Laura Rance

  • 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.
  • Farmland values soaring; face of ownership changing

    It could be said that old farmers never retire, they just let someone else farm their land. Nationally, about a quarter of the land that is farmed these days is rented from someone else. But in some regions that proportion is much higher and it varies from farm to farm.
  • To buy or not a farmer's dilemma

    Farmers are born knowing land is a good investment. After all, you have to have it if you want to farm, and there's only so much of it to go around. That's not to say it is always the right investment, or that land values never go down. They do. But the last time that happened was more than 20 years ago. Now there is speculation the meteoric rise in farmland values has peaked. No one expects prices to fall through the floor, but there is evidence supporting a correction to better align land values and cash rents and to better sync land prices with other investment options.
  • 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.

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