Author: Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as

Empower Farmers by Making Credit Available: A World Food Day Lesson

World anything Day is a lot to take in. You’d think it might be easier to digest when a designated day for something global was also for something so familiar as food. But I didn’t sense that with World Food Day, which arrived and passed Sunday without much fanfare, at least in North America. Why’s… Read more »

Big Lender Urges Farm Equipment Dealers to Reinvent Themselves

One of the world’s largest agricultural lenders suggests North American farm equipment dealers “transform” to improve returns on invested capital. In a food and agribusiness research and advisory missive, Rabobank’s senior analyst for farm inputs, Kenneth Zuckerberg, says the equipment sector is being rocked by three years of declining sales, along with shrinking net income… Read more »

Ontario Ag Minister’s Marching Orders are Heavy on the Environment

Ontario’s focus on the environmental side of farming has just been underlined and intensified, even more. With the midpoint mandate of her provincial government having been reached, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne put pen to paper last week to help guide both new and established ministers on the next part of their journey. Her mission was… Read more »

Wild turkeys are not scapegoats for avian disease in Ontario

A lot of angst is simmering in farm circles about the potential for disease to spread between wildlife and domestic livestock, such as poultry. The concerns are warranted, given how quickly disease can race through a herd and create huge losses. But new research from the University of Guelph into the health status of Ontario… Read more »

The Next Revolution In The Farm And Food Sector Has Arrived

Pundits have said the leaders of the next agricultural revolution – the digital revolution — will be big data-powered researchers, with a universe of information in hand to help make farming more efficient than ever. But no one said those researchers would be found in the labs, fields, and classrooms of some of Canada’s main… Read more »

Farming’s Social Licence: It’s an Agreement, Not an Order

Does agriculture have its own social licence, its own special bond with the public? I wondered that last week, thinking about the energy sector. My thoughts were prompted by the terrified look on Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre’s face, when he unwittingly found himself between a protestor (described by the media as “burly”) and participants at… Read more »

Deep, Dark Ag Banking Secrets…From an Ex-Banker

For 32 years, Rob Hall worked in agricultural banking in Ontario – sometimes at the very top of the food chain, and always on the management side of the desk. Now, he’s switched sides. He’s on the farmer’s side. And he’s eager to talk in plain language. In February, Hall launched BankSpeak, a business finance… Read more »

When Virus News Goes Viral: Ontario Deals with Rabies Outbreak

Producers can take heart in the approaches underway by provincial authorities to get a handle on two rabies outbreaks in southern Ontario. The outbreaks, involving terrestrial rabies (not bat rabies) have officials turning to proven control methods — and social media, through the Ontario Animal Health Network (OAHN) — to keep the disease in check. They… Read more »

Teens Taking Chances with Food Safety — And We’re All Affected

Safety is one of the key selling points that agriculture uses to promote food produced on Canadian farms. It’s often mentioned in the same breath as freshness, wholesomeness and nutrition, mirroring what consumers say they value (besides local). Farmers take many on-farm measures to keep food safe — using sound environmental practices, and federally approved plant and animal health… Read more »

Situation Critical: Canada Loses Jobs, Ag Struggles to Attract Workers

Has anything received more talk and less action than Canada’s chronic farm labour shortage? The nagging disconnect between unemployed Canadians and job openings in agriculture hit me this week when Statistics Canada announced that the country had lost more than 31,200 jobs in July. The figure was a surprise to everyone. Economists had predicted a… Read more »

Farm Groups Try New Leadership Approach for Public Support

When your back’s against the wall, and talking and reasoning isn’t working, sometimes a 1-2 punch seems like the only forward. For example, in recent times, some Ontario farm groups — grain farmers, in particular — have used what appeared to be a pretty tough approach in dealing with pressure over neonicotinoid pesticides. People in… Read more »

Online Booze Sales and Broadband Expansion: It’s a Banner Day in Ontario

In one of those rare, happy coincidences, Ontario has made booze available online and said it will increase broadband access in rural areas…on the same day. That day was Tuesday, and the news came in separate announcements less than one hour apart. Both announcements should be good news for rural Ontario, and not just for… Read more »

A Tale of Two German Dairy Farmers, Making a Buck When They’re Down on Their Luck

The chips are down for milk producers in Europe, who are struggling to hang on as the continent deals with another milk glut. The European Union dropped its quota on milk production last year. When that happened, dairy producers upped their production. Now, Europe is swimming in the stuff. Farmers say they’re getting about 10… Read more »

Keeping an ‘i’ on Ketosis

Ketosis, a negative energy balance problem, dogs dairy producers almost everywhere. It affects up to 40 per cent of dairy cows in Canada, and can lead to reduced milk yield, impaired reproduction, weight loss and fever. As well, it puts affected cows at increased risk of developing other health conditions, such as metritis and mastitis…. Read more »

Say Hello to Canadian Dietitians, Some of Your New Best Friends

You can’t be everywhere at once. You can‘t be in the field, in the barn, on the road and, at the same time, talking face to face to consumers. You need some help, some friends. And more and more, those friends include professionals in related fields, such as butchers, retailers and dietitians. Dietitians’ role is… Read more »