AIC Notes Top         Issue 2012-20               May 24, 2012 
In This Issue
Feds Set Up Interim Prairie Grain Research Checkoff
Pay Farmers for Environmental Practices, Says KAP
Bioamber to Open New Markets for Ontario Farmers
Business Case for Energy Crops Expected to Improve
Online Tool Tracks Ontario, Quebec Crop Stages
Funding for Green Agriculture Research
Government of Canada Funding for Manitoba Hog Industry
Feds Stick with Strict Product-Of-Canada Rules
Who Is Winning The Food Fight?
G8 Summit to Help 50 Million Africans Out of Poverty
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
Coming Events

Feds Set Up Interim Prairie Grain Research Checkoff 


The federal government plans to set up a new and voluntary producer checkoff to bridge the funding gap for Prairie wheat and barley research for the next five years at most.


Draft regulations for the checkoff are to be available online this week and printed in the Canada Gazette on Saturday (May 26) for a 30-day comment period, to take effect for the start of the new crop year on Aug. 1.


The Alberta Barley Commission, which has run the research checkoff for Alberta's barley growers since 1991, is proposed in the regulations as the administrator for the new Prairie-wide checkoff.


The government, in announcing the program Tuesday, said it intends for the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) and Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre "to continue to receive the same level of funding they received through the previous arrangement."


The new checkoff is temporary, though, and is proposed to last only up to five years.


Beyond that time frame, the government said Tuesday, "it will be up to the grain industry to have developed and administered its own checkoff, if it considers this to be a priority for the sector."


The new checkoff follows from Bill C-18, the federal Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, which removed the Canadian Wheat Board's single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley, as well as the CWB's authority to collect checkoffs to fund wheat and barley variety research, both as of Aug. 1.


C-18 also provided for development of regulations to put a new voluntary checkoff in place, specifically to support:

- research activities into "new and improved" grain varieties;

- promotion of the marketing and use of grain grown in Canada; and

- technical assistance relating to the use of grain grown in Canada.


The new checkoff is to be done at point of sale and will appear as a deduction on the cash purchase tickets issued to farmers when they deliver grain, the government said Tuesday.


"This will be done in a manner that is fully transparent so that farmers can see the full amount of their support to grain research," the government added.


Support for such research is currently provided through a combination of producer checkoffs and direct grants from the CWB pool accounts. Those CWB grants, the government said Tuesday, have been "non-transparent to farmers, as these lowered the final payment for all farmers."


The new checkoff will not apply to imports, producer-to-producer sales, sales of feed and/or exports not delivered through licensed facilities. It will apply to sales of wheat and barley grown in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Peace River region of British Columbia and delivered to licensed facilities issuing cash purchase tickets.


Producers will be able to request refunds of their checkoff dollars, the government said. However, it noted as an example that only about five per cent of producers, on average, request to opt out of the WGRF checkoff each year.


The current checkoff for WGRF funding will continue for the 2011-12 crop year, the government said.

The proposed regulations "will not impede the development of additional checkoffs under existing provincial and federal regulation," the government said.


The WGRF, for one, "is committed to working with the established and emerging provincial wheat and barley commissions to synchronize check-off collection and regional research investments," foundation chairman Dave Sefton said in a separate release.




Cigi board chairman Murdoch MacKay said in a separate release that Tuesday's announcement brings "clarity" to the institute's planning for the near- and longer-term.


"With the transition to an open market in Western Canada, customers have been asking Cigi if we will continue to provide them with the technical support and expertise that they have come to rely upon," Cigi executive director Earl Geddes said Tuesday.


"This funding ensures that we are in a position to continue to meet customer needs as we work on behalf of farmers to position their crops in key markets."


WGRF executive director Garth Patterson added that the new checkoffs "will allow producers to leverage additional public and private investment to increase our overall breeding research efforts and remain competitive with other exporters."


Alberta Barley Commission chairman Matt Sawyer said in a separate release that the organization's goal as the "agency of record" for the checkoff "is to ensure there are no funding disruptions for these organizations when (C-18) goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2012.


"As a grassroots, farmer-run organization, we understand the weight of this responsibility and we take that very seriously."


