A diverse industry
From left, MP Francis Drouin, Felix Dignard, Michel Dignard, Jeannette Mongeon, and FMC Executive Director Heather Watson pose for a photo op in front of the Dignard Farm’s newly painted silo, after the May 25 press conference announcing FMC’s new risk management initiative, AgriShield.         Sawyer Helmer photo

by Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
AgriNews Staff Writer
EMBRUN – At the 2014 annual Agricultural Excellence Conference hosted by Farm Management Canada (FMC), the FMC launched the Comprehensive Guide to Management Risk in Agriculture manual –a guide which studied the external risks, strategic risks and operational risks of agriculture and ways to mitigate or manage those risks.

Some of the advice includes unexpected weather planning and the development of a “war chest,” of funds for unexpected needs. While the manual has done well, said FMC Executive Director Heather Watson, they wanted something more functional for farmers to use. Thus was born the concept of AgriShield.

AgriShield is an electronic application that will allow farmers to identify the risks that are relevant to them, develop specific management options, implement those options to mitigate risks and track the success of their risk management. The press release states, “The online tool covers all areas of potential risk faced by agricultural businesses, gathering data that will enable farmers, commodity groups and the agricultural sector to establish benchmarks for improved risk management performance.” Watson said the application is intended to be an ongoing tool for farmers rather than a one-time solution. The Beta version of the AgriShield is set to be released on April 1, 2018 for a year-long trial period, after which FMC will evaluate the feedback, apply their findings and move forward with a more permanent release.

On Thurs., May 25, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada made public a press release stating, “Flooding, pests, disease and other extreme weather events are constant risks to the businesses and livelihoods of farmers. The Government of Canada is committed to working with the industry partners to explore and develop new risk management tools that meets the needs of Canadian farmers when faced with serious challenges beyond their control.”

The release goes on to explain that, “Member of Parliament, Fancis Drouin, today announced a $786,921 investment for Farm Management Canada to develop a new online agricultural risk management tool called “AgriShield”. This online tool will help farmers have real-time assessments of the potential negative impact of risks to their businesses and provide mitigation solutions.”

“Canadian farmers face risk every day and it is essential they have the necessary tools to better understand and manage risk. The recent flooding in Eastern Ontario and Quebec, for example, shows the increasing unpredictability of weather. The development of this new tool will help farmers to more effectively manage risk, so that they can be stronger, more innovative and more competitive,” said Drouin in the release.

The press conference took place at Dignard Farm in Embrun, owned by Michel Dignard and his wife Jeannette Mongeon, which includes 1,000 acres of cash crop, berries, and honey. They most recently have taken on raising rabbits. MP Francis Drouin, on behalf of Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay, noted during his address that he was proud to hold the press conference at Dignard Farm as it, “exemplifies the dynamic nature of Canada’s agriculture and food sector.”

On Thurs., May 25, MP Francis Drouin announced Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada’s investment for Farm Management Canada’s new AgriShield development, designed to help mitigate risks in the agricultural industry. Sawyer Helmer photo

Dignard and Mongeon made a short address during the day thanking FMC for their dedication to risk management and their commitment to educating both the new and old farmers in Canada. Dignard went on to explain that teaching the younger, up and coming generation about risk management is one of the best ways to ensure a bright future for the agriculture sector. Mongeon added that the benefits of FMCs conferences have been influential in the success of Dignard Farm after the couple attended one of the first FMC conferences. The event opened their eyes and understanding for risk management practices. “It’s more than just insurance [after the fact],” said Mongeon.

When FMC applied to the AgriRisk Initiatives program, they were the only group looking into risk management before the need for insurance. Because of this, Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada was quickly on board. “Insurance means the farm is not in control, but with risk management, that sits better with the farm and brings back some of the control,” said Watson.

“Less than one-third of Canada’s farmers have a risk management plan. Our ultimate goal is to increase the awareness and adoption of risk management practices and planning as part of the farm management process and cultivate a more comprehensive understanding and approach to assessing and managing risk within the agricultural sector,” explained Watson in the release.

The research is industry driven, said Drouin, and switches the risk management approach from “reactive to proactive, in order to help provide stability and predictability.” The AgriShield will not be able to expel risks completely. The nature of the agricultural industry relies too heavily on the cooperation of nature, but it can help manage the risks, and suggest which risks are better to take in comparison to others. The ultimate goal is to give farmers and upper hand and allow them to be competitive in an industry filled with unpredictability and risk.

Farm Management Canada’s next Agricultural Excellence Conference is from Nov. 21 to 23 in Ottawa. The event will include, “industry experts, keynote speakers, the great Ag debate, panel discussions, a bridging the gap forum: young farmers’ bear pit and young at heart forum, farm management initiatives and a national farm business management round table,” says the event’s advertisements. Watson explained that the conference is interactive and they are known for their dedication to a hands-on experience. “You will never sit at the same seat,” said Watson. Visit www.fmc-gac.com or call 1-888-232-3262.