AIC Notes TopIssue 2011-41            November 17, 2011 
In This Issue
AAFC Launches New Ag Research, Commercialization Fund
Agriculture at a Crossroads
Canadian Farmland Values Rise Again, Says FCC
ADM Confirms Biodiesel Plant for Lloydminster
AAFC Funds Nuffield Agriculture Leadership Scholarship
Global Commission Delivers Food Security Policy Recommendations
Evidence Supports Ban on Growth Promotion Use of Antibiotics in Farming
AICF Grants for Extension Speakers Program Available
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

AAFC Launches New Ag Research, Commercialization Fund


The federal government has budgeted $50 million for a new funding program meant to support development and commercialization of new products and processes in the agriculture sector.


Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Quebec MP Jacques Gourde on Thursday launched the Agricultural Innovation Program (AIP) at separate events in Regina and St-Hyacinthe, Que., respectively.


The AIP, divided into separate "knowledge creation and transfer" and "commercialization" funding streams, is expected to provide grants and loans for "industry-led science and technology projects that bridge the gap between ideas and discoveries, and products in the marketplace."

Making such products, technologies, processes and services commercially available is expected to help the Canadian ag sector increase employment and revenues and reduce production costs, the government said.


Although it will be a national program, AIP is expected to support local-level initiatives to help address "specific pre-commercialization issues or opportunities," the government said.


"The investment will help leverage private sector resources, which are key to ensuring prosperity and competitiveness of our agriculture sector."


The program is scheduled to run until the end of March 2013.


The AIP's Knowledge Creation and Transfer stream is meant to provide agri-entrepreneurs, firms and organizations "greater access to government, university and other resources required to support successful transformation of innovative ideas into viable business ventures."


That stream splits again into "innovation strategy development," funding activities that facilitate national value chain development such as consultations, market research, business planning, communications, workshops, administration and co-ordination services; and "applied science, technology development and piloting projects," funding activities that "foster collaboration between the private sector and/or academic labs" for the "successful transformation of innovative ideas and prototypes into new technologies."


The Knowledge Creation and Transfer stream will offer "non-repayable" grants for such work.

The Commercialization stream, meanwhile, is to back for-profit companies, co-operatives and organizations with "repayable" funding for projects that commercialize and/or adopt innovative agricultural, agri-food or agri-based products, technologies, processes and services; set up, expand or modernize a facility to do so; and/or create marketing opportunities accordingly.




Commodity groups on Thursday hailed the AIP's launch, among them the Canadian Cattlemen's Association making specific note of the Knowledge Creation and Transfer funding stream.


"Applied research is vital to the industry's competitiveness through developing more efficient and environmentally sound production practices, and ensuring consumer confidence through food safety and beef quality," CCA president Travis Toews said in a separate release.


The AIP's Knowledge Creation and Transfer stream, he said, is expected to help Canada's Beef Cattle Research Council to develop its research results into "solutions and opportunities for industry."


"Programs like (AIP) will ensure that government and farmers continue to work together to remain responsive to the needs of Canadian agriculture, and competitive on the world stage," Chicken Farmers of Canada president David Fuller said Thursday, "as we have shown ourselves to be in our evolving on-farm food safety programs, as well as within our commitment to research and animal care."


Further information is available on the AAFC website.    


Country Guide, November 10, 2011 


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Agriculture at a Crossroads


Evan Berger says he couldn't have picked a better time to be named Alberta's agriculture minister.


Blessed by near-perfect weather, the harvest finished ahead of time, yields were plentiful, quality was strong and prices robust - all combining for that rarest of commodities: happy farmers and ranchers.


Berger can scarcely believe the good times. "It's fantastic," Berger says, leaning back in his new legislature office.


"Both grains and oilseeds as well as livestock are all good right now and the harvest was good," says Berger, who's also a Nanton-area mixed producer.


"Usually one is up and the balance tips the other way on the other side of the industry, and right now we're at a point that's probably historic in the fact that all these commodities are in a higher state than normal."


