AIC Notes TopIssue 2011-44            December 8, 2011 
In This Issue
Food Safety, Ag Inputs, Meat Names Eyed in Pact with U.S.
New Opportunities for Flax Producers
"Green" Report Card for Western Canadian Crops
CFIA Offers Pre-Clearance Process for Imported Seed
Expansion of Canada's Open Data Portal
Biodiesel Plants Seen as Boon for Alberta
Listening In
AC-Sundancer - New Poplar Variety
It Takes Energy to Feed the World
Smarter Investement in Agriculture Needed to Help Africa
Climate-Smart Agriculture Should Be Livelihood-Smart Too
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Food Safety, Ag Inputs, Meat Names Eyed in Pact with U.S.

Canada's livestock and crop producers are expected to see improved trade opportunities and streamlined clearances and product approvals through a pair of joint action plans with the U.S.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama, meeting Wednesday in Washington, D.C., laid out a list of specific goals for what they've dubbed their joint action plans on regulatory co-operation, and on perimeter security and economic competitiveness.


Most of the goals specific to the ag sector are laid out in the plan on regulatory co-operation, in which Ottawa says Canada and the U.S. will "align their regulatory approaches... while not compromising our health, safety or environmental protection standards."


Where agrifood is concerned, the regulatory co-operation plan as announced Wednesday focuses on food safety, ag production and marketing.


From a food safety standpoint, the plan on regulatory co-operation calls for:

- common approaches to food safety systems, reducing the need for each country to conduct inspection activities in the other country;

- streamlined requirements, and where possible, fewer "duplicative regulatory activities" in meat and poultry inspection systems;

- ensuring food safety testing in one country is acceptable to regulators in both countries;

- clearing the path for more cross-border use of laboratory results; and

- streamline export certifications for meat and poultry, and simplifying import and administrative procedures.


"Acknowledging the high food safety standards on both sides of the border provides an opportunity to focus on areas of higher risk, while removing unnecessary burdens on food producers," the federal government said Wednesday.


"Although each country independently administers its regulations -- and there can be differences in approach -- whenever possible, efforts should be focused on regulatory alignment recognizing common health and safety outcomes."


The two countries' requirements and approvals for farm inputs such as pesticides and veterinary drugs are already "highly aligned," the federal government said, but the joint action plan is expected to:

- allow for simultaneous submission and joint review of pesticide applications, improving access to crop protection products and cutting back any spread between the two countries' pesticide residue limits and tolerances;

- "further align" approvals for veterinary drugs for livestock, also cutting back any spread between the two countries on drug residues and tolerances;

- set up a "North American perimeter approach" for plant protection, to "collectively protect plant resources" and streamline certifications for shipments across the Canada-U.S. border; and

- work on a common approach for zoning, to help prevent spread of foreign animal diseases.


On the matter of cross-border marketing of goods, the plan also calls for the two countries to set up "comparable approaches" in protecting fruit and vegetable suppliers in both countries from buyers who default on their payments.


It also calls for a "common meat-cut nomenclature" -- the naming system for meat cuts -- and a mechanism for maintaining that system.


Generally, Harper said in a release, "this action plan on regulatory co-operation will break down regulatory barriers and will make it easier for our firms and manufacturers to do business on both sides of the border."


Securing the perimeter


Several initiatives laid out in the separate joint action plan on perimeter security and economic competitiveness will also directly affect ag trade; the plan also contains pilot programs aimed at agrifoods.


The plan calls for "harmonized and mutually recognized screening of shipments arriving from offshore" on the perimeter surrounding Canada and the U.S. -- which means shipments would be screened at their first point of entry and "not re-screened all over again when they cross the Canada-U.S. land border."


Inbound air and marine cargo, under an "integrated cargo security strategy," would be inspected at the first point of arrival in North America under the principle "cleared once, accepted twice," the governments said.


By 2013, year-long pilot projects are to be launched to assess and examine inbound marine cargo at Prince Rupert and Montreal. If successful, the government said, the pilot programs would be made permanent and expanded to other marine ports in Canada and the U.S.


