Category: Observer

Inflation is hammering everyone including farmers

Farmers enjoy a high ranking in public trust polls, but they could be mistakenly blamed for rising food costs. It’s true that crop prices have been yielding better returns, but skyrocketing fertilizer costs take a big bite out of their profits – causing some farmers to think twice about which crops they can afford to plant.

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It was a good Friday for Ukrainian planting forecasts

In a rare piece of good news last Friday, the Ukrainian agriculture ministry bumped up its estimate of spring crop planting from 13.4 million to 14 million hectares.
But it’s still a drop in the food bucket for more than 800 million people around the world suffering chronic food insecurity, and forecast to worsen this year. Image: AFP, FAO, USDA.

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Emergency plan needed for foreign workers says food sector

Food and Beverage Canada has called on Ottawa for an emergency foreign worker program to help fill dire labour shortages in those sectors. It’s is a chronic and critical issue, but it seems federal politicians may need a reminder from their constituents about just how significant the impact is – not only for agriculture, but for rebuilding the post-COVID Canadian economy. Photo:

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Working together: A winning approach to curbing emissions

When Ottawa committed to cut fertilizer use by 30 per cent as of 2030, farmers balked. As much as they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fertilizer is essential for current crop production levels. Now Ottawa’s invited their suggestions on new technologies and practices that might just make that target more feasible. Photo:

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Rail stoppage? Your timing couldn’t be worse

Railway labour woes meant fertilizers almost didn’t make it to North American farmers in time for planting this year. Binding arbitration saved the day, for now. But the impact on world grain markets could have been catastrophic if the railways didn’t run – especially with a greatly depleted grain and oilseed harvest expected from Ukraine and Russia this year. Photo:

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Farm safety measures vital as spring planting approaches

Farmers will soon be gearing up for planting, and it’s one of their busiest, most stressful seasons…especially this year, when input costs are so high and world grain harvests are forecast to be low. Canadian Agricultural Safety Week is an important reminder each year to take time and take care. Image:

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Keep an eye on the environment as prices rise

Diminished planting in Ukraine’s normally productive grain and oilseed fields is inevitable, yet one more consequence of the barbaric Russian invasion. The pressure on the rest of the world’s producers to make up for the shortfall – and take advantage of sky high pieces – could have a significant ripple effect, if some impetus exists to bringing marginal land into production. That possibility is already being discussed. Photo:

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Let’s lift our heads and not lose sight of Russia’s global threat

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have more consequences worldwide when Ukrainian farmers are unable to plant their fields in the next few weeks. As the breadbasket of Europe, the country is the world’s fourth leading of exporter of agricultural products, particularly wheat, corn and barley. Without Ukraine’s harvest, there will be significantly less grain available on world markets and one more reason that food prices will continue to climb. Image: modern

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Be ready for agritourism to skyrocket this year

The North American tourism industry is roaring back, and that will undoubtedly include trips to agritourism destinations. Farms can provide a unique, bucolic experience and up-close encounters with crops and livestock, but farming is also a business. Faced with labour shortages and potential issues of liability, farm hosts are working hard to address these challenges so they can once again welcome visitors to “come on in”. Photo:

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Joe told us to do something. So, we did.

No matter what you thought about the truckers’ border blockades, everyone heaved a sigh of relief when they ended peacefully. Farmers, like so many others, were suffering. Their crops and livestock have to make it to market safety and on time. Curiously, it took an offer of help from the American president to finally spur Ontario and Canadian governments into action. Photo:

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B.C.’s farm recovery deserves to be the top agricultural story

British Columbia’s flooding last November was catastrophic for livestock, poultry and vegetable producers in the affected areas. Images of desperate farmers trying to rescue their animals from rising waters touched us all. This week’s federal-provincial announcement of $228 million to help farmers return to production was welcome news. Photo:

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Better to use maligned spuds than destroy them

The federal government made the right move when it halted export of P.E.I. potatoes to the U.S. due to the presence of a fungal disease called potato wart. It poses no risk to human health, but America says it is free of it and wants to keep it that way. While a science-based solution is worked out, the newly announced Surplus Potato Management Response will direct as many potatoes as possible to processors, packers and food banks to minimize the amount of potatoes that must be destroyed. Photo:

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Urban Cowboy

Raising awareness and promoting dialogue about current food and agriculture issues.


Headshot of Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts is a faculty member in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications program at the University of Illinois. As an agricultural journalist, he is the past president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists and a lifetime achievement award recipient from the Canadian Farm Writers' Federation. His programs and research papers have been recognized nationally and internationally through awards from the Journal of Applied Communications, the National Agri-Marketing Association, the Association for Communications Excellence, and others.

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