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Thursday, 05 January 2012 09:50

Agriculture is still a promising vocation

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By Jamie Woodford
Southern Alberta
Despite constant change, the future of agriculture is looking bright according to students studying agriculture at the University of Lethbridge.

The school’s Agriculture Students’ Society is a social club dedicated to promoting ag awareness on campus, as well as a a place for agriculture-minded students to network with each other and industry.

“It’s to get people that are ag related, or with the same kind of background together and meet people that you’re going to see again throughout your life,” said society president Steve Jones.

Although mainly a social group, every year the society hosts Ag Awareness Week in March.

Prairie Post sat down with a few society members to discuss their take on the industry. Most come from a farming background and are looking to gain more education that will help them take their family farm to the next level. Others are wanting to learn how to sustain the industry as a whole.

“The industry is changing quite a bit right now and getting an education you can see what will make or break the market right now,” said Brent Nilsson.

Fellow ag student Lindon Nakamura added education will help in dealing with future challenges.

“(Agriculture) is more specialized, a lot more skill is required to compete,” he said, noting the industry’s future looks good.

“In the broad spectrum, the future of agriculture is bright. There’s going to be a lot more opportunity.”

Looking to the future, Nilsson said traceability will likely become the next big thing in agriculture.

“People are going to want to know where that product came from, what got sprayed on that crop, where it grew,” he said.

“They want to know everything that we did to that crop ... traceability is going to be a big part of agriculture. Consumers want to know where it’s been and I think they feel more comfortable when they know.”

All students agreed opening up the Canadian Wheat Board is a positive change for the future.

“(It’s) going to be a significant change,” Nilsson said. “I’m for it. I’d like to get rid of it — just the monopoly. It kind of restricts what our options are because once it’s gone, we have the option that we can, say, start processing grain on our  farms. ... where right now, if we wanted to that, we have to sell our grain to the wheat board and buy it back.”

He said farmers who want to keep the board likely don’t know how to market their grain.

“Farmers are not educated in how to market their grain. It’s the safe system that they’re used to.”

“It’s status quo,”Jones added, noting farmers will have to adapt just as grain companies will too.

“A lot of the companies are preparing for it,” he said. “There is going to be a place for farmers to market their grain.”

Nakamura also agreed it’s time for the wheat board to change.

“Especially since the competition is a lot greater now. I think it’s fair that Canadian farmers should gain some of the benefit,” he said.

Looking to other aspects of agriculture, livestock is an area that has a lot of potential to expand, said Jones.

“There are (opportunities) in Canada to diversify a lot. We’ve seen a large amount of immigrants come in so there’s more chances for specialty (markets) like goats or sheep, which is not necessarily a very large production in Canada right now,” he said, adding there are already signs the livestock industry is growing.

“It seems like borders are starting to open up, prices are evening out ... so it’s starting to pick back up.”

Student C.J. Ireland had another perspective. She said the livestock industry could be in trouble if U.S. animal advocacy groups are successful.

“It depends on whether everybody in the States gets their way or not. There’s so much against animal agriculture that it’s a tough industry ... look at the HSUS that’s out to end animal agriculture” she said.

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