Among other perimeter security initiatives are a one-year pilot project, beginning in April next year, to provide" trusted trader" benefits to suppliers and importers in the processed food sector.


Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), in a separate release, said the pilot "will allow companies with low-risk products and strong compliance standards to more efficiently move their goods across the border."


Later, in June, a one-year pilot project will also begin for "advance review and clearance of official certification and alternative approaches to import inspection activities for fresh meat."


Also, in September 2012 a truck-cargo pre-inspection pilot project is to be launched in at least one border crossing in Canada.


The Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) also noted the plan calls for the two countries to set up electronic border-related document transmission and receipt of clearance decisions for food and meat products no later than December 2013.


Initiatives in the joint action plans are to be implemented by working groups, made up of officials from regulatory agencies on both sides of the border.


The action plans, Harper said Wednesday, represent "the most significant step forward in Canada-U.S. co-operation since the North American Free Trade Agreement."


Both plans, the government said, "respect the sovereignty of both countries and specify they will work together to promote the principles of human rights, privacy and civil liberty essential to the rule of law and the effective management of our perimeter."


"While today's announcement sets the political direction for these initiatives, there is a great amount of detail to be developed and regulatory processes to undertake," the CCA said in its release.


That said, the CCA added, it's "pleased that the initiative is being described as an ongoing effort and a new way of doing business."


Federal Liberal leader Bob Rae said in a separate release Wednesday that the agreement between the two countries "depends entirely on the availability of funding, which to date neither country has committed."


Country Guide, December 7, 2011


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New Opportunities for Flax Producers

Canadian flax producers can reap the benefits of an innovative project to create eco-friendly bio-composite products using flax fibre thanks to an investment from the Government of Canada. Member of Parliament Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt), on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, announced today an investment of more than $33,000 to Open Mind Developments.


"This project will create new opportunities for our farmers, opening up new markets for flax producers while strengthening our economy by providing processing opportunities across the province," said MP Trost. "The production of bio-composite products will provide farmers with additional markets to ensure they are getting the most value possible out of their crops."


With this investment, Open Mind Developments created a formula using flax straw to develop a smart phone case through an injection moulding process. The results of this project will allow farmers to earn extra income from waste flax straw, and could create additional processing and manufacturing jobs.


"Flax fibre is strong, lightweight and has natural shock absorbing properties," said Open Mind President and CEO, Jeremy Lang. "The properties that make it difficult to handle and manage in the field are the same properties that make it a good additive to strengthen plastic products. Thanks to Government of Canada funding, we have developed a proprietary formula for creating eco-friendly products comprised of flax fibre and petroleum free biopolymers."


Investment in this project is provided by the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP).


AAFC Press Release, December 7, 2011


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"Green" Report Card for Western Canadian Crops

Growing grain in Western Canada is getting "greener". A new sustainable agriculture report, released Dec. 1 at the GrowCanada Conference 2011 in Winnipeg, shows that Western Canadian farmers are producing more grain with less impact on the environment.


"This report highlights some of the great accomplishments of Canadian agriculture in using technology and innovation to make a measurable difference in improving the nutritional and environmental well-being of Canadians and people around the world," says Gordon Bacon, CEO of Pulse Canada.


The Sustainable Agriculture Metrics for Western Canadian Field Crops project looked at two decades of progress on sustainability indicators including land use, soil loss, energy use and climate impact. It followed a similar approach developed by Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture in the U.S. but was tailored to fit with Western Canadian geography and climatic conditions, as well as the data available in Canada.


"Western Canadian farmers are among the best in the world in following sustainable agricultural principles and practices in their field cropping systems," says Ian White, President and CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board. "For customers trying to reduce the environmental footprint of their food products, Canadian grain is a great choice."


The improvements shown in every sustainability indicator, for every crop, are largely driven by the broad adoption of reduced tillage, crop rotation management, improved nutrient management and variety development, which together have resulted in improved yield performance and a softened environmental footprint.


