It came without warning. Prairie farmers were dealt the environmental version of poker’s 7-2 off-suit: drought conditions not seen in 20-plus years and a heat dome, which may become agriculture’s word of the year for all the wrong reasons.
In September, as the economic fallout from the 2021 drought continued to hit home on Alberta farms, Pine Lake cattle farmer Kelly Smith-Fraser stepped into the role of Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) board chair. It has not been an easy time to lead the group: insurance needs are high across the ag sector and AFSC has been tasked with administering the $340 million joint federal–provincial AgriRecovery program through the Canada-Alberta Livestock Feed Assistance Initiative.
Grain companies and certain industry groups would like to see Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC) outward inspection practice halted. They insist it is a duplicate service, as these companies typically hire independent firms to complete grain inspections. Is it a matter of “double trouble” or “twice is nice?” It depends whom you ask.
Wholesale meat producers with their own Calgary butcher shop, Brant Lake Wagyu (BLW) owners Michelle Ball and son Brandon said demand is on the increase for their ultra-high quality, Kobe-style beef products. What makes the meat so tasty, said Michelle, is a combination of excellent Wagyu-Angus genetics, slow production and a strict barley regimen.
Plastics have become a key part of farm life but the industry continues to grapple with the hefty volume of waste material produced. According to a benchmark Cleanfarms study released in August 2021, more than 61,700 tonnes of agricultural plastics are generated annually in Canada, primarily bale wraps and tubes, grain bags and net wrap. Approximately 10 per cent of the plastics are recycled, which is greater than the average of nine per cent for other industrial sectors.
The 2020/21 crop year was good for Canada’s barley industry. According to Statistics Canada, production hit 10.74 million tonnes, the highest level since 2008 when tonnage topped 11.78 million tonnes. The 2020/21 crop is also up 50 per cent from 7.11 million tonnes in 2014, a year that saw the lowest barley production in Canada since 1967.
With the use of new biotechnology processes known as gene editing, a revolution in plant breeding technology is now underway. Methods such as CRISPR/Cas9, the best-known gene editing process, can carry out targeted changes within crop and livestock genes. Naturally, there is fear within the farm and agri-food sectors that foods produced via this technology will face public resistance as GMO crops once did.
Fairytale characters spin straw into gold, but could demand for wheat straw create a gold rush for farmers? The question has arisen with the recent announcement of the $800 million Great Plains MDF facility in the hamlet of Equity, in Kneehill County. The plant will process wheat straw to produce medium density fibreboard (MDF) products such as furniture, panelling, flooring and kitchen cabinets. This and a similar project proposed for Regina, SK, are expected to boost the long-term demand for wheat straw and provide a marketing opportunity for farmers. To calculate the economics and agronomic impact is a more complex task than one might imagine.
In 2016, Rosthern, SK, barley farmer Matt Enns escaped the Prairie deep freeze to relax in the Florida sun for the winter. More than a mere getaway, he intended to use this time to formulate his next career move after having expanded his stake in the family farm. As fate would have it, while he calculated his agricultural future, he joined a craft beer club near Orlando for the duration of his holiday. Its enthusiastic young members hosted tasting events where they sampled new and unique local brews produced by Florida’s vibrant craft brewing industry. His time with the club inspired Enns to launch Maker’s Malt, a micro-maltster venture. Established in 2018, the business would in turn help inspire those in Saskatchewan’s fledgling craft beer industry to take flight.