Laura Rance

  • Farm boys and they love it

    Greg Peterson was a Kansas farm kid attending college when he talked his two brothers into helping him parody the pop song I'm Sexy and I Know it, in a video produced on the family grain and cattle farm. Within 24 hours of releasing I'm Farming and I Grow it on YouTube in 2012, the three brothers -- Greg, 24, Nathan, 21 and Kendall, 18 -- were celebrities. Their video had gone viral, receiving millions of hits worldwide. Before they knew it, they were flying to New York to appear live on one of the mainline news programs.
  • A brave new world for cattle producers

    Just over a decade ago, Canada’s beef sector was busily reaping the export benefits of a 63-cent U.S. dollar and lucrative trade agreements with its largest trading partner to the south. That is, until one sick Alberta cow brought the industry to its knees. That cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the dreaded “mad cow disease” that had wreaked havoc across Europe immediately caused Canada’s export customers to slam their borders shut. Canadian producers were at the mercy of oversupplied domestic plants, and while Canadian consumers tried their best, they could only eat so many burgers.
  • Growers' engagement in ag policy more crucial than ever

    Succession planning has always been a big deal in agriculture. Because most farms are still operated by families, the task of transferring to the next generation is fraught with complex business decisions amid sometimes complicated family politics, so much so, it's been known to tear both the family and the business to pieces.
  • Year ahead will be a good time to focus on soil's importance

    It was eerie driving across the southern Manitoba prairie the night the power went out Dec. 30. Familiar farm sites, normally brightly lit by yard lights and made extra-friendly by festive holiday lights, were dark and abandoned-looking. Towns with no street lights appeared as ghost towns. Even the fields, uncharacteristically black for this time of year, appeared more barren in the hazy moonlight.
  • Forecasting a change to forecasts so farmers have up-to-date info

    As the new year dawns, farmers are about to be inundated with all sorts of forecasts designed to give them a heads-up on markets and prices, the weather and climate, and various unknowns that will shape 2015. Analysts will do their best to provide producers with the kind of information that helps them make informed decisions about what to grow, when to market and who might be buying -- or not.
  • It isn't freedom without access to markets

    If there is one thing Prairie farmers have learned over the past two years, it is that a deregulated marketing system is not the same thing as having marketing freedom. The federal government promised marketing freedom when it eliminated the Canadian Wheat Board's single-desk monopoly in 2012, which removed a major regulatory and disciplinary force from the marketplace.
  • Watch out for overheated canola, farmers warned

    The ground is frozen and last year's crop is now in the bin, so it would be easy to assume farmers have some time to sit in an easy chair and dream of a well-earned winter vacation somewhere warm. But if they're not careful, they could be getting more heat than they like right here at home -- heat that might even cut into their ability to finance those holiday plans.
  • Forage a huge, underappreciated part of agriculture

    If you asked a room full of people -- farmers included -- to name Canada's largest crop, chances are you would get a debate going over whether it is wheat or canola. And they would both be wrong.
  • Bigger is definitely better — if it's yield and not acreage

    One of the accepted truisms about agriculture in Western Canada is farms will continue to get bigger. Prairie farmers began expanding almost as soon as they took up residence under the homesteading law of 1872, a trend that continues. The 2011 census of agriculture saw average farm sizes grow between 13 and 15 per cent in the three Prairie provinces during five years.
  • Prairie agriculture industry faces a growing shortage of good help

    There was a time on Prairie farms when having large families was about more than long, cold winters, no television and abstinence as the only reliable form of birth control. Children have historically been an important source of labour on the farm, enlisted from an early age to help out with the multiple tasks that went into day-to-day operations. And when those kids grew up, those who left the farm often went on to fill jobs in the agricultural service sector, working in grain-handling and marketing, financial services, meat processing, or in fertilizer, herbicide or livestock supply.
  • Wheat prices taking hit with or without CWB

    Some have likened the abrupt removal of the Canadian Wheat Board's single-desk monopoly in August 2012 to throwing a stick of dynamite under the Western grain marketing system and expecting all the pieces to fall neatly back into place. Well, they didn't.
  • Small-scale farms can beat the odds

    There are many knowledgeable and respected experts who would write off the small-scale farmers as inefficient and incapable of feeding themselves, let alone feeding the world. People like Shenggen Fan, the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., who identifies closely with the 84 per cent of the world's 570 million farmers who survive on five acres or less.
  • COOL win still not a victory

