Laura Rance

  • Livestock producers must face scrutiny

    Every few months, it seems a new headline surfaces about another undercover operation exposing animal abuse in North America's intensive livestock sector. These exposés, complete with video coverage of innocent creatures suffering in the name of efficient food production, fire up the troops fighting to end industrialized farming by convincing people not to eat meat.
  • The deregulation of grain trains

    Reading through the complicated regulatory formulas used to keep a lid on Prairie farmers' freight costs is about the best non-medicinal cure for insomnia around. But debate over the fate of the maximum revenue entitlement (MRE), as it is known in farm circles, is keeping a lot of people in the grain transportation business awake these days.
  • Cornstalks the new Prairie roadside view

    It used to be that when cruising the back roads of rural Manitoba, you only slowed down at an unmarked intersection when you saw an oncoming car, which was easy to do with little to block those wide-open horizons. There are a lot more blind corners on those rural routes these days, thanks to a view-obstructing phenomenon that's sweeping across the West: corn.
  • Era of print and eat predicted

    Those of us who still garden have a rather quaint view of food and technology. We plant seeds, help them grow, and harvest (cooking optional). Often it's just pick and eat. But a series of summaries released from the recent Where Science Feeds Innovation conference hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago suggest rather than pick and eat in the future, we'll print and eat -- using a 3D printer.
  • Farmers, start your engines...

    Langham, SASK. -- The growing season on the Prairies is rife with stories about giant crops -- ranging from the monster pumpkins and other vegetables that roll into town for the annual Roland Pumpkin Fair in October to the coffee shop swagger over biggest-bushel-per-acre harvests on the farm. But whether you're aiming for a pumpkin that fills the back end of a half-ton truck or a canola crop that wears out the tires on a semi-trailer, it still comes down to paying attention to the fine details on the production end of things.
  • There are lots of good reasons to go organic

    Imagine farming in a world in which you could control your production costs, receive a premium for what you produce, and in which demand exceeds supply. That might seem like the impossible dream, especially in a year such as this one, when it appears it doesn't matter what crop a farmer grows, there are few opportunities to do much better than break even -- despite assuming above-average yields.
  • Climate change boosts value of Prairie farms

    Jeff Rubin, the former chief economist for CIBC World Markets-turned-bestselling author, knows all about adaptation. His first book, Why Your World Is About To Get a Whole Lot Smaller grabbed international attention with predictions that world oil prices would climb to more than $200 a barrel by 2012, forcing a rethink of almost every economic driver in industrialized nations.
  • Debate heating up over supply management

    History shows the Canadian agricultural sector loves getting riled up over a good old-fashioned either-or debate. In the 1980s, it was over the Crowsnest Pass freight subsidy -- should it be paid to the railways or directly to the farmer? In the end, it was moot. The federal government axed it altogether.
  • Betting big on western Canadian beef

    Balzac, Alta. -- Rich Vesta is an American entrepreneur with a story about the prospects for meat processing in Western Canada that could make any skeptic -- and there are a few -- into a believer. Vesta, who made his fortune as the guy major U.S. meat processors brought in to get struggling plants back on track, sees something in Canadian cattle others ignore.
  • Late frost and blizzard put chill on seeded fields

    This year could go down in Prairie folklore as the year farmers seeded and seeded -- and then seeded some more. Seed suppliers were scrambling last week to pump more seed through the distribution pipeline as producers headed back to the field in the wake of the May 30 frost. It is estimated that overnight cold snap wiped out between 800,000 and a million acres of newly emerging crop -- mostly canola.
  • U.S. finally gets message but COOL fight continues

    After losing four rounds at the World Trade Organization to Canada and Mexico over mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL), American legislators appear to be getting the message. The House of Representatives moved within 48 hours of the latest WTO ruling to put forward a bill that would repeal the legislation requiring meat that comes from animals born outside of the U.S. to be labelled as such. That is expected to go to a vote in early June.
  • Succession-planning 'tsunami'

    It's no secret Canadian farms have been getting progressively larger as the number of people operating them declines. Those operators are getting older, too. Statistics Canada says 55 per cent of the farmers in this country are age 55 or older. The number of operators under the age of 40 has dropped 75 per cent over the past two decades.
  • Pitting one sector against another hurts everyone

    Reading the newspapers lately, you'd get the impression the fate of the world, or at least the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade talks, hinges on whether Canada will surrender on supply management for dairy. Pundits cite the powerful dairy lobby as a major roadblock, particularly in an election year. Really? Even if you stuffed all of the country's 12,000 dairy farmers into a few ridings and added in their family and friends, their clout is hardly enough to have politicians quaking in their seats.
  • Farmers raring to get jump on spring seeding

