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Winter 2018


While the mainstream media continues to paint a dire picture of honeybee populations in North America, commercial beekeepers in Alberta celebrated record hive numbers as the summer of 2017 came to a close. What makes the news even sweeter is that the robust season came directly on the heels of devastating winterkill the previous year.

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Extremely dry conditions across the southern Prairies in the 2017 season resulted in surprisingly good yields for most wheat farmers. Prairie crop commissions credit the successful harvest to both ongoing research efforts that have produced drought-resistant plant varieties and farmers who have made the best use of soil health and conservation practices.

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Public trust is a funny thing. You can’t touch, taste, smell, feel or see it, but it’s there. It’s always there. With no concrete traits, the concept of something as large as public trust can be hard to gauge, yet it has become increasingly important to people and companies across all Canadian industries.

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Central to the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) five-year Strategic Plan 2017-2023 is generating value for farmers in the operation of the nation’s seed regulatory and certification system. The plan was unveiled in July of 2017 following extensive consultations with CSGA membership, directors, staff and industry partners. In addition to outlining the organization’s priorities, it also provides a flexible, strategic framework that can respond to the evolving needs of the sector. “It will be reviewed and updated annually by our board in consultation with members, governments, the seed sector and other stakeholders,” said executive director Glyn Chancey.

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The Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) began modernizing Canada’s wheat classes in January 2016. Effective Aug. 1, 2018, 25 Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) varieties and four Canada Prairie Spring Red (CPSR) wheat varieties will move to the Canada Northern Hard Red (CNHR) class. Some are concerned about the loss of varieties such as Lillian, a solid stem variety that stood up to sawfly. While concerns are valid, the plan was designed with the protection of quality and consistency in mind. Additionally, new varieties are expected to be available in the near future.

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Kevin Sich is a true brewing industry middleman. He loves the vantage point this gives him as co-operation between farmers, maltsters and brewers has grown in recent years thanks to craft beer’s surging popularity. His position as supply chain director for Rahr Malting Co. has allowed him to watch barley markets change and mature.

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On a drive along Highway 41 near the hamlet of Hilda, soil health specialist Yamily Zavala spotted a field containing sunflowers, a plant that she happens to incorporate in cover cropping studies at the Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA) facility in Oyen just over an hour to the north.

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To stay in the black, farmers must adapt to change at every turn, so why did recently proposed tax changes by the federal government cause such a furor in agriculture? According to industry members, there was fear that as Ottawa targeted “fair taxation of the wealthy one per cent,” farmers would certainly be caught in the crossfire.

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Marketing grain is a gold mine or a mine field—it really depends how you look at it. Either way, it’s a process that completes the cycle of farming. All the investment of inputs and time piloting tractors and combines will reap a profit only if the crop can be successfully sold.

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