Agri-info Newsletter – February 2017

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Celebrating 150 years of agriculture

Celebrations are underway for Canada's 150th and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) will be joining in on the festivities.

Agriculture has deep roots in our nation's history, and AAFC has been there since the beginning. Did you know that the Department of Agriculture was created on July 1, 1867? At AAFC, we're celebrating 150 years of leadership in the growth, development and sustainability of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector.

In the fall of 2016, AAFC employees worked together to produce an innovative video showcasing Canada's 150th anniversary logo cut out in a wheat field in Saskatchewan. This inspiring Canada 150 – It's Just the Beginning video reflects the Canadian prairies, history, farming, culture and Canada's future.

Come celebrate 150 years with us at We'll be updating the page regularly throughout 2017 with videos, events and more, so bookmark us and check back for new content and events. You can also stay connected through Facebook (@CanadianAgriculture) and Twitter (@AAFC_Canada) as we celebrate agriculture throughout 2017.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reopens Frelighsburg Experimental Farm

This spring, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will reopen the Frelighsburg Experimental Farm – a satellite site of the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Research and Development Centre in Québec. At an event held last December, Minister MacAulay announced that the Farm will be home to innovative research aimed at helping producers reduce their environmental footprint and adapt to climate change.

"Science is a powerful tool for environmental action on Canadian farms. This research in Frelighsburg will help our farmers increase their production to feed a growing population, while protecting our environment – a win for farmers and Canadians," said Minister MacAulay.

Scientists at the Farm – in collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada, the United States Department of Agriculture, provincial governments, universities, growers and grower associations – will look at new tools to help protect water and soil resources, such as precision farming, active biological monitoring, and cropping systems. They will also conduct research on fruit crops that can withstand extreme and unusual temperature changes to increase crop resiliency in a changing climate.

The scientists will focus on grain, oilseed and horticulture crops.

Read Government of Canada to Strengthen Environmental Research in Agriculture for more on the announcement.

Grain safety program gets off the ground

Grain is the lifeblood of most farming operations, and the need to grow more of it in response to world demand is good news for Canadian farmers. Unfortunately, this increase in production, handling and storage has been accompanied by a growing number of grain entrapments (workers becoming submerged in grain, which often leads to death by suffocation). According to media reports, in 2015 alone, there were seven deaths and two injuries connected with grain across Canada. To put this in perspective, there were 17 deaths over the 23 years from 1990 to 2012.

Increased focus on grain safety training

In the United States, extensive grain safety training is offered to producers, including training in grain extraction, confined spaces, grain dust, and lockout-tagout procedures (to ensure dangerous machines are shut off properly when not in use). But until now, programs like these have not existed in Canada.

The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) has responded with a grain safety program known as "BeGrainSafe". At its heart is a mobile unit which will be the first in Canada and is modelled after U.S. units. This unit will serve three purposes:

  • Rescue training to help train first responders in grain extrication procedures
  • General prevention to explain the dangers of grain entrapment and the importance of lockout-tagout procedures to the public
  • On-site training to provide prevention and emergency plan training to workplaces.

Coming soon to a trade show near you

The "BeGrainSafe" program includes a trade show component designed to demonstrate grain entrapment and communicate the hazards of confined spaces and mechanical dangers. It also offers interactive table-top displays to engage youth (and their parents).

The program will be supported by a microsite with an online calendar, information, learning materials and more.

CASA launched the program in January 2017 at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon. It will start in the three Prairie provinces and visit as many major farm shows over the course of the next few years as possible.

CASA receives funding in part through the Fostering Business Development component of Growing Forward 2, a federal, provincial, territorial initiative.

Find out more

Visit BeGrainSafe or contact CASA at

Digitizing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's biological collections

Changing climates and growing international trade drive up the risk of new and invasive species endangering Canadian crops. Recognizing this, the federal government announced $30 million in Budget 2016 to support Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) biological collections consisting of insects, plants and other organisms. These funds will be used to inventory and digitize the collections, and to add DNA fingerprint and genomic sequences for hard-to-identify, high-impact organisms—such as those that provide an essential ecosystem function or that could decimate a crop.

