AIC Notes Issue 2012-23 June 14, 2012
|East Meets West On Renewable Energy Projects |
Quebec's La Coop fédérée has signed an ownership agreement with the most advanced biomass company in Canada, Prairie Bio Energy Inc. (PBE Group). This agreement will make La Coop fédérée the owner of 50 per cent of all intellectual properties possessed by PBE Group.
This new partnership will allow La Coop fédérée to become a Canadian leader in the promotion of agricultural biomass by supporting projects, products, practices and equipment through an authorized distribution network, the company said in a media release.
As part of this partnership, many activities are planned:
- Investment in projects to develop agricultural biomass in Quebec and other provinces
- A possible study on the implementation of a Blue Flame boiler production line in Quebec
- Marketing of Blue Flame agricultural biomass combustion systems across Canada and the United States
- Consultation activities in the projects that require technical knowledge in terms of agricultural biomass and/or Blue Flame
- Support for the Sonic energy sector of La Coop fédérée in their desire to develop heat production from biomass in Quebec.
La Coop fédérée proposed to the PBE Group that they work together to study the implementation of a biomass production plant in Quebec. This facility would process different types of biomass to add value in the area.
"Our new association with Prairie Bio Energy, leader in its sector in this country, is very promising. There is enormous potential for the local producers here. The expansion that La Coop fédérée is undergoing in Canada, among other things through the acquisition of companies in the crop production sector, is opening the door to multiple markets," said Claude Lafleur, CEO of La Coop fédérée.
"Quebec has an excellent potential to implement an energy sector based on biomass. There is a big enough population to launch many projects," said Stéphane Gauthier, co-founder of PBE Group, "And the cost of fossil fuels is higher here than in Manitoba."
A possible project would also focus on working in collaboration with the oil sands industry to develop a product using a base from agricultural biomass that would help return land that has been exploited to its original state.
Country Guide, June 13, 2012
Timing is Key for Climate Change, Organic Research
Agriculture is changing, becoming increasingly diverse and environmentally conscious.
These changes are reflected in two federal funding initiatives announced over the past week in disparate parts of the country (not ours), totalling several million dollars. They show where farming is headed, and how global pressure and public concerns have influenced agricultural policy in Ottawa.
The initiatives involve studies at the University of Saskatchewan in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and a new organic research centre in Quebec. The Saskatchewan grant, worth $3.4 million, is a three-part venture that covers several aspects of greenhouse gas emissions, including how agroforestry - planting crops and trees together - can mitigate greenhouse gas.
As an aside, the University of Guelph was a pioneer in agroforestry research dating back some 25 years ago. It maintains its position globally through research programs with developing nations, and locally, with a very visible agroforestry field research program on the south side of Victoria Road, near the Arboretum.
Anyway, the timing for this new federally research initiative is purposeful. Internationally, Ottawa has been criticized for years for its environmental record (e.g., oilsands) even though, as another aside, it does indeed fund highly visible efforts such as the chair in global environmental change, also at the University of Guelph.
But last week it had a chance to show the world a different side. All eyes were on Canada as the 30-country Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases met in Saskatoon, home of the University of Saskatchewan. Canada is beginning its duties for one year as chair of the alliance, an international network that brings together developed and developing countries to find ways to grow more food and nurture more climate-resilient agriculture production systems, without increasing greenhouse gas. That made the $3.4-million grant announcement timely, indeed.
Ottawa says through the alliance, new mitigation technologies and beneficial management practices will be made available to farmers worldwide. Combine that with initiatives underway at Guelph and elsewhere, and it makes somewhat of a case for climate change concern ... at least in agriculture.
Then on another frontier, Ottawa also made strides last week silencing critics who say it's concerned only with large, modern farms when it chipped in $2 million-ish for what's called the Platform for Innovation in Organic Agriculture. This venture, worth a total of $13.1 million (mostly coming from the Quebec government), will see a multi-purpose research centre built and the machinery and scientific equipment purchased to conduct organic research.
A news release from Ottawa noted this project will address "the research and development needs expressed by over 30 organizations involved in organic agriculture." It will be used for what Ottawa says is finding solutions to technical or agronomic problems, and improving the competitiveness of Quebec companies operating in this industry sector.
Hopefully this new knowledge, like that to be generated in Saskatchewan, can be shared with other Canadian farmers. Despite organic agriculture's profile and public interest, the sector itself is comparatively small and doesn't generate much research funding. The new Quebec facility is called a platform, which in research suggests it will create knowledge that can be used as a platform for broader findings.
