Farm & Food Care has announced it is going to launch a campaign to educate consumers about farming.
This seems rather pretentious, coming from an organization that was designed to counter the criticisms of animal activists opposed to many common farm practices.
Farm & Food Care has been totally ineffective as the activists have persuaded Canada's largest supermarket, restaurant and foodservice chains to ban pork from farms that use gestation stalls, eggs from farms that use cages and farms that use antibiotics.
Clearly the organization needs to adopt a radically different approach to the challenges.
Doing the same "educate-the-public routine" is doomed to continue to fail.
I recommend an aggrcssive campaign, aimed at these same supermarket, restaurant and foodservice chains, about the downsides to banning sow gestation stalls, cages for eggs and antibiotics to treat infections and bacterial diseases.
And that should be backed with a credible threat to expose their policies as anything but animal welfare.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Manitoba’s chief veterinarian has confirmed the province’s first positive porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) sample since January, 2015.
The Manitoba Pork Council said the outbreak is in a batch-farrow sow barn. Producers within a five-kilometre radius of the site have been alerted.
Manitoba has remained disease free for more than a year even though trucks haul about 70,000 piglets a week to the U.S. where the virus is widespread.
Manitoba hog-industry leaders have been highly critical of a federal government requirements that trucks be washed in the U.S. where washwater is often heavily contaminated. The industry wants the trucks washed with clean water in Canada.
There have only been five on-farm cases of PED in Manitoba, with the most recent confirmation on January 21, 2015. As of November 27, 2015, all premises in the province that had previously tested positive were presumed negative according to protocol developed by the province’s chief veterinarian and swine veterinarians.
Dairy farmers from across Quebec have begun to drive tractors to Ottawa where they plan to demonstrate on Parliament Hill to demand a ban on imports of diafiltered milk.
They say the farms where milk is produced in the U.S. has not met Quebec and Canadian food-safety standards.
Fluid milk – sold as drinking milk – requires on-farm inspections to ensure premises, equipment and procedures meet standards. No Canadian inspectors check dairy farms in the United States.
Quebec’s approach has been to hold production down, to keep imports out and to meet increasing demand for butter and high-butterfat products by allowing controlled imports.
Ontario’s approach has been to increase production to meet the increasing demand for butterfat and to lower the price of milk so it can displace imports of diafiltered milk.
The Ontario approach also helps find a Canadian skim milk that’s left after butterfat is skimmed off.
Ontario has also dreamed of developing an export market for products made from its lower-priced milk, but there is a significant risk that the dairy farmers in the destination countries will successfully lobby for duties to stop the flow.
In the 1970s, when Quebec dairy farmers staged a similar protest, a picture of milk they threw splashing into the face of former federal agriculture minister Eugene Whelan decked out in a green cowboy that went global.
The Ontario government has boosted the loan guarantee limit from $32.5 million to $65 million for the beef-farming industry.
Under the program, beef producers can take out loans that carry a government guarantee.
Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal made the announcement during a barbecue at Queen’s Park organized by Beef Farmers of Ontario.
Maxine Bernier, candidate for the leadership of the Conservatives, says it’s time to debate the continuation of supply management for Canada’s dairy and poultry farmers.
He calls it a government-sanctioned cartel and said he favours free enterprise.
He is only the second politician to publicly challenge supply management. The other was Martha Hall Findlay when she was running for leader of the federal Liberal party.
Bernier said he only supported supply management when he was part of Stephen Harper’s cabinet because he needed to maintain cabinet solidarity.
There were, however, some hints that some Conservatives had doubts about the wisdom on maintaining solid support for supply management. For example, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz led the government’s initiative to end to Canadian Wheat Board monopoly over exports of Prairie-grown wheats and barley.
There were also widespread concerns as the Conservatives negotiated free-trade agreements with Europe and 11 Pacific-area nations, including the United States and Japan.
As it turned put, supply management is able to survive both of those trade-agreement challenges.
Bernier’s declaration came after the Conservative convention, but just before a rally of tractor-driving Quebec dairy farmers is scheduled to show up on Parliament Hill to press for even greater supply-management controls over the market.
Friday, May 27, 2016
Having won a hard-fought battle to win the right to grow chicken without quota, small-flock farmer Glenn Black of Manitoulin Island is now battling with his municipality for the right to keep using sea containers for a brooder and for feed storage.
This is the fourth time the municipality of Central Manitoulin is trying to ban sea containers as animal shelters.
They’re good enough for residents of Vancouver to use as homes, but apparently not good enough for chickens.
Black and his wife, Jean, market pastured poultry, free range eggs, lamb, and goat from their 100 acre farm in Central Manitoulin.