"Farmers naturally innovate to farming practices that build a long-term sustainable future for their farm," says Rick White, General Manager at the Canadian Canola Growers Association. "The project findings are evidence that environmental sustainability goes hand in hand with economic sustainability on Western Canadian farms."


"Farms produce much more than food, fuel and fibre," says Paul Thoroughgood, Regional Agrologist with Ducks Unlimited Canada. "Decisions made when producing crops influence water quantity and quality, habitat availability for wildlife and other ecological values Canadians often take for granted. Increasing productivity on land currently under production is one way the agricultural industry can reduce the pressure to convert what's left of the rapidly dwindling habitat to cropland."


The project looked at eight different crops including wheat, oats, lentils, canola, peas and flax. The Canadian Field to Market Sustainability Project was supported by Pulse Canada, Canadian Wheat Board, Canadian Canola Growers Association, General Mills, Flax Council of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada.


Winkler Times, December 1, 2011


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CFIA Offers Pre-Clearance Process for Imported Seed 

Any imported seed that meets Canadian import requirements can now be pre-cleared for entry before it reaches a Canadian port or border crossing, in a policy shift aimed at preventing border backlog.


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced last week that it can now streamline pre-clearance procedures for imported seed, where previously only industry personnel accredited through the CFIA's Authorized Importer program could get seed pre-cleared before import.


"This small change will benefit producers, importers and the entire Canadian agriculture sector by making sure import procedures reflect the speed of commerce," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a release.


For all imported seed that meets Canadian import requirements, CFIA, effective immediately, can complete an import conformity assessment (ICA) and issue required documents for imports of seed in advance.


The ICA process for seed includes a review of all mandatory documents -- specifically, the import declaration and the seed analysis certificate.


Generally, if seed has been found to meet Canadian import requirements, then a "notice of import conformity" would be issued; the seed can then be planted, repackaged or sold in Canada.


However, until now, seed from importers not covered by the Authorized Importer program had to be held "separate and intact" in its original packages after it was imported, while the CFIA completed the ICA process.


Under the new procedure, all imported seed that requires an ICA can be pre-cleared. The CFIA can complete the ICA process and issue the notice of import conformity in advance.


When a pre-cleared shipment arrives at the border, the associated documentation will be verified and the seed can continue to its destination "without further delay," the agency said.


The pre-clearance option, CFIA said, is meant to give the importer an opportunity to complete paperwork before seed is imported. It won't change priority of processing, the agency said, but it will provide "greater flexibility" to the importer to complete paperwork ahead of time to avoid delays.


"As the seed will be pre-cleared, it will not need to be kept separate and intact once it enters the country and can be released at the border to be planted or sold faster," CFIA said.


An importer would fax his or her required information to the CFIA's ICA office in Saskatoon, making sure to "clearly identify" that the information is for pre-clearance of seed and provide the customs transaction number from the customs broker, if available.


When the ICA is complete, the Saskatoon office will issue the notice of import conformity, and the importer can provide a copy of that notice to accompany the imported seed.


CFIA emphasized last week that it "will continue to monitor imported seed lots through regular sampling and testing, both at the destination and in the marketplace."


Country Guide, December 5, 2011


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Expansion of Canada's Open Data Portal

The Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for FedNor, today announced the addition of more than 4,000 data sets to the Open Data Portal at  


"Making more data sets available is part of our ongoing commitment to Open Government, driving innovation and economic opportunities for Canadians," said Minister Clement.


These additional data sets come from several federal government organizations and include population and economy tables from Statistics Canada, import-export data from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and border wait times from Canada Border Services Agency.


The Open Data portal now has more than 265,000 data sets from 16 participating organizations, up from 10 at the launch of the portal. It is a one-stop shop for federal government data that can be downloaded free of charge by Canadian citizens, researchers, voluntary organizations and private sector businesses.


Application developers can reuse and mashup this data for commercial purposes, research, or community services for the benefit of all Canadians.


"Open Data is one of three streams under Open Government," said Minister Clement. "Through Open Government, policy-makers around the world are becoming increasingly connected, collaborating more than ever with their citizens."


