alignment with the ACFA’s strategic priorities. You can read more in ‘How these four strategic priorities will build a better Alberta cattle feeding industry’.

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.

How safe is farm equipment?

Statistics show us that agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries in Canada. But statistics don’t always tell the whole story. As we learned in ‘How the agriculture sector is pulling together to promote farm safety’, it’s hard to compare farming to other industries, because so many people live where they work. Without data that separates work-related incidents from non-work related incidents that happen on farms, the statistics are very hard to interpret.

One thing that’s certain, though, is that farm equipment is a major cause of injuries. According to Glen Blahey, agricultural health and safety specialist at the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, “machinery is one of the predominant causes of injury simply because of the frequency of use. After machinery, it tends to be livestock and then slips, trips and falls.”

What is being done about equipment injuries?

First and foremost, equipment manufacturers have taken great strides in making equipment safer to operate. “Equipment design has improved very significantly over the years,” said Glen, “and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has a technical committee that looks specifically at agricultural machinery. They look at it from a design perspective, in terms of how to keep that equipment as functional as possible and yet as safe as possible.”

The missing piece, in many instances, is the ability of the end user to operate that machinery effectively.

“It’s not necessarily that the equipment is dangerous or has unsafe features in it,” Glen explained, “but rather that there is operator error or a lack of adequate training. There may even be a lack of adequate protocol practices that are set out to the people who are going to be operating the equipment.”

Training and awareness is improving due to the availability of training, both online and in person. But when it comes to enforcing those protocols, that’s where farm operators and owners have to truly step up.

“I believe that there is a growing awareness and understanding in regards to overall safety and health and wellbeing,” concluded Glen. “The next generation of farmers coming up is more conscious of environmental issues, and more conscious of what people think of the agriculture industry. Additionally they have a higher awareness of the implications of an injury and of sustaining permanent disability injuries.”

There’s still a great deal of progress to be made, but Canada’s beef industry, and farmers everywhere are committed to continued improvement. Representatives are currently participating in consultation sessions regarding the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act (Bill 6).

You can read more about farm safety in our Farm Safety Policy Statement, and in ‘How the agriculture industry is pulling together to promote farm safety’.

Canadians want to know more about where their food comes from

Canadians have questions about their food. ‘How is it produced?’, ‘Is it safe?‘, ‘How are farm animals treated?’. The list of questions goes on. In fact, in a survey by Farm and Food Care Canada, 59 per cent of people said they wanted to know more about agriculture:

Read more

How the agriculture sector is pulling together to promote farm safety

Since the Alberta Government announced its intention to pass an Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act (Bill 6) there’s been a lot of conversation on the subject, and a great deal of confusion about a complex issue. Read more