AAFC's reference collection will allow scientists to correctly identify species and provides a recording of its life history. This helps create an action plan to mitigate the threat and save Canada's multibillion-dollar crops industry.

Supporting science-based decisions

By 2022, 17 million specimens will have been inventoried and 7.6 million high-priority specimens will have been enhanced with state-of-the-art digital, DNA or genomic records. This will enhance Canada's capacity for science-based decision-making by helping scientists predict new potential threats, better understand the origin, movement and migration patterns of pests and pathogens, and predict new potential pest threats that could emerge.

This valuable information will also be shared on open-data platforms so scientists around the world can access it and increase the security of their agricultural systems. These national collections will also catalogue and showcase Canada's biological diversity for the general public.

For more information on this initiative, read Federal Budget Supports Genomics Research to Benefit Agriculture.

Coming soon! A new online tool to calculate optimum nitrogen for corn

Nitrogen is critical for crop development. But producers know that the amount needed for corn is difficult to determine, since crop requirements are influenced by factors that range from soil properties to rainfall, to how a crop is affected by temperature changes.

To address this, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists have developed an online tool known as SCAN. Short for Soil, Crop and Atmosphere for Nitrogen, SCAN helps farmers determine the precise amount of nitrogen needed by individual corn crops.

Developed from Québec and Ontario data, SCAN calculates the optimal level of nitrogen for a given crop by analyzing weather information from Environment and Climate Change Canada and field data provided by growers, such as soil properties, previous crop data, soil organic matter content, economic ratio, and the corn's nitrogen status. The tool's accuracy is thanks to information gathered from hundreds of trial studies on how corn responds to different nitrogen rates.

In commercial field trials, SCAN calculations resulted in average cost benefits ranging from $25 to $49 per hectare depending on the year. It also reduced the nitrogen applied to grain corn in half of the commercial field trials by an average of 25 percent without affecting yield.

The lower amounts of nitrogen translated into fertilizer cost savings, decreased risk of aquifer contamination, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. For the other half of the fields in the trial—where climatic and soil conditions meant nitrogen application could not be reduced due to climatic and soil conditions, using SCAN still resulted in increased yields.

AAFC is now testing a user-friendly web tool to bring the information to the farming community and is negotiating a license to commercialize SCAN. It should be on the market in time for the 2017 season.

Another banner year for Canadian exports

Canadian farmers have taken full advantage of a number of trade opportunities in 2016, resulting in a record year for Canadian agri-food with seafood exports, with sales reaching $62.5 billion in 2016. This marks an increase of 41% over the past 5 years!

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has been working with partners around the world to grow and establish relationships that keep our economy and agricultural industries thriving. Some of last year's achievements include:

  • China: Expanding access for frozen, bone-in beef from cattle younger than 30 months, and also for continuing trade in canola;
  • Georgia: Gaining new access for live breeding sheep and goats, as well as ovine/caprine/porcine/bovine genetic materials;
  • India: Gaining new access for pork products;
  • Japan: Gaining new access for British Columbia greenhouse peppers;
  • Mexico: Gaining full market access for beef and beef products, as well as restored access for fresh poultry meat, including chicken, turkey and duck meat;
  • Taiwan: Gaining restored access for beef;
  • Thailand: Gaining new access for Alberta seed potatoes;
  • Turkey: Gaining new access for cattle;
  • U.S.: Finalizing the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council annual work plans for meat inspection and certification, animal and plant health, as well as food safety.
  • Ukraine: Signing a free trade agreement (FTA).

Looking ahead, Canada will be working closely with the new U.S. administration to ensure strong trade relations. We will launch exploratory talks with China on an FTA, and fulfil the commitment made by the Prime Minister and the Argentine President last November by completing the final steps needed to allow access for Canadian pork and live swine.

For more information on opportunities in markets abroad or to join our distribution list, make suggestions, or request more information, contact us at

Read more on our latest achievements

Visit Agri-Food Trade Services for Exporters to learn how your company or organization can benefit from export advice and guidance to help you achieve your international business goals.

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