AIC Notes Top          Issue 2012-06    February 9, 2012 
In This Issue
Jobs Aplenty in Ontario Agri-Food, Report Finds
Ontario Grain Growers, Ethanol Lobby Rip Critical Report
Weakest Links in Food Safety Lie with Food Services and Households
Alberta Backs Ag Societies for Youth Leadership Work
Anaerobic Digesters Promoted
Precision Feeding Cuts Feeding Costs and Reduces Environmental Footprints
BC Apple Industry Embarks On Multi-Million Dollar Upgrade
UN Panel Stresses Need to Boost Crop Yields
Bill Gates Calls For More Innovation, Money for Ag Research
Dupont Leader Calls for Accountability to Prevent Food Crisis
CAST Publication: Herbicide-resistant Weeds Threaten Soil Conservation Gains
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Jobs Aplenty in Ontario Agri-Food, Report Finds 


Ontario's agriculture and food industry is booming, with more job openings than qualified people to fill them, according to a new report commissioned by the University of Guelph's Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).


The report provides a snapshot of hiring trends and demands in agriculture and food, based on a survey of more than 100 agri-food organizations in Ontario conducted by JRG Consulting Group.


"The agri-food sector has emerged as the single most important economic driver in the province," said Rene Van Acker, OAC's associate dean (external relations) and a plant agriculture professor.


"We felt it important to get an assessment of the sector's human resource needs to ensure that we are providing enough graduates and that they have the skill sets necessary to meet the challenges of current and future jobs."


Ontario has the most diverse agri-food industry in Canada - producing more than 200 commodities - and the nation's largest food processing industry, with more than 3,000 companies. Overall, the sector contributes more than $33 billion annually to Ontario's gross domestic product and sustains more than 200,000 jobs.


The survey examined employer demand for college and university graduates - diploma, bachelor's, masters' and doctoral - for such positions as sales and marketing, production, and financial analysis and research.


The study found that industry demand far exceeded the supply of post-secondary graduates in agri-food in Ontario, where three jobs exist for every agriculture graduate with a bachelor's degree.


Survey respondents expected a 10- to 20-per-cent increase in the number of new hires directly from university in the coming years, the study said.


"There are unmet needs in the agri-food sector in the number of students being trained at all levels in both agriculture and food programs," Van Acker said. "The sector is signalling that the requirement for OAC graduates is substantially larger than our current supply offering."


Among the survey's specific findings:

- At the diploma level, industry requires about 500 new hires annually; OAC graduates about 400 diploma students each year.

- At the bachelor's degree level, industry needs 250 to 330 new hires a year in agriculture and 50 to 90 in food processing. About 100 students graduate from OAC in agriculture and about 30 in food science each year.

- At the graduate level, industry needs up to 100 positions a year; more than one-third of responding companies reported difficulty in finding qualified candidates.


The report said the agri-food sector looks for specific qualifications, including "soft skills" (communication, organization, teamwork) and relevant scientific knowledge and technical skills in areas such as crop science, animal science and genetics. Respondents said OAC grads measured up very well in these areas.


"The skills set aligns with the core strength of OAC in knowledge and formal training," Van Acker said.


University of Guelph Press Release, February 2, 2012


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Ontario Grain Growers, Ethanol Lobby Rip Critical Report 

A study painting a bleak picture for Canada's livestock sector under a continued regime of ethanol subsidies and government incentives has drawn blowback from Ontario's grain growers and the voice of the biofuel industry.


The study, commissioned by the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Canadian Pork Council and Canadian Meat Council and authored by the George Morris Centre, Canada's best-known ag think-tank, said Canadian ethanol production increases the price of feed grains in Eastern Canada by about $15 to $20 per tonne, and in the West by $5 to $10 per tonne.


That increase, according to the study released last week, translates into tighter livestock feeding margins and/or increased losses for Canadian producers, totalling about $130 million per year.