The Alberta commission was proposed as the new checkoff agency "after much consultation with the industry," the government said, adding it was the organization "best prepared to take on the role."


Country Guide, May 22, 2012


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Pay Farmers for Environmental Practices, Says KAP 


Governments should use financial incentives to get farmers to participate in environmental programs, says the leader of Manitoba's leading farm organization.


Producers must be compensated for environmental practices instead of just being regulated to do them, says Doug Chorney, Keystone Agricultural Producers president.


Chorney says KAP recognizes there are times when regulations are necessary. However, Chorney also told a recent House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development meeting that sometimes environmental regulations, though well intentioned, are introduced without sufficient research and consultation.


"The result is a regulatory environment that stifles industry growth, adds significant costs to farm operation and fails to achieve conservation goals," he said in his presentation.


The committee is conducting a study into a National Conservation Plan announced in last year's Speech from the Throne. The committee has called for ideas from the public on what an NCP should be and what it should do.


Chorney says if farmers are expected to provide society with environmental goods and services, they should be rewarded for it. "An NCP must ensure that this principle of society paying for ecological

benefits is a pillar in its program development."


He gives the Alternative Land Use Services, a program originated by KAP that pays producers for sound environmental practices on their farms, as an example. ALUS pilot projects have been conducted in several provinces, including Manitoba.


ALUS is a good example of giving farmers incentives to carry out environmentally friendly practices that benefit all of society, he says. "If done correctly and with adequate funding amounts, this is a very effective program."


The committee voted in January to undertake the study, which began with meetings in Ottawa in March and April. It is holding further public hearings in Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax this month to hear from more people involved in conservation efforts.


Ron Friesen, FCC Express, May 18, 2012


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Bioamber to Open New Markets for Ontario Farmers 


The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is pleased with yesterday's BioAmber announcement to proceed with the construction of a world class bio-processing plant in Sarnia, Ontario. BioAmber will source local feedstock including corn and wheat beginning in 2013 to produce bio-succinic acid, used in food and beverages, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

"This is wonderful news for the local economy," says Mark Wales, OFA President. "In addition to the jobs that will be created, local sourcing of feedstock enhances transportation logistics and reduces costs."

Once BioAmber is running at full production, it will create a new opportunity for the marketing of corn and wheat for Ontario farmers. The company's initial grain requirement is equivalent to 15,000 to 20,000 acres of production per year. The green chemistry involved in BioAmber's processes will also support the manufacturing of other products in the Sarnia industrial complex, making the complex a more robust offering overall.

"Ontario farmers have proven their ability to produce high quality crops in a sustainable manner," says Wales. "Farmers are committed to programs such as the Environmental Farm Plan, and we are proud to see our environmental efforts carry through the value chain."

This initiative supports Ontario producers' efforts to find new markets for biomass crops for energy, bio-products or bio-processing. Since 2010, OFA has been examining opportunities to enhancebiomass value chain initiatives based on funding received under the "Generate Energy for Ontario by Developing an Innovative Agricultural Biomass Value Chain Sector" project. Investment in this project has been provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP). In Ontario, this program is delivered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council.


AgriLink, May 22, 2012


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Business Case for Energy Crops Expected to Improve 


I'm among that crowd of Canadians who feel they're getting taken to the cleaners by Big Oil, while governments stand by and collect tax on inflated gas prices.

Greed is the only reason that's emerging after last week's mean-spirited spike at the pumps. Other excuses - such as switching from winter to summer gas, problems in the Middle East and shortages due to refineries closing - have been written off as lame by industry experts.

Some people say complaining about the price of gas is like a junkie complaining about the price of dope. But I don't accept that. Mass transit works well in many situations, but it doesn't always fit the bill in an expansive country such as ours. In many case, driving a vehicle is a necessity.

Periodically, advances are made in renewable fuel, an energy source that's already arrived and shows great promise for further refinement. Efforts are underway in labs and facilities across the country, including the University of Guelph, to create and improve reasonably priced bio-based fuels and products made from feedstocks, or biomass, which can be grown in Canadian farmers' fields. As an example, a consortium of 10 scientists from seven Ontario universities came together last month, led by Guelph-based Ontario Agri-Food Technologies, to form what they've called the Ontario Biomaterials A-team, to zero-in on these opportunities.

