Laura Rance

Laura Rance

Columnist

Laura Rance is editorial director at Farm Business Communications.

Recent articles of Laura Rance

Fixing food system must ‘leave no one behind’

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Fixing food system must ‘leave no one behind’

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022

OTTAWA — One of the world’s leading advocates for global food security had a sobering message for the movers and shakers of Canada’s agricultural sector attending the annual GrowCanada conference here this week.

“The reality is, the food system is productive, but it’s not sustainable, folks,” Ertharin Cousin, told her audience of 500 industry and farm organization executives. “That’s why I say our global food system is broken.”

Cousin, who served as executive director of the United Nation’s World Food Program from 2012 until 2017, is the founder and CEO of Food Systems for the Future, which works with partners to invest in market-driven food and agriculture enterprises serving low-income communities globally. She has been named on the Forbes “100 Most Powerful Women” list as well as one of Time magazine’s 100 “Most Influential People.”

Cousin applauded the gains that have been made in reducing hunger and malnutrition since the Green Revolution of the 1960s and made note of the remarkable efficiency of modern food production systems.

Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022

Still hurdles for plant protein to clear

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Still hurdles for plant protein to clear

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022

Plant-based protein has come a long way from the days when those seeking meat alternatives were relegated to chickpeas, beans and lentils.

Even when they were mushed, crushed and formed into burger patties, which can be very tasty, those “veggie burgers” or “garden burgers” that became popular with some consumers in the 1980s still didn’t taste like meat.

That may be fine for committed vegetarians, but they make up less than seven per cent of Canadian food buyers. The real prize in this sector is cultivating the “flexitarian” consumers looking to swap at least some of the animal protein out of their diets for health or environmental reasons.

It’s become clear that if it looks like meat and acts like meat, these consumers want it to taste like meat too.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022

Steve Helber / AP Files

Food manufacturers came out with the likes of Beyond Meat, which consumers associate with plant-based alternatives, about 10 years ago.

Shipping issues, high food prices make volatile situation

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Shipping issues, high food prices make volatile situation

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022

The only clarity to emerge in the eight months that have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine is that there is no end in sight.

Everyone can agree this war has profound implications for grain markets and global food security. However, our understanding of how fundamentally this conflict is changing the geopolitics of food is just starting to evolve.

The numbers tell us this region is a significant player in the global food trade. An analysis released this week by Farmers Business Network (FBN) says Russia and Ukraine typically account for about 29 per cent of global wheat exports, 32 per cent of barley exports, 19 per cent of rapeseed (canola) exports and 17 per cent of corn exports.

We can see how supply chains are disrupted. While grain exports from the region were almost non-existent in the days and weeks following the invasion, they have resumed on a limited basis. FBN estimates Russia’s exports were still off 29 per cent and Ukraine’s by 46 per cent during the period of July through September.

Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022

The only clarity to emerge in the eight months that have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine is that there is no end in sight.

Everyone can agree this war has profound implications for grain markets and global food security. However, our understanding of how fundamentally this conflict is changing the geopolitics of food is just starting to evolve.

The numbers tell us this region is a significant player in the global food trade. An analysis released this week by Farmers Business Network (FBN) says Russia and Ukraine typically account for about 29 per cent of global wheat exports, 32 per cent of barley exports, 19 per cent of rapeseed (canola) exports and 17 per cent of corn exports.

We can see how supply chains are disrupted. While grain exports from the region were almost non-existent in the days and weeks following the invasion, they have resumed on a limited basis. FBN estimates Russia’s exports were still off 29 per cent and Ukraine’s by 46 per cent during the period of July through September.

Down on the farm, it’s been a year of surprises

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Down on the farm, it’s been a year of surprises

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022

With an incoming weather system expected to dump between 50 and 70 millimetres of rain and wet snow on southern Manitoba next week, the push is on across agro-Manitoba this weekend.