But while agriculture appears to be basking in good times again after a stormy decade of droughts, disease and low prices, some industry observers point to what they call serious flaws that compromise Alberta's long-term ability to be a low-cost global supplier of commodities.


Already, the warning signs are there, says Jerry Bouma, of Toma & Bouma Management Consultants, a firm specializing in agriculture.


Alberta's agricultural production has fallen nearly across the board since peak values reached years or decades ago, according to Statistics Canada figures Bouma has gathered.


The acreage of wheat estimated for 2011 of 6.9 million acres has fallen 14 per cent from a high water mark of eight million in 1992. Projected barley acreage in 2011 of 3.68 million is down 44 per cent from a peak of 6.55 million in 1981.


In livestock, beef cow counts are forecast in 2011 at 1.69 million, compared with 2.2 million in 2005.


There are expected to be 145,000 sows in Alberta in 2011. That's down from a peak of 209,000 in 2002.


"When I see those numbers I say 'holy smokes!'" Bouma says.


"Why in this situation where everyone talks about increased demand and opportunity, why are our big numbers going in a different direction?


"It's not just market conditions. It's more than that."


Bouma says the problems are long-held, ingrained institutional and structural systems under which agriculture operates, which no longer meet today's global and faster-moving challenges.


He uses Alberta's pork industry as an example of a sector whose competitiveness has lagged over the past 10 years mostly because of the way it is organized as a business. Producers and processors operate independently from each other, and often at cross-purposes. When one side makes positive margins, the other doesn't, he says.


"We haven't developed the kind of integrated business relationships that our competitors have developed, and until we do that we are fundamentally in an uncompetitive situation."


Despite having the attributes to be a major global player, the industry lacks the volume, resulting in higher costs of bringing hogs to market, he says. "We're a one-shift industry competing in a two-shift world."


Bouma says Alberta should look to Triumph Foods, a producer-owned pork processor whose state-of-the-art plant in Missouri handles 5.5 million hogs a year.


"The producer group owns the plant and contracts with a processor to run the plant and market the product. The producers own the plant, so they're not selling hogs, they're marketing pork.

"The proceeds are based on the sale of the pork back to the producer, not on the selling price of just the hog. And they've got enough volume where they can maximize the use of that plant."


The beef industry lacks a distinct brand identity to differentiate it from U.S. beef. "It's not so much a capacity issue; it's a marketing issue with beef."


Meanwhile, Alberta's wheat and barley sector is held back by the Canadian Wheat Board, Bouma says.


"It's acted as, quite frankly, a major disincentive for innovation and growth."


Agriculture in Alberta also suffers from "industry fatigue" from years of drought, disease, low prices and the prolonged feud of wheat and barley marketing. "People have got worn out and discouraged, and the next generation of producers are saying this is a waste of time."


Talk of a potential "lost generation" and an aging workforce is being raised on Alberta's farms and ranches.


"One of the key issues we see at Wild Rose Agricultural Producers is a lack of new entrants to farming," says Humphrey Banack, a Round Hill-area farmer and the president of the producers' group.


"The new entrants have to be there because they're part of everybody's retirement plan and they're needed to move the industry ahead. These new entrants are going to have to be sophisticated in marketing and business."


Government can lend a hand in encouraging a new generation to work the land by changing tax laws to make it easier to roll farms over to new entrants, family members or not, or allowing a new operator to buy a farm over 10 years instead of one big cash hit, he says.


Rancher Dave Solverson, the finance chairman for Alberta Beef Producers, said a shrinking number of producers is a concern for another economic reason.


"If we lose too many more producers, there's a chance of losing some more infrastructure. Now we have two major packing and processing plants at Brooks and High River, and if the numbers continue to decline, their margins are very tight, we're sure hoping we can arrest the decline."


In 2009, during a recession, the gross domestic product for primary agriculture industries in Alberta plunged 20.5 per cent to $4.9 billion.


The GDP recovered in 2010 with a gain of 14.8 per cent.


Agriculture's shrinking proportion of Alberta GDP suggests the once-dominant sector is steadily losing ground and influence.


Not exactly, says Peter Boxall, a professor in the University of Alberta's faculty of agricultural, life and environmental sciences.