"While it would be naive to claim that grain demand for ethanol production has no effect on commodity prices, it is equally inaccurate to speculate that future ethanol policies will have a detrimental effect on the livestock and meat industries," the Ottawa-based Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA) retorted in a release Thursday.


"It is the position of the ethanol and grain industries that the contributing factors to the volatility facing the commodities markets are many and cannot be attributed to one industry," the industry group said.


"These factors include the high cost of fossil fuels, currency fluctuations, massive grain buys from emerging markets such as China, and non-commercial market speculators."


Other studies examining both the impact of crude oil prices and biofuels demand on agricultural prices have found "oil prices are the more influential factor," the CRFA said.


The CRFA and the Guelph-based Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) said the Morris Centre's report "drew grossly overstated conclusions from (the authors') data.


"Their theories which (identified) ethanol policies in Canada as one of the main factors behind challenges facing the livestock and meat industries lacked foundation, and perhaps most importantly, peer review."


"The same farmers"


"There are so many examples of erroneous information in (the Morris Centre's) report that I am disappointed Canadian livestock producers would choose to point a finger at the ethanol industry as the culprit for lost revenue," GFO chairman Don Kenny said in a separate release last week.


"Many of my neighbours with livestock are also enjoying high grain prices, so we are talking about the same farmers here."


A third of the corn used for ethanol becomes livestock feed through distillers' grains, an ethanol byproduct, so "the effect of the ethanol industry in Ontario on our feed supply is negligible," the GFO said.


"In fact the George Morris Centre report actually shows that livestock production has been maintained in recent years and livestock prices have been at or near record-high levels despite the growth of the ethanol industry."


Moreover, the GFO said, "corn yields in Ontario are growing at a rapid rate and without the ethanol industry to take the corn, there would be a significant glut in the market with a detrimental impact on corn farmer income."


The rise in corn production since 2000, the GFO said, is "almost equivalent to the increased amount of corn going for ethanol production."


And where the study alleges unfair competition between livestock and ethanol grain buyers due to government subsidization and tariffs, the GFO said, "grain farmers in Ontario are not protected from an influx of American corn by a tariff. In addition, subsidies are not unique to the ethanol industry."


Kenny also urged Canadians to consider the benefit of ethanol from "the big picture (and) not through the single lens of livestock production," specifically noting the five per cent ethanol mandate cuts Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by over two million tonnes a year, about equal "to taking 440,000 cars off the road."


The GFO said it would rather "work co-operatively with the livestock industry in pursuit of solutions that will raise the value of the whole agricultural industry."


Country Guide, February 7, 2012


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Weakest Links in Food Safety Lie with Food Services and Households 

The weakest links in food safety are found closest to the plates of Canadian diners, according to a Conference Board of Canada report, released on the second day of the Canadian Food Summit 2012.


"Canada's food safety system generally does a good job at protecting the health of Canadians, but improvement is needed," said Daniel Munro, Principal Research Associate. "It is commonly assumed that farms and food processing companies hold the most responsibility for ensuring safe food, and their role is critical. But most food-borne illnesses are associated with the preparation and storage practices of restaurants, food service operations, and consumers themselves."


In its report, Improving Food Safety in Canada: Toward a More Risk Responsive System, the Conference Board estimates that there are close to 6.8 million cases of food-borne illness annually in Canada. Most are mild and involve minor discomfort and inconvenience. It is rare for consumption of unsafe food to cause serious illness or death in Canada. In 2008, there were 40 such deaths.


Seventy to 80 per cent of food poisoning illnesses are associated with mistakes in the final preparation and handling of food products. About half of all food-borne illnesses are acquired in restaurants and other food service establishments, while many of the remaining cases are linked to food that is stored and prepared in the home.


While farms and food processors are less often the source of food illness, they too are part of the solution. Given their position in the food supply chain and the huge numbers of consumers, even infrequent failures can affect the health of many people.


