Do consumers really want to know?

Originally published in Western Producer, August 2020

There’s a prevailing notion in agriculture that we must get consumer and public “approval” for modern farming practices and that we need to build “social licence” among consumers.

We have responded and invested significant resources and money into winning hearts and minds.

Lately, I have been increasingly wondering if this a strategically sound effort and a worthwhile investment. I’m not sure, for a couple reasons.

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‘Sustainable’ is a trendy word in the food industry — but farmers aren’t getting enough credit for it

Originally published by CBC Saskatchewan, November 2019

While grocery shopping the other day, I counted the word “sustainable” on product packaging too many times to count.

This led me to consider how interesting it is that a word with so much marketing power is so vaguely defined and understood.

One of the more commonly used definitions of the word, created by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

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A special connection: Farmer reflects on the importance of the grasslands and how livestock production helps the environment

Originally published in Farmers’ Voice magazine, May 2019

For Don Connick, farming means having a special connection to, and appreciation for the land.

His family’s farmland, located just south of Gull Lake on the first rise of land into the Cypress Hills, has a long and rich history – not only for the Connick family, but also for Canada.

Don’s grandfather homesteaded the land long before Don and Norma took it over in 1977, and Don remembers spending many afternoons as a young boy dreaming of how these native grasslands may have looked before the settlers came.

“There’s a tremendous historical and recent heritage here,” he says. “The remnants of the Old Dollard Trail are still visible in our pasture. We are a pretty young country and I think a lot of people identify with that. It’s part of who we are as a nation.”

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Help wanted: New program helps farmers address labour shortages

Originally published in Farmers’ Voice magazine, May 2019

The Canadian agriculture industry has long been challenged with labour shortages.

And the problem appears to be getting worse instead of better.

In 2014, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) reported that the job vacancy rate within the Canadian agriculture industry was 7 per cent, the highest of any Canadian industry. And preliminary findings from new labour market information research (to be released in June) show that agriculture’s job vacancy rate and the labour
gap is increasing, says CAHRC’s Janet Krayden.

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Root rot research and management options

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2019

Dry weather caused problems for many Saskatchewan farmers last growing season, but it also brought benefits, including a drop in the amount of root rot that had been observed in fields for the last five years. “We see some improvement in dry years,” says Dr. Syama Chatterton, who has been studying root rot for several years. “The dry cycles are helping.”

Chatterton, a Research Scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), conducted field surveys across Western Canada between 2014 and 2017 and found that Fusarium root rot had been present in about 50 per cent of pea fields and 60 per cent of lentil fields, on average. Another 50 per cent of pea fields and 40 per cent of lentil fields tested positive for the presence of Aphanomyces (the most destructive form of root rot), on average, over the same amount of time. These percentages were closer to 60 to 80 per cent in wetter years.

Chatterton cautions however that dry weather alone does not completely alleviate the many concerns over this potentially devastating soil-borne disease. For one thing, dry weather seems to affect peas more than lentils.

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Market access to India remains at pulse industry’s forefront

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2019

Saskatchewan pulse growers have had to deal with a lot of difficult news regarding tariffs and fumigation regulations affecting exports of Canadian pulses to India in the past year.

There is a silver lining, says Mac Ross, Pulse Canada’s Manager of Market Access and Trade Policy, as these issues have reinforced, and put into gear, priorities for expanding global markets for pulses.

“Our big focus moving forward is diversification,” he says.

For example, Pulse Canada has set the goal to have 25 per cent of Canadian pulse production going into new uses by 2025, and the organization is working hard with partners now to fulfill this mandate.

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New pulse developments with India

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, December 2018

As Saskatchewan growers contemplate their seeding options for another year, market access issues for pulses are surely top of mind.

In the past couple of years growers have faced severe export restrictions for pulses to India, Canada’s largest market. This includes tariffs on peas, chickpeas, and lentils, and ongoing regulations that require Canadian pulse exports to be fumigated with methyl-bromide.

Some progress has been made in addressing and mitigating these restrictions, says Mac Ross, Pulse Canada’s Manager, Market Access and Trade Policy.

Pulse Canada has long been working to alleviate these issues on behalf of Canadian growers, but recently they have seen several new developments.

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Market opportunities for pulses as food ingredients

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, August 2018

When the Canadian pulse industry announced a goal to have new uses for 25 per cent of Canadian pulses by 2025, Pulse Canada and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, along with other provincial pulse associations across Canada got to work developing and refining strategic plans designed to help meet this ambitious goal, says Julianne Curran, Pulse Canada’s Vice President of Food and Health.

“There has been a lot of thought put into how we can achieve this target,” she says.

Much of the industry’s prior work in the area was focused on marketing pulses more generally to all target audiences. The next phase of work will consider end-use applications that each pulse crop is best suited to, and the markets where the Canadian industry has advantages and volume opportunities, Curran says.

“We understand that two million tonnes is an ambitious target that will require multiple sectors and regions, but also unique strategies designed for each pulse type to be more effective.”

The strategy will focus on specific market opportunities and applications for each pulse type and will also identify specific companies or groups of companies the industry is looking to engage with, says Jackie Tenuta, Pulse Canada’s Director of Market Development.

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Market opportunities for pulses in the food service industry

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, August 2018

Building on the Canadian pulse industry’s goal to have new markets or uses for 25 per cent of Canadian pulses by 2025, Canadian pulse promoters are looking at ways to revise market development plans to hone in on achieving the desired end results.

One of the areas of that will see an expanded focus is the foodservice sector, where the industry has been working in for the past couple of years to promote the use of Canadian lentils amongst United States (U.S.) colleges and universities.

The knowledge the industry has gained so far will be crucial to informing the next phase of promotions, which will include a narrower focus, says Amber Johnson, SPG’s Manager of Market Promotion.

The emphasis in this area will be placed on the U.S. marketplace and will be targeting non-commercial foodservice companies such as Compass Group, Sodexo, and Aramark, which run food operations for large-scale organizations such as hospitals, corporations, and big businesses, in addition to a focus on colleges and universities.

Not only do these companies have significant influence over menu items, they also have important buying potential because they do centralized buying and supply management, while also running physical operations, Johnson says.

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Market access work ongoing for Canadian pulses

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2018

There is still a lot of uncertainty around market access for Canadian pulse exports to India this year.

But the Canadian pulse industry has been working closely with the Federal Government to do everything in its power to address and remove the constraints the Indian government has created in the last year.

“The pulse industry has come together to do everything we can to help sort out these issues,” says Gord Kurbis, Pulse Canada’s Director of Market Access and Trade Policy …

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