Government of Canada Press Release, December 2, 2011


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Biodiesel Plants Seen as Boon for Alberta

Canada's biodiesel industry is about to get a boost with two new plants scheduled to be built in Alberta, and that's seen as translating to good news for farmers seeking to diversify their revenue.


Lynn Jacobson, vice-president of Alberta's Wild Rose Agricultural Producers (WRAP), said the announcement of Michigan-based The Power Alternative (TPA) and a consortium of Alberta financial backers building two biodiesel plants will be good for the rural Alberta economy.


The total capital cost for each plant is $30 million, with one to be built in the High Prairie region in the province's northwestern Peace region, the other in Smoky Lake County, northeast of Edmonton.


The creation of the two plants is a good step in the right direction in adding some value for the canola industry, he said.


The plants being built this winter will use lower-graded canola to create biodiesel, TPA chairman James Padilla Sr. said in a recent release.


The new plants are expected to create economic windfalls of about $200 million a year each, creating the potential for Alberta to become a North American leader in biodiesel, the company said.


The target is for the first of the two plants to be operational producing 66 million litres of biodiesel a year by no later than the end of 2012 or beginning in 2013, according to TPA's release.


Besides the potential of using biodiesel for co-generation with coal plants, other opportunities for products made by the new plants may include creating aviation biofuel or biochemical products for farmers, TPA said.


With the new biodiesel plants coming, wheat acres could be lost as farmers will be more likely to grow canola, Jacobson said.


However, despite the market potential for the new biodiesel plants, farmers will be unwilling to grow canola for less money, he said.


The food market for canola will still drive values, rather than demand for biodiesel, said Jacboson.


Country Guide, December 8, 2011


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Listening In

A generation ago, Sarah Wray might have gone looking for a farm organization to join. Maybe she would even have started a new club so beginning farmers such as she and her husband Logan could learn from others about getting off to a good start. Or she might have opened up a new branch of Junior Farmers.


Instead, the young Alberta farmer turned to the Net. Instead of looking for a meeting to attend, she and a handful of friends helped build a website for beginning farmers, got government funding to pay for it, and are getting credited with doing a world more good than they ever could at a club meeting.


It's a sign of how Generation Y is going to do things differently.


Not only is this the first generation of farmers to have grown up with keypads welded to their fingertips, it's also a generation with new insights into the power of groups.


"Collaboration will create greatness," Wray tells me with firm conviction.


Yet this generation is also easy to misunderstand. In fact, unless you make a special effort to listen in, it's a generation that you're almost certain to get wrong. Which is a pity, because it's already clear that this is a generation that intends to make its mark.


"Communicating with Generation Y is a whole new playing field for most in agriculture," says Wray, a part-time farmer from Bashaw, Alta., and one of the founders of FarmOn, a website for young farmers.


Every generation is distinguished by its experiences and expectations, as well as by the way it works and communicates. Farmers born from 1922 to 1945 are often called Traditionalists or Builders, and were influenced by the Great Depression and the Second World War. Then came the post-war wave of Baby Boomers, followed by Generation X, or the MTV Generation as it sometimes called, which was born from about 1965 to 1980.


Now a new group of farmers is entering the profession. Generation Y was born between the early 1980s and the new milennium, and this latest generation of farmers has its own unique way of communicating and working, and it has its own way of setting priorities too.


Plus, unlike any other generation in recent memory, they're launching their farming careers in a swell of grain market optimism and amidst a new wave of farmer-direct selling and computer technology.


"Our generation is part of the information age," says Wray. "And using social media is second nature to us."


Started in 2007 by five friends who showed cattle together, was initially created with financial backing from AVAC Ltd. as a way for new farmers to share experiences and learn about the business of farming. "We felt there was a real disconnect between what was actually happening and us," says Wray.


Read the rest of the article here.


Maggie Van Camp, Country Guide, November 22, 2011


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AC-Sundancer - New Poplar Variety

Tree nursery owners across the Prairies are eagerly awaiting the release of a new poplar variety developed by researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). The AC-Sundancer, a new hybrid poplar variety developed through AAFC's Agroforestry Development Centre is expected to garner new commercial opportunities for the Canadian nursery sector.


