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At first glance, the farmer’s role in helping Canada reach its ambitious goal of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 appears simple: lower emissions and adopt technology and alternative management practices that boost soil carbon sequestration. Many believe addressing the carbon equation offers economic advantages, too. Farmers who cut back on inputs subject to the carbon tax save money, and those who adopt so-called regenerative practices may participate in the growing carbon economy by collecting and selling carbon credits. While this sounds straightforward, it is anything but.

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The announcement this June of the launch of free trade negotiations between Canada and Indonesia has put a spotlight on the Asian market. For Canadian wheat farmers and exporters, the prospect of greater trade with Indonesia is worth close attention.

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There are two variables that dictate prices and are out of farmers’ control. First, governments everywhere have long meddled with agriculture and trade policy. The net impact has been to create enormous externalities—barriers that inhibit the laws of supply and demand from dictating prices. Canada, a large net exporter, has often struggled for market access and suffered diminished competitiveness against subsidized farmers. Countries such as China, India and the U.S. as well as the EU continue to restrict market access and some also offer farmer supports that distort the market. There is no indication this will fade.

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These have been difficult times for the global brewing industry. While estimates vary, as the smoke clears, it appears world beer production was down between eight and 10 per cent in 2020, less than some early dire predictions of up to 14 per cent. Certain regions were particularly hard hit, such as Africa, Asia and Europe with output drops of 10 to 15 per cent. North and South America fared better with production down by two to five per cent. In China, the world’s largest brewer, production is estimated to have fallen by eight to 10 per cent, or 30 to 35 million hectolitres. To put this in perspective, Canada’s annual beer production is around 20 million hectolitres. In Japan, beer sales reportedly dropped nine per cent, while in Vietnam, which has a large population and strong beer culture, output is estimated to have fallen by a substantial 14 per cent.

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In recent years, China has hastily established barriers to Canadian imports that have created trade uncertainty. Canadian farmers have begun to see Chinese policy for what it is, a fragmented approach void of certainty that spurns the norms of regional and international trade agreements. Simply put, trading with China is like bartering on the black market; there is no recourse if you are ripped off. In order to ensure the livelihoods of Canadian farmers are not tied to the whims of Chinese politics Canada needs to take advantage of new markets that embody rules-based trade. If this occurs, farmers can expect predictability, the main ingredient of good business and trade.

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As the world moves toward net-zero emissions by 2050, the use of lower carbon and non-emitting fuels is expected to ramp up. The Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) provides significant opportunities for western Canadian farmers, as demand for several crops will increase with the growth of the biofuels market.

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Farmers love simplicity. The impulse to eliminate complication drives them to innovate and create solutions to various farm problems. As farms have grown larger and advancements in plant genetics have increased yields, progressively greater crop hauls have made on-farm grain handling more complex.

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Robot vehicles and handheld crop sensors are not tomorrow’s dreams, they are agriculture’s here and now. And while such digital, high-tech innovations are available to farmers and crop researchers, agriculture is a physical pursuit that also benefits from advances in hardware engineering. The following new and improved gear represents a wide array of technological innovation on both digital and mechanical fronts.

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