The Conference Board of Canada report, prepared by the Board's Centre for Food in Canada, identifies five potential areas for improvement:

- Providing small and medium restaurants and food service operators with management advice and information on how they can minimize food safety risks and take effective action in the case of outbreaks. The current model emphasizes inspections, but they occur too infrequently to have a decisive impact on day-to-day food safety practices.

- Encouraging better behaviour among consumers by building on current consumer awareness programs. Consumers appear to know what they should be doing to prepare and handle food safely, but they often don't put that knowledge to use.

- Harmonizing private standards to protect the public interest. It is not well known how well the alphabet soup of private food safety standards contributes to consumer protection.

- Making greater use of technology to improve visibility and traceability. Technologies, such as innovations in manufacturing processes, better machinery, food additives, and/or information technologies that assist in tracing the origins of ingredients or products, can help improve food safety.

But some of these technologies entail new risks of their own. Canadians would be well-served by an open debate on the potential benefits and harm of food technology innovations.

- Adding resources to address the potential increase in risks from international food sources. As Canadian meals include more imported foods and ingredients than ever before, additional resources would help ensure that international foods meet Canadian standards.


The report provides a foundation for dialogue on Canada's food safety system and coincides with the Canadian Food Summit 2012. Held Feb. 7 and 8 in Toronto, the Food Summit is part of the Centre for Food in Canada (CFIC), a multi-year Conference Board of Canada program of research and dialogue. About 25 companies and organizations have invested in the project, which will culminate in 2013 with the development of a Canadian Food Strategy.


Link to report:
Link to Centre for Food in Canada:

Conference Board of Canada Media Release, February 8, 2012


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Alberta Backs Ag Societies for Youth Leadership Work 


Agricultural societies in Alberta will get extra funding this year toward farming-related leadership development activities for youth in the province.


"Currently, the average age of Alberta's producers is 51; we need to change that," Agriculture Minister Evan Berger said in a release Friday.


Berger pledged $2 million this year for ag societies, with a portion of the funding earmarked to "help support local programs that encourage our youth to become involved in our agriculture industry."


Seven regional ag societies -- Grande Prairie, Camrose, Lloydminster, Red Deer, Olds, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge -- will each get $142,850 in provincial support this year, of which 10 per cent must go directly to "agricultural youth leadership development or initiatives such as scholarships, training or youth development activities."


The extra money can also be used to "enhance farm safety programming," the province said.

The province's 284 local-level ag societies, meanwhile, will get $2,500 each for activity-based agricultural youth leadership development activities or farm safety programming.


Remaining money from the $1 million granted to local ag societies goes to strengthen "activity-based funding" for 2011-12, the province said.


The dedicated-funding model follows a similar approach taken in 2010, when each primary ag society got a one-time provincial grant of $2,500 for farm safety events and activities. Several societies combined that funding and developed joint programming, the province noted.


"This approach was successful in increasing awareness of the importance of farm safety and it is believed the same success can be achieved in helping develop our agriculture industry's next generation of producers, leaders and entrepreneurs," the province said.


Berger's announcement came on the opening day of the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies' annual convention, which runs until Sunday in Edmonton.


Country Guide, February 3, 2012


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Anaerobic Digesters Promoted


The British Columbia Agriculture Council is asking B.C. consumers and businesses to use Cowpower to electrify their homes and businesses.


Officially launched at the Pacific Agri-Energy Forum last week, Cowpower is intended to allow B.C. farmers to build economically viable anaerobic digesters (ADs). To date, there are only two ADs in the province. One is a large plant producing biomethane, which is injected into the Fortis B.C. natural gas pipeline. The other is a small demonstration project producing electricity at the Bakerview Eco-Dairy.


"ADs are something we want to have widely adopted on B.C. farms," says Matt Dickson, Cowpower program manager.