"We've found a real gem with the AC-Sundancer," said Henry de Gooijer, manager at the Agroforestry Development Centre in Indian Head, Saskatchewan. "While developing a suite of hybrid poplars, we came up with one that has a lot of potential for the ornamental and nursery trade in Canada."


Originally developed for environmental purposes, the AC-Sundancer has taken on a life of its own - the tree is now being released as a commercial cultivar for the landscape industry and is in high demand from rural land owners.


"What's great about the AC-Sundancer is that it is not particularly big or broad, so it can easily fit on smaller properties," said Bill Schroeder, researcher at the Agroforestry Development Centre. "It's a very clean tree in that it doesn't suffer from diseases usually associated with other hybrid poplars, such as bronze leaf and rust disease. Its root systems are controlled and don't spread; it's male so it doesn't have seeding problems. And, unlike other hybrid poplars, the AC-Sundancer doesn't grow very fast and systematically die too early."  


The AC-Sundancer came from the Poplar Breeding Program at the Agroforestry Development Centre, which has been developing hybrids since the 1940s. The mandate is to grow hybrid poplar varieties for ecological purposes - environmental applications on the farm for the interception of nutrients, protection from wind erosion, carbon sequestration and biodiversity enhancement. The program is all about developing highly adapted, resilient poplar trees that work on the landscape. These poplars are then delivered to producers through the Prairie Shelterbelt Program.


"We've developed 17 hybrid poplar clones for Prairie farmers to plant since the 1940s," said de Gooijer. "Virtually every hybrid poplar tree growing on Prairie farms originated from our program."


Every once in a while a new poplar will come along through the program and have a different kind of potential, as in the case of the AC-Sundancer, for the commercial landscape industry.


"It's not necessarily the sort of hybrid variety that one would put into a riparian buffer that will intercept nitrogen runoff moving from a potato field into a stream," said de Gooijer. "But it might be the type of tree that a strawberry grower would put on the west side of his strawberry patch to provide some microclimate modification and wind control, because it is extremely narrow and doesn't take up a lot of space."


The AC-Sundancer also provides a source of revenue for the Agroforestry Development Centre because every poplar grown and sold through the commercial nursery trade results in a royalty for the Centre.


The AC-Sundancer is just one innovation among many at the Agroforestry Development Centre, which has been planting trees in agricultural landscapes for 110 years. The centre promotes the environmental and economic benefits of integrating trees with agricultural systems through research, extension and provision of seedlings to Prairie farmers and other eligible clients.


AAFC Press Release, December 6, 2011


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It Takes Energy to Feed the World

There's been lots of talk lately about how the world is now home to seven billion people - and counting.

The discussion is usually in the context of the debate over how we're going to feed all of those folks in a world of increasingly limited resources and more volatile weather.


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently added some perspective with its call for more "energy-smart food" for people and climate.


The discussion paper points out much of the productivity increases we've seen since the Green Revolution have relied heavily on fossil fuels.


Nitrogen fertilizer production alone accounts for about half of the fossil fuels used in primary production.


The food sector currently gobbles up about 30 per cent of the world's total energy consumption. Not surprisingly, the high-GDP countries such as Canada use more energy than the low GDP-countries where farmers tend to be poor, their farms small and producing mostly to feed themselves.


On the other side of the energy equation, the food sector contributes over 20 per cent of global greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions.


"The great challenge the world now faces is to develop global food systems that emit fewer GHG emissions, enjoy a secure energy supply and can respond to fluctuating energy prices while at the same time support food security and sustainable development," the report says.


It says food production must gradually be disconnected from increased energy demands if the world is to achieve a secure food supply at prices people can afford to pay.


Simply put, the world's resource base can't support the strain of low-GDP countries catching up to the production systems of high-GDP countries.


"Industrializing agricultural systems by increasing fossil fuel inputs may no longer be a feasible and justifiable option," the report says.


But also unacceptable is moving wholesale to production approaches that use less energy but also reduce yields, such as simply cutting back on fertilizer rather than optimizing how it is used.