There’s much left to do before winter arrives to stay. Whether it’s harvesting the late-season crops such as corn and soybeans or the tardy ones such as a few remaining fields of canola and oats, applying fertilizer, cleaning out slurry tanks or hauling hay, these golden days of October have made it easier for farmers to whittle down the autumn “to-do” list.

Producers this week finally caught up to the five-year-average of having more than 90 per cent of their harvest completed by now, which was no small feat given that spring seeding ran about three weeks late due to the cool, wet conditions.

The remaining fields become much harder to harvest, however. Everything takes longer to dry and mature as the days get shorter and temperatures drop. The grain is more apt to require post-harvest aeration or drying, which takes more time and resources.

Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022

With an incoming weather system expected to dump between 50 and 70 millimetres of rain and wet snow on southern Manitoba next week, the push is on across agro-Manitoba this weekend.

There’s much left to do before winter arrives to stay. Whether it’s harvesting the late-season crops such as corn and soybeans or the tardy ones such as a few remaining fields of canola and oats, applying fertilizer, cleaning out slurry tanks or hauling hay, these golden days of October have made it easier for farmers to whittle down the autumn “to-do” list.

Producers this week finally caught up to the five-year-average of having more than 90 per cent of their harvest completed by now, which was no small feat given that spring seeding ran about three weeks late due to the cool, wet conditions.

The remaining fields become much harder to harvest, however. Everything takes longer to dry and mature as the days get shorter and temperatures drop. The grain is more apt to require post-harvest aeration or drying, which takes more time and resources.

Outstanding young farmers making most of soil

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Outstanding young farmers making most of soil

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022

MINTON, SASK. — When Derek Axten goes to work in the morning, he might be in one of the farm’s expanding base of fields, or he might head over to the nearly finished food-processing plant rising from the rolling prairie landscape south of Regina.

Derek and his biology-teacher wife Tannis had no idea the quest they began 16 years ago to better-manage moisture in this drought-prone region of the Prairies would put them on the map as leaders in regenerative agriculture and ingredient suppliers to international boutique food processors. Or that it would result in them being named Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers in 2018.

They were simply looking for ways to address the most limiting factor to their productivity. The further he dug into it, the more Derek realized that while eliminating tillage was a key first step to conserving moisture, there was much more they could do.

They began intercropping — growing two crops in the same field at the same time. If one of those crops was a nitrogen-fixing legume, there was the added benefit of adding fertility to the soil.

Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022

PHOTO BY LAURA RANCE

Derek and Tannis Axten of Minton, Sask. have expanded their regenerative farm operation to food processing.

Food giants throw support behind regenerative farming

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Food giants throw support behind regenerative farming

Laura Rance 4 minute read Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

A partnership announced in August between McDonald’s Canada and McCains Foods to advance regenerative agriculture practices on Canadian farms puts the spotlight on a concept that’s been gaining momentum — and attracting some controversy — over the past decade.

Depending on who you talk to, “regenerative” agriculture will either reshape the future of food production or become mired in the jungle of conflicting narratives and fade into obscurity.

Although the latter seems less likely now that major food companies and governments are throwing their support behind it, deciphering the differences between the hype, the spin, the potential and the reality is getting harder all the time.

The two food giants announced that they are injecting $1 million into education, demonstration, and cost-sharing grants to help potato farmers adopt regenerative practices and technology.

Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

Kayla Link, co-owner of E & B Farms northeast of Carberry. (Tim Smith / The Brandon Sun)

Gardeners would do well to share their bounty

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Gardeners would do well to share their bounty

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Sep. 24, 2022

The long-standing joke that zucchini season is the only time of year in a small town when you need to lock your vehicle may have lost its lustre due to modern crime waves. But one thing hasn’t changed.

As the sun sets on summer, home gardeners are still desperately trying to find homes for their bumper crops of veggies and apples.

The angst over this temporary over-abundance is even more pronounced this year as inflation pushes purchased food prices into the double digits. Statistics Canada reported recently that retail food prices have risen 10.8 per cent this year while food service costs are up 7.4 per cent.