“If this draconian by-law against sea containers is passed, my farm is dead,” says Black.
“We customized a 40-foot sea container to be a world-class brooder. Without that brooder, we can no longer raise pastured poultry. Without the income from our poultry operations, our farm cannot survive.”
The previous three attempts to pass a sea container By-law were abandoned due to significant problems in the wording of the By-law, and public backlash.
Black is hoping farmers will rally to his defence and persuade the municipality that his use of sea containers is acceptable.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
A study from Harvard university has Dr. Doug Powell wondering whether food-poisoning bacteria, such as salmonella, might be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.
The study found that the immune response to infectious invaders is to trap them in a sticky cage of proteins.
After the fight, these cages of proteins are left in the brain and are the plaque that’s “a hallmark of Alzheimer’s,” writes Gina Kokata of the New York Times.
As people age, the membrane around the brain becomes porous so infectious bacteria can get inside and then the immune response kicks in. That explains why Alzheimer’s shows up in the brains of older people.
So far, the research group has confirmed this hypothesis in neurons growing in petri dishes as well as in yeast, roundworms, fruit flies and mice.
There is much more work to be done to determine if a similar sequence happens in humans, but plans — and funding — are in place to start those studies, involving a multicenter project that will examine human brains.
“It’s interesting and provocative,” said Dr. Michael W. Weiner, a radiology professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a principal investigator of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a large national effort to track the progression of the disease and look for biomarkers like blood proteins and brain imaging to signal the disease’s presence.
The work began when Robert D. Moir, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, had an idea about the function of amyloid proteins, normal brain proteins whose role had long been a mystery.
The proteins were traditionally thought to be garbage that accumulates in the brain with age. But Dr. Moir noticed that they looked a lot like proteins of the innate immune system, a primitive system that is the body’s first line of defense against infections.
In one study, the group injected Salmonella bacteria into the brains of young mice that did not have plaques.
The OIE, the international organization for animal health, has adopted a plan to help countries deal with antibiotic resistance.
The plan calls for governments to:
- regulate the manufacture, circulation and use of antimicrobials in animals, according to international standards;
- train animal health professionals;
- communicate to raise awareness among stakeholders;
- ensure veterinary supervision of antimicrobial use in animal health;
- monitor antimicrobial use and the development of resistance.
Gay Lea Foods Cooperative is buying Black River Cheese Company of Prince Edward County.
Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
Gay Lea Chair Steve Dolson says the deal is part of the co-operative’s continued support for the Canadian dairy industry and Ontario dairy farmers.
Gay Lea says it builds on the co-operative’s existing cheese operations in Hamilton and Madoc.
The Black River Cheese store will remain open and retail and food service customers will also continue to be served from the Prince Edward County operations.
Gay Lea also recently acquired shares in Mariposa Dairy Limited, which produces goat and sheep cheese for the Canadian and U-S markets.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
A team at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has developed an online tool that determines how long a manure pit needs to be ventilated before it’s safe to enter.
It’s software designed for use by barn contractors building manure pits.
On-farm manure storage poses a significant hazard to agricultural workers due primarily to the danger of toxic and asphyxiating gas buildup. Farmers and service personnel occasionally need to enter these pits to conduct repair and maintenance tasks.
An article by Jeff Mulhollem explains that airflow through the animal living space in the barn above a manure storage also can be simulated by the new tool, so it can be used to determine whether animals need to be evacuated from all or a portion of the barn during pit ventilation.
The design tool is available at https://ventdesign.agsafety.psu.edu/
The website offers instructions, tutorials, workshop videos and a user's manual.
Mercy For Animals has struck again with an underground video, this time a poultry operation in Tennessee connected to Tyson Foods.
It says the video was shot recently at a farm near Lewisburg, but what’s posted online includes older video shot at other farms and a slaughterhouse over the past year.
Tyson said in a news-release response that those older situations have been addressed.
Mercy For Animals challenged Tyson to improve its animal welfare practices.
Tyson Foods said the company is investigating the video. In a statement provided to Meatingplace Magazine, the company said:
“It’s disturbing to us to see any sick or injured birds, which is why we have a track record of quickly addressing animal welfare concerns.
“Our veterinarians and animal health experts are looking into these claims, which re-use old videos about matters we’ve already investigated and taken action on. If our investigation into this farm uncovers anything wrong, we will immediately address it.
“The health and well-being of the birds raised for us by independent farmers is extremely important, which is why we employ veterinarians and coordinate third-party animal well-being audits of the farms that supply us.”
Monsanto has rejected the $81 billion (Cdn) bid from Bayer AG, but thinks a merger would be good.
