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From the University of Guelph

It’s a good time to be entering Ontario’s agriculture and food industry because there are jobs galore.

In fact, there are currently four jobs for every graduate of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), according to a new report.

“It’s a sector that has to grow no matter what because people have to eat,” said OAC dean Rene Van Acker. “But it’s also a sector that has a chronic challenge in attracting people.”

These findings were featured in The Globe and Mail.

Commissioned by OAC, the employment study titled Planning for Tomorrow 2.0 reveals that the agriculture and food industry is thriving, but there aren’t enough qualified people to fill all the jobs.

Based on a survey of 123 Ontario employers in the sector, the report provides a snapshot of hiring trends and demands in agriculture and food. The new survey updates a report from five years earlier that found there were three jobs for every graduate of an OAC undergraduate program.

As a national and international leader in agriculture and food, U of G provides a majority of the graduates for this sector in the province, said Van Acker.

He said OAC wanted to update its survey to accurately gauge job demand and see where to focus recruitment efforts and enhance programs.

“It’s great news for students entering and coming out of the programs because of the tremendous demand for their skills and the many opportunities for them. On the other side, it remains a challenge for us at the University to help the sector find the people they need to grow.”

Not only did the report reveal an increase from three to four jobs available for every graduate, but it also found employers predicting even more jobs over the next five years.

With job availability on the rise, OAC is putting more aggressive strategies in place to meet demand. Enrollment in OAC’s programs has grown each year over the past seven years, but not fast enough, said Van Acker.

“We have work to do among potential students to let them know that this sector has great career opportunities, and that employers are looking specifically for people coming out of our programs.”

The college is pursuing new initiatives to inform students about growth prospects in the high-tech food and agriculture sector, said Van Acker.

“You don’t have to grow up on a farm to work in agriculture. There are all sorts of careers in the sector, and with many of them you can work in urban centres and live an urban lifestyle.”

Ippolito Group, one of North America’s leading produce companies based in Burlington, Ont., is exploring automated food processing approaches that require significant technical expertise, said Robert March, chief operating officer.

“We recently utilized U of G people for a project that involved incorporating cutting-edge technology into our production line, and we will be looking to U of G graduates for future projects as well,” said March. “U of G is where we will be sourcing our brainpower.”

Food processors and growers, input suppliers, financial institutions and government agencies were among those surveyed in the report funded by the OAC Dean’s Office, OAC Alumni Foundation, Farm Credit Canada and RBC Royal Bank.

In an effort to promote and grow its programs, OAC plans to strengthen liaison efforts with schools and connect with food companies to create programs geared to the industry, said Van Acker.

“We are so excited about this sector because we know it and understand it. We want to transplant that excitement into young people who are looking for opportunities because there is so much opportunity here.”

Among the survey’s specific findings:

  • 44 per cent of food employers and 56 per cent of agriculture employers project a general increase in the average number of new hires over the next five years.

  • 77 per cent of food employers and 79 per cent of agriculture employers state a preference for formal training in food and agriculture graduates.

  • 50 per cent of food employers and 57 per cent of agriculture employers state that more than half of their employees require or have post-secondary education.

  • 51 per cent of food employers and 67 per cent of agriculture employers report difficulties in finding recruits.



    From a news release

    Crop maturity may turn out to be a bigger story than yield variability for Ontario farmers this fall.

    Late crop development quickly emerged as a key topic of discussion during the eighth annual Great Lakes Grain Assessment Tour.

    Officials with Great Lakes Grain unveiled the results of the tour at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show near Woodstock on Sept. 12.

    The report noted the growing season of 2017 has had many high and low points.

    “What started out as a promising early spring with some planting activity last week of April, slipped away and stretched the planting window all the way to June with lots of wet weather to start the season. The spring weather gave way to a highly variable weather patterns and a struggle to maintain a normal pace of corn heat unit accumulations,” said GLG officials in a news release.

