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Farm Safety and Climate Change Top Policy Priorities (PCN Fall 2015) OCT 1 2015 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Safe and Healthy Farms and Ranches

On April 28, Premier-to-be Rachel Notley stated her position on the safety of workers on farms and ranches: “The Day of Mourning is also an opportunity to remember some of the most vulnerable workers in Alberta today: farm workers. They work without the right to organize, take rest periods or receive the minimum wage, safety protections or mandatory workers’ compensation coverage.”

Alberta remains the only jurisdiction within Canada that has an exemption for farms from Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) standards and is perceived as a problem child when it comes to providing safe and healthy work environments for all farm workers. It is undeniable that every farm manager in Alberta places the safety of their families, hired help and themselves first and foremost.

The current OH&S exemption does not require farmers to allow OH&S investigators to enter their farms or fields following serious incidents or fatalities. Removing the exemption has been a priority of the new NDP government, not only to eliminate the stigma attached with Alberta’s primary agricultural labour sector, but also to fall in line with international trade agreement labour standard commitments.

The major crop and livestock commissions met with the new Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry (Oneil Carlier) and Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour (Lori Sigurdson) at the end of June to discuss the Government’s intentions in regard to farm safety. It was clear from that discussion that the government intends to remove the OH&S exemption in the near future.

The major crop and livestock commissions reminded the Ministers that we have been working closely with the provincial government over the past two years, representing the concerns that producers have with the introduction of legislation regarding technical standards mentioned in the quotation above. A sole piece of legislation does not increase safety on farm. Only education and extension of safe and proper equipment operation can improve safety on farm and save lives.

What’s next? The crop commissions have communicated not only to the Ministers, but also to the Premier and her cabinet that any technical standards must be measured and developed in cooperation with the crop sector itself. Consultation is needed in order to be effective and allow our farms to continue operating without burdensome and costly regulations. The commissions have committed to working in the areas of education and extension of farm safe practices along with Alberta Farm Safe and the new Government.

Climate Change

Premier Notley has identified the environment as an area where the province will be charting a new course. As such, she has created a Climate Advisory Panel to make recommendations on how to move forward with a new climate strategy. The government has hosted two public consultation sessions in Calgary and Edmonton on September 2 and 3 respectively, as well as a closed session on September 17, specific to Agriculture. Alberta Pulse Growers has been working closely with our partners at the AgriEnvironmental Partnership of Alberta, as well as with our sister crop commissions, to inform the panel of the largest renewable resource in Alberta, the agriculture sector.

Premier Notley will be presenting a new architecture at the international COP 23 meeting in Paris in early December. This architecture will cover the following four pillars: How Alberta will price carbon, how Alberta will undertake a robust energy efficiency strategy, how Alberta will grow the economy through renewables, and how Alberta will ensure a long-term sustainability system.

What does this mean for Alberta farms? At this time, it is not clear what the changing architecture means for your operation. Best management farm practices such as no-till, GPS, sectional control and other technologies represent significant opportunities for agriculture to reduce emissions and help meet Alberta’s future greenhouse gas reduction commitments. APG will remain engaged in communicating the benefits that Agriculture represents and will be working hard to ensure any legislation regarding climate change does not add additional costs to our growers.

Life Cycle Assessment

The Alberta Pulse Growers, with assistance from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, is conducting an environmental footprint for Alberta pulse production using a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach. LCA is a formalized methodology that provides a quantitative approach to understanding the distribution of resource demands and environmental impacts along the food product supply chains, as well as identifying opportunities for improvement. Knowing what is driving environmental impacts can help in making production and management decisions that provide the greatest financial and environmental benefits.

Alberta producers can help with this study in support of International Year of Pulses 2016 by completing a brief survey of their farm management practices. The survey will be available in November. On behalf of APG, we thank you in advance for your assistance with this important work.