Biomass production comes with its own critics who say using land to grow crops for energy is diverting it away from food production. Others say it's not and argue farmers should be able to grow whatever they want. It's their land. We need to recognize that despite whatever altruistic image we have of farmers - stoic, humble, serving society first - they must make a profit on whatever they grow. If we won't pay them a reasonable price to grow food, then who can blame them for growing more lucrative crops that are turned into renewable energy, particularly if they help lessen our dependence on Big Oil and prove to be easier on the environment?

For farmers, the price of biomass has been a problem. Traditionally, they've been able to sell corn headed to ethanol production for a decent price. But it turns out other feedstocks - miscanthus, switchgrass, sorghum and tall prairie grass, in particular - can also produce profitable energy, according to a new report released last week. The report, Assessment of the Business Case for Purpose-Grown Biomass in Ontario, says farmers here have the potential to grow "hundreds of thousands of tonnes" of these crops. And more importantly, they can fetch a margin comparable to that of traditional cash crops, such as corn, wheat and soybeans.

That's a significant finding. Profitability is relative compared to some other forms of energy, says Don Hewson, managing director of the Bowman Centre for Technology Commercialization in London, which had a lead role in the study. In local markets, he says, biomass is less than half the cost of heating oil and propane, which now supplies a large portion of rural Ontario. Indeed, space heating applications, using heating oil and propane, are potentially profitable markets for purpose-grown biomass pellets in Ontario.

Hewson admits large energy utilities are currently best served by coal or natural gas. But, he adds, in the near term other opportunities could arise such as agricultural biomass exports to Europe. The business case for energy crops is expected to improve even more as additional acreage is grown, especially as research in plant breeding and advances in production practices help increase yields.

"There is a future for the purpose-grown biomass industry," says the report. "Farmers are encouraged to include these crops in Ontario's agricultural system."


Owen Roberts, AgriLink, May 22, 2012


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Online Tool Tracks Ontario, Quebec Crop Stages 


As farms continue to grow in size and complexity, any tool, service or practice that can free up time, decrease workload or cost, or garner some piece of information that can lead to increased yield or save a farmer some fuel is usually more than worth the investment., the latest addition to a farmer's virtual toolbox, is now available from Weather INnovations Inc. (WIN), based at Chatham, Ont.


A follow-up program to the company's popular SPRAYcast calculator, provides growers with a more thorough assessment of the staging of their corn crop, based mainly on growing degree days (GDDs) and crop heat units (CHUs).


Participants can log in and select site-specific locations for monitoring, and receive information on a crop's season-long growth stages as well as forecasts on drydown moisture levels during harvest.


"The idea is that when the farmer comes on to WeatherCentral and registers a field and registers a planting date, his growth model is synched to his planting date at that location and the weather at that location, so that each field, each registration, can be unique," says Ian Nichol, president and business manager of WIN.


Farmers who register receive a more-accurate breakdown of their field. Whether it's planted May 7 or April 26, the calculator can provide precise weather-related information, based specifically on the planting date of that particular field.


With corn planting finished in southern Ontario, farmers registering now would require some retrospective accumulation of weather data. But the WeatherCentral system is available to all farmers in Ontario and Quebec, so farmers in Eastern Ontario and Quebec are in an ideal situation to register now.

For this web-based calculator, Weather INovations has partnered with Pride Seeds and Bayer CropScience, and is in the process of doing the same for soybean fields. But that is, as Nichol says, a work in progress.


"All of our services are," he says. "We never consider anything finished because we do enough applied research that there's a new question every season, and we want to have a place where new those things are hosted."


Based on the crop staging component of the system, growers can also target maturity dates for the crop, based on moisture levels. Using the Growth Stage Calendar and accumulated weather data, a crop that is planted on April 15 in the Chatham region is estimated to reach VE (emergence) on May 10, VT (tassel) on July 10 and full maturity on Sept. 1.


Using that date and setting moisture levels at six per cent, the drydown date prediction tool forecasts Sept. 12 as the earliest date for harvest. The system can be set with alarms and alerts, as well, enabling farmers to target their dates for various stages, including a herbicide spray application.


