With the agriculture industry being such a large piece of southern Alberta’s economy, it is only natural that our MP for Bow River, Martin Shields is on top of these issues. Two of these issues that Shields is directly focused on resolving right now is regarding the cutter leaf bees within the alfalfa seed industry, as well as digital logging when it comes to the tracking of agricultural goods.
“We have an alfalfa seed — it’s a micro business in a sense,” said Shields. “There’s a cutter leaf bee and they are very specific bee. They’re not like your honeybee they actually pollinate at night, and the wind doesn’t bother them as much as the honeybees. They pollinate the alfalfa seed. The alfalfa seed is then sold to people that are growing alfalfa. The hair crop is used to feed other things as well, but cattle is the main source. They also sell the seed to the United States. The chemical is no longer available for the mites that kill the cutter leaf bees. It’s a small industry within our own riding here. A lot of this is grown in Canada, and it’s really with that industry here that we can’t get that chemical any longer. The company that produces it in the United States — the delay in getting it approved means that it’s not available. That’s a niche industry within our riding that I’ve been working on.”
After outlining the issues within the alfalfa seed industry Shields then shift gears to discuss a problem agricultural trucking is having.
“Another one is the digital logging for trucking that I’ve been talking at committees about. For the safety of our trucking, highways, and other vehicles, there is now a digital logging out automatically when you get to 12 hours you need to shut down your truck so driv- ers can’t go for more than 12 hours. I understand the safety, understand that, but we’re competing against the United States for example, and they have a three hour exemption for agricultural movement of products above that 12 hours. When I’ve talked to trucking industry guys that have come to me and others that when you’re shipping agricultural products, live animals between BC and Alberta to have to shut the truck off after 12 hours I asked him what’s the re- sult. They said, ‘It doesn’t work in the bee industry. The bees will either fly away or they’ll die.’”
Shields continued to explain how the American agricultural trucking industry operates, and how the Canadian industry needs to adapt to this level of competition.
“The Americans understand the agricultural industry, so they have an exemption. Basically, if the distance one would travel converts into about three hours in time above the 12 hours, they have some flexibility getting to a location rather than just stopping wherever,” said Shields. “That’s one of the challenges we got now with the trucking industry. Digital logs in the agricultural industry that makes it very, very difficult to shut it down wherever you are after 12 hours, and our distances are so spread out in this country it makes it very tough. I understand all the safety, the risks, and the importance of said safety, but we need to be understanding that it’s going to be a cost factor and a challenge to be able to do this when we have to compete against the American market where they have that kind of extension in place. Which is something again we are working on to see if we can work with our American competitors industry so our industry might line up with it.”
Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Taber Times