Maybe one place they can be shared, as yet another aside, is at the University of Guelph organic conference, Canada's largest and longest running organic event. As well, Canada already has a national organic research centre, at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, as well as a research chair there in organic agriculture. I suspect they'd like to have access to the Quebec research, too.
Ottawa will use this new funding to show its support of emerging agricultural problems and sectors. But it can also point to well-established initiatives that show Canada isn't just jumping on an environmental bandwagon - despite appearances to the contrary.
Owen Roberts, Guelph Mercury, June 11, 2012
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|University of Guelph, OMAFRA Partnership Pays Off for Ontario |
Disease monitoring and prevention, new food products and improved health and well-being for seniors - these are just some of the ways the University of Guelph-Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) partnership is paying off for Ontario.
"When research and innovation come together, good things happen: new products are developed and our economy gets stronger - which means better jobs for our families," said Ted McMeekin, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs "That's why continued partnerships such as this one, with the University of Guelph, are so important."
In the latest round of partnership projects, the ministry will invest more than $6.3 million in research at the University of Guelph and partner universities. The grants involve researchers at the Guelph, Ridgetown and Kemptville campuses, Laboratory Services, 13 research stations, the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and other Ontario universities.
Prof. Rich Moccia, University of Guelph's associate vice-president (research), said OMAFRA support is crucial for University researchers in furthering explorations and discoveries that make a difference in Canadians' lives and help define U of G as Canada's leader in agri-food research.
"This investment will allow us to engage researchers at other universities and foster innovations and breakthroughs that will better protect our health, the economy and the environment," he said.
Current research projects include the following:
Monitoring and managing Ontario crop pests is the goal of two projects headed by environmental sciences professor Rebecca Hallett. She received $277,000 to develop trapping methods and identification tools for the spotted-wing Drosophila, known to destroy 30 to 80 per cent of a fruit crop. The other $135,400 grant will focus on curbing swede midge, an invasive pest that damages canola.
Plant agriculture professor Dave Wolyn received $94,700 to study growth and breeding of Russian dandelion plants to develop a Canadian rubber industry. Rubber formed naturally in the plant roots is chemically suited for use in tires and as latex for gloves. Unlike other rubber-bearing plants, this dandelion species also contains inulin, a food additive and feedstock for biofuels that might also benefit growers.
A team headed by food science professor Shai Barbut received $360,000 to continue studies of replacing fat with health-promoting substances in meat products such as hot dogs.
Developing a tool to help decision-makers address new or re-emerging zoonotic diseases passed between animals and humans is the goal of an $80,000 project headed by Jan Sargent, director of Guelph's Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses and a professor in the Department of Population Medicine at Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College.
Food science professor Lisa Duizer aims to improve nutrition and eating habits, particularly in older adults. Using a $109,700 grant, she's studying the addition of nutrients to foods served in retirement and long-term care facilities. She will use a second grant worth $155,124 to develop ways to help consumers make healthier food choices.
Moccia said the agricultural sector is vital to Ontario's health and prosperity. It's one of the province's leading industry sectors, generating more than $30 billion a year to the economy and employing more than 700,000 people.
"Ontario's agri-food needs could not be met without the expertise, physical capacity and technology development provided via the University of Guelph-OMAFRA partnership," he said.
The U of G-OMAFRA enhanced partnership began in 1997 and was renewed in 2008 for 10 years. Besides its social, environmental and health benefits for agriculture and the province, the partnership's economic impact exceeds $1.15 billion a year.
University of Guelph Press Release, June 11, 2012
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|AAFC to Clarify Wheat, Barley Checkoff Authority |
The federal government plans to sign an agreement with the Alberta Barley Commission laying out how farmers' money from a proposed new interim wheat and barley checkoff for research and market development is spent.
"ABC and AAFC (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) intend to enter into an agreement that will specify what dollars-per-tonne amounts that ABC will provide to Cigi (Canadian International Grains Institute), CMBTC (Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre) and WGRF (Western Grains Research Foundation)," an AAFC communications officer said in an email June 1.
The email is a response to a May 26 request from the Co-operator to clarify the commission's role in the proposed checkoff. The government's regulatory impact analysis statement says the goal is "to establish a base funding amount for research, market development and technical assistance similar to current levels of funding provided through or by the CWB (Canadian Wheat Board)."
The board's role in that funding ends Aug. 1 when the federal Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act kills its single desk.
However, the analysis statement also says: "The ABC would have the authority to determine which organizations would receive the checkoff funds, and how much they would receive."
That inconsistency heightened the concerns of Manitoba general farm group Keystone Agricultural Producers about having the Alberta commission oversee the checkoff in the first place.
