Elections held Elections were held for the board of directors of the two associations with the 2013 slate re-nominated once again. The nominations stood with the following named as directors for 2014: Brent Best, Max Burt, Jan Joyce, Joe Naokwegijig, Jim Martin, Scott Runnalls, John McNaughton, Floyd Orford, Dave McDermid, Dave McAllister, Dean Millsap and Marca Williamson. The position of advisory councillor for Beef Farmers of Ontario was awarded to Chris Noland (Scott Runalls as alternate). The two voting delegates from the MCA selected to attend the AGM of Beef Farmers of Ontario are Brent Best and Dean Millsap. The delegate chosen to attend the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) meeting in London was Birgit Martin, while Jim Gilpin was elected to attend the North East Soil and Crop meeting in Earlton.
Ontario Soil and Crop update Mary Scott, Algoma-Manitoulin representative for the OSCIA, attended the annual meeting held January 16 to discuss the Growing Forward 2 program for producers and gave a brief overview for those in attendance. Ms. Scott explained that Growing Forward 2 is an initiative aimed at encouraging innovation, competitiveness, market development adaptability and industry capacity in Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sector in nine main sectors: use best business and leadership practices; use energy, water and other inputs efficiently; be better able to adapt to climate change; maximize labour productivity; access new and emerging markets; retain and expand existing markets; market products that meet buyer demand through adoption of assurance systems and/or adding value such as agri-products and food for health; respond quickly and effectively to risks; and reduce key risks. “Farmers called for more flexibility, and they got it,” Ms. Scott said. Within these nine main sectors are six areas of focus where individual farm businesses can apply for cost-share for project implementation: environmental and climate change; assurance systems (food safety, traceability and animal welfare); market development; animal and plant health; labour productivity enhancement; and business and leadership development. The program works through workshops and education, capacity building (training, skills development, audits, assessments) and project implementation, with funding available for the latter two. Ms. Scott explained that projects are judged on a merit system. For example, farmers who have completed an Environmental Farm Plan would be judged higher. There is funding available up to $350,000 (over five years) for producers and processors and up to $3 million for organizations and collaborations. The first intake for 2014 is April 1 to May 1 in either online or paper version. Ms. Scott also noted that an Environmental Farm Plan workshop would be held March 18 and 25. She also noted that species at risk funding is still available, as is funding for grassland habitats. Ms. Scott urges all farmers to apply for Growing Forward 2. “I don’t want you not to apply because you think it’s too confusing, because it’s not,” Ms. Scott said.
North Eastern Ontario Soil and Crop update Mack Emiry of Massey, on behalf of the North Eastern Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, addressed the group next, reinforcing Ms. Scott’s presentation on Growing Forward 2. He noted that there had been 255 applications received by the end of December for capacity building, with $1.3 million allocated. That, he said, is an average of $5,200 per application. For implementation funding, of 250 applications, 26 percent of these were rejected because the applicants failed to meet all the criteria. Of the remainder, $4.2 million was allocated. “There is a significant opportunity here for some funding—it’s a worthwhile program,” Mr. Emiry said. There is still money in the pot for the Species At Risk Farm Incentive Program too. “The money needs to be spent by March, or it’s gone,” he said. Two projects undertaken by his association this year were the haskap berries project and the corn-under-plastic project. He noted that there are two cooperators in each district growing haskap berries (also known as the edible blue honeysuckle), two of which are on Manitoulin. These producers have been provided with the plants by the association. They take about four years to cultivate. There are no Island producers in the corn-under-plastic program, which sees producers starting their corn two weeks early by growing it under biodegradable plastic, which keeps the soil temperatures warmer. “The results at the end of the season was huge growth, but maybe not worth it economically,” Mr. Emiry admitted. One farmer asked if the plastic protected the corn from sandhill cranes, to which Mr. Emiry responded he “didn’t think so,” but noted that there is a compound being used in the United States that is not available in Canada. It coats the seed, or corn, in a substance that is foul tasting to the bird.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture Neil Tarlton, field services representative with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), explained that because of changes to the government legislation for not-for-profit organizations, farmers can no longer just pay dues, they must also sign two forms to become members. The OFA is currently lobbying the province to allow farmers to tap into natural gas pipelines, which is relevant to some areas of the province. He noted the Leamington Heinz factory shutdown which will mean a loss of 750 jobs, directly and indirectly, against which the OFA is also lobbying. The OFA has also been keeping its eye on land prices for agriculture, which are rising faster than residential prices, meaning farmers are paying a greater share in taxes to municipalities. “Our lobbying has fallen on deaf ears,” Mr. Tarlton said. “We are not asking for lower rates, but changes to residential rates.”