However, uptake has been limited because of B.C.'s low electricity rates. Consumers pay as little as 6.67 cents a kilowatt hour and business rates can be even less. Although B.C. Hydro's standing offer program provides a simple process for producers to supply electricity to the grid, it pays only 10 cents a kilowatt hour -- still not enough to make digesters economically viable.


Enter Cowpower!


Under the program, residential and commercial electricity consumers voluntarily sign up to pay an additional four cents a kilowatt hour for 25, 50 or 100 per cent of the electricity they consume. Residential consumers may sign up for as little as one month, although commercial customers must sign a three year contract.


The additional fee is for the AD's environmental attributes -- the additional environmental benefits that result from the production of that electricity. These include reduced greenhouse gas emissions and odour from waste management systems, increased water and food safety, environmental protection and nutrient recovery and support of stronger, local farms.


Producers who put in an AD will receive the additional Cowpower funding for five years, meaning they will receive between 13 and 13.5 cents a kilowatt hour for the electricity they generate.


Ethan Warner of CH4 Biogas believes this should be enough to make some projects move forward, although he suspects livestock farmers will need at least 500 cows and at least 25 per cent non-manure waste to make the ADs viable.


If the electricity generated through ADs does not meet the demand, excess Cowpower funds will be put in a development fund to provide farmers with additional incentives.


"With Cowpower, we're providing electricity users with an affordable and effective way to directly support local, sustainable agriculture while also improving their own environmental sustainability. It's truly a win-win situation," Dickson says.


"We're aiming for 0.5 per cent of B.C. Hydro customers," he says, noting that would support 500 or more AD projects.


David Schmidt, FCC Express, February 3, 2012


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Precision Feeding Cuts Feeding Costs and Reduces Environmental Footprints 


A Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada suggests, by utilizing new technologies to better match feed to the nutritional requirements of the pig, pork producers can lower their feeding costs while reducing their environmental footprints.


Precision feeding involves the use of feeding techniques that allow the right amount of feed with the right composition to be provided at the right time to each pig in the herd.


"Sustainable Precision Livestock Farming: A Vision for the Canadian Swine Industry" was discussed last month in Banff as part of the 2012 Banff Pork Seminar.


Dr. Candido Pomar, a Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lenoxville and an Adjunct Professor with the Universities of Laval and Sherbrooke, explains we want to improve the utilization of resources but, the challenge in the field is that there's a lot of variation in the amount of nutrients required by individual pigs.

Clip-Dr. Candido Pomar-Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:
The problem when we're feeding groups is we have to make one feed for all the animals so normally if we don't want to limit growth we are going to feed these pigs taking into account the needs of the most demanding pigs so most of the pigs are eating more than they need.

Precision feeding tries to provide to every pig the amount of nutrient that it needs.

That's what it's doing and that's what we are obtaining.

If we take the example of nitrogen, the same principles can be used for other nutrients.

If we are reducing nitrogen intake by 25 percent that means that with 25 percent less protein we obtain the same body mass, the same animal growth.

In this sense that may represent maybe eight dollars per pig less in feeding cost.

That's what precision feeding can provide to the farmers.

Dr. Pomar suggests we have to use our resources more efficiently so we can produce the same with less or we can produce more with the same.


Bruce Cochrane, Farmscape Episode 4083, February 9, 2012   


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BC Apple Industry Embarks On Multi-Million Dollar Upgrade


With allocation of first-phase funding of $2.7 million from the federal/provincial AgriFlex fund, the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative will embark on a $44 million infrastructure modernization, beginning with its Winfield plant.


This first project will cost $5.25 million to engineer and install a state-of-the-art brine chilling and cooler system for the controlled atmosphere storage facilities.


It's the first such system to be put into use in Canada, but there are a couple in the Eastern United States and others in European apple-producing regions.


OTFC operations manager Rod Vint says the innovative system "quickly and efficiently puts apples to sleep."


It chills much faster than the current ammonia system, is more environmentally-friendly and uses less energy, he says. It's estimated the system will provide annual savings of $340,000, as well as increasing the quality of apples that are stored there, so that more will get into the marketplace.


