An industry-led organization formed in 2018, AgSafe Alberta works with farmers and ranchers to improve the safety of their operations. GrainsWest spoke with Jody Wacowich, the organization’s executive director, about the launch of FARMERS CARE, a farm safety program that will eventually feature four bite-sized levels.
Often, we are not prepared for today’s challenges because we hold onto our “never.” “That will never happen,” or “that never works,” or “that should never be taught in the classroom” and even the dreaded, “we tried that and it never worked.” How many times has our “never” put limitations on our farm operations, our vision for the future or even our simple ability to adapt and change?
The net result of combined low carry-in stocks, the severe drought of 2021 and record high prices for feed barley has been a supply crunch that has made it difficult for North American maltsters to source sufficient supplies. The available barley generally has quality challenges that include very high protein content and reduced germination caused by 2021 weather conditions. We now have greater perspective on how the malting and brewing industries are dealing with the challenges associated with the less-than-optimal crop.
Markets prefer certainty, and COVID-19 injected a substantial amount of uncertainty. The supply chain was disrupted and continues to struggle while governments have poured money into the economy to maintain stability. Inflation has been a byproduct of this supply chain disruption and government largesse. Costs have gone up, wages have escalated and shipping costs increased. Shortages have spurred price hikes and food has not been spared.
Unfortunately, the conversation on climate change policy in Canada is being led by groups that represent a small minority of farmers. While not ideal, this is a natural consequence of the fact the federal government is more ideologically aligned with groups supportive of its 2050 net-zero CO2 emissions agenda. Secondly, and more importantly, these groups, such as Farmers for Climate Solutions, have provided the political cover necessary by providing detailed, data-driven solutions for the government to embrace. The problem being, this data is not representative of the majority of Canadian grain farmers.
On a bright but chilly day last October, Nevin Rosaasen, Alberta Pulse Growers (APG) sustainability and government relations lead, and Hayley Webster, the commission’s Adaptation Resilience Training project assistant, made their way to a small slough on Hannah Konschuh’s farm near Cluny. Konschuh, a former Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) director, joined them for the short hike down from an adjacent dirt road to examine this modest, semi-permanent wetland.
In recent years, cover crops have been widely promoted as a regenerative practice that offers a range of benefits, both environmental and economical. Many western Canadian farmers are skeptical, though, citing short growing seasons, limited moisture and added costs as reasons they haven’t adopted the practice. Yet, policymakers and agri-businesses continue to push cover crops as a fundamental component of regenerative agriculture and overall farm sustainability. But is the adoption of cover crops a logical move for Prairie farmers?
Farmer Keith Woynorowski built the Hammer Malt facility and the entire malting system from scratch. He processes the farm’s own malting barley within silver, cylindrical dairy tanks repurposed as combination kilns and germination vessels. The malt is transported from one stage of processing to the next through pneumatic tubes and the entire system is computer automated. Far from being cobbled-together in appearance, the rig looks something like a homey space station.
Last November, the province of Alberta, in partnership with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and 10 irrigation districts, announced an investment of $117.7 million to modernize the province’s irrigation infrastructure. The contribution builds on a previous $815-million advance, which brings total investment to nearly $933 million. The funding will be used to modernize irrigation infrastructure and to increase water storage capacity through a series of projects in southern Alberta. It will also create jobs and spur the province’s economic recovery.