Agri-info Newsletter – January 2016

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2016 Census of Agriculture is on the horizon

Man holding his daughter in his arms, in front of a corn field.

What's new for the 2016 Census of Agriculture?

Census by Internet: fast and easy

All Canadian farm operators will receive a letter at the beginning of May 2016 with instructions on how to complete the questionnaire online.

The online questionnaire will automatically add totals and skip sections that do not apply to the operator's farm. As a result, completing the questionnaire online will be faster and easier and reduce the need to call back farm operators in order to clarify answers. On average, farmers should spend 30% less time responding to the 2016 Census of Agriculture than they did responding to the previous census (2011).

Shorter–but still comprehensive–questionnaire

The Census of Agriculture staff consults after every census with farmers, agricultural industry members, and data users for the purpose of assessing data needs. Statistics Canada received more than 200 content submissions from diverse groups, including federal government departments and agencies, provincial ministries, farming organizations, academics, farm service companies, and consulting firms. Statistics Canada is grateful to the agricultural industry for its ongoing feedback and support.

As a result of these consultations, new questions on the adoption of technologies, direct marketing, succession planning and renewable energy production were added to reflect demand for this new information.

Some questions were also removed, such as detailed expense information, operator place of residence, details on irrigated land, and the source and use of manure. Most of the questions for 2016 are identical to those used in 2011. This continuity is important when it comes to tracking long-term trends in the industry and meeting the ongoing needs of users and stakeholders.

Overall, the 2016 questionnaire has 18 fewer questions than it did in 2011.

You can view the content of the 2016 Census of Agriculture in the Canada Gazette which was published on June 20, 2015.

By law, farmers are required to participate in the Census of Agriculture. By the same law, Statistics Canada is required to protect the information provided in Census of Agriculture questionnaires. Privacy is a fundamental component of the census.

At the beginning of May, complete your questionnaire and tell your story as part of Canada's farming community.

For more information, please visit Statistics Canada's website.

Develop new markets with the Assurance Systems program

AgriMarketing logo

Marketing for the food industry doesn't just involve opening borders and accessing international buyers. Increasingly, importing countries establish standards and demand that they be met before allowing products through their doors. These can include established animal care standards, sustainable growing practices, and, of course, assurances around food safety systems.

The AgriMarketing program's Assurance Systems stream provides funding to groups and organizations looking to develop systems and tools to support their assurance claims. Eligible projects for Assurance Systems funding can receive up to $1 million for development of industry-led systems that are national in scope. The industry must cost-share projects through a combination of cash and in-kind allocations. Applications from interested organizations can be submitted at any time until March 31, 2018.

Currently, the program is being used to develop an on-farm food safety system for sheep, to update animal care codes for poultry and for bison, and to complete a traceability system for hogs. Turkey Farmers of Canada accessed program funding to complete an on-farm food safety producer manual for turkey breeders. Using this manual, turkey breeders will be able to implement a system that can demonstrate to consumers that turkey meat and turkey eggs entering the market are produced safely. To learn more about their On-Farm Food Safety Program©, visit the Turkey Farmers of Canada.

These projects are examples of how the industry is meeting buyer demands by adding value to Canadian products and differentiating them from foreign competitors. If you have an idea for your commodity or agri-food group that could benefit from the Assurance Systems program, please visit AgriMarketing Program - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to find out more.

Canada's path to livestock traceability

Collage of photos displaying bison, deer, cows, sheep, pigs, goat, chickens, and horses.

Consumers at home and abroad are becoming increasingly engaged in the global conversation around food production. Canada has long been a world leader in animal health and safety, and is currently working toward the implementation of a national livestock traceability system. This system will be based on three pillars:

  • Animal identification;
  • Premises identification (geographical location of animals); and
  • Animal movement reporting.

But what does that mean for producers?

Simply put, livestock traceability means an animal can be quickly traced throughout its life, resulting in faster response to an emerging animal health threat. A fast response time limits disease spread and reduces the economic, environmental, and social impacts of emergency situations.

Livestock producers are using traceability technology, such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, in order to increase productivity by monitoring individual animal weight gain, post-slaughter grading, and tracking feed intake. The on-farm potential for putting traceability technology to work for producers is nearly as diverse and adaptable as Canada's livestock industry.

Traceability at every step

Effective traceability includes every partner in the production chain. The effort to create Canada's system has been largely collaborative and has been undertaken by the grassroots livestock and poultry sectors (including beef and dairy cattle, cervids, sheep, goats, hogs, bison, and poultry) along with provincial and territorial governments, as well as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Traceability for pigs has been in place since 2014, and work is underway for other species.

The provinces and territories are responsible for administering premises identification (PID) programs, and issue official PID numbers to sites where livestock and poultry are located. Obtaining premises identification is easy and quick, as it usually takes less than 10 minutes.

Third-party administrators work on behalf of farmers to collect the required animal identification and movement data for a national database. TraceCanada is the national, not-for-profit organization with a mandate to build and maintain this world-class national livestock traceability service.