    According to the report, 37 per cent of the sites on the tour were still in the milk stage of crop development on corn, in stark contrast to last year where all sites were in the dent stage.

    Late-planted or replanted soybeans were barely in the seed filling stages.

    While rainfall in most areas was adequate, the report notes the distribution was not.

    “Some areas received too much at the beginning and not enough during the pollination or flowering growth stages, especially critical on sandy textured soils.”

    The slow pace of Crop Heat Units accumulation has left some areas over 300 CHU short, year-to-date, leading to variability in crop yield and maturity.

    Other highlights from the tour:

  • GLG estimates Ontario’s average corn yield 164.6 bushels per acre. Soybean yield is estimated at 44.1.

  • Managing nitrogen as a system and the use of nitrogen stabilizers was very evident in fields this year.

  • Variable weather set the soybean crop up for a host of diseases.

  • White mold showed up unexpectedly in some fields and was a yearly occurrence in others prone to infection in highly fertile rotated fields.

  • Insects were present in some fields with Japanese Beetles, Bean Leaf beetle and Stink Bugs easily observed.

  • The final report from this year’s crop assessment tour is available on the
    Great Lakes Grain website.



    From a news release

    SG Ceresco (Ceresco), a Canadian leader in soybean processing, is being sold to Quebec interests.

    The company is owned by co-founders Thierry Gripon and Mireille Raymond, and the closing of the transaction is subject to certain customary closing conditions.

    The purchasers, Transit BD and Alain Létourneau Holdings, will continue the company’s export sales activities in food-grade soybeans, as well selling non-GMO soybean seeds to Canadian farmers.

    Thierry Gripon will remain as leader of the international soybean sales team and Mireille Raymond will be responsible for operational management until a new general manager is in place.

    "We are very pleased to have concluded this transaction with the founders of the company. Ceresco has a significant international development potential and we are very enthusiastic about further developing this Quebec jewel," says Transit BD shareholder Pierre Dagenais.

    "Ceresco possesses an excellent customer base of soybean producers with whom we can build the future. We are particularly pleased to continue the work of the founders who have built this fine company over the last 30 years," adds Alain Létourneau.

    Ceresco’s Thierry Gripon states: "We are convinced that the new group of shareholders will be successful in carrying out projects and the future destiny of the company. We have put in place a strong management team that will support the new owners. We are particularly proud to have built this beautiful company with our employees, soybean producers and international customers. We both pass on, Mireille and I, a wonderful project that we have successfully completed."



    From Farm Management Canada

    Farm Management Canada (FMC) and the Canadian Association of Diploma in Agriculture Programs (CADAP) are proud to announce the launch of the 2017-18 Excellence Award for Agricultural Students, designed to encourage students to improve their critical thinking, communication and leadership skills through a national competition.

    How to Apply

    FMC and CADAP are collecting submissions from agricultural students across Canada and will award three winners with scholarships towards furthering their education in agriculture. First place stands to win $1,500.

    The award is designed to help students develop their communication skills by having the opportunity to voice their opinion on a subject related to farm management.

    Students are asked to submit a multimedia presentation, a video, a Twitter chat, a blog or a Wiki, responding to the following question:

    What aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should be addressed and amended in the current negotiations that will benefit Canada's agriculture sector?

    To take part in the competition, for details on how to enter, or to apply, visit: www.fmc-gac.com.

    All applications must be received no later than May 6th, 2018.



    Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
    By Suzanne Armstrong, CFFO Director of Research and Policy

    In August, the Soil Conservation Council of Canada hosted a Summit on Canadian Soil Health, including a Pre-Summit Tour at sites in Wellington and Perth.

    After two days of site visits, and excellent speakers, Don Lobb, farmer and award-winning soil health leader, closed out the presentations with a challenge to all present. He encouraged a move to better “soil care” based on four principles: restore soil aggregation, increase soil organic matter, increase biological activity in soil, and manage water availability.