Dalhousie University’s Food Analytics Lab partnered with Caddle, a mobile market insights platform, to explore how Canadians are changing their food habits in response.

Saturday, Sep. 24, 2022

Farmers focus on catching up with harvest

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Farmers focus on catching up with harvest

Laura Rance 4 minute read Friday, Sep. 2, 2022

Manitoba farmers have a lot of catching up to do as harvest across the province finally swung into high gear this week.

As of this week, farmers across the province had only three per cent of this year’s crop harvested, well behind the five-year-average of 39 per cent. A stormy, wet spring meant spring seeding was three to four weeks later than usual.

Although farmers plant crops and varieties that are specifically bred to reach maturity within this region’s shorter growing season, these plants won’t be rushed through their biological cycle.

Even without a frost, quality suffers the longer harvest extends into autumn. As the days get shorter and daytime highs start to cool, everything takes longer to dry, even with the help of desiccants to speed things along.

Friday, Sep. 2, 2022

Brandon Sun 26082022 Members of Deerboine Colony harvest a crop of wheat south of Rivers, Manitoba on a sunny Friday afternoon. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

Recycled phosphorus could be element of food security

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Recycled phosphorus could be element of food security

Laura Rance 4 minute read Friday, Aug. 19, 2022

Newly published Manitoba research into the merits of recycled phosphorus could help reframe the multi-faceted debate around how farmers can sustainably feed the crops that produce our food.

The notion of recycling phosphorus is still fairly foreign in modern agriculture, but it’s gaining new traction as we come to grips with our Jekyll-and-Hyde relationship with this vital nutrient. On one hand phosphorus is contaminating our waterways and creating expensive wastewater treatment issues for the City of Winnipeg.

On the other, it is a non-renewable resource that we can’t afford to be treating as waste. Known phosphate rock reserves, none of which are located in Canada, are expected to be depleted within the next 140 years. What’s more, because Canadian farmers export most of what they grow, they are continuously drawing down the phosphorus banked in their soils.

The problem is particularly acute for organic farmers, who were the focus for a research team from the University of Manitoba. They can’t use the commercially produced fertilizer products, so unless they have local access to manure, they risk running their soils out of phosphorus.

Friday, Aug. 19, 2022

Newly published Manitoba research into the merits of recycled phosphorus could help reframe the multi-faceted debate around how farmers can sustainably feed the crops that produce our food.

The notion of recycling phosphorus is still fairly foreign in modern agriculture, but it’s gaining new traction as we come to grips with our Jekyll-and-Hyde relationship with this vital nutrient. On one hand phosphorus is contaminating our waterways and creating expensive wastewater treatment issues for the City of Winnipeg.

On the other, it is a non-renewable resource that we can’t afford to be treating as waste. Known phosphate rock reserves, none of which are located in Canada, are expected to be depleted within the next 140 years. What’s more, because Canadian farmers export most of what they grow, they are continuously drawing down the phosphorus banked in their soils.

The problem is particularly acute for organic farmers, who were the focus for a research team from the University of Manitoba. They can’t use the commercially produced fertilizer products, so unless they have local access to manure, they risk running their soils out of phosphorus.

Soil testing may help farmers more than piling on fertilizer

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Soil testing may help farmers more than piling on fertilizer

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022

It’s become apparent in agricultural industry circles this year that there are three types of fertilizer.

There’s the commercial nutrients that most farmers use to feed their crops. There are natural forms such as livestock manure, compost, seaweed and worm castings.

And then there is the B.S. variety — a lot of which has been flying about lately as critics of the federal Liberals try to discredit efforts to reduce emissions from fertilizer use by 30 per cent by 2030.

Note that there is a difference between reducing emissions from fertilizer use and reducing fertilizer use. As well, reducing fertilizer use doesn’t automatically correlate with lower yields. Yet many of the harshest critics of the plan conveniently fail to make those distinctions. Rather, they’ve manufactured a classic “straw man” argument based on the fallacy that the heavy hand of government will force farmers to cut how much fertilizer they apply and that farmers’ yields will drop.

Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau

He’s helping farmers make every seed count

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He’s helping farmers make every seed count

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 30, 2022

With harvest just around the corner, farmers are understandably keen to solve the great growing season mystery. How much grain will their hard work and investment put in their bins?

However, they might also consider another harvest mystery: why they leave so much yield behind in the field.

While it’s virtually impossible to catch every seed produced, some studies have shown that farmers are in such a rush to get job done that they routinely spit a significant proportion of their profits out the back end of their combines.

In a 2019 survey, the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) measured canola losses experienced by 31 farmers using 50 combines made by six combine manufacturers.

Saturday, Jul. 30, 2022

Trevor Scherman of North Battleford, Sask. has developed a system for farmers to collect and analyze how much production they are using. (Laura Rance / Winnipeg Free Press)

Agriculture trade show plants seeds in farmers’ minds

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Agriculture trade show plants seeds in farmers’ minds

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 23, 2022

LANGHAM, Sask. — It’s a given that farmers don’t flock to an outdoor farm show to hang out in a tent and listen to speakers. Unless of course, it’s raining.

The field demonstrations featuring big seeding and tillage equipment, spot-spraying drones, artificial intelligence and various expressions of autonomous agriculture drew spectators by the thousands at Ag in Motion here this week. The show returned to being a live event after two years of pandemic-induced measures that kiboshed most in-person events.

These new innovations on display focus on making agriculture more efficient, more productive, more precise and more environmentally sustainable. In theory at least, all of those things combined could put more money in farmers’ pockets, but there are usually significant upfront investments involved.

For farmers looking for a break from the hot sun or just a fresh take on managing their business, the speaker sessions were a treasure trove of ideas for how they can make more money with a minimum of capital investment. However, it takes time and a commitment to doing things a little differently.

Saturday, Jul. 23, 2022

LANGHAM, Sask. — It’s a given that farmers don’t flock to an outdoor farm show to hang out in a tent and listen to speakers. Unless of course, it’s raining.

The field demonstrations featuring big seeding and tillage equipment, spot-spraying drones, artificial intelligence and various expressions of autonomous agriculture drew spectators by the thousands at Ag in Motion here this week. The show returned to being a live event after two years of pandemic-induced measures that kiboshed most in-person events.

These new innovations on display focus on making agriculture more efficient, more productive, more precise and more environmentally sustainable. In theory at least, all of those things combined could put more money in farmers’ pockets, but there are usually significant upfront investments involved.

For farmers looking for a break from the hot sun or just a fresh take on managing their business, the speaker sessions were a treasure trove of ideas for how they can make more money with a minimum of capital investment. However, it takes time and a commitment to doing things a little differently.

Canola’s uncertain season

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Canola’s uncertain season

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 16, 2022

Canola wasn’t even invented when folk artist Pete Seeger sang his way to fame in the early 1960s asking “where have all the flowers gone?”

However, the question is resonating with a few farmers as this year’s growing season plays out across the Prairies.

True the region is awash in yellow canola blooms as usual, but look a little closer and all is not right with Canada’s signature oilseed crop. There are reports trickling in from across the West that canola plants in some fields dropping their flowers before forming those valuable oilseed pods.

This has happened before. Last year it was pinned to the extraordinarily hot weather during the flowering stage, which causes the phenomenon known as “heat blast.”

Saturday, Jul. 16, 2022

Beef producers would be wise to cut the fat

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Beef producers would be wise to cut the fat

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022

If burgers-on-the-barbecue for Canada Day weekend was a tradition before, it was cemented as a cultural point of pride in 2003 as Canadians rallied in support of beleaguered ranchers shunned by world markets.

Countries had closed their borders to Canadian beef after a cow that died on an Alberta farm was found to be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as Mad Cow Disease. Beef was piling up in warehouses and cattle became unsaleable virtually overnight.