"The stage of development of corn is tremendously useful, and having a good idea of when it might be time to put on a fungicide treatment on the corn, and booking that ahead can be incredibly useful," says Nichol.


"The tool could give a farmer the five-day notice ahead of time, and send him a reminder that this field was planted, say, May 3, and it's forecast to be in tassel 'next week,' and you ask for a reminder one week ahead."


Weather INnovations said it continues to refine existing tools available for growers, as well as define new online programs. Currently, WIN offers SPRAYcast, DONcast and WHEATcast models to help cereal growers with their spray conditions, DON levels in wheat infected with fusarium head blight (FHB) and septoria and powdery mildew levels, respectively.


There is also a "My Fields" dashboard component on the website, allowing growers to track their individual fields, and provide at-a-glance' situation reports.


Ralph Pearce, Country Guide, May 23, 2012


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Funding for Green Agriculture Research 

Canadian farmers will have the opportunity to increase their profits while mitigating their impact on the environment with the support of the Harper Government. Member of Parliament Laurie Hawn (Edmonton-Centre), on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, announced today an investment of nearly $600,000 to the University of Alberta to study greenhouse gas mitigation in agroforestry systems.


"Our Government's top priority remains creating jobs and long-term economic prosperity for all Canadians," said MP Hawn. "This investment reinforces our Government's commitment to providing farmers with tools and knowledge to maximize returns from their land while ensuring the preservation of our environment."


The University of Alberta will use the investment to measure the amount of carbon that can be stored and the amount of greenhouse gas reduced with the use of agroforestry systems. Agroforestry provides opportunities to integrate productivity and profitability with environmental stewardship. Results of this research may lead to new diversified farm income and new employment opportunities through the development of bio-based products. These may include renewable bio-energy products (biomass), pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals.


"Environmental research is a strength and a priority at the University of Alberta," said Dr. Lorne Babiuk, Vice-President (Research). "Our researchers are conducting innovative research that is providing solutions to some of the most pressing issues the world faces today, including environmental issues. It is very gratifying for us to receive strong support on this project from the federal government as we continue to partner in ways that improve the quality of life for all Canadians."


"This project will enhance the understanding and accessibility of beneficial management practices (BMPs) that can be adopted by farmers to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in Canada," said Dr. Scott Chang, professor and researcher, University of Alberta. "If the beneficial roles of agroforestry systems are demonstrated, opportunities exist to tie the BMPs to economic gains for producers, for example, through payments for carbon offsets."


This project is supported through the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a five-year, $27-million initiative that focuses on the development of on-farm greenhouse gas mitigation technologies. The AGGP will provide funding to various partners across Canada to investigate innovative mechanisms, tools, and approaches that provide real solutions for the agriculture sector.


The AGGP is Canada's initial contribution to the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, an international network of more than 30 member countries that coordinates and increases agricultural research on greenhouse gas mitigation and makes new mitigation technologies and beneficial management practices available to farmers. For more information on the Global Research Alliance, visit


AAFC Press Release, May 23, 2012


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Government of Canada Funding for Manitoba Hog Industry

AAFC is investing $200,000 for two projects with the Manitoba Pork Council. The first investment of over $150,000 will help improve the air quality of swine barns by testing the effectiveness of an electrostatic space charge system (ESCS) to reduce and prevent the airborne transmission of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), a highly infectious virus that costs the Canadian industry an estimated $130 million per year.


A second investment of over $57,000 will be used to conduct a comparative study of cropping systems to promote use of swine manure on Manitoba farms. The study is expected to help identify sustainable land management practices, which would also reduce waterway pollution and, in turn, help lessen the environmental impact of the province's farming practices.


"These are potentially valuable projects for hog producers in Manitoba. As more farmers move into liquid-solid separation of manure, it is important to increase our understanding of how we can better utilize the resulting products in an environmentally sound manner," said Karl Kynoch, Chair of the Manitoba Pork Council. "As well, we are always looking for ways of improving air quality in barns and to find better disease prevention techniques. We also need to meet the provincial government's regulatory process, and we believe these research projects can assist us in these goals."