Beef Farmers of Ontario Matt Bowman of Beef Farmers of Ontario spoke of the trend of ‘felfies’ with the group—farmers taking self portraits (selfies) with their cattle or livestock, which helps to show how busy farmers are in all weather. “Cow numbers in the province are declining. There are well under 300,000, but we’re hoping that decline has stopped and we are at least holding stable,” Mr. Bowman said. He spoke of the high prices cattle have been fetching for the past two years and the “stupidly strong” prices for yearlings. “We’ve seen record prices for finished cattle last year, but the expense has gone up for grass fed cattle too,” he added. He spoke of the recent media spotlight on animal care concerns on farms “which causes problems for everyone moving forward. If you’re going to hire people, make sure you know who they are and what they’re all about,” he said. “Everyone has a camera these days, so if something’s happening on your farm you don’t want people to see, don’t do it. And if you see something happening, write down the details and contact police.” Mr. Bowman said the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) have heard that there may be permanent exemption coming from the province regarding species at risk, but that there are still voluntary things that farmers can do. He noted the “mass dissatisfaction” regarding crop insurance from farmers across the province and said changes were coming to the Ontario Forage Rainfall Plan. The BFO is also working to lobby the government on the urgency of helping to save our pollinators (bees, wasps, hornets etc.) to make sure the final decision regarding pesticides is science-based. On the topic of traceability, Mr. Bowman said that as BFO knows mandatory traceability is coming, a committee was struck and a manifest created that will soon be available at Service Ontario centres. “We want to make it so all cattle moved are documented,” he said. The manifest would be filled out by the farmer and trucker upon every shipment of cattle.
Ag rep Brian Bell, agriculture representative for Manitoulin with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, encouraged farmers to seek out Northern Ontario Heritage Funding Corporation funding, as well as funding opportunities for the new Local Food Fund too. The deadline for the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence is February 28. Manitoulin farmers and producers have had good luck with this, he noted, with a number of past winners including Manitoulin Streams, the Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association, the Burt Farm, Mike Meeker, Pike Lake Farms, Martin Farms as well as the North Eastern Soil and Crop Association.
Beef cattle code of practice Barry Potter, OMAFRA livestock specialist, also attended the annual general meeting, bringing with him copies of the National Farm Animal Care Council code of practice for the care and handling of beef cattle. The code of practice will not be made official until 2016, but “if it’s good in 2016 for the animal, why isn’t it good in 2014?” he asked. In the new code, there are requirements as well as recommended practices for farmers to follow. Examples of the new requirements are: cattle must have access to areas, either natural or man-made, that provide relief from weather that is likely to create a serious risk to their welfare; establish an ongoing working relationship with a licenced practicing veterinarian and develop a strategy for disease; animal handlers must be familiar with cattle behaviour and use quiet handling techniques; pain control must be used, in consultation with your veterinarian, to mitigate pain associated with dehorning calves after horn bud attachment; and beef cattle must not be tail-docked unless on the advice of a veterinarian.
Other updates A joint Cattlemen’s/Soil and Crop information day will be held on February 26 at the Spring Bay hall with lunch provided by the BMO. The veterinary committee reported that its program is still alive and well. Dean Millsap, speaking on behalf of the financer breeder cooperative, noted that eight to 10 loans are currently out through the program.