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From FCC Express
By Owen Roberts

Mother Nature is throwing another curve ball this spring at weed forecasts, thanks to appreciable snowfall in some parts of the country’s farming areas that may spark flooding.

If that happens, weed seed distribution can be extended significantly by floodwaters.

This is an immediate concern in Ontario’s southwest, where snowmelt and ice jams on the Thames River cause problems, and in Manitoba, where eyes are fixed on the Red River basin.

“A lot depends on the snow melt right now,” says Rob Gulden, a weed ecologist at the University of Manitoba. “Some overland flooding is expected in Canada and the U.S., and that may result in a wider distribution than normal of weeds, including some encroachment from resistant weeds from the U.S. Flooding will also influence weed emergence times.”

Weed pressure expected to be high
Observers like Gulden were already expecting a flush of some weed species such as green foxtail and pigweed. That’s because the weed seed bank for these seeds was well replenished last summer and fall, owing to the dry weather.

Now, when the heavy snow accumulation melts, soil moisture levels will be high. That will provide that replenished seed bank with an opportunity to take hold once the weather warms up.

“These are good conditions for early weed recruitment,” Gulden says.

Ontario's watchlist

In Ontario, weed science technician Dave Bilyea at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus compiled a list of a dozen weeds to watch for this season in the province, along with other problem weeds and noxious weeds.

Half of them have already developed some measure of herbicide tolerance:

  • Annual bluegrass
  • Northern willowherb
  • Scouring rush
  • Yellow evening primrose

  • “They’re not widespread yet, but they’re up-and-comers we need to watch,” Bilyea says.

    One of them, waterhemp, is a huge problem in the United States, he says, where it’s developed resistance to more than three modes of action. Now, it’s creeping northward and already arrived in parts of Ontario.

    Another weed from the U.S. to watch is palmer amaranth, which is found in the United States around the Great Lakes and will inevitably arrive in Canada.

    Bilyea says waterhemp is an example of “a weed that hides in plain sight,” with its close resemblance to native pigweeds.

    The same goes for dog-strangling vine, another weed on Bilyea’s watch list. In eastern Ontario, some pastures have been beset with this weed, which develops in nearby woodlots amid other weeds such as poison ivy and wild grape. It too hides in plain sight until it starts creeping into fields and pastures.

    Bilyea says early detection of any weed species is key.

    “It’s all about scouting and awareness,” he says. “Knowing what’s regular in your fields will help identify new weeds that need to be addressed. But even the ones to watch aren’t everywhere. If we know they’ve arrived, we have a chance to control them before they spread.”



    From a news release

    The Agri-business Division of La Coop fédérée, a leader in the farm inputs business in Canada, is now officially operating under the brand Sollio Agriculture. With annual sales of over $2.125 billion and close to 1,100 employees in nine Canadian provinces, Sollio Agriculture is revealing its new identity to better support farmers through its retail networks and 320 business sites.

    "The Agri-business Division, our mission's DNA, is modernizing by giving itself a strategic tool — a strong brand that will stand out in an increasingly competitive market characterized by an unmatched wave of consolidations in the agricultural and agri-food industry. I wish Sollio Agriculture great success," says Ghislain Gervais, President of La Coop Fédérée.

    Sollio Agriculture has facilities across Canada and is active in 29 countries. Internationally, Sollio Agriculture's sales, consisting mainly of exports in the grains sector, exceeded $170 million.

    Last year, Sollio Agriculture made numerous transactions, namely the acquisition of Standard Nutrition Canada, a business selling animal nutrition products and services located in Manitoba, the acquisition of Cargill's grain and crop input assets in Ontario, and a business partnership with Maizex, a Canadian leader in the corn seed industry located in Chatham-Kent, Ontario. These transactions totalled an investment of $180 million.

    Also, Sollio Agriculture is building a grain export terminal in the Port of Quebec City — a $90-million investment that will open new international markets for farmers by making it possible for them to export their harvests to the United States, Mexico, Europe and Asia. Next fall, the company will commission a grain elevator in Truro, Nova Scotia, for the distribution of imported proteins and grains to mills in the region. It is also building a terminal in Oshawa, Ontario, for the exportation of grains to Europe, Central America and the Caribbean.



    The Grain Farmers of Ontario, in partnership with Farm Credit Canada, would like to invite you to be our guest at a stress management workshop: Skills that build resilience on the farm.

    This full-day workshop (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.) will enable you to gain skills to help manage your day-to-day stressors. You will learn calming and relaxation techniques for better focus and performance, how to identify and defuse the most common stress escalators, how to tackle the five pitfalls that perpetuate worry spirals, and discover three keys to better sleep.

    Five workshops are being offered:

  • Woodstock (Thursday, March 28)
  • Chatham (Friday, March 29)
  • Orangeville (Monday, April 1)
  • New Liskeard (Saturday, April 6)
  • Brockville (Saturday, April 13)

  • For more info, visit the Grain Farmers of Ontario website



    From a news release

    The federal government is investing up to $6.2 million to help the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) expand the market for Canadian wheat through technical support, market research, employee exchanges and customized training for customers and commercial partners in over 50 countries.

    Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced the funding on March 13 in Winnipeg. This project, funded through the AgriMarketing Program, under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, will enable Cigi to strengthen relations with buyers and prevent future market access issues while expanding existing markets and developing new opportunities around the world.

    The announcement was part of Bibeau's first agricultural tour. She met with farmers, processors and industry leaders. The minister also took part in local agricultural events, to highlight strategic federal agricultural investments and programs and how they will help to build an even stronger and more innovative sector for Canada.

    The tour began on March 11 in Vernon, British Columbia and concluded in Winnipeg, with stops in Kelowna and Calgary.



    Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
    By Larry Davis, OFA Director

    In a few short weeks, a new federal fuel surcharge comes into effect in Ontario. It’s part of the federal carbon pollution pricing system, and there are implications for Ontario farmers. The new fuel surcharge in Ontario will be added to fuel used for air, marine, rail and road use. But Ontario farmers will be eligible for an exemption for some forms of fuel for tractors, trucks and machinery used on the farm.

    The exemption for Ontario farmers covers gasoline and light fuel oil and involves completing an official exemption form available from the Canada Revenue Agency.

    The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) believes the fuel tax exemption for farmers doesn’t go far enough. The taxation of inputs to food production is a regressive tax if it can be passed on to consumers. Or it is punitive to farmers if it cannot be passed on in the price of food.

    The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and its members, including OFA, are advocating for full exemption on all farm fuels, including natural gas and propane. We are hopeful this full exemption may be available some day. The federal government’s spring federal budget would be a good place to see it.

    The new “carbon tax” stems from the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act that the federal government passed in 2018 to establish a standard for reducing pollution for provinces and territories that didn’t have their own polluting pricing system. The fuel charge stemming from this act now applies to Ontario since the provincial government scrapped the province’s cap and trade program last fall.

    So now that the fuel tax is on its way, it’s time to complete the exemption form to cover fuel used for farming in farm trucks, tractors, vehicles not licensed to be operated on a public road, industrial machines, and stationary or portable engines.

    We’re encouraging members to talk to their fuel supplier about the Fuel Charge Exemption Certificate for Farmers before the new tax goes into effect on April 1. The exemption form – L402E – can be downloaded from the Government of Canada website and is available at any Service Canada location or from your local MP’s office.



    Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
    By Marie Versteeg, CFFO Manager of Executive Board & Committees

    March 8 marked International Women’s Day, and people working in all aspects of agriculture joined in to celebrate the many women working in the industry. Stats Canada’s 2016 Census of Agriculture reports that “Women account for an increasing share of farm operators, rising from 27.4% in 2011 to 28.7% in 2016.” Although modest, this increase in female representation in agriculture came at a time when the number of farm operators was declining overall.

    Last week’s spotlight on women in agriculture was preceded by the March 1st appointment of Marie-Claude Bibeau as Canada’s 35th minister of agriculture and agri-food—the first female to hold the position in our nation’s history.

    Bibeau comes to the portfolio as a well-known voice on rural issues, and she represents a Quebec riding that she describes as “a dairy riding.” Her notable familiarity with supply management and other agricultural issues can be seen as positive for the industry overall.

    Bibeau also comes to the table with a strong track record of advocacy for women’s rights and opportunities. As Minister of International Development (beginning in 2015), she was instrumental in launching the Feminist International Assistance Policy, which focuses on gender equality and opportunities for women and girls as the most effective means of combatting poverty and promoting peace.

    Given Bibeau’s track record on supporting women internationally, we could infer that she may devote efforts to enriching the role for women in Canadian agriculture. On this, Barry Wilson, writing for the Western Producer, has summed up Bibeau’s appointment this way:

    “The repercussions should soon be evident.

    Coming soon to a government microphone near you: program announcements to support women in agriculture and to encourage more young women to consider the industry as a career choice.”

    Repercussions? Surely, Mr. Wilson meant to write benefits.

    We’ve also heard Bibeau’s appointment reported with a sideways glance at Trudeau’s “feminist agenda,” which includes efforts to create a gender-balanced cabinet. Such a perspective diminishes the value of all the benefits that this particular individual can bring to Canadian agriculture overall, in addition to opening doors for women.

    We all benefit when women bring their skills to any sector. According to global research, women’s economic empowerment has been linked to increased economic productivity overall. In contrast, gender gaps cost economies as much as 15 percent of GDP. (Visit UN Women for more information.)

    With Canada’s ambitious economic growth targets for the agri-food sector, why wouldn’t we warmly welcome programs that provide broader opportunities for entry into agriculture, regardless of gender?

    Women are already finding roles across the industry, from farming to research to banking to marketing, but there are still barriers. Advocates report that stereotypes persist, and more work is needed to encourage women to join agricultural boards. Part of the solution to these challenges may come with what we can only hope are Bibeau’s next announcements about supporting and encouraging women in agriculture.

    (NOTE: Since the time of writing, Minister Bibeau announced Farm Credit Canada’s new Women Entrepreneur Program.)