"There's more accurate control of the temperature in each room," he explains. "Consumers want the perfect apple."


About a quarter of the co-op's storage in the valley is at the Winfield plant, which contains some of the most modern equipment in the valley.


"We want to become a lean manufacturing company. We're looking to the future," Vint says.


B.C. agriculture minister Don McRae notes that a recently released report from B.C.'s Tree Fruit Working Group concluded that modern packinghouses will result in more efficient operations and better position B.C. apple growers to compete in domestic and international markets.


Judie Steeves, FCC Express, Feburary 3, 2012


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UN Panel Stresses Need to Boost Crop Yields 


A United Nations panel met last week to discuss the progress of sustainable development for agriculture. The panel issued a warning that not enough was being done by the world's governments to address agricultural sustainability, and it stressed the need for more political involvement.


UN experts called for an "evergreen revolution," which would work to double agricultural productivity while reducing resource use and avoiding further biodiversity losses, the UN panel told the European Crop Protection Association.


As a result, the UK Crop Protection Association has urged EU leaders to recognize the critical role of plant science innovation in boosting crop yields, preventing harvest losses and enabling more efficient use of key resources such as land, energy and water.


CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer said this latest UN report should serve as a warning against complacency among EU decision-makers: "The EU-27 is one of the world's major food producing economies, yet current policies on issues such as CAP reform, research investment and access to agricultural innovation do not reflect the pressing global need to produce more food."


The report of the UN Secretary General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability 'Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A future worth choosing' is available online at


Colleen Scherer, Managing Editor, Ag Professional, February 8, 2012


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Bill Gates Calls For More Innovation, Money for Ag Research

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men in the world, highlighted the relative lack of money devoted to agricultural innovation and research in his annual letter outlining the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's 2012 priorities.

The Foundation was founded by the Gates' in 1994 and is now the world's largest philanthropic organization. Guided by the philosophy that every life has equal value, the Foundation spends the majority of its funds on global health and development projects, both of which are intimately tied to agriculture.

Gates' comments in his 2012 letter expand on his longstanding interest in agricultural development, to which he says his Foundation has devoted $2 billion.

Research commissioned by the Foundation shows just $3 billion a year is spent researching the seven most important crops, including wheat, maize, rice, cassava, sorghum, legumes and sweet potatoes. Of that, $1.5 billion comes from countries' public funds, $1.2 billion from private companies and $300 million from international research organization CGIAR. By comparison, the Foundation made $2.4 billion in grant payments across a range of program areas in 2010.

"Given the central role that food plays in human welfare and national stability, it is shocking - not to mention short-sighted and potentially dangerous - how little money is spent on agricultural research," he wrote.

In the letter, Gates said the world population is projected to swell to 9.7 billion by 2050. To meet the needs of this growing number of people, he said it is imperative to "help poor farmers sustainably increase their productivity so they can feed themselves and their families," but he realized that is only achievable "if we prioritize agricultural innovation."

Gates also highlighted research being done to combat Ug99, which has been funded by the Foundation through the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project. Ug99 is a virulent wheat stem rust that has devastated crops in Africa and parts of the Middle East and is poised to spread into some of the most populous and volatile parts of the world.

It is the first such disease to rear its head since the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and, in his letter, Gates compared the potential danger a disease like Ug99 can cause to the widespread starvation and poverty caused by potato blight in Europe in the 1840s.

Gates' focus on agricultural research has the potential to dramatically amplify growing concern about the overall stagnation, and in some areas, decrease, in funding for agricultural research.

This is a particular worry for the wheat industry, which is disproportionally dependent on public-sector research dollars that have decreased in recent years because of squeezed state and federal budgets.

At the same time, more private research organizations have announced new investments in wheat research since 2008, and there is increasing recognition that coordination and collaboration among wheat researchers in the U.S. and abroad is necessary to meet growing challenges of diseases and pests while still increasing yields to keep up with population growth.