    Canadian livestock producers won something to crow about but little else in the latest World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling to support their claim that U.S. meat-labelling rules are unfair and discriminatory. It appears Canada will soon have the authority to impose $1 billion in tariffs on a long list of products we import from our bad neighbour.
  • Ebola already a First World crisis

    Those who worry about the deadly Ebola virus becoming a First World problem received a blunt reality check from speakers at the recent World Food Prize/Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa, earlier this month. It already is, and not only because of the isolated cases that have surfaced outside of the three West African countries most affected.
  • Farmers face dilemma in buying CWB

    Short of bad weather and funerals, there isn't much that would convince farmers to leave their fields and head to town in the middle of a long, drawn-out harvest like this year's. Add the possibility of investing in their own grain company to the list.
  • Grain backlog a crisis Ottawa has yet to solve

    As reality checks go, the one Prairie farmers received from the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) recently was particularly galling. The CTA rejected a level-of-service complaint filed by the Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA) against both national railways over last winter's grain-transportation fiasco. The reason cited was lack of evidence.
  • Herbicide resistance a global food threat

    For decades, the experts have treated the growing problem of herbicide-resistant weeds as something solvable by the next new chemical or biological breakthrough. Now, more are stepping back and acknowledging it as a symptom of a much bigger issue in agriculture.
  • Better feed grains, better times for all

    One of the messy realities of agriculture is if grain and oilseed farmers are enjoying high prices, it's usually at the expense of livestock producers who have to pay more for feed. The availability of feed grains on the Prairies has historically been an accident of nature. Grain farmers grow varieties that are bred for the premium-priced milling and processing markets and only sell their crop as feed if it doesn't make the grade. In some years, like this one, there's lots of it around. In others, such as 2012, there isn't enough, and livestock feeders are forced to downsize their herds.
  • Cold and wet harvest season adds to producers' challenges

    When asked what they like about farming, many farmers will talk about the challenge and variety the job offers. If that's the case, Manitoba farmers must be having a heyday because getting this year's crop harvested is proving to be an extraordinary challenge amidst highly variable -- and worsening -- conditions.
  • Pork and potato processing needs overhaul

    When researchers with Brandon University's Rural Development Institute (RDI) took a snapshot of Manitoba's food and beverage processing sector as it was in 2011 and asked where it might be in 2020, some mixed messages surfaced. On the whole, the sector is a major contributor to the provincial economy, accounting for 28 per cent of all manufacturing revenue and 15 per cent of its exports.
  • 'New normal' may not be so normal, after all

    By any measure, the Prairie crop last year was an astounding production feat. Farmers grew 76 million tonnes, shattering previous records for most major crops. In all, it was 50 per cent higher than the five-year average and 30 per cent more than what farmers grew the previous year.
  • Protecting farmers a costly endeavour

    Years ago, I received a call from a farmer who wanted the newspaper's help in obtaining payment for a specialty crop he had sold to an independent buyer. There wasn't much I could do. There might have been news value in shaming a shady grain buyer, but if the problem was cash flow, publicity would only worsen the buyer's ability to pay. It was also apparent this buyer was operating under the table. He wasn't licensed or bonded with the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), either because he qualified for an exemption, or because auditors hadn't caught up to him, yet.
  • Finding better ways to fight superweeds

    At a time when soil erosion is recognized as one of the biggest threats to the world's ability to continue feeding itself, it's disturbing to now see U.S. weed scientists suggesting tillage to address invading "superweeds." There is no question addressing the lengthening list of weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate must be a top priority for researchers and extension agronomists advising conventional farmers.
  • Response to ag report misses the mark

    The final report to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada from a series of consumer focus groups it commissioned last year is enlightening, but not because of what it tells us about how domestic customers view this country's agriculture sector. Rather, it speaks volumes about the people asking the questions.
  • Lack of genetic diversity threat to livestock

    Anyone who has lived on or near a farmyard with chickens is well-aware of the rooster's ability to trumpet the arrival of morning long before the sun peeks over the horizon. But roosters have been delivering a wake-up call of a different sort lately -- sounding the alarm over the risks inherent with the increasingly narrow gene pool used in commercial agricultural production.


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