The report's authors stress lowinput systems can have relatively high energy intensities if they produce less food. This is the argument routinely used against organic systems, despite the growing pile of data that show well-managed organic systems can enjoy yields that are as good as, or better, than conventional systems while using less energy.


The report says globalization in the past two decades appears to have increased the average distance travelled by food products by 25 per cent.


Buying locally produced food can indeed tend to have a lower carbon footprint. "... since the food at farmers markets is usually sold fresh or minimally processed, the buying-local approach can be more energy-efficient than purchasing heavily processed and packaged supermarket goods," it says, noting buying local is estimated to cut greenhouse gas emissions for the average U.S. household by between four and five per cent.


But that's not always the case. The trend toward buying food at "farmers markets" that sell only local produce may in some cases save relatively little energy on transport, the report says.


New data on life-cycle analysis of food products are showing "food imports from countries where productivity is greater or where refrigerated storage requirements are lower could have a smaller carbon footprint than locally produced food."


The authors steer clear of the rhetorically loaded debates over conventional versus organic systems, or locally produced food versus imports. Instead, they provide some rational context for societies in the throes of making some of those choices.


Another report released last week by a group of Canadian commodity organizations says producers are on the right track when it comes to improving the sustainability of their farming systems while increasing their productivity.


The project, called Sustainable Agriculture Metrics for Western Canadian Field Crops, looked at two decades of progress with indicators including land use, soil loss, energy use and climate impact for the major crops grown in the region.


Producers here have generally adopted soil-conserving practices.


But they have a long way to go to reduce the amount of fossil energy needed to run their farms.


If producers in other countries can indeed leapfrog to production systems based on renewable and less costly energy sources, Canada's export advantage could be undermined.


Laura Rance, Winnipeg Free Press, December 3, 2011


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Smarter Investement in Agriculture Needed to Help Africa

Soil fertilizer subsidy programs run by many African governments are heading for failure unless Integrated Soil Fertility Management and good agricultural practice are promoted at the same time, says the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC), a group of scientific and agricultural experts led by the international science and development organization, CABI.


In a video produced for World Soil Day on Dec. 5 2011, ASHC argues that using mineral fertilizer alone is not enough. It urges policymakers to widen their investments in soil fertility to promote Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) where mineral fertilizer is combined with organic inputs (such as manure, or legume crops) and improved seed varieties in ways that are locally adapted to take account of the soil and socio-economic conditions of farms and farmers.


Decades of increasing intensification of farming to support the rapidly growing population combined with a succession of one-size-fits-all treatments have deprived the soil in much of Africa's farmland of nutrients, leaving it less fertile and less capable of supporting high yields. "The high price of mineral fertilizers in Africa make subsidies an understandable choice for policymakers to help farmers, but in fact Africa has enormous potential to boost yields by integrating even small amounts of fertilizer with organic inputs and improved varieties," said George Oduor, Deputy Regional Director (Research), CABI.


The video shows how in West Africa, with limited labour and small financial risks, sorghum and millet farmers apply micro-dosing. By adding small amounts of fertilizer and compost to each planting hole they produce more straw and harvest more cereals that are enough to carry them to the next season.


In East and Central Africa, many farmers have turned to rotating their maize crop with improved varieties of legume crops, such as soya beans and climbing beans. Apart from providing cash, the nitrogen-rich residues help to improve soil fertility and boost maize yields.


"ISFM is as important as the fertilizers themselves if you want to feed your family or sell your produce," said Oduor. "There is strong evidence both from research and from working with African farmers that not all soils respond well to fertilizers and combining practices is key to improvements in yield, but it is a tall order to expect farmers to implement it by themselves. We are calling on local and national governments, NGOs and private companies to work together to champion ISFM practices across Africa.


With the right knowledge, and smart funding choices, we can make a big difference - not only for today, but for generations to come."


CABI Press Release, December 5, 2011


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Climate-Smart Agriculture Should Be Livelihood-Smart Too

Encouraging climate-smart agriculture can lead to climate change adaptation practices in a partnership where the farmer's needs are addressed.


