There is a common adage in agriculture: wheat is 14 per cent protein and 86 per cent politics. This applies as much to international markets as it does to domestic policy debates.
Recently, I gave a talk about the future of agriculture. The most difficult segment was addressing how our sector balances individuality with its dependence on systems. Systems are now part of every conversation and “systems thinking” is all the buzz.
Co-operation and collaboration are not new in the barley world, whether we’re talking about research and development, working to create and support markets for Canadian barley or dealing with collective market challenges. There are so many issues at play and many moving parts in today’s world of technological complexity, trade issues and regulatory challenges, never mind throwing in a global pandemic.
With the initial projects recently announced, the first agriculture industry-related elements of the Alberta Recovery Plan are now up and running. From investment in irrigation infrastructure, to the opening of new international export offices, to new post-secondary research funding, the initiatives are intended to position agriculture and forestry as a part of the solution to Alberta’s economic woes.
Canadian agriculture has faced COVID-19 issues within every industry subset. Challenges in southern Alberta’s Feedlot Alley, the province’s central hub for feeder cattle, have piled up since early 2019 and the global pandemic was just the latest hit in a whirlwind stretch.
Farmers require PPE for themselves and their employees during daily operation as well as to satisfy Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) requirements where necessary. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus on the healthcare sector as well as a greater volume of use by the general public has created a shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) in the agriculture sector.
One of the non-COVID-19 challenges we faced on our farm this spring is dealing with flax straw—a tenacious material that needs to be removed from the field before seeding. We had dropped it in windrows behind the combine last fall but it blew all over the field in a windstorm before the baler arrived. We finally accumulated it into bunches suitable for burning this spring, but then we faced dry conditions, strong winds and a county fire restriction that prevented us from burning.