He says one part of agriculture - the production side - is in flux, but the industry as a whole is still growing.

"The production side is undergoing structural change, and yet the food processing and food side is growing, I suspect, in its contribution to GDP.


"The elephant in the room in all of this is the energy sector which, of course, is the major contributor to the GDP. Agriculture could be ticking along but as GDP is growing, I'm not convinced that a lot of it is the contribution of agriculture. Most of it is energy."


Bouma says Alberta is suffering from "Dutch disease," an economic phenomenon in which discovery of natural resources puts other industries at a disadvantage.


"It drives up the cost of all the inputs, notably labour. Most farm businesses and food processors have a difficult time keeping labour because they can be attracted at much higher rates to the energy sector."


A strong loonie buoyed largely by the energy sector has also diminished the competitiveness of Alberta food exports, Bouma says.


Some of the keys to agriculture's future involve the industry playing a bigger role, along with forestry, in positioning the province as a cleaner energy producer, including its role as a carbon sink and potential bio-digesters to process waste, he says.


"Agriculture as a solutions provider also has the potential to generate new sources of revenue for agricultural producers and rural communities," writes Bouma in a discussion paper.


Bouma also suggests more strategic research and development and upgrading technology to offset costly labour, fuel and materials.


Agriculture Minister Berger already has marching orders from Premier Alison Redford in a mandate letter that include some of those directions.


Redford wants Alberta Agriculture to work with the ministries of energy, environment and sustainable resource development "to design and implement an initiative to make Alberta the national leader in energy efficiency and sustainability."


At the provincial Crop Diversification Centre North and the University of Alberta's Agri-Food Discovery Place, scientists are already working, with industry funding, to develop high-yielding, disease-resistant crop varieties and a variety of bioproducts.


One U of A researcher, David Bressler, is extracting protein material from waste animal carcasses that is eventually converted into a variety of plastics - a potential use for the 5,000 tonnes of animal carcasses buried every week by the North American food processing industry.


"(Bioindustrial) gives our producer more outlet opportunities," said Jim Jones, branch head for Alberta Agriculture's food and bio-industrial crops department.


"Flax or hemp could be used in fibreboard, but it could also be used for temporary roads. They biodegrade over a period of time" Temporary bio-roads could allow energy companies to move oil rigs into remote areas with less environmental damage.


"The bio-industrial side just creates more opportunity for producers for outlet and cash flow. It's another income stream for farmers. For example, you can grow lots of alfalfa in our climate; you can feed it to animals or it can go into a bio-reactor to produce energy. With more options, it's more income stream and more viability for the sector of agriculture."


According to Alberta Agriculture, crop producers will be the biggest beneficiaries of biorefining by creating a new premium market for crops specially developed and grown for fuel and potentially creating stable, long-term, local markets.


"It's the future of agriculture," said Bob Rimes, executive director of Agri-Food Discovery Place, a university-owned pilot plant facility partnered with Alberta Agriculture.


With the costs of recovering fossil fuels rising, Rimes says biofuels offer alternatives.


"Here's a good opportunity to look at all these alternatives - what else can we make fuel from?

There are a lot of things and there are a lot of different processes."


Bio-materials hold promise for the industry, said Gordon Cove, president and CEO of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.


"That's really adding value on something that's of poor value and that just adds to the viability and overall profitability of the industry."


Berger says it's this potential new direction of the industry that gets him most excited.


"The innovation and changes that have happened in my lifetime have been incredible, but I think the biggest change that's really been noticeable for me in the last three weeks in this position is finding out all the new uses for byproducts that we didn't have before. It's absolutely phenomenal. They're looking at eggshells for use in batteries. They're looking at offal and SRMs (cattle tissues not used for food or feed) for use in plastic panels.


"That's probably the side of agriculture we're not noticing the change on. There's all these opportunities coming from new uses and developments."


He says those advances could see agriculture expand to employ more Albertans. "One in four people in Alberta are currently employed indirectly or directly in agriculture. That's a target I think we can move."


