by Karla Bergstrom, Policy Analyst, Alberta Canola Producers
The Canola Council of Canada (CCC) held their November board meeting in Edmonton, but what was special about this event is that CCC invited Alberta Canola Producers Commission (ACPC) to join them in a political outreach to Alberta’s new government. The CCC is a full value-chain association representing all aspects of the canola industry across Canada, including canola growers, crop input retailers, grain hauling companies, processors including canola crushers, and exporters. On a mild and sunny November 4th two teams comprised of CCC and ACPC board members and staff were able to meet with a number of the Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta (MLAs) down at the Legislature Building and the beautifully redesigned Federal Building. (As an Albertan, I was proud of the investment in infrastructure that our province has made to our heritage buildings that can showcase Alberta on the world stage.)
The teams met with both government and opposition MLAs, including three Ministers. Awareness of canola and agriculture in general ranged from limited exposure to being well versed on many issues. The outreach had four main objectives: to highlight the importance of the canola industry and international trade, maintain funding of agricultural research and science-based research, and promote the sustainability of canola.
One key takeaway was there is tremendous value in our elected farmer directors bringing personal experiences from their farms into the political discussions. Marlene Caskey, director of Region 12 who farms near Oyen, spoke of canola’s impact on her farm saying, “25 years ago we started growing canola because we needed a broadleaf crop to rotate between cereals to break disease, but because of the investment in innovation along the entire value-chain it is our most profitable crop…it’s the crop that pays the bills on our farm.”
Reaching out to government landed us an invitation to attend Question Period (QP) as honoured guests by Ms. Annie McKitrick, MLA for Sherwood Park, where we received the traditional warm welcome of the Assembly. I try to sit in on the federal QP in Ottawa whenever I get the chance because I think it’s exciting to experience democracy in action…as well as entertaining if there’s a hot issue. I admit it’s been years (Grade 9 field trip) since I sat in our province’s QP, but after the warm welcome my next visit won’t be so long in between.
- Introduce the canola industry as an important driver of Alberta’s economy that contributes over $6 billion to our GDP and supports 68,000 jobs annually.
· Alberta has 15,000 canola farmers and has 4 of Canada’s 14 canola processing plants: Bunge Canada (Fort Saskatchewan), Cargill Inc. (Camrose), Archer Daniels Midland (Lloydminster), and Richardson Oilseed (Lethbridge).
· Virtually all of the canola seed planted by farmers is produced near Lethbridge, where major seed developers have facilities.
· Exporters have invested millions in modern grain handling facilities across Alberta.
- Emphasize the importance of international trade for economic growth and the provincial government’s role to advocate for Alberta in free trade agreements.
· Over 90% of the canola produced in Canada is exported as seed, oil, or meal.
· Alberta has an export advantage because of our proximity to the Pacific Rim countries. Implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will eliminate tariffs and improve approvals of biotechnology in key canola markets.
- Canola’s success is because of innovation. Continued research and innovation is necessary to keep the canola industry competitive.
· Canola farmers and the industry coordinate across Canada and internationally to focus research where it is needed most. Government funding is important to invest where gaps exist in agronomy research, e.g. long-term crop rotation, disease, insects, and nutrient management research.
- Alberta canola production is sustainable and continues to be more efficient over time.
· Canola farmers are leaders in sustainable production practices that are grounded in science. Canola production increased 101% from 2004 to 2014 on an existing land base.
· Canola is the only Canadian crop certified as sustainable by an international 3rd party system (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification – ISCC).
· Increasing Alberta’s biodiesel mandate to 5% supports climate change action and economic development. Canola biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.
· Farmers take the safety of their workers, their families and themselves very seriously. Education and training will be the key to reducing fatalities and serious incidents on farms. Farmers must be consulted with changes to Occupational Health and Safety regulations, which should be developed over a reasonable period of time.
· Canola is leading the way in responsible use of pest control products, e.g. best practices, pollinator health, Keep it Clean campaign, etc.
Alberta Canola Connects is your window into the activities of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission as we work both locally and globally to help contribute to the long term success of canola farmers in Alberta.