The proposed new, refundable checkoff -- valued at 48 cents a tonne for wheat and 56 cents for barley marketed through a licensed grain company -- will be in place no more than five years, during which time Ottawa expects farmers to develop their own checkoff and determine how the money is used.
The current checkoff administered by the CWB is 30 and 50 cents a tonne for wheat and barley, but doesn't include funding for Cigi or CMBTC, which the board paid directly.
While the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act states the organization that collects the interim checkoff must use the money for research into new and improved grain varieties, promoting the sale of Canadian grain, technical assistance on using Canadian grain and administration, it doesn't specify which groups should receive the money. Neither does the proposed regulation to the Canada Grain Act to create the new checkoff.
In an interview May 25, barley commission general manager Lisa Skierka stressed the commission won't use the money for its own programs.
"This money is simply coming into us and we're administering it and we're sending it out to the recipients and organizations so they can continue to run those programs that farmers value in Western Canada," she said.
Levy Central, administered by the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan, will collect the checkoff, as it does now for the barley commission and nine other commodity groups in all three Prairie provinces.
Levy Central executive director Laurie Dmytryshyn says there was some talk about her organization administering the new checkoff.
"But I was the first to say it does not make sense," Dmytryshyn said in an interview June 1. "You need an organization, in the interim, that represents producers. We represent provincial agriculture and agri-food organizations here in the province of Saskatchewan, so we don't have that direct relationship with the producers."
Adding the new wheat and barley checkoff to Levy Central's collections will double its operations, Dmytryshyn said.
Levy Central ensures checkoffs are collected, but doesn't cash the cheques, which are deposited to its clients' accounts. Clients do their own checkoff refunds.
The federal government's analysis statement says the barley commission will be allowed up to five per cent of the checkoff for administration costs.
The statement also says the commission is to report annually to the minister of agriculture on how much money is collected and how it's spent, including administration.
"The intent is that AAFC and/or ABC would release information to the public that would show how the checkoff funds are invested and used," the government's impact statement says.
A public comment period on the proposed interim checkoff runs until June 25. Comments can be directed to Tom Askin, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 303 Main St., Winnipeg, Man. R3C 3G7, or by email at email@example.com.
Allan Dawson, Manitoba Co-operator, June 7, 2012
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BASF Develops New Sustainability Metric for Canada
In Canada, BASF is set launch a new method to measure sustainability in Canada. The company's new proprietary tool, AgBalance, uses a set of 69 indicators to calculate the social, economic and environmental impact of various farming practices. The results help growers identify the most impactful levers to improve their overall sustainability score.
BASF is working with several organizations who will act as consultants, including the Canola Council of Canada, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Manitoba Canola Growers Association, Alberta Canola Producer Commission, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The Canadian canola study will compare today's more intensive canola production with the standard from 1995. It is part of a series of pilot studies to identify the key drivers of sustainable intensification and discuss outcomes with growers.
Read more here.
Biofuelsdigest.com, June 11, 2012
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|Group Gives Thumbs up to New Food Safety Legislation |
Food manufacturers are welcoming a new legislation that federal officials say will enable Canada's government to better protect Canadians from unsafe foods.
Adam Grachnik, communications director for Food & Consumer Products of Canada, says the Safe Food for Canadians Act is a "much needed change and we applaud the federal government for it." The association represents the food and consumer products industry.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and other federal officials released details about the Act at a press conference in an Ottawa grocery store today. The Act was also tabled in the Senate today.
Grachnik says the Act "will further enhance Canada's reputation as a global food and beverage products safety leader."
The federal government's press release says the new Act will consolidate the Fish Inspection Act, the Canadian Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.
It will align inspection and enforcement powers across all food commodities, improve the safety of food, reduce overlap and help industry to better understand and comply with food safety laws.
Rick Holley, a professor in the University of Manitoba's food science department, says the proposed food safety legislative changes are generally positive. "Hopefully what it will mean is the inspection staff in the various commodity areas will better recognize what the expectation is of them when they're out in the field," he says.
With current legislation embodied in several acts, the inspectors were given different latitude to enforce the regulations. "Now this is going to be more uniform," he says.
The release says there will also be tougher fines for activities that put Canadians' health and safety at risk. The previous fines handed out for a serious offence were a maximum of $250,000. But under the new Act, the penalties could be $5 million or higher at the court's discretion. There are also new penalties for recklessly endangering the lives of Canadians through tampering, deceptive practices or hoaxes.
The Act will also provide a new mechanism for regulated parties to get certain decisions by Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials reviewed.