With Alberta's output falling, producers are looking at non-traditional ways of generating revenue


Bill Mah, Edmonton Journal, November 13, 2011


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Canadian Farmland Values Rise Again, Says FCC 


According to a new Farm Credit Canada (FCC) Farmland Values Report, the average value of Canadian farmland increased by 7.4% during the first six months of 2011, following gains of 2.1 and 3.0% in the previous two six-month periods. The FCC report provides important information about changes in land values across Canada and is available at


Farmland values remained stable or increased in all provinces. Saskatchewan experienced the highest average increase at 11.6%. The Saskatchewan results appear to mirror the U.S. situation, where double-digit increases in farmland values have been reported in several corn and soybean states. Two contributing factors to the current value increase are the ongoing strength of commodity prices, combined with land values that previously increased at a slower rate than in other areas of the country.


"Farmland is more than a production resource - it's a source of wealth for farmland owners. So it's not surprising that changes in the price of farmland generate interest from producers and others in the industry," says Michael Hoffort, FCC Senior Vice-President of Portfolio and Credit Risk. "The upward trend in farmland values appears to have accelerated. Canadian farmland values have risen steadily during the last decade." Previously, the highest semi-annual average national increase was 7.7% in 2008. The last time the average value decreased was in 2000, when it dropped by -0.6%.


The average national price of farmland has increased by about 8% annually since the commodity price increase began in 2006. That's about twice the rate observed in the first part of the decade. Near-historic highs in crop prices and lows in interest rates are other factors supporting higher land prices.


"Low interest rates, good crop prices in recent years, along with low returns in financial markets mean farmers are buying more land," says Jean-Philippe Gervais, FCC Senior Agriculture Economist. "These three factors combine to increase demand for land and push prices up. As long as crop prices continue to be strong, farmland values should remain high."


"Agriculture matters to Canadians and the positive overall health of the industry is definitely being reflected in recent land value trends," says Hoffort. "It is an indicator of the industry's strength, and it is good news for producers who hold land as an asset. At the same time, it can be a challenge for those who want to buy farmland to expand their operation. That's why we offer loan products that can help young farmers buy land."



"Producers often ask if they should purchase land now while prices are trending upward or wait to see if they come down. The answer is that it depends. Sound information and an assessment of personal risk tolerance can help make the decision easier. The next six-month report will be very interesting," says Richard Hayes, FCC Senior Director, Valuation. 


To view the FCC Farmland Values Report video, visit


The FCC Farmland Values Report has been published since 1984. 


FCC Press Release, November 14, 2011


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ADM Confirms Biodiesel Plant for Lloydminster


Agrifood giant Archer Daniels Midland has stopped studying and started moving on plans for a biodiesel production plant next door to its canola crushing plant at Lloydminster, Alta.


ADM on Monday confirmed it will build a 265 million-litre capacity plant at the Alberta/Saskatchewan border city, having studied the idea since April 2009.


The project will operate as a joint venture, called Northern Biodiesel Limited Partnership, with Vancouver-based Canadian Bioenergy Corp., which started talks in 2009 with ADM toward a jointly-operated plant and took part in the feasibility study.


The plant is expected to increase ADM's own North American biodiesel production capacity by 50 per cent, and to help Canada fulfill its mandate for renewable diesel fuel, ADM said. A mandatory minimum took effect in July requiring two per cent biodiesel in all diesel sold in Canada.


Construction is expected to start next spring for completion in the fourth calendar quarter of 2013, ADM said Monday.


The Lloydminster site "will help optimize ADM's agricultural origination, transportation and processing assets in Canada," the company said. The company already runs a biodiesel plant next to its canola crushing facility at Velva in North Dakota.


"The same agricultural processing operations we use to transform canola into oil for food and meal for animal feed also provide ADM with the ability and scale to efficiently produce cleaner-burning, renewable biodiesel," Mike Livergood, ADM's vice-president for global oleo chemicals, said Monday.


"This new biodiesel facility will help support canola crush margins and capacity utilization at this facility."