    The air is warm, the ground is dry and it's May. So you can't fault farmers for succumbing to the urge to push that seed into the ground. Early seeding is typically associated with higher yield, a gnawing necessity in a year when commodity prices appear to be edging lower due to global market conditions. The annual crop-production budgets put together by Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Development suggest unless farmers do an exceptional job of keeping costs low and getting better-than-average yields, they'll have trouble breaking even on most commodities they grow this year.
  • Farmers don't need to let dust blow away hopes

    There is a bit of dust in Manitoba winds these days. Just ask Manitoba Co-operator reporter Lorraine Stevenson, who returned looking like a coal miner after a trip across some southern municipalities during 70- to 90-km/h winds April 15. But for the modern farm equipment and steel granaries in the background, her photographs of airborne and drifting soil could have been taken in the 1930s instead of 2015.
  • When grain's gone, what to do with the bags?

    Grain bags, those long, white, blobs of plastic you see adorning farmers' fields these days, may not be as aesthetically pleasing on the horizon as the rapidly disappearing grain elevators. But you could argue they are as symbolic of 21st-century grain storage as those Prairie icons were of the past.
  • Debate over popular herbicide may be moot

    There's bound to be a backlash when the safety of popular, widely used and economically important products come under scrutiny. The recent furor over the weed killer glyphosate is no exception. A 17-member committee of the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a statement last month saying the active ingredient in the most widely used herbicide on the planet is "probably carcinogenic." It also put two other widely used pesticides -- malathion and diazinon -- into the same category.
  • Baby boom on cattle farms

    The ground is still frozen, but the first crop of the season on many Manitoba farms is up and frolicking. January through March is traditionally the calving season for cow-calf producers.
  • Banning antibiotics what consumers want

    There's no shortage of reasons to condemn the fast-food business for tempting us with an endless assortment of unhealthy food combos most of us love to eat. But like them or not, they deserve credit for looking out for their customers in an area where government response so far has been nothing short of anemic. McDonald's -- though so far in the U.S. only -- and Costco have joined the growing ranks of buyers who will require their meat to be produced without antibiotic growth promoters. Sick animals will still receive treatment, but herds or flocks will no longer be routinely medicated.
  • University helps Ethiopian farms via partnership

    Hawassa, ETHIOPIA -- Nowhere is the expression "you are what you eat" more profound than in subsistence-farming communities such as those surrounding this university town in the Great Rift Valley of southern Ethiopia. And thanks to a long-standing partnership between the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Hawassa, people in these parts are starting to eat a lot better than they used to -- and they are better for it.
  • Time to rethink our stereotypes of Africa

    Addis ABABA, ETHIOPIA -- When you tell people you are going to Africa, the first thing some people want to know is why on Earth you'd want to do such a thing. The television images of Ebola, poverty and famine have left their mark. People you meet casually, such as in the departure lounge in the airport, immediately ask "Are you a missionary?" It's highly unlikely they'd ask that question of someone travelling to Europe or the U.S.
  • Why did the chicken ride the bus? Africans know

    Lilongwe, Malawi -- At first, I thought it was a baby squawking as I boarded one of the local buses in this country's capital. Nope. It was a chicken... on a bus? You can tell a lot about a country's economy by riding a local bus, starting with your travelling companions.
  • Feeding the small-scale food biz

    There are good reasons why a province like Manitoba would want to cultivate a small-scale food-producing and processing sector, especially since it has been growing steadily despite little government support. In fact, many would argue with some justification growth in Manitoba's small-scale agriculture and food sector has had to overcome a strategic lack of support.
  • Grain Traders CEO offers glimpse into plans to get system on track

    He's been called Saskatchewan's prince of the pulse crops, but Murad Al-Katib was putting on no royal airs when he spoke to farmers attending the Keystone Agricultural Producers meeting in Winnipeg recently. The founder and CEO of Alliance Grain Traders Inc., one of this country's global success stories, was just a guy from Davidson, Sask., who is as interested as anyone in making sure Canada can deliver the goods.
  • Eating local benefits health, wallet

    The Canadian Federation of Agriculture pumps out a news release every year around this time telling Canadians they've hit Food Freedom Day, when the average household has earned enough to buy a whole year's worth of groceries. This year, Food Freedom Day fell on Feb. 6, but the celebration got a little lost in all the headlines about the sudden surge in food prices related to Canada's sinking dollar.

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