Canadians, at the urging of their government leaders, rose to the challenge in a brave but unrealistic bid to do their civic duty and eat the industry back to prosperity a burger or two at a time.

A couple of decades later, Canadians have been getting a very different message about eating ground beef, whether it’s in burgers or lasagna.

Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022

If burgers-on-the-barbecue for Canada Day weekend was a tradition before, it was cemented as a cultural point of pride in 2003 as Canadians rallied in support of beleaguered ranchers shunned by world markets.

Countries had closed their borders to Canadian beef after a cow that died on an Alberta farm was found to be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as Mad Cow Disease. Beef was piling up in warehouses and cattle became unsaleable virtually overnight.

Canadians, at the urging of their government leaders, rose to the challenge in a brave but unrealistic bid to do their civic duty and eat the industry back to prosperity a burger or two at a time.

A couple of decades later, Canadians have been getting a very different message about eating ground beef, whether it’s in burgers or lasagna.

Before ripping out weeds, consider the bees

Laura Rance 4 minute read Preview

Before ripping out weeds, consider the bees

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Jun. 25, 2022

We used to have a little fun at the expense of my late father, whose devotion to sustainable agriculture was overwhelmed each spring by a compelling need to manually root out every dandelion that popped up on his lawn in town.

It was an impossible mission, as the open green space just across the street was a sea of yellow. We could only think that it gave him something outdoorsy to do on those nice spring days.

Given what we now know about the sorry state of pollinators globally, we might have worked a little harder to convince him to leave those dandelions alone.

Dandelions and a host of other flowering weedy species are important sources of food for bees and wild pollinators, a reality that is often overlooked by landscape caretakers and farmers focused on the bottom line.

Saturday, Jun. 25, 2022

Laura Rance
Both domestic and wild pollinators are having trouble finding enough of the right pollens to support good health.

Farmers adapt to wet in wake of drought

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Farmers adapt to wet in wake of drought

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, May. 28, 2022

Flying over the southern Prairies during the summertime months is like looking out over a giant patchwork quilt with all the different crops sown into boxes neatly framed by square-mile grids.

This year, that quilt might be showing a few odd-shaped holes and the edges might be a bit ragged. Farmers desperate to catch up to the growing season will be working around any low spots that, despite all their efforts at drainage, still show up in the wet years.

It’s no secret that this year is wet, a fact neatly summarized by the latest provincial crop report.

“No part of agro-Manitoba has received less than 131 per cent of normal rainfall for the period of April 12 to May 22, while large parts of Central and Eastern Manitoba have had over 260 per cent of normal rain during that time,” it says.

Saturday, May. 28, 2022

Few interesting blips in latest ag census

Laura Rance 4 minute read Preview

Few interesting blips in latest ag census

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, May. 14, 2022

Rural Revival

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the latest Census of Agriculture is that it contains so few surprises.

Despite increasingly volatile weather and a global pandemic, the sector’s overarching trend lines remain on track.

The numbers of farms and farmers continue to decline, although the 1.9 per cent decline in the number of farmers is the lowest in 25 years. Farm sizes continue to grow, as does the median age of farmers at a pace that far exceeds Canada’s greying demographics.

Saturday, May. 14, 2022

Making farming smarter

Laura Rance 4 minute read Preview

Making farming smarter

Laura Rance 4 minute read Thursday, Apr. 14, 2022

There’s a lot of buzz in agriculture these days about the role artificial intelligence can play in making farming smarter.

‘Smarter’ in this context is about expanding the farmer’s decision-making capacity with more information, which is made better through data management and extending his or her reach through automated systems.

How that physically plays out in the field is still very much in play as companies jockey for position on the cutting edge, but the various ideas coming to market offer some intriguing possibilities.

For example, take Tom, Dick, Harry and Wilma, a quartet of ground-breaking robots whose unassuming names belie their potential to radically change how farmers tend their field crops.