Illinois-based ADM in August 2010 announced plans to add a second unloading bay and double its grading capacity at the Lloydminster crush plant, noting area farmers in a survey had said they "were concerned about the amount of time they spent waiting to unload."


The company in March this year also announced plans to add five more storage bins at the site, doubling its storage capacity to 100,000 tonnes, and to add a second receiving system with additional conveyors and other equipment.


The second receiving system was expected to double the plant's crop intake rate and cut farmers' wait times in half, the company said at the time.


"Increased demand"


"Biodiesel represents a smart investment for ADM and for Canada," said J.P. Montalvo, commercial manager at ADM's Lloydminster facility, said Monday.


"A robust Canadian biodiesel industry diversifies the fuel supply, provides environmental benefits and fosters increased local demand for canola, which creates value for rural communities."


Much of the Lloydminster crush plant's oil output is already destined for export to Europe for use as biodiesel feedstock, and to Asia for food applications.


Apart from its deliveries from area growers, the Lloydminster plant sources canola from ADM elevators at Carberry, Man., about 50 km east of Brandon, and at Watson, Sask., about 40 km east of Humboldt.


Country Guide, November 14, 2011



AAFC Funds Nuffield Agriculture Leadership Scholarship


AAFC is providing $181,000 to Nuffield Canada to pilot its new educational agriculture leadership scholarship program.


"Our Government's top priority is the economy, and Canada's young farmers are vital to fostering growth in our agriculture industry," said MP Tweed. "Our Government's investment in this program will help increase agricultural leadership and an international perspective among young farmers leading to a more profitable agricultural sector in Canada."


This investment will enable Nuffield Canada to revamp their prestigious leadership program, which has been offered in Canada for over 50 years. The $15,000 scholarships are awarded each year to farmers who are judged to have the greatest potential to create value for themselves, their industries and their communities. With a new, more focused curriculum, Nuffield Canada will develop educational programming that will equip scholars to take on leadership roles within the agricultural sector and make it more globally competitive by fostering international linkages.


"This investment will allow our 2011-2012 scholars to participate in a new pilot project and their experience will help remodel the Nuffield Program," said Nuffield Chair Barry Cudmore. "This revitalization of the program will increase Nuffield Canada's stature amongst the global Nuffield organization, and will lead to future growth in the program and its positive impact on Canadian agriculture. As Chair of Nuffield Canada, I want to thank Minister Ritz for this opportunity and wish our pilot scholars all the best as they move forward in this project."


This investment is from Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP), a five-year (2009-2014), $163-million program with the objective of facilitating the agriculture industry's ability to seize opportunities, respond to new and emerging issues, and test solutions to new and ongoing issues.


From an AAFC Press Release, November 17, 2011


Global Commission Delivers Food Security Policy Recommendations


A new report published by an independent global commission of eminent scientists states that the world's food system needs an immediate transformation to meet current and future threats to food security and environmental sustainability.


The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change today released a Summary for Policy Makers that recommends crucial policy responses to the global challenge of feeding the world in the face of climate change, population growth, poverty, food price spikes and degraded ecosystems.


"This report provides an urgent call to action," says U.S. commissioner Molly Jahn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Global demand is growing for food, fodder and bioenergy crops, food prices are rising to historic levels, and extreme weather events around the world further erode food security. The good news is that there are concrete steps, supported by the best available scientific research, that we can take now."


The Commission, comprised of 13 senior natural and social scientists from around the world, was created earlier this year to develop research-based policy changes and actions toward establishing stable, secure and sustainable global food systems in the context of a changing climate.


In making their recommendations, the commissioners cite the interconnected relationship between agriculture and the environment. As populations grow to upwards of 9 billion people, increasing demand for food, fuel and feed crops could stress many agricultural systems and result in further depletion of soil fertility, biodiversity and water resources and increased greenhouse gas emissions.


Commission chair Sir John Beddington, from the United Kingdom, says, "It's about reorienting the whole global food system - not just agricultural production, and not just in developing countries. We need a socially equitable, global approach to produce the funding, policy, management and regional initiatives that will deliver nutrition, income and climate benefits for all."