There will be a new authority in the Act that would allow certification of any food commodity for export. The Act will also strengthen controls over imported foods, introduce powers to register or license regulated parties, and prohibit the importation of unsafe foods.
The agriculture and food departments will both have a role to play in the food safety system. The agriculture minister, through responsibility for the CFIA, would administer and enforce the Act and its regulations. The health minister retains the responsibility of developing policies and standards for food safety and nutritional quality.
Susan Mann, AgMedia Inc., June 7, 2012
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|Climate Change to Warm Canada with Increased Temperatures of up to 2˚C by 2020 and 4˚C by 2050 |
Intact Financial Corporation and the University of Waterloo, along with more than 80 experts from across the country, today released the Climate Change Adaptation Project report, which provides a roadmap for adaptation in Canada. It projects rising temperatures across the country and substantial fluctuations in precipitation levels, all of which will leave a range of sectors, cities and rural regions in Canada vulnerable. City infrastructure, biodiversity, freshwater resources, Aboriginal communities and agriculture were targeted as the most vulnerable areas where adaptive solutions to address climate change are most urgently required. The report outlines 20 practical and cost-effective recommendations that can be implemented on a priority basis in the short term.
To guide the project, climate projections for Canada were developed. The results are striking. Canada will continue to warm by up to 2˚C by 2020 and 4˚C by 2050. The most significant impact will be in the Arctic, which will see increases of up to 4˚C by 2020 and 8˚C by 2050, along with increased precipitation of up to 20 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2050. Climate change will impact regions across Canada differently. For example, Vancouver will see a decrease in summer precipitation, Winnipeg will see an increase in winter precipitation and Toronto and Montreal will see milder winters.
"Unfortunately, climate change is a reality that is already taking a toll on many parts of our country. When you consider that the 10 warmest winters on record have all happened since 1998, it becomes clear that we need to think immediately about how Canada must adapt," said Professor Blair Feltmate, director of sustainable practice of the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED), based at Waterloo's Faculty of Environment. "If there is one take-away from this project, it's that climate change needs to be an important consideration in all planning processes, whether you work for industry, government, an NGO or within an Aboriginal community."
"It is quite clear that there will be serious implications for Canadians if we stand still while our weather patterns continue to evolve," said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president & vice-chancellor of Waterloo. "The recommendations outlined in this project are the push we need to bring climate change adaptation to the forefront."
The project draws attention to the leading climate change challenges facing this country as well as the cost-effective actions needed in order to adapt.
Whether it's modes of transportation, storm water run-off or energy generation, Canadian cities' infrastructure is predicted to be strongly impacted by climate change. Key recommendations from the Climate Change Adaptation Project report include climate change vulnerability and risk assessments, evaluating the storm water run-off systems for capacity and resilience to future climate extremes and the incorporation of climate change adaptation into city planning policy.
Climate change is altering natural habitats. Not only can it push some species to the brink of extinction, but it is also causing invasive species to enter new habitats. Key recommendations from the project include modeling climate change in order to help inform solutions, creating habitat corridors in human-dominated areas to assist migration, and better management of exotic invasive species.
The challenges surrounding freshwater resources are significant from region to region. Southern Alberta has a growing population and a large agriculture industry, with only a small proportion of Canada's freshwater resources. Warmer temperatures will increase evaporation and reduce the spring snowmelt, which will limit the availability of this already scarce resource. Dryer summers in Ontario will reduce the Great Lakes' levels and strain water availability. Key recommendations from the project include protecting and restoring wetlands and natural drainage systems, changing the design of human infrastructure to conserve water quality and quantity and locating new communities and water-intensive industry where water will be plentiful despite the changing climate.
Climate change is having a large impact on Canada's Aboriginal communities, including dramatic and continuous degradation of community infrastructure, diminution of traditional livelihoods and catastrophic disruption to community access and energy capacity. Key recommendations from the project, all guided by traditional knowledge, include comprehensive community capital planning (including the potential for community redesign and relocation) and integrating resiliency into community access and energy capacity.
The agriculture industry faces many challenges related to climate change. The integration of climate change projections and adaptation strategy into agricultural decision-making, however, remains the most significant challenge. Key recommendations from the project include providing agriculture-relevant information on climate change, incorporating it into planning decisions and developing adaptation recommendations that are specific to different roles and situations within the industry.
The insurance industry is witnessing the effects of climate change. Future extreme weather projections will need to be integrated into design and construction practices to protect homeowners from climate risks. Governments and insurers can play a significant role in encouraging risk reduction. Key recommendations from the project include updating the National Building Code, incorporating these changes into new builds and modifications on current structures and launching a public campaign to inform Canadians about improvements they can make to their homes to lessen risk.