Thursday, Apr. 14, 2022

SUPPLIED
Ben Scott Robinson with “Dick” the weed-zapping robot. “The first data pass that we have been doing in the U.K. shows that we can bring down the use of herbicides using existing machinery by somewhere between 60 and 80 per cent,” Scott Robinson said.

Farmers find good soil management makes $ense

Laura Rance 4 minute read Preview

Farmers find good soil management makes $ense

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Apr. 9, 2022

One thing I dread about spring, aside from its slowness to arrive, is the wind.

Invariably before crops get established, we get a series of major wind events that cause soil to move, shearing off the newly emerging plants, and filling ditches with dirt, the air with fine particles and our teeth with grit.

These events are far less damaging than they used to be because farmers are doing a better job, especially on the Prairies, at keeping their soils anchored, either with the previous year’s stubble or cover crops.

However, a new report released this week by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada and the Compost Council of Canada underscores the emerging reality that good soil management is about much more than keeping it intact as a growth medium.

Saturday, Apr. 9, 2022

One thing I dread about spring, aside from its slowness to arrive, is the wind.

Invariably before crops get established, we get a series of major wind events that cause soil to move, shearing off the newly emerging plants, and filling ditches with dirt, the air with fine particles and our teeth with grit.

These events are far less damaging than they used to be because farmers are doing a better job, especially on the Prairies, at keeping their soils anchored, either with the previous year’s stubble or cover crops.

However, a new report released this week by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada and the Compost Council of Canada underscores the emerging reality that good soil management is about much more than keeping it intact as a growth medium.

Much to learn from a true fight for freedom overseas

Laura Rance 4 minute read Preview

Much to learn from a true fight for freedom overseas

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Mar. 12, 2022

Sometimes, column-writing is like getting into a car and going for a drive, not quite knowing where you are going to end up.

That was the case for me a few weeks ago amid the Ottawa occupation, when truckers and assorted other protesters took their unhappiness on a whole bunch of issues to Canada’s capital, set up camp and refused to leave.

As I mentioned in the column that emerged, it was the sight of farm equipment mixed in with transport trucks, campers and assorted other vehicles at the city events and at the border-crossing protests that prompted me to collect my thoughts around this cheeky display.

I felt then, as I do now, that it reflected poorly on farmers and that it threatened to undermine the millions of dollars the industry has invested defending agriculture’s image to an increasingly skeptical public.

Saturday, Mar. 12, 2022

Sometimes, column-writing is like getting into a car and going for a drive, not quite knowing where you are going to end up.

That was the case for me a few weeks ago amid the Ottawa occupation, when truckers and assorted other protesters took their unhappiness on a whole bunch of issues to Canada’s capital, set up camp and refused to leave.

As I mentioned in the column that emerged, it was the sight of farm equipment mixed in with transport trucks, campers and assorted other vehicles at the city events and at the border-crossing protests that prompted me to collect my thoughts around this cheeky display.

I felt then, as I do now, that it reflected poorly on farmers and that it threatened to undermine the millions of dollars the industry has invested defending agriculture’s image to an increasingly skeptical public.

Tractors in the convoy may send bad message

Laura Rance 4 minute read Preview

Tractors in the convoy may send bad message

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022

Like many Canadians watching the pandemic protests unfold across the country, it’s taken me some time to sort out how I feel about it all.

Everyone loves a parade. No one likes the pandemic restrictions. We’d all like to be done with COVID-19. The question is, restrictions or not, whether it’s done with us.

As someone who works in the media, is focused on agriculture and who lives in rural Canada, it was seeing farm equipment showing up in the images that brought things into sharper focus.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a free country. Farmers have as much right as any citizen to express their opinion — as long as they abide by the laws that govern us all.