The Summary for Policy Makers contains seven recommendations addressing policy, investment, sustainable intensification, safety nets, consumption patterns, food waste and knowledge systems:

  • Integrate food security and sustainable agriculture into global and national policies;
  • Significantly raise the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade;
  • Sustainably intensify agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture;
  • Target populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity;
  • Reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating habits worldwide;
  • Reduce loss and waste in food systems, particularly from infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits, and;
  • Create comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions.

The summary presents actions that the commission suggests be implemented simultaneously by a constellation of governments, international institutions, investors, agricultural producers, consumers, food companies and researchers. Recommended tactics range from shifting economic incentives and making 'fast start' funds available for agriculture to strengthening land rights and building transparency in food markets.


The report also emphasizes the need for multiyear commitments of financial and technical assistance to help agricultural producers build resilience to climate variability and improve their livelihoods, while contributing to climate change mitigation.


"We are already in the business of managing significant risk and navigating trade-offs," says Jahn. "Agricultural greenhouse emissions are undeniably a significant issue. We need to innovate approaches to deal with this, but not at the expense of the food production by poor farmers today."


The commission will share its recommendations Dec. 3, at Agriculture and Rural Development Day in Durban, South Africa, and at other policy forums throughout 2012. The final report will be released early in 2012.


The commission is financially supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. The commission brings together senior natural and social scientists working in agriculture, climate, food and nutrition, economics, and natural resources from Australia, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, France, Kenya, India, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.


The Summary for Policy Makers, a full list of commissioners, and additional information are available at


Jill Sakai, University of Wisconsin-Madison, November 16, 2011


Evidence Supports Ban on Growth Promotion Use of Antibiotics in Farming


In a review study, researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine zero in on the controversial, non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals and fish farming as a cause of antibiotic resistance. They report that the preponderance of evidence argues for stricter regulation of the practice. Stuart Levy, a world-renowned expert in antibiotic resistance, notes that a guiding tenet of public health, the precautionary principle, requires that steps be taken to avoid harm.


"The United States lags behind its European counterparts in establishing a ban on the use of antibiotics for growth promotion. For years it was believed that giving low-dose antibiotics via feed to promote growth in cows, swine, chickens and the use of antibiotics in fish farming had no negative consequences. Today, there is overwhelming evidence that non-therapeutic use of antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance, even if we do not understand all the mechanisms in the genetic transmission chain," says Levy, MD, professor of molecular biology and microbiology and director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University School of Medicine.


For the past 70 years, humans have relied on antibiotics to combat bacterial infections such as streptococcus, meningitis, tuberculosis and urinary tract infections. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics, however, has contributed to antibiotic resistance, making antibiotics less effective at saving lives. Levy and co-author Bonnie Marshall summarize and synthesize the findings of a large number of studies assessing the link between antibiotic resistance and the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock and fish farming. Highlights include the following.


The use of non-therapeutic antibiotics is widespread


According to estimates, antibiotics are eight times more likely to be used for non-therapeutic purposes than for treating a sick animal.


Current practices set the stage for the rapid spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria


The long-term administration of antibiotics in animal feed creates an optimal environment for antibiotic resistance genes to multiply. Essentially, treated animals become "factories" for the production and distribution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as Salmonella and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a troubling infection that is resistant to common antibiotics.


Bacteria can transfer antibiotic resistance to other bacteria, and multiple different resistance genes can be linked together in this process. Thus, even if farmers turn to antibiotics that are not commonly used to treat people, these drugs - given over long periods of time - can also promote resistance. Several studies demonstrated that antibiotic-resistant bacteria can easily spread from animals to people in close contact with animals, such as veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers, farmers, and the families of farmers.


As much as 90 percent of antibiotics given to livestock are excreted into the environment.


Resistance spreads directly by contact and indirectly through the food chain, water, air, and manured and sludge-fertilized soils.


The broad use of antibiotics in fish food in farm fishing, particularly overseas, leads to leaching where it can be washed to other sites, exposing wild fish to trace amounts of antibiotics.