Every day, more and more producers are using these traceability tools in their operations because they see the competitive and production advantages the technology can provide.

For more information on traceability in Canada, visit the TraceCanada website.

Soil "fingerprinting"

Finger feeling texture of soil in palm of hand.

A key question for agricultural producers is "how do I know if what I'm doing is enhancing the quality of my soil?" While it is known that soil quality directly affects crop yields and sustainable agricultural production, the monitoring and tracking of changes in soil quality is actually quite complicated.

Because there are many soil attributes, land-use decisions and environmental issues to consider, a team led by AAFC scientist, Dr. Catherine Fox, of the Harrow Research and Development Centre, has developed the "A-Horizon Framework" to record detailed characteristics of surface layer soil to create a "soil fingerprint."

Key highlights

  • Dr. Fox is developing a system, known as soil fingerprinting to help accurately track changes in soil.
  • This system can help show producers how their management practices impact their soil.
  • This is an innovative approach to recording soil quality properties which are subject to changes such as structure, bulk density (extent of compaction), amount of organic matter, pH levels and salinity.

Soil properties are recorded electronically which automatically generates a soil fingerprint. The fingerprint can then be applied to field and landscape soil assessments in order to monitor changes both during the growing season and over several years. Having this knowledge will help producers adjust management practices in order to improve the quality of their soils over time.

A database of soil fingerprints will also allow researchers to develop models to evaluate soil quality, assist in soil remediation efforts and assess overall environmental impacts.

Work is now underway to make the framework more accessible to potential users. The "A-Horizon Framework" is currently being tested with project partners at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the University of Guelph on different farming systems and management practices to further validate its use for identifying soil quality changes. Guidance materials are also being developed in order to have a more user friendly tool by the project end date in 2017.

To learn more about what we are doing in soil research and land use management, visit Soil and Land.

Whole-systems approach software helps farmers reduce their carbon footprint

Holos logo

Thanks to an innovative software program, producers can now estimate their on-farm greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The program, called Holos, was developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) researchers at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre in Alberta. Holos estimates on-farm GHG emissions based on information entered into the program and explores ways to reduce these emissions. The result is a GHG emissions estimate for the whole farm that can help the user identify ways to reduce farm emissions.

What's in it for farmers?

Holos provides farmers a baseline to see the potential environmental benefits of their current practices. By exploring the software and various on-farm scenarios relevant to their own, producers can discover various methods of farming to reduce GHGs.

How does it work?

  • Holos applies to a number of farm operations including, but not limited to: shelterbelts, crops and grassland; beef; dairy; sheep; swine; poultry; goats; llamas and alpacas; deer and elk; horses; mules; and bison.
  • Once information is entered into the program, Holos estimates carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions from enteric fermentation and manure management, cropping systems, land use change and energy use.
  • Holos allows users to choose scenarios and farm management practices that best describe their operations, and then consider possible options that might help reduce emissions and estimate how those options would affect whole-farm emissions.

The Holos research team is currently developing a simplified cost-benefit component so users can see how reducing GHG emissions will impact their farm in terms of operating costs.

Holos is available for free download in English or French. Users are encouraged to share their questions and feedback with the developers and research team at holos@agr.gc.ca, as Holos is continually being updated with new data and improved features.

The Importance of Soils

Scientist holding a jar of soil.

Soil is the base resource of all food on the planet. It is a limited resource that requires extra care and management to ensure a healthy agricultural sector. During the International Year of Soils 2015, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada joined other organizations worldwide to engage the public about the vital role that soils play in our daily lives. We have a long history of soil research, and our science and technology achievements continue to improve agriculture's use of soil resources in a way that enhances the resiliency of the sector, fosters new economic opportunities, and supports long-term competitiveness.

Learn more about what we are doing to better understand soils and their interaction with the world around us by watching the video, The Importance of Soils.

Meet the new Ag Minister

The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay

Having been both a potato and dairy farmer on the eastern end of Prince Edward Island, Minister MacAulay understands how agriculture touches the lives of Canadians and its impact on Canada's economy.

"I'm honoured to be able to represent Canadian farmers and the agricultural industry," said Minister MacAulay. "I'm excited to work with my colleagues in the provinces and territories and the entire agriculture industry to advance the interests of the sector."

Minister MacAulay's mandate includes supporting the food processing sector, trade, research and innovation, and grain transportation infrastructure. It also includes building on Growing Forward 2 and planning for the next policy framework, as well as the development of a comprehensive food policy. The mandate letter also places emphasis on working with the provinces and territories to address the impact of climate change and strengthen Canada's reputation for environmental stewardship.

Supporting the Minister is the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture and Agri-Food, Jean-Claude Poissant, a fourth generation dairy and grain farmer from Saint-Phillipe, Quebec.

Minister MacAulay has stated that he will be working closely with the sector, "from gate to plate" to fulfill his mandate, and that he will be reaching out to farmers, food processors and the rest of the industry to chart the best way forward for Canada's agriculture and food industry.


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