Monthly Archives: July 2014

Foreign Workers Develop into Skilled Labourers. Why Send Them Home?

Owen RobertsThe federal government can do something to help Ontario’s $900-million mushroom sector — that is, extend or change the temporary foreign worker program. Such a change might help other agri-food sectors too and give new skilled Canadians a productive place in our society.

The agri-food sector’s struggle with labour is widely known. Canadians like to eat, like to support local food and say good things about Canadian agriculture. But when it comes to manual farm labour, forget it. For the most part, when it comes to anything other than pick-your-own, they’re reluctant to lift a finger.

And while automation has taken farming to new heights, manual labour is still a part of agriculture, especially in some sectors and especially for harvesting.

The mushroom sector is a classic example. It harvests year-round, giving workers the chance to refine their skills on a long-term basis.

But the sector is in a real bind. In fact, it’s predicting a crisis will beset it next year.

It even knows the date: April, 2015.

That unusual insight is based on a four-year-old federal law related to temporary foreign workers, who make up around a quarter of Ontario’s mushroom-harvesting workforce.  Harvesting is labour intensive, and like many farm labour jobs, most Ontarians aren’t interested in it…even though the most experienced mushroom harvesters can make up to $24 an hour.

In mushroom harvesting, experiences counts. New harvesters get six weeks of training and are up to speed in about six months (during training, they’re paid minimum wage).

Here’s the crunch. These workers are not seasonal workers. They’re temporary. And in 2011, Ottawa arbitrarily passed legislation that says these temporary workers cannot stay in Canada more than four years.

At that point, the workers must return to their home country. And they can’t come back for another four years.

That means anyone working in Canada before April 1, 2011 will have to go back next April. And when they do, the mushroom industry is predicting there’ll be a labour crisis. Not only will the current crop of trained workers be simultaneously lost, there’ll be a plethora of new ones to bring on all at once.

What can be done?

To start with, the industry wants Ottawa to offer an extension to the current workers. Then, it wants Ottawa to reconsider the four-year period. And finally, it wants to discuss granting the workers residency.

Susan McBride Friesen, director of human resources at Leamington-based Highline Mushrooms, whose company employs 180 temporary foreign workers at three locations, says that after training and four years of work, the temporary workers are no longer unskilled labour. They have special skills that are vital for the industry.

Over the past year, mushroom growers have beat a path to everyone’s door they can think of – MPs, deputy ministers, lobbyists, you name it. But given the ugliness that’s beset the temporary foreign worker program in the fast food sector, so far they’ve found no politicians interested in taking on their cause. So they’re going public to try to make their issue known more widely.

Many people will see this primarily an employment and immigration issue, but it’s also a food and agriculture issue.

If Ontario — home to Canada’s biggest processing sector — is to meet food export targets and grow its economy, it needs manual labourers, and in this case, workers who can go on to develop specialized skills.

Why send them home if they want to stay, if they’re not taking jobs from others and if they can become productive Canadian citizens?

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Our industry is filled with optimistic and energetic young people who are passio…

Our industry is filled with optimistic and energetic young people who are passionate about agriculture.

Nurture the optimism of youth | Agriculture More Than Ever
Young farmer groups seem to be rapidly expanding across the country. Enthusiastic and motivated, they’re anxious to get going in their agriculture careers and make their marks on the industry.

Winners of National Farm Photo Contest Announced

Winners have been announced in the Farm & Food Care Foundation’s inaugural Farm Photo Contest. The contest which ran from early May until the end of June gave photographers the chance to enter their farm photography in six categories – All About Animals, Canadian Farm Scenes, Crazy About Crops, Farm Faces, Farm Fun and Farm Innovation.

The contest was a great success, organizers say, generating 650 entries from across the country. Prizes in the amount of $400 (first), $200 (second), $100 (third) and $50 (honourable mention) will be awarded to the winners of each category. An additional $400 will also go to the overall contest winner – the entry of Sheri Mangin of Manitoba.

Many of the winning photos will be featured in the 2014 edition of The Real Dirt on Farming. This national publication answers common questions asked by the public about food and farming practices in Canada, and will be released in November of 2014. Photos may also be used in other Farm & Food Care initiatives.

Winning entries were chosen through a combination of a two week Facebook contest, where viewers voted on their favourite entries, and by a panel of three Canadian photographers who served as independent judges.