These projects are being supported by the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP), a five-year (2009-14), $163-million initiative that aims to help the Canadian agricultural sector adapt and remain competitive. Eligible CAAP projects could be in the areas of traceability, environment, climate change, capacity development, pests and diseases, and more. In Manitoba, the regional component of CAAP is delivered by the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council (MRAC).


AAFC Press Release, May 23, 2012


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Feds Stick with Strict Product-Of-Canada Rules 

The Harper government has shut the door on loosening the Product of Canada labelling rule despite complaints from farmers and domestic food processors about the high threshold.


The final decision comes after Conservative ministers hinted about pending changes to the Product of Canada policy to exempt minor ingredients that are hard to source locally, such as sugar and vinegar.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told Postmedia News on Wednesday the government is sticking with the 98 per cent ingredient threshold, excluding products such as Canadian-made jam with Saskatoon berries and imported sugar or a jar of pickles processed in Canada from Canadian cucumbers with imported salt and vinegar.


"Everybody wants to know what's in the can or in the jar and that's why we're pushing forward to make sure it says Product of Canada. Having said that, it's a voluntary label. If you feel it's going to help you market your product, then by all means use it, provided you're at the 98 per cent level. Should you decide to go to a lower level, you can certainly say 'Made in Canada' with Quebec blueberries' or 'processed in Canada with Ontario peaches,'" Ritz said in an interview.


In the case of Smith's Quality Meats, the Winnipeg company had to drop the Product of Canada label for its sausages because the company can't certify the added salt and seasonings, which account for three per cent of the total ingredients in their sausages, are domestically produced.


"It's all Manitoba meat, grown by Manitoba farmers, slaughtered in Manitoba and produced by a Manitoba company," said operations manager Andy Van Patter, who also serves as president of the Manitoba Food Processors Association.


"Now I produce a product and don't put anything on it. Now my consumer is going to look at this, they don't have a clue whether it's a Canadian product. We have the option of putting 'produced in Canada with imported ingredients,' and for some reason Ottawa thinks that's a real nice selling feature, but it doesn't say what's imported," said Van Patter, who added the Product-of-Canada line seems limited to "raw produce or raw meat, with no processing at all."


The government has been wrestling with what to do ever since Ritz announced the new threshold in 2008. Until this policy change, a food product could be labelled as a Product of Canada if 51 per cent of the total production cost occurred in the country, even if all the ingredients were imported.


The old policy was panned universally, but Canadian producers and food processors said the government went too far. Opposition parties agreed, and pressed for an ingredient threshold of 85 per cent as way to encourage the use of local produce and meats.


By the spring of 2010, Ritz and Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who served as minister of state for agriculture until his defeat in the 2011 federal election, started to muse about the possibility of exempting minor or functional ingredients that are not easily sourced in Canada, as long as the main ingredient or produce was Canadian.


Blackburn went further, saying at the time he hoped to resolve the issue flagged by Canadians farmers and processors before the end of 2010, following online consultations by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).


According to Ritz's office, the results of the consultation showed consumers were split on the question of exempting sugar, salt and vinegar, with a razor thin majority supporting the exemption. Responses from industry showed an even split on exempting sugar (48 per cent for and against), but with support for exempting salt and vinegar slightly higher (52 per cent support compared to 44 per cent who opposed).


The CFIA followed up with public opinion research, carried out in fall of 2010. The survey by Ekos Research found 57 of Canadians supported exempting sugar, compared to 37 per cent who disapproved. Exempting salt and vinegar was supported by 54 per cent, while 39 per cent opposed the idea.

Ritz said the government launched the consultations after hearing about concerns from industry groups, and the results helped inform the final decision.


"There were a number of people disgruntled with that, so we said, 'OK, as a good government, we'll go back and take a second look at it,'" he said of the 98 per cent threshold. "We've done that. With over 3,100 interventions and the majority are saying, 'Stay with what you've got.'"


Sarah Schmidt, Postmedia News, May 23, 2012


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Who is Winning the Food Fight? 