"Climate-smart agriculture has the potential to increase sustainable productivity, increase the resilience of farming systems to climate impacts and mitigate climate change through greenhouse gas emission reductions and carbon sequestration," says Henry Neufeldt the lead expert on climate change at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).


Agroforestry - the growing of trees on farms - is one such climate-smart agricultural practice, and it has tremendous potential for both climate change adaptation and mitigation as well as providing a source of fuel, food, medicine and supplementing the diets of smallholder farmers.


Tree-based farming systems need to be encouraged as part of a low carbon emissions development pathway and adaptation strategy. For example, in tropical forest margins, agroforestry has been used in several protected area landscape buffer zones and within conservation areas as one way of alleviating pressure on forests for timber, thereby reducing deforestation and the resultant loss of carbon sinks.


Drawing lessons from the Philippines, a newly released policy brief from the ASB Partnership shows that programmes to support such initiatives are more likely to succeed in areas that are already deforested or where remaining forests are effectively protected, and where farmers have secure land tenure.


However, agricultural methods that focus on climate change solely will not be as successful as methods that focus on improving farmer livelihoods. Food security is the central focus for many smallholder farmers. In her work, Tannis Thorlakson, a scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre discovered that smallholder farmers in western Kenya are aware that their climate-coping strategies are not sustainable because they are forced to rely on actions that have negative long-term repercussions. These include eating seeds reserved for planting, selling assets (livestock, tree poles, etc.) at below market value, or building up debt in order to survive. These are only short-term solutions to drought and poverty.


By 2050 approximately 70 percent more food will have to be produced to feed growing populations, particularly in developing countries. As climate change causes temperatures to rise and precipitation patterns to change, more weather extremes will potentially reduce global food production.


In Africa, where 80 percent of smallholder farmers own less than two hectares of land, there will be 1.2 billion more people to feed. Farmers will have to adapt to these changing conditions in order to feed this growing population.


"Our research shows that when farmers change their farming practices their returns are not immediate and in some cases there is a drop in income. For climate-smart agriculture to work there has to be incentive for farmers to change and maintain new production systems," says Neufeldt, speaking at the ongoing COP17 Climate Change Talks in Durban, South Africa.


"Climate-smart agriculture won't be effective unless it specifically targets food security and livelihoods. Farmers must have sufficient incentives to change the way they manage their production systems," says Neufeldt.


Sayon Kourouma, is a farmer from Guinea, West Africa, who has benefitted from an ICRAF partnership project for peanut tree farmers, that seeks to cater to household needs while improving the way in which local forests are managed.


"I am now earning four times as much as I made in the past," says,Sayon. "If my children are sick, I don't have to ask my husband for money, I can pay for medicines myself."


Other signs of her new-found prosperity include a cow and her mobile phone which she uses to transact

business. To cater to her basic necessities, Sayon no longer relies on solutions that bring about deforestation. To her, climate-smart agriculture has helped her adapt to climate change while improving her living standards.


Small or micro-scale farming is the primary source of livelihood for over two-thirds of Africans. With this great number of farmers, climate change adaptation can be enhanced once the farmers have the right incentives to participate in climate-smart agriculture. Farmers in the Thorlakon study believe the most effective way to adapt to climate-related shocks is through improving their general standard of living.


In discussions about how to help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change, it will be paramount to first focus on their short-term needs and find mutually beneficial methods that meet these needs and support the push towards climate change adaptation.


CGIAR Press Release, December 2, 2011


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee had two meetings this week on its study on the new agricultural policy framework Growing Forward 2 (Competitive Enterprises).  On December 6, witnesses appeared representing Éleveurs de volailles du Québec, Potatoes New Brunswick, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities and the BC Breeder and Feeder Association.


On December 8, witnesses appeared representing the Canadian Pork Council, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Keystone Agricultural Producers and National Cattle Feeders Association.


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Coming Events


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 


Conference Board of Canada Canadian Food Summit, Toronto, February 7-8, 2012 


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


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