It wants more money and indicates that Bayer needs to do some more work on its bid.
“We believe in the substantial benefits an integrated strategy could provide to growers and broader society, and we have long respected Bayer’s business,” said a news release from Monsanto’s chief executive officer Hugh Grant.
“However, the current proposal significantly undervalues our company and also does not adequately address or provide reassurance for some of the potential financing and regulatory execution risks related to the acquisition,” he said.
Bayer says it’s confident it can satisfy Monsanto.
The expanded Panama canal is scheduled to open in about a month and Bloomberg News says that could boost world trade.
It expects an impact on grain trade and notes that many ports in other countries have been deepened in anticipation of ships arriving from the deepened canal.
The project has cost about $5 billion, yet the locks are still not large enough to handle the largest gas-carrying ships.
There’s more to be exported, thanks to fracking and shale oil developments in the United States and ongoing expansions in the Canadian oilsands.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
The United States, Australia and New Zealand have signed an agreement to recognize geographic zoning in the event of an outbreak of a foreign animal disease, such as foot-and-mouth disease, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, highly-pathogenic strains of avian influenza or African Swine Fever.
Canada has been lobbying for years to win acceptance for an East-West split, with West Hawk Lake, Manitoba, near the border with Northwestern Ontario, as the dividing point.
The deal means that in the event of an outbreak, bans on trade would apply to only the half of Canada where the outbreak occurred. It's also possible that smaller geographic zones could be accepted, such as Newfoundland.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the deal was signed during a meeting of the World Organization for Animal Health.
Canada also signed two other agreements at the conference. One is to share Foot-And-Mouth Disease vaccine in the event of an outbreak. Mexico is an additional partner in this deal.
The third deal is an agreement to share resources in the event of an outbreak of a foreign animal disease. Those signing this deal are Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States.
Monday, May 23, 2016
It’s official now. Bayer AG of Germany has made a $62-billion (about $81 billion Cdn) all-cash bid to buy Monsanto.
It’s offering $122 (about $158 Cdn) per share.
If the deal is approved, it will create the world’s largest farm chemicals and seeds company.
D&S Meat Products Ltd. has been fined a total of $103,125 for two separate injuries at its processing plant in Ajax.
The one injury happened May, 2014, when a worker shoved a piece of frozen meat into a grinder and his hand was pulled into the feedscrew.
The Ministry of Labour said there should have been a guard over the screw.
He underwent a partial amputation.
The other injury in July, 2015, happened when a worker was replacing a plug underneath a corkscrew conveyor while it was still operating. It should have been turned off or locked.
This worker also suffered amputations.
The company was fined a total of $82,500 for the three offences in Whitby provincial court. A 25 per cent victim surcharge increased the total to $103,125.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
The Australian cattle and sheep industries have developed a meat-grading system that is consumer friendly.
It’s complicated – too complicated for many Americans – but it comes close to guaranteeing consumers that the grade they buy will perform as expected.
That consistency and reliability is something that’s annoyingly elusive under the United States and Canadian beef-grading systems.
The Australians incorporate much more information, including gender, genetics, feed rations and age among other factors in their grading system.
And they apply it to the many different cuts from a carcass, not just one grade for the entire carcass.
Consumers can shop for one grade of steak to barbecue, another to marinate and cut thin for a salad. Likewise there are different grades for roasts, depending on what the cook wants to prepare.
Hotels and restaurants like the grading because they are able to offer consistency for their clientele.
The Australians think their system is good enough to become the global standard. France and Japan are definitely interested, but not so much the Americans and Canadians – yet.
However, when hotels, restaurants and foodservice companies start showing a preference for Australian beef, that could change.
The Australian approach is focused on consumers whereas North American grading standards have focused on the desires of meat packers and farmers with little, if any, research to determine consumer responses.
Friday, May 20, 2016
The Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board is subsidizing members who adopt “enriched housing” for their hens.
The subsidy is a rebate of 10 cents a dozen on the levy all members pay to fund the board.
Yet there is no evidence that the public wants enriched housing. It’s rare to find eggs from those hens offered for sale.
Harry Pelissero, general manager of the board, said he is not aware of any grading station offering a premium price for eggs from enriched housing, nor that any are able to pass extra costs on to their retail, restaurant or foodservice clients.
Pelissero said the rebate is justified on the basis that it costs more to produce eggs from hens in enriched housing. His brother is one of those producers as are several board members.
Pelissero said board member Dan Veldman found he needed twice as much barn space per bird for enriched housing. He built an addition for 10,000 birds and the barn space would have normally been large enough for 20,000.
The cages also cost more.