"Climate change is an important issue for society at large. With rising temperatures, heavier precipitation and an increasing number of extreme weather events, we are seeing the impact of our new climate reality firsthand," said Charles Brindamour, chief executive officer of Intact Financial Corporation. "This project is an opportunity for Canada to be a leader on implementing effective climate change adaptation solutions that will not only lessen the impact today but build strong, resilient and sustainable communities for years to come."
The Climate Change Adaptation Project, funded in full by a grant from Intact Foundation, was launched in 2010. Instead of focusing on mitigation, which aims to reduce the rate and magnitude of climate change, this project is focused on how this country can adapt to the impending current and future impact. The 80 experts who contributed to the project come from diverse backgrounds including academia, law, banking, insurance, NGOs, Aboriginal communities, utilities and more.
The full report can be found here.
Canada NewsWire, June 11, 2012
Corporate Money Doesn't Taint University Ag Research
The reality of agricultural research at U.S. land-grant universities is that if it were not for private industry investment there wouldn't be much research going on at all. Federal and state funding of ag research continues to decline, but teaching and learning depends on some hands-on research for educating the agricultural scientists of the future.
The Food and Water Watch, a consumer environmental advocacy group, recently completed a study about ag research funding that found "nearly one-quarter of the money spent on agricultural research at land-grant universities comes from corporations, trade associations and foundations," according to Alan Scher Zagier, an Associated Press reporter.
That percentage concerns the Food and Water Watch group, but many land-grant university professors and agricultural professionals would have estimated the percentage of such funding would have been even higher. Government funds to support research has been rapidly drying up, and there have been cutbacks in the university professors with research responsibilities or Extension field work projects. The most recent financial support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was the lowest level in nearly 20 years and accounted for less than 15 percent of the total research budgets at the universities, according to the study findings.
"Today most of our research has to be funded by our corporate partners because they are the ones with the dollars to do so. If we want to increase yields and improve sustainability and make them a national priority, there are research people out there that can make it happen. But there is almost no money that goes into yield research other than from the corporate partners," said Fred Below, professor of crop physiology, University of Illinois. He made his comments during the BASF Agricultural Solutions Media Summit in Chicago last week.
Food and Water Watch apparently sees the private sector "meddling in the lab" as Scher Zagier wrote, and 'corrupts' the mission of land-grant universities to maintain agriculture and engineering focused educational programs. The activist group's report is titled "Public Research, Private Gain."
There are examples of private companies trying to block some university research or sharing of research results, but false results are not issued because of corporate pressure, according to deans of universities. The deans consistently say they are positive corporate funding does not influence research results.
Not doing the research would result in a void of well educated college graduates. "This research is done by graduate students and post docs who will be the next generation of graduates that these companies will hire. I'm struck by how little money actually goes into agricultural related research, and I think it's largely because people think it should be a focus of the agricultural industry," Below said.
Refusal to invest government, educational money into ag research seems to go hand in hand with demands that government spending be cut and decisions that available money be allocated to what taxpayers think are more important programs. Although ag research can result in higher gross domestic product and cheaper food, indications are that taxpayers see ag research as only helping the less than 2 percent directly involved in farming. Lack of funding puts universities between the rock and the hard place as one university dean of agriculture noted in talking to the AP reporter.
While Below called working with ag companies, such as large multi-nationals, partnerships, the Food and Water Watch is quoted as referring to them as alliances.
Scher Zagier wrote that Patty Lovara, Food and Water Watch's assistant director, contends that alliances result in universities handling their role far differently from land-grant universities' historic role in promoting public knowledge and freely sharing the fruits of their research. Lovara said the report notes that publicly funded university research led to the domestication of blueberries, early varieties of high-yield hybrid corn and common tools to fight soil erosion.
He quoted Lovara as saying, "There's a real sense in agriculture of what these schools used to be. There was much more trust in what they put out. This is not the same research system of decades ago, and we're acting like it is."
Times have changed, Below suggested. He said universities need resources to train about research but won't be funded to the level the research and development divisions of major companies are today. "We don't have the resources to do the same quality of research that some of the companies like BASF, but we do have innovative young minds that make serendipitous discoveries and are willing to put their life into it," he said. "That training continues to be necessary. We need fellowships and targeted grants and programs to be able to train the next generation of agricultural scientists."
Rich Keller, Editor, Ag Professional, June 11, 2012
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|Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food|
The Committee did not schedule any meetings this week.
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
Growing the Bioeconomy: Social, Environmental and Economic Implications, Banff, Alberta, October 2-5, 2012
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Frances Rodenburg, Editor