By Trevor Busch
Agricultural success has been a mixed bag throughout the Bow River riding in 2017, with some areas enjoying dry land success while others have suffered under near drought-like conditions.
“In terms of the riding, there are some areas that are incredibly good, in the sense of the amount of rainfall they had, and there’s areas of dry land that are really burnt,” said Bow River MP Martin Shields. “So the crops really vary from around the riding. Irrigation of course is a different story altogether, there’s been enough water, so crops on irrigation are very good. From that point of view, harvest started earlier than some years — the corn was up early, so there was lots of corn before the Cornfest. So it’s been a pretty good year as far as that goes.”
One sector of the industry that is isn’t often mentioned — sheep — has been seeing considerable success, according to Shields.
“The cattle industry has seemed to be holding its own, the market that’s really boomed up is anybody that’s got sheep. The sheep market is phenomenal out there. There isn’t a lot of sheep, but for those that do have it, they sure know it. One of the best they can ever remember.”
As for the bovine tuberculosis investigation that has been ongoing in southern Alberta through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Shields expects improvements in the process and only limited segregations and testing should another infected animal be detected at another location.
“CFIA sent out a communication here a while ago that talked about what they were going to do this fall. I met with the president of CFIA, and it was explained that they were coming back to do a very extensive link into cattle over the last five years, any cattle that could have been in contact anywhere. But they were going to do it differently, only if they found a positive reaction, or negative reaction, they would only isolate those, not quarantine herds. Since the original list came out of where they were going to test, they have narrowed that down again. So they’ll be coming out this fall, and although it’s from Saskatchewan to B.C., I think there’s 18 in this particular riding, but it’s a lot smaller than it was, so they’ve narrowed down their scope of testing. But again, what’s drastically different this time is they won’t quarantine herds. If they get animals that test, they will segregate those and retest and retest to confirm. That’s positive in the sense that they’re coming back, but they’re going to do it differently.”
High-level renegotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are being conducted.
Shields hopes that trade factors for small segments of the ag industry — such as the locally-important Canadian sugar sector — won’t be bargained away at the negotiating table as concessions.
“The NAFTA negotiations are going to go on for some time, but that one could effect long term in the sense of the sugar industry, and the seed potatoes. Those are all niche pieces that are under NAFTA, and so those are specific. There’s the big picture of NAFTA, but there’s a lot of small pieces, so we’re talking outside of the supply management, there’s some other pieces in there that are long term in the sense of what we could see from that.”
The federal government may be eyeing the region as a potential area for investment and study of fractionalization through an innovation cluster, asserts Shields.
“The sugar beet industry is an example of it. You take the sugar beets and break them down and break them down to their chemical components, and then they form the crystals and the crystals get together and form sugar. So instead of loading sugar beets in railway cars and shipping them, they break it down to the end product. So compare that, for example, with wheat. You take wheat, load that bulk product in cars and ship it out. So the idea is that you could take crops like wheat and break it down to its chemical components like you do with sugar beets, take out the protein pieces, and get the much more high-value end product that could then be shipped at a lot less cost. So that’s the protein piece that’s in demand at the other end. There’s a group of innovators looking at this. The federal government talks about cluster innovation, and so there’s a group out there that’s working together to propose that the government develop a cluster in southern Alberta around this fractionalization topic.”
Proposed legislation impacting taxes for incorporated businesses could have a severely negative affect on producers, according to Shields.
“It’s the piece on when you incorporate — and we have a lot of ag guys that have incorporated — and the government has proposed this summer how to tax incorporated companies a different way. Ag guys are very different than your regular incorporated business in the sense that cash flow changes drastically at times. If you sell your cattle, you have a bunch of cash. If you sell your crop, you got a bunch. Next year, it might not be so good. So they use money over term, and investment over term. In this proposal, they would tax in any given year for whatever you’ve got, which would really not allow the ag sector to buffer from one year to the next with their income through incorporation. This will really cause a problem in the ag sector, because most guys are family businesses — and this goes the same for small businesses — but ag in particular there is a extreme cash flow variations, and this legislation they’re proposing we oppose strongly.”