    It was clear from the demonstration sites and the farmers who shared stories of their soil conservation efforts on their farms that how these four principles are put into practice varies greatly from region to region, and from farm to farm.

    Among the strategies that are often employed to work towards those four principles are perennial forages, diverse crop rotation, cover crops, and reduced tillage. Farmer speakers shared many different strategies, well suited to each different farm, but all working toward better soil health.

    Alberta farmer Doug Wray described his beef operation where, he says, if he looks after the grass, the grass looks after the cows.

    In reverse from his neighours, his cows harvest the “hay” all summer and live off the natural pasture in the winter. Having the animals do the work adds fertility back into the land as well.

    Quebec crop and vegetable farmer Jocelyn Michon began in the early 1980’s by transitioning away from the moldboard plow, moving to no-till and then later incorporating cover crops, which he has been using since 2003. On his farm, he aims to “replace steel with roots; fuel with photosynthesis, and urea with nodules.” The nice even production in his fields is a sign of the soil health he has been able to achieve.

    Ontario farmer Ken Laing is innovating with organic methods of no-till and cover crops as part of his CSA vegetable farm. He noted especially the role of glomalin in building aggregate stability as a result of the natural cooperation between fungi and roots in healthy soils. His aim is to have living covers, to reduce or eliminate tillage and to integrate livestock. He farms with horses, which made it a little more challenging to find a suitable no-till drill. His methods include using a roller crimper to terminate cover crops.

    It is clear with soil health that a “one size fits all” solution is not the answer. Good soil care means working to find the best methods that suit the soil, climate, type of farm production, and resources available on each farm. Canadian farmers are innovative not only in business but also in their farm stewardship. The Summit on Canadian Soil Health offered excellent opportunities to hear the latest in soil health research and on-farm solutions to better soil care from across the country.



    Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
    By Mark Wales, OFA Director

    Incorporated farm businesses in Ontario are facing devastating tax implications if the federal government approves proposed changes to the private corporation tax system. About 25% of farm businesses in Ontario and Canada are incorporated and could be hit with a hike in accounting and succession planning fees, and severe limitations on farm transfer options to the next generation.

    The implications of the proposed tax changes could be damaging to farm businesses across the country. Many farms, including incorporated farms, are passed down from generation to generation Incorporation is a way of structuring a business that many farmers and small business owners across Canada have decided makes sense for their business.

    But the term ‘corporate’ has no bearing on the size or type of farm. Incorporated farm businesses in Canada are mostly family owned and operated. Incorporation of any farm is a serious business decision that often comes with increased complexity and fees from advisors such as accountants and lawyers.

    One of the primary reasons businesses choose to incorporate is to limit their liability and protect their personal assets such as their home. Incorporation can also play a key role in passing the family farm business down to the next generation and ensure the continuity of the business. That’s why Ontario and Canadian farmers aren’t taking the proposed changes lightly.

    Consultations on the tax changes are only open until October 2 with implementation scheduled for January 2018. This aggressive schedule immediately undoes a generation or more of succession planning and requires quick decisions to be made that will significantly affect future generations.

    The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is asking all farmers – especially those with incorporated farm businesses who will be impacted by these proposed changes – to talk to their MP about the serious implications to primary agriculture and farmers across Canada.

    We have to act now. And OFA is making it easy to speak up and tell our elected officials that Canadian farm businesses won’t stand for this drastic overhaul of the private corporation tax system that would add complexity and uncertainty to any farmer with an incorporated farm business.

    Visit actnow.ofa.on.ca to speak up and send a letter to your MP letting them know the changes will be devastating to your farm and farmers across Ontario and Canada.

    We need to act now, consultations are only open for a few more weeks, and if approved, these changes will go into effect on January 1, 2018.

    The federal government needs to understand the consequences of these proposed tax changes and the impacts they could have to farmers, farm families, rural communities and our agri-food industry are simply unacceptable.