Most farmers are working quite hard to produce as much food as possible for a hungry world and marketplace, but daily get criticized by non-farmers because of doing things that the non-farmers do not think should be done. Few folks, other than pork producers, have seen pregnant sows fight, but think they know how hogs should be raised. Today, agriculture seems to take it on the chin from society, and it makes you wonder who is winning.


The winner in the modern day food fight has not been decided, but each has scored punches, believes Robert Paarlberg, a Wellesley University ag economist, who recently spoke at Purdue University. Addressing "Food Politics," Paarlberg said there are several fundamental disagreements, including what farms should look like, agriculture's relationship to nature, and who should make decisions about food and agriculture.


Dividing the two sides into advocates for conventional agriculture and advocates for alternative agriculture, Paarlberg said large specialized farms are OK for conventional agriculture, but not for the alternative group. He said the first group finds the primary challenge is to produce much more food by 2050, but the alternative group wants to preserve traditional rural livelihoods, protect biodiversity, and provide ecosystem services. Regarding their relationship with nature, conventional agriculture sees nature being protected by high yields to reduce the area being cropped. The alternative group believes the best systems are those that imitate nature. And regarding decision making, conventional agriculture accepts governments, technical experts and the market, all of whom are not to be trusted by the alternative group.


The current movement toward "local food," promotes the fact that the number of farmers' markets has doubled since 1998, and the number of community-supported agriculture enterprises has risen from 400 in 2001 to 4,000 today. However, food sales by those entrepreneurs represent only .04% of all agricultural sales in the U.S. Similarly, only 4% of all food sales is organic, only 7% of farmers' market sales is organic food, and 45% of all organic food is produced in only 2 states. In 2008, harvested organic cropland made up only .51% of all US cropland.


Within nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the period from 1990 to 2004 saw a 5% increase in the volume of food production, along with a 4% decrease in land farmed, a 9% decrease in irrigation used, a 17% drop in excess nitrogen use, a 5% decrease in pesticide use while the contribution to increased greenhouse gas production was only one sixth of the rest of the economy. Since 1980, U.S. agriculture has engaged in precision agriculture for more precise irrigation, fertilizer use, reduced pesticide use and reduced tillage, which saves diesel fuel. Paarlberg pointed to his home state of Ohio and said while 30% of all farms had GPS systems in tractors, that technology was used by over 78% of farms in the large category with over $1 million in commodity sales.


The same comparison was made for yield monitors, which are used by 25% of all farms, but 80% of large farms, and for geographically-referenced soil mapping that is used by 23% of all farms, but 56% of large farms.


Crop protection chemicals are becoming more precise in their use says Paarlberg since the 1972 ban on organochlorine insecticides and the 1990 introduction of variable rate application. In 1996, glyphosate was introduced replacing more toxic herbicides, and in the same year Bt corn and cotton was introduced to reduce the insecticide use on those crops. He also said significant reductions in the use of diesel fuel and loss of soil began in the 1980's with the use of no-till planters and in the 1990's with the introduction of glyphosate that required less mechanical cultivation.


However, Paarlberg said confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs have become significant targets recently for opponents. While CAFOs have reduced the cost of food to consumers and reduced the frequency of food contamination, CAFOs work less well for waste disposal, dependence upon antibiotics and raise animal welfare complaints. He noted the increasingly hostile environment for CAFOs, in which court and FDA actions have been against the use of antibiotics, there have been state-level bans on gestation crates for gilts and sows and small cage space for laying hens. And he said a growing number of food service companies have taken voluntary action against gestation crates.


So who is winning the food fight? Paarlberg concludes that alternative agriculture has become dominant in the elite cultural marketplace. Conventional crop farming has given up none of its dominance in the commercial marketplace. And conventional livestock farming is being forced to accept new restraints from the commercial and political marketplace.


Stu Ellis, FarmGate blog, May 18, 2012 in AgProfessional, May 18, 2012


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G8 Summit to Help 50 Million Africans Out of Poverty 


Sustainable agriculture - Group of 8 (G8) leaders have pledged to promote investments in sustainable agriculture as a strategy of uplifting millions of Africans out of poverty. "Today we commit to launch a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to accelerate the flow of private capital to African agriculture, take to scale new technologies and other innovations that can increase sustainable agricultural productivity, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities," the Group of Eight major industrial nations said on Saturday, in a statement released after a high-profile gathering on a range of topics.