The consequences of antibiotic resistance are great


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant infections cause longer and more expensive hospital stays, and greater risk of death. Each year in the US antibiotic-resistant infections result in $20 billion in additional health care costs and $8 million in costs in additional hospital days. If antibiotics are ineffective, patients may end up paying more in search of alternative drugs, and enduring a wider range of side effects.


Bans on the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics are effective in diminishing antibiotic resistance


Bans in several European countries have led to decreases in antibiotic resistance. Bans in Denmark and Germany have not only decreased the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farm animals, they have decreased the presence of these bacteria in humans.


Alternative farming practices such as reducing animal crowding, improving hygiene, and improving use of vaccines have been shown to compensate for some of the growth benefits conferred by non-therapeutic antibiotics.


Levy and Marshall also highlight areas of study that may improve our understanding of the link between antibiotic use in animals and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Modern genetic techniques are helping, they report, but there are still gaps in our understanding at each stage of the transmission chain.


"Aquaculture, or fish farming, has been relatively understudied, yet water is a prime medium for the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," says first author Bonnie Marshall, MA, MT (medical technology), senior research associate in the Levy laboratory at Tufts University School of Medicine.


"While the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics remains contentious, the evidence is strong enough to merit precaution. Antibiotics save lives. When infections become resistant to primary antibiotics, and alternative antibiotics must be used, health care costs increase. As more infections become more resistant to more antibiotics, we run the risk of losing more of our arsenal of antibiotics, resulting in needless deaths. It's important to consider what we stand to gain versus what we stand to lose," concludes Levy.


The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has already taken some steps toward stricter regulation of non-therapeutic antibiotic use, acknowledging that the practice is in conflict with protecting the public health and proposing measures to limit the use of these drugs in animals. Levy and his colleagues in the field of infectious disease have called for antibiotics to be classified by the FDA as "societal drugs," establishing specific regulations to protect the efficacy of the drugs.


Marshall BM, Levy SB. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. "Food Animals and Antimicrobials: Impacts on Human Health." October 2011, 24(4), 718-733, doi: 10.1128/CMR.00002-11


Siobhan E. Gallagher, Tufts University, November 15, 2011


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AICF Grants for Extension Speakers Program Available 


The Agricultural Institute of Canada Foundation invites applications for funding support from its Excellence in Extension: The Blackburn Fund. The Extension Speakers' program was established to promote the principles of extension, adult education and development, and supports one national or two regional speakers annually, to a maximum of $2,000 per event. Criteria, application form, and contact information can be found at The deadline for applications is January 1, 2012 for activities to be funded by June 30, 2012.


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee will meet on November 22 to continue hearing witnesses on its study on the new agricultural policy framework Growing Forward 2 (Science and Innovation). Witnesses will appear from the Canadian Canola Growers Association, Canadian Organic Growers, Dairy Farmers of Canada and Turkey Farmers of Canada. 


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Coming Events


Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, National Hemp Convention, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 21-22, 2011 


Canadian Weed Science Society Conference, Niagara Falls, November 21-24, 2011 


15th Annual Fall Canadian Agriculture Outlook Conference, Calgary, December 1-2, 2011


Canadian Forage and Grassland Association Conference and AGM, Saskatoon, December 13-14, 2011


Canadian Agricultural Economics Society, Growing Forward in a Volatile Environment, Second Annual Canadian Agriculture Policy Conference, Ottawa, January 12-13, 2012


Irrigated Crop Production Update Conference, Lethbridge, January 31 -February 1, 2012 


Canadian Organic Science Conference, February 21-23, 2012, Winnipeg, Manitoba 


6th Annual Growing the Margins: Rural Green Energy Conference and Exhibition and 4th Annual Canadian Farm and Food Biogas Conference and Exhibition, London, Ontario, March 5-7, 2012


5th World Congress of Agronomists and Agrologists, Quebec City, September 17-21, 2012 


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AIC LogoAIC Notes is a weekly update provided as a service for AIC members.  Please do not circulate or post.  The content of AIC Notes does not represent official positions, opinions or support of AIC or its members. 

Frances Rodenburg, Editor