Click here to see all the winning entries.

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Hypro Duo React Nozzle Adds Spray Versatility

One nozzle type rarely does all jobs well, and it’s tempting to find one or two general purpose nozzles and switch them out between jobs. Hypro has a better idea, and is rolling out its Duo React nozzle body that allows farmers to choose — automatically — up to three configurations from one nozzle body.

As Ralph Walker, application specialist with Hypro, explains in this video from Canada’s Farm Progress Show, the Duo React nozzle body allows farmers to choose either the front, back or both nozzles, directly from the cab. This allows for a wide range of spray quality control, minimizing drift or maximizing coverage, depending on the desired application and conditions. One nozzle body can also control up to two slave nozzle bodies on each side, meaning that farmers can further fine-tune boom sections for independent on/off control.

This link takes you to all our coverage of Canada’s Farm Progress Show!

If you cannot see the embedded video, click here.

Want more coverage and videos about nozzles? Click here!

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Soybean School: The Precision of Soybean Breeding

Ever wonder how soybean crosses are made? How long it takes for a new soybean variety to go from pod to variety? Each crop type requires unique field work to come up with new and exciting lines that balance higher yield potential with the strong agronomic traits farmers are looking for.

In this Soybean School episode, Real Agriculture field editor, Bernard Tobin, takes to the soybean plots with Syngenta soybean breeder, David Lee.

You’ll see up close how soybean pollen crosses are made, what makes a good pollination day (hint: this summer has been a challenge), and how many years and generations of work it takes to bring a new line to the farm. You’ll also hear from Lee about what he’s looking for in a new line, from root rot resistance, to how it stands up to white mould, and ensuring resistance to soybean cyst nematode.

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here.

Want more soybean info? This link takes you to the full library.

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Pulse School: The Root Cause of Yellowing in Peas

With flash flooding and saturated soils affecting much of the prairie provinces this year, it’s no wonder producers are finding pea crops with serious symptom development. Unfortunately, distinguishing nutrient deficiencies, nodulation issues (read more: Nodulation No-Show? Tips for a Rescue N App) and disease presence from other stress-inducing factors can be incredibly difficult.

A few key signs peas may be affected by root rot is yellowing of leaf tissue, decay or brown discolouration of roots and often pale, reduced nodules. The best way to identify the causal agent of root rot symptoms is by sending a sample to a diagnostic laboratory.

Related: Pulse School: The Root Rot You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

In this Pulse School, Faye Dokken-Bouchard, disease specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, discusses factors that can cause yellowing in pea crops, focusing on root rots and moisture-stress with examples available for the Saskatchewan Crop Diagnostic Schools. Dokken-Bouchard also suggests a few management tips to lessen the likelihood of seeing root rot development in the future.

Find this video online and download or stream the audio via Soundcloud.

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Vous parlez français? Check out our French Facebook page and connect with other…

Vous parlez français? Check out our French Facebook page and connect with other French-speaking agvocates.

L’agriculture, plus que jamais

L’agriculture, plus que jamais est une cause qui vise à changer les perceptions et à susciter un dialogue positif à l’égard de l’industrie agricole canadienne. Votre histoire est importante. Exprimez-vous et faites-le positivement.

Spray Tips with Tom Wolf — Ep. 9: What’s with Dew?

dew on canolaWhen warm air is cooled, it loses some of its moisture-holding capabilities.  This change often occurs at night, when plants (and other objects) cool. Once the temperature of the surface of the leaves, for example, drops below the dewpoint, it causes water to condense, forming the shiny dew that causes so many to question early morning spray applications.

Related: Spray Tips with Tom Wolf — Ep. 2: Is it OK to Spray in the Early Morning?

“The question is often: will the spray run off the plant or will it get so diluted that it doesn’t work anymore,” says Tom Wolf, spray application specialist.

In a dew chamber, work has shown that large spray droplets are more likely to run off a plant saturated with dew than their smaller counterparts. However, similar work showed that spray efficacy was not altered by droplet size.

In this episode of Spray Tips, Wolf discusses this work and the potential answer to the seemingly conflicting findings. Wolf also explains how grassy weeds compare to broadleaves, the role of surfactants, and what to consider when making the decision to spray through dew or nay.

Find this video online or stream the audio on Soundcloud!

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