However, retailers have been succumbing to lobbying pressure from welfare activist organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States, to announce deadlines by which they will no longer buy eggs from farmers who house hens in cages.
The Egg Farmers of Canada, the national agency for supply management, has set a deadline to phase out caging hens.
Pelissero said a cost-of-production survey is underway this year and the results will be available next year and then it will become clear how much more alternative housing systems cost.
The rebate will be adjusted according to the cost-of-production survey results, he said.
Manitoba is also offered a rebate of four to five cents a dozen for enriched housing, Pelissero said.
Ontario egg producer Darryl Phoenix tried housing hens without cages and said one of the unintended consequences is a great amount of dust in the air.
He said people don’t want to go into those barns to collect eggs and he said he assumes air quality is a welfare issue for the hens. He abandoned his trial.
Roy Atkinson, colourful founding president of the National Farmers Union, has died. He was 92.
He used his platform as president of the Saskatchewan Farmers Union to push for the NFU which was launched in 1969.
It brought together the Ontario, Manitoba, B.C. and Saskatchewan Farmers Unions, with the support of the Maritime organizations.
Atkinson then served as the NFU’s first national president until 1978.
He was a thorn in the side of federal politicians and other farm organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Western Grain Producers Association and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association because he was outspoken and leaned to the far left of Canadian economics.
He was named to the Order of Canada in 2002.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agncy have approved a genetically-modified breed of fish developed by AquaBounty Technologies Inc. of Massachusetts.
The AquAdvantage has also been approved in the United States, but can’t be imported because Congress has not provided funding to develop labeling.
The science behind the salmon involved the introduction of a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon into the genome of Atlantic salmon. This results in a salmon which grows faster and reaches market size quicker. In every other way, the AquAdvantage salmon is identical to other farmed salmon.
Scientists with expertise in molecular biology, microbiology, toxicology, chemistry and nutrition conducted a thorough analysis of the data and the protocols provided by the applicant to ensure the validity of the results, says Health Canada on its website.
Following this assessment, it was determined that the changes made to the salmon did not pose a greater risk to human health than salmon currently available on the Canadian market, it says.
In addition, Health Canada also concluded that the AquAdvantage salmon would have no impact on allergies, and that there are no differences in the nutritional value of the AquAdvantage salmon compared to other farmed salmon available for consumption.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s approval allows byproducts of processing the salmon to be incorporated in livestock and poultry feeds.
It took Canadian officials four years to deal with AquBounty’s application for approvals. The Ottawa wheels grind slowly.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants more ethanol to blend with gasoline, but the “ambitious” goal calls for only a small increase in ethanol distilled from grain corn.
This proposal comes in the context of predictions that the corn crop to be harvested this fall will set another record.
The proposal for grain-corn ethanol is an increase from 14.5 to 14.8 billion gallons this year.
The total for all types of biofuels is an increase of 700 million gallons to 18.8 billion this year.
The EPA will hold public hearings June 9 in Kansas City, Missouri.
The government requirements for biofuels are a rich subsidy to corn producers by moving prices higher than they would otherwise be.
The U.S. prices also heavily influence prices for all feed grains in Canada, including corn, barley, feed wheat and soybean meal.
As expected, the farm organizations representing poultry and livestock producers complained about the EPA’s proposed increase because it drives their cost of production higher.
For example, feed is about 70 per cent of the cost to raise chickens.
The National Chicken Producers Council said that since the Renewable Fuels Standard was implemented, the broiler industry has faced $53 billion in higher actual feed costs, the group said. It’s the fifth year in a row that the volume has been increased.
“The unrealistic volume for ethanol proposed today by the EPA ensures that the chicken industry, as well as all of animal agriculture, remains only one flood, freeze, or drought away from another crisis,” NCC President Mike Brown said in a news release.
Consumers are buying more meals delivered to their door as a kit.
They look online at attractive pictures of a meal and place an order.
A delivery service shows up with a kit that contains pre-measured fresh ingredients along with recipes.
Packaged Facts company predicts sales will reach about $1.5 billion in the United States this year, but says that’s only the beginning of a trend.
It’s a combination of convenience and attractive meals that is generating sales.
The company says this trend is likely to decrease sales of both restaurant meals and supermarkets.
What's next? The deliveryman cooks and serves the meal?
A committee of United States scientists says there are no worrisome differences for people or the environment between genetically-modified and naturally-bred crops.
There is “no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health” and there is no “conclusive cause-and-effect evidence” of environmental problems from GMO crops, says their report issued this week.
The committee said it searched “all available research studies” and found no “persuasive evidence” of adverse health effects directly attributable to eating GMO foods.
