Laura Rance

  • 'Fall run' time brings profits and stress

    There's been a lot of bawling in rural areas lately that has little do with dismal market outlooks for grains and oilseeds. Nearly half of Manitoba's farms have cattle. Autumn is when life takes a turn for the spring-born calves that have spent their summer frolicking on green pastures with a steady supply of milk on demand.
  • More isn't always better in the world of farming

    Just three years ago, global leaders were debating a French proposal to set aside stockpiles of grain because drought in key producing regions and the spectre of shortages sent commodity prices soaring to politically scary heights. Well, the subject of set-asides was on the table again at the Cereals North America conference in Winnipeg earlier this month. But this time, it's about cutting acres to prevent farmers from adding more grain to already burdensome supplies weighing down markets.
  • New cabinet bodes well for agriculture sector

    Most of the rural West didn't vote for change in the recent federal election, but it got it anyway. And as the new federal cabinet was revealed last week, it became clear the agricultural sector will not only be dealing with a lot of new faces on issues near and dear, but those faces reflect the reality Canada is among the most urbanized nations in the world.
  • No beef with this new app

    Back when beef was bought by the side and stored in a big freezer on the family farm, one of my brothers found himself in the doghouse over a dilemma many consumers face even today. As a teen, he either didn't know or didn't care how to cook the multitude of beef cuts staring at him out of that cavernous household freezer, freshly stocked before the rest of the family left on a short vacation.
  • Dairy sector resists urge to be defensive

    It would be oh-so-tempting for Canada's dairy farmers to ramp up their defences in the face of rising imports due to trade deals and changes in dairy-processing technology. They could, for example, seek replacement of the sector's protective tariff wall with a non-tariff barrier to block imports of U.S. milk produced with rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), a growth hormone that increases milk production by 11 per cent to 16 per cent.
  • National food policy overlooked

    Food Secure Canada has three words of advice for voters tired of what could be the first federal election campaign in this country's history to debate hairstyles or how 'real' Canadians should dress in public. Eat. Think. Vote.
  • Happy dances justified?

    If their news releases are to be believed, producers of grains, oilseeds, beef and pork were doing one of those happy dances you see in the lottery commercials when the Trans Pacific Partnership was announced. Dairy, poultry and egg farmers weren't. They were, however, relieved at the relatively small increases granted to domestic market access and grateful that the government has put $4.3 billion on the table to help their industries adjust over the next decade or so.
  • Romantic view of farming out of step with times

    Perhaps one of the greatest ironies in agriculture these days is that so many farmers get riled up about the segment of the consuming public that willingly pays more for food -- provided it meets their specifications. Of course, being picky about how food is raised is a First World problem that immediately puts those consumers on the outs with farmers who view themselves as feeding a hungry world.
  • Rural Canada needs to put out the welcome mat

    It was a hot, humid day last summer when I noticed a man working the ticket booth at the inaugural Ag in Motion outdoor farm show near Saskatoon. Sporting a bushy white beard and wearing bib overalls, he matched the stereotype of the "dusty old farmer" Murray McLauchlan made famous in his 1972 ballad.
  • Before we eat you, burger, tell us your story

    So when you're choosing a drive-thru for your fast-food meal, which matters most: that the main ingredients in your meal came from a Canadian farm or the meat was raised with no growth hormones or antibiotics? Canada's two largest burger chains are banking on different sets of values as they duke it out in the marketplace.
  • Fear over toxic jimsonweed

    A pretty flower with a sinister-sounding name had some folks in the Canadian canola industry sounding the alarm recently. Jimsonweed, also known as devil's trumpet, hell's bells, or locoweed, was found growing in three Alberta canola fields when farmers started harvest this fall. Both the plant and its seeds contain highly toxic alkaloids that are dangerous to humans and livestock. Because the weed's seeds are a similar size to canola's, they are difficult to separate during the cleaning process.
  • Farmers making voices heard through social media

    Organizers of a field day a few years back asked the 20 or so people in attendance to introduce themselves by sharing something they'd learned about agriculture in the past year. "Be careful what you say about the competition, because tomorrow you might be working for them," piped up an employee for one of the big farm input companies.
  • Labelling-law fight far from finished

    It's no secret Canadian livestock groups and the federal government would like nothing better than to see the U.S. capitulate and repeal its Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) law. Nor is it surprising the U.S. takes a different view and is administratively fighting it every step of the way -- even as politicians in Washington debate repealing the law or making it voluntary.
  • 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.


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