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022

Farmers and other supporters of the Freedom Convoys block Highway 402 in Sarnia, Ont. with their tractors, closing off the Bluewater Bridge border crossing to US bound traffic on Sunday, February 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins

Re-establishing livestock’s role in keeping the balance

Laura Rance 4 minute read Preview

Re-establishing livestock’s role in keeping the balance

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022

A new agricultural exchange has just begun operations in Manitoba, 135 years after the Winnipeg Grain Exchange helped put this part of the Prairies on the map as the breadbasket of the world. However, instead of being a commodity exchange, the Manitoba Grazing Exchange (MGE) is about connecting grain farmers who have standing forage such as a cover crop, crop residues or stubble with farmers who have grazing animals to convert that forage into energy, nutrients and carbon.

The objective is to re-establish the historic role livestock grazing played in maintaining a healthy balance between crop removal and nutrient recycling in the Prairie ecosystem. While farms of a century ago were mixed livestock and grain operations out of necessity, that model has gradually been replaced by specialized grain or livestock operations.

“The goal of the MGE is to virtually connect farmers who have available grazing pasture or cover crop fields with livestock owners/ranchers who are seeking grazing land through an interactive map,” Karen Klassen, one of the scheme’s architects, said in a release.

As executive director of the Manitoba Organic Alliance and a Manitou-area grain farmer, she’s well aware of the value grazing livestock can bring to a crop production system by way of increased fertility and weed management without pesticides.

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A cow keeps an eye out as it starts to graze on a fresh pasture. All in a day’s work, Kristine and Graham Tapley replace a fence and move a herd of cattle to fresh grazing as well as keep up to date on the chemical analysis of their feed. See Eva Wasney feature 200929 - Tuesday, September 29, 2020.

Canadian farms grist for the mill of global computer hackers

Laura Rance 4 minute read Preview

Canadian farms grist for the mill of global computer hackers

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022

Mounting international tensions over Russia’s escalating encroachment on Ukraine seem far removed from a Prairie farm family going about their daily business.

However, as this week’s events unfolded, it became disturbingly clear how those seemingly disparate realities could converge.

Just as two cybersecurity experts were delivering a webinar to raise farmers’ awareness that Canada’s agri-food system is considered part of critical infrastructure and that makes them targets for cybersecurity attacks, the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security was issuing this alert.

“The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security encourages the Canadian cybersecurity community — especially critical infrastructure network defenders — to bolster their awareness of and protection against Russian state-sponsored cyber threats.”

Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022

Mounting international tensions over Russia’s escalating encroachment on Ukraine seem far removed from a Prairie farm family going about their daily business.

However, as this week’s events unfolded, it became disturbingly clear how those seemingly disparate realities could converge.

Just as two cybersecurity experts were delivering a webinar to raise farmers’ awareness that Canada’s agri-food system is considered part of critical infrastructure and that makes them targets for cybersecurity attacks, the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security was issuing this alert.

“The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security encourages the Canadian cybersecurity community — especially critical infrastructure network defenders — to bolster their awareness of and protection against Russian state-sponsored cyber threats.”

Keeping crop diversity key for farmers’ futures

Laura Rance 4 minute read Preview

Keeping crop diversity key for farmers’ futures

Laura Rance 4 minute read Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022

If the annual crop-production budgets produced by Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development are any indication, farmers have a long list of lucrative options when deciding what to grow this year.

In the past, these annual spreadsheets have often been a sea of red ink, a warning — albeit not a prophecy, that farmers would have to beat the averages on yields or see a major market turnaround on just about every crop they grew if they hoped to make a profit.

That’s not the case for 2022. All but three of the 17 crops provincial extension staff included in their calculations show potential for profitable returns, a reflection of the tight supply situation created by last year’s drought and robust global demand.

Prices have been at record levels for several key crops farmers here grow. However, so are the costs of growing them. In addition to unprecedented prices for fertilizer, and the potential for supply shortages of seed and other inputs, there is also the likelihood of rising interest rates. On top of all that, there is no telling whether last year’s drought will spill into this year too.

Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022

Matt Goerzen / Brandon Sun files
Canola was grown on 3.47 million acres in Manitoba last year, and ranks No. 4 in profitability in Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development's annual crop-production budget.