The focus should shift from safety to what genetic engineering can do for plants and crops, the report recommends.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued the report.
The real issue is that politics instead of scientific evidence has been the basis for regulating GMOs.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is changing regulations governing weed seeds, it has announced on its website.
It is adding some species, is reclassifying some to the noxious-weeds category has made a few other changes.
The new regulations are posted on the Canada Gazette II.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) have signed an agreement allowing for the exchange of information when there are outbreaks of chicken diseases.
The agreement is similar to one signed in February by the board and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The aim is to improve response time and effectiveness in managing fast-spreading poultry diseases such as avian influenza, Newcastle Disease, Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT), certain salmonellae and fowl cholera.
"This agreement provides our industry with a new tool to support our poultry disease emergency management framework,” said board chairman Henry Zantingh.
"It also recognizes the importance of active communication and cooperation between the government and industry in dealing with disease management in the poultry industry."
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Economist Al Mussell says the Dairy Farmers of Ontario marketing board is on the right track with its new Class 6 milk pricing policy.
It aims to lower the price of milk that goes into products such as skim milk powder so Canadian processors can match global competition.
The industry is trying to cope with an increasing surplus of skim milk.
Mussel says the same pricing approach will reduce the attraction for importing diafiltered milk. Imports have been surging as more processors find it lowers their cost of making products such as cheeses and, as some import the cheap product, others begin importing to remain competitive.
Earlier this month Agropur said it will stop importing because the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the national supply management agency, is lowering the price of Canadian-produced milk that goes into products now using diafiltered milk.
Mussel says the benefits of lowering prices for Class 6 milk outweigh the risk, which is basically that trading nations will ban Canadian exports that are made with Class 6 milk.
He says the volume of Class 6 milk sales will be low enough that dairy farmers won’t notice much change in their milk cheques.
Quebec farmers have opposed lowering milk prices to clear the skim milk surplus and to offset imports of diafiltered milk.
Their approach calls for a decline in milk production to clear the skim milk surplus, an increase in butter imports to balance supply and demand for it, and a tightening of cheese standards to ban the incorporation of diafiltered milk.
The different approaches have generated tensions - and some angry words - between leaders of the national agency, Quebec and the Ontario board when it chose to go it alone with the Class 6 pricing policy.
Monday, May 16, 2016
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) say glyphosate, diazinon and malathion are “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” exposed to it through food.
Having reviewed the scientific evidence, the joint WHO/FAO committee also said glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic in humans. In other words, it is not likely to have a destructive effect on cells’ genetic material.
Diazinon and malathion were also found to be unlikely to be carcinogenic.
The agencies’ committees met last week to review the scientific evidence.
An almost entirely accidental discovery by University of Guelph researchers could transform food and biofuel production and increase carbon capture on farmland.
By tweaking a plant’s genetic profile, the researchers doubled the plant’s growth and increased seed production by more than 400 per cent.
The findings were published in the March 2016 issue of Plant Biotechnology Journal.
The team studied Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant often used in lab studies because of its ease of use and its similarity to some common farm crops. They found that inserting a particular corn enzyme caused the plant’s growth rate to skyrocket.
“Even if the effects in a field-grown crop were less, such as only a tenth of what we’ve seen in the lab, that would still represent an increase in yield of 40 to 50 per cent, compared with the average one to two per cent a year that most breeding programs deliver,” said Prof. Michael Emes, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB).
He said the team’s finding could boost yields of important oilseed crops such as canola and soybean, as well as crops such as camelina, increasingly grown for biofuels.
Larger plants would capture more atmospheric carbon dioxide without increasing the amount of farmland, said Emes. ”Farmers and consumers would benefit significantly in terms of food production, green energy and the environment. The ramifications are enormous.”
The finding came almost by chance.
Studying the enzyme’s effect on starch, the researchers noticed that their genetically engineered plants looked different and much larger in photos taken by lead author Fushan Liu, a former post-doctoral MCB researcher.
“That’s when we realized that we were looking at something potentially much more important,” said Ian Tetlow, an MCB professor and study co-author.
Although genetic engineering led to more flowers and pods containing seeds, it left the seed composition unchanged.
“The seeds are where we would get the oil from, and consistent composition is important so that the function and use of the oil isn’t changed,” said Tetlow.
The researchers plan to test canola and other crops. Field tests and analysis with industry and government will likely take several years.
“This could have enormous implications for agriculture, carbon capture, food production, animal feedstocks and biodiesel,” said Emes.
“These findings are without parallel, and we came to them almost by accident. The reason we started the work was to test some ideas in basic science. It just goes to show that you never know where that science will take you.”