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Farmers ready to get political in 2019

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After another tough fall harvest, this time the result of early snowfall blanketing crops, many farmers across the prairies are now enjoying a bit of break. While some catch their breath from a busy autumn, others are gearing up for a much different challenge — politics.

With a federal election in the fall of next year and a provincial election in Alberta expected in the spring, farmers have an opportunity to lobby political parties about important issues. 

The work has already begun. More than 100 crop growers gathered in Red Deer last week to learn about the political landscape and make plans to work with parties of every political stripe.

From railway access, trade deals and carbon policy to specific crop diseases, there are a variety of issues facing farmers. 

Jason Lenz, who grows a variety of crops on 800 hectares of land near Bentley, said farmers need to advocate for ag-friendly policies. 

“You’re always looking for something better; always looking for a government to serve you well,” said Lenz, who is also chair of Alberta Barley.  

Farmers are lobbying political parties to expand crop research. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Railway constraints

The most prominent issue for growers is being able to ship their wheat, barley, peas and other crops to market. That hasn’t been easy in recent years and farmers are sceptical about what’s in store in the coming months.

To address the problem of grain backlogs and other transportation issues, the federal government passed bill C-49 earlier this year. The legislation should provide better service to farmers because of penalties for train companies that fail to deliver promised rail cars for grain shipments on time.

“It will force the hand somewhat of railways to be more responsive to the needs of those shipping grain,” said Renn Breitkreuz of Alberta Canola.

Concerns over railway space exist especially as the volume of oil shipments increases every month in Canada, setting new records along the way.

“We would prefer if things like oil that can move on a pipeline, do move on a pipeline. You can’t really use a grain pump to move my grain to the West Coast, but would love it if I could,” said D’Arcy Hilgartner of Alberta Pulse Growers. “Whether it’s Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba, we need that market access.”

While Canada, Mexico and the United States reached the USMCA trade deal in recent months, some farming groups will lobby to make sure the agreement is signed and becomes official, while those negatively impacted will seek adequate financial compensation.

Carbon tax

Alberta and B.C. already have a carbon tax in place and farmers in other provinces will be hit with the federal levy on January 1, 2019. 

The Alberta and B.C. governments both have exemptions for the agriculture sector, including on purple farm fuels, but farmers do have to pay the increased expense on propane, natural gas and other fuels.

Hilgartner described the impact as “incremental,” but said any added cost is challenge because farmers can’t pass those costs on to consumers. Farmers receive whatever price the market is willing to pay.

“Anything that could make us uncompetitive, we will watch,” he said.

Besides the tax, farm groups say they also want to discuss carbon offset programs and other regulations.

Alberta’s carbon tax was introduced in 2017 and the rate increased in 2018. The levy will say at $30/tonne until 2021.

Research money

Some farmers want cash to further research issues such as crop production, marketing and product development.

Lenz, with Alberta Barley, said public research dollars have dried up in the province, leaving his organization to pickup the tab.

“We’ve seen a lack of that in the last four years with the current government,” he said.

Alberta Barley is pushing political parties in the province for cash towards research projects such as crop production, marketing and product development. 0:45

Alberta Barley will be meeting with the NDP and the UCP to press both parties for commitments on this issue.

“They need to understand [this] is very important to us.”

Spread of disease

Outside of the crop sector, few people have heard of fusarium head blight before, but the disease has spread across the country, even to Prince Edward Island. The fungus impacts crops such as wheat, barley, oats and corn, and has cost Canadian farmers between $50 million to $300 million annually since the early 1990s.

The Alberta government took a zero-tolerance approach to the disease to stop its spread. However, farmers now want the government to change their stance since fusarium is already beyond containment.

The provincial government has an in-depth management plan for the disease, however some argue loosening the zero tolerance approach to the disease could open the doors for more research into how to treat fusarium and develop resistant seed.

“Right now, research facilities within Alberta can’t bring in fusarium infested seed to do research on,” said Kevin Bender, with the Alberta Wheat Commission. “It’s really a serious problem.”

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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