"This New Alliance will lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade."

The ambitious announcement came a day after US President Barack Obama reached out to the private sector for financial support for the cause.

In Rwanda, at least 1 million people have been lifted out of poverty over the last five years, according to the Rwandan Household Living Conditions Survey, released by the government earlier this year. Economic growth between 2006 and 2011 reduced the number of the country's 11 million people living in poverty from 57 to 45 per cent, according to official figures.

The G8 initiative also comes as pledges expire from 2009 in L'Aquila, Italy, where the leaders of some of the world's leading economies promised more than $20 billion over three years to improve food access to Africans through rural development.

The Rome Principle highlighted the need to invest in comprehensive country-led food security and agriculture development plans, also known as Country Investment Plans (CIPs).

A new report ranks Canada first when it comes to G8 countries fulfilling pledges made at international summits.

Under the auspices of the Rwanda's CIP, the United States Government agriculture interventions, for instance, focus on reducing post-harvest loss to allow household income from farming to increase.

The programmes are also geared towards assisting the country in improving productivity of maize and beans as well as increasing market access for the sale of these crops through investing in feeder roads and co-funding hillside terracing.

UK's funding, among other things, goes to research, seen as a key to increasing agricultural productivity in Africa.

The research is dedicated to helping poor farmers adapt to climate change, improve yields, and access new technology.

Both the G8 statement and Obama's speech reiterated the global commitment to ensuring food security.

President Obama announced that they had formed a new alliance to focus on food security with African leaders and the private sector.

The UK and other G-8 nations as well as African countries, aid agencies and multinational companies will take part in the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security, it was announced.

The UK's department for international development explained that 45 leading firms, including Diageo, Unilever and Vodafone, will invest $4 billion (£2.5 billion) in developing African agriculture and sign up to a new code of responsible investment.

The head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Rajiv Shah, told reporters earlier that the move showed commitment to boosting world food production as rising wealth in Asia drives consumption.

"By taking this new approach, we believe that it's possible to move 50 million people out of the condition of poverty and hunger," he said. Civil society observers, and relief organisations, however, appeared sceptical about the commitments.

"The G8 have offered warm words on food security but have failed to make a specific pledge to simply maintain L'Aquila level financial commitments going forward," said Katie Campbell, senior policy analyst for ActionAid USA.

"In failing to deliver this, they have turned their backs on the women smallholder farmers who are so vital to food security in Africa."

Oxfam claimed that input from those directly concerned had not been taken into consideration.

"Poor countries have presented the G8 country-led, sustainable, and coordinated plans for food security and agricultural development, but today the G8 gave them the cold shoulder," Lamine Ndiaye, the group's Pan Africa Head of Economic Justice, said in a statement.

"....Without specific goals and a timeline, we are concerned that nutrition will not be placed at the centre of the New Alliance's approach and food security plans. The 170-million children at risk this year of being stunted from chronic malnutrition cannot afford delays," World Vision said in a statement.

"The G8 leaders have been very clear that they want to link their investments to nutrition and food security. The measure of success in 10 years cannot just be growth of agricultural production or even economies. It has to be measured by the survival, growth and health of children."

According to the G8 statement, the initiative would, among other things, be guided by "a collective commitment to invest in credible, comprehensive and country-owned plans."

The Norwegian global firm Yara said it would build Africa's first major fertiliser production facility as part of the initiative.

Companies including Pepsi and Dupont have also pledged to invest in Africa's small-scale farmers.

The leaders of France, Germany, the US, the UK, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia met at Camp David in the US state of Maryland.

The leaders of Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania and President of the African Development Bank, Dr Donald Kaberuka, attended the G-8 meeting on food security.

James Tasamba, The New Times, May 21, 2012


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Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food


The Committee had no meetings scheduled this week.


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Coming Events


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


3rd International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare, Saskatoon, June 5-7, 2012

Canadian Society for BioEngineering (CSBE-SCGAB) Annual Technical Conference, Orillia, Ontario, July 15-18, 2012  


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


Joint Annual Meeting of AIC, 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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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