Gates' letter in its entirety is here

National Association of Wheat Growers, in AgProfessional, February 6, 2012


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Dupont Leader Calls for Accountability to Prevent Food Crisis 


DuPont Executive Vice President James Borel urged more than 200 business, government and non-profit leaders to commit to a new level of collaboration and personal accountability to achieve global food security at The Economist Conferences Feeding the World summit in Geneva. The Feeding the World summit explores actions needed to ensure that a global population rising to 9 billion or more can be fed sustainably and equitably.


"We know that the consequences of hunger and malnutrition are so devastating, so multi-faceted, that no one company, country or organization has all the answers. It will take all of us working collaboratively to ensure that every person has enough nutritious food to eat," Borel said.


"Together, we must take action. Now is the time for increased accountability to prevent the looming crisis that will have ramifications for all people."


DuPont has committed to invest US$10 billion in research and development dedicated to the food, agriculture and nutrition sectors and advancing 4,000 new products by the end of 2020; supporting training and education opportunities for youth around the world, and working with farmers to improve the livelihoods of families in rural communities.


Borel provided several examples of how DuPont is committed to helping feed a growing world including:

Developing a natural culture that preserves and stabilizes raw milk and extends its shelf life by 8 to 12 hours. To a dairy farmer in a developing country, this product can help improve their business model, ensure a valuable protein is available to their family and community, and potentially help them lift themselves out of poverty.


In Africa, DuPont is helping to equip the next generation of smallholder farmers with skills so they can become self-sustaining by investing $2 million over two years to establish a comprehensive professional development institute for 4-H African leadership. The company's initial focus is in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa - countries where the need to engage young people in agriculture is greatest.


Other projects under way involve technology to deliver drought-tolerant seeds to local farmers across the globe. These new seeds will improve productivity and efficiency of water usage across many different crops and regions.


"Science is global - but solutions must be local. The chances of achieving that goal are increased dramatically by creating science-based innovations that target specific local challenges, collaborating with others on solutions and bringing know-how to the people and places that need it most," said Borel.


DuPont Press Release in AgProfessional, February 8, 2012


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CAST Publication: Herbicide-resistant Weeds Threaten Soil Conservation Gains 

Herbicides were developed during the twentieth century to be used with conventional tillage for weed control. Conservation (or minimum) tillage subsequently evolved, which enabled less soil damage when used with herbicides. Selection pressure, however, has resulted in weed species that have made adaptations for survival in conjunction with tillage. A new Issue Paper from CAST, Herbicide-resistant Weeds Threaten Soil Conservation Gains: Finding a Balance for Soil and Farm Sustainability, examines the impact of certain weed management practices on soil conservation objectives and addresses ways to mitigate negative effects.   


The balance between conservation tillage and herbicide-resistant (HR) weed management is the central issue addressed in the paper. As the authors state, "The fundamental conflict facing many producers with HR weed management issues today is the choice between using tillage or land stewardship practices that protect soil and water resources."


The full text of Issue Paper 49 may be accessed free of charge on the CAST website at, along with many of CAST's other scientific publications. The paper also is available in hard copy for a shipping/handling fee.


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee resumed meetings this week. On February 1 they heard witnesses on Growing Forward 2 (Marketing and Trade) from the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Canadian Soybean Exporters Association, Grape Growers of Ontario and Pulse Canada. 


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Coming Events


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


Canadian Society of Soil Science and Association Québécoise de Spécialistes en Sciences du Sol Joint Conference, Lac Beauport, Quebec, June 3-7, 2012


Joint Annual Meeting of ADSA - AMPA - ASAS - Canadian Society of Animal Science - WSASAS, Phoenix, Arizona, July 15-19, 2012


Joint Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Agronomy, Certified Crop Advisors and Canadian Society for Horticultural Science, Saskatoon, July 16-19, 2012

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


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Frances Rodenburg, Editor