Laura Rance

  • 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.
  • Inspecting crops with drones? It will happen

    Spoiler alert: This column contains important information many farmers will find seriously disappointing. Unmanned aerial vehicles are without a doubt the hottest new technology to hit the farm belt, and it's easy to see why.
  • No crystal ball needed to forecast tough year

    Call it what you will -- superstition, intuition or premonition. But even before they went to the fields last spring, Manitoba farmers knew 2014 would be a tough year in which to make a buck. Last year, many figured they were due for a reality check after 2012, when they enjoyed the rare combination of respectable yields and jolly good prices after blistering drought in the U.S. sent markets soaring. But there was more good news -- the bin-buster yields of 2013 surpassed all expectations to bring in a record harvest that was 50 per cent above average.
  • Fusarium showing up more in area cereal crops

    While farmers in western Manitoba are experiencing the sickening sight of fields they did manage to plant this spring drown in a sea of water, farmers across the rest of the province are confronting a scary sea of red. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives' weekly map showing the risk of fusarium head blight disease outbreaks in cereal crops has gone from a somewhat-concerning moderately green to an alarming bright red over the past 10 days.
  • Soggy spring more than just a drop in the bucket

    It will be weeks before the official unseeded-acreage count is in, but it's already known there are hundreds of thousands or acres that couldn't be planted this year. So what now? The official deadline to get a crop seeded and still be eligible for crop insurance coverage passed yesterday and farmers have until Monday to file an application to receive $50 per acre on land they couldn't to seed. That's so crop insurance officials can validate their claim it was too wet to plant.
  • Soil in tire treads can spread disease

    It's the season for making tracks in farming as producers scurry from field to field, tending their crops with tillage, seeding and spraying equipment. And with the cool, dampish spring we've had, it's almost inevitable that when farm equipment leaves a field, it will be carrying a certain amount of soil to the next one.
  • Retaining water a win-win in La Salle Redboine district

    Holland, Man. -- In a symbolic nod to the past, officials here used an old coal shovel to turn the sod May 30 on a project many see as a new future of renewable energy and improved water quality. After decades of failed attempts to drain a picturesque valley located about five kilometres southeast of Holland so farmers could use it for hay and pasture, local landowners working through the La Salle Redboine Conservation District have opted to turn it back to the cattails -- at least for now.
  • Time to free our farmers from producing cheap food

    Whenever modern agricultural practices come under fire, ag boosters typically trot out two time-worn defences -- our farmers have to feed the world, and farmers produce cheap food. It turns out increasing the productivity of small-scale farmers living in poverty -- most of whom are women -- improving market access and reducing waste will go further toward feeding the world than squeezing an extra few bushels per acre out of a Prairie farmer's wheat field -- and use fewer resources.
  • Bee colonies in the balance

    There's one item that's moved closer to the top of farmers' to-do lists as they head for their fields this summer -- be nice to bees. Protecting pollinators now ranks up there with protecting crops as new protocols known as best-management practices come into play for making sure insect- or disease-control products don't contribute to declining bee populations.
  • Chilly weather sows seeds of discontent

    With the farm equipment they have today, Manitoba farmers can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time -- weather permitting. But this year, the weather isn't. In a good year, seeding across the province would be more than half done by the time the cottagers head to the lake on the May long weekend. As of this week, seeding progress in most regions was at less than 10 per cent.
  • What climate change could mean on farm

    OK, the climate is a changin'. We get it. But what does it mean for us? The steady stream of reports and dire warnings about global climate change have hammered the point home and gone a long way toward silencing the deniers. Now, the challenge is spelling out how it's going to affect how we live, where we live and what we need to do about it.
  • Slow-moving farm equipment a deadly danger on highways

    It's one of those years when you have to look at the calendar to know it's springtime, unless you've noticed the other sign of spring that's even surer than warm temperatures. There's been a noticeable increase in the amount of farm equipment lumbering down provincial highways in recent weeks as farmers prepare for seeding. Many are already feeling the pressure that comes with the calendar rolling over May 1 before they've even started in the field.
  • Sowing the seeds of giving farmers more say

    For most farmers, getting ready for seeding means a few trips to their local seed dealer to pick up this year's supply -- bags of seed that come from an increasingly smaller number of very big companies. For home gardeners, the process is much the same. But it's only in the last generation or so seed has become the huge business we know it as today. In the past, farmers and home-food producers routinely saved enough seed from the previous year's crop to sow the next year.
  • Glyphosate-resistant kochia calls for changes in weed war

    News that the troublesome weed kochia has developed resistance to yet another herbicide descended on the province's farmers last week like the first snowfall of winter. They knew it was coming but dreaded its arrival.
  • Handlers planning boost in grain storage

    The press release file of late has been full of announcements from Canadian grain handlers outlining their plans for investment in new and expanded facilities. Add them all up and there are about 150,000 tonnes of additional commercial storage coming into play across the Prairies in the next year, an increase of 1.3 per cent over the current 11.6 million tonnes in 415 facilities. Chances are, there will be a few grain bins going up on farms this year too.
  • Cooking: Try this at home

    Oh the melodrama. Tune into prime-time television after dinner these days and you'll find yourself right back in the kitchen with reality-show contestants competing mercilessly to be the best cook. There's MasterChef Canada, with Dora the plumber squaring off against Danny the construction worker and Mike Green, a journalist from Winnipeg conspiring to create a dust-up between Kaila the realtor and Eric the chemical engineer, while Pino the stay-at-home dad smirks over his risotto.
  • Tories help 'marketing freedom' along

    It was clear from the day they were first elected that the federal Conservatives had an agenda to deliver "marketing freedom" to western Canadian farmers. But beyond that, there was no plan. Now, less than two years into a so-called open market, we have the unprecedented scenario of a government-owned company purchasing and constructing grain-handling facilities in direct competition with the private sector, and legislation placing two politicians in charge of dictating to the railways how much grain they should move.
  • World's water needs raise warnings

    This might sound trite to Winnipeggers who have been living without access to running water for most of the winter, but welcome to the real world. Their situation, albeit temporary,puts them in solidarity with the 80 per cent or so of the world's population that lacks access to water in their homes. The city's water woes, first with discoloured water and then frozen pipes and fractured water mains, perhaps makes today's World Water Day particularly poignant.

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