Monday, January 30, 2012

Lessons from New Zealand

Richard Robert, chairman of the Canadian Farm Business Management Council, learned lessons about self-reliance when he toured farms in New Zealand last year, taking a look at what happens when a government is bankrupt and cancels all farm subsidies.

He would not recommend a sudden end to government subsidies here, but he also says our Canadian agriculture ministers could shift their emphasis to helping farmers improve their education and management and farmers who depend on government subsidies and policies ought to think long and hard about making some radical changes.

For example, although he's a dairy farmer, he said supply management is risky because it depends on political support and, as New Zealand farmers learned, that can evaporate. His advice to Canadian dairy and poultry farmers is to reduce their debts.

He also crops about 600 acres of corn and soybeans in Quebec near New Liskeard, Ont.

He says Canadian politicians should retain some degree of support for farmers and food companies because he found New Zealanders are reluctant to make long-term investments because they are totally dependent on markets that can quickly change. For example, a change in currency values has an immediate impact on prices and profits because 90 per cent of production is exported.

Prior to the to the crisis, 30 per cent of farm income in New Zealand was government subsidies. When they vanished, farming families were devastated, there were suicides, family violence, depression and more than 800 bankruptcies.

Farmers at or near retirement age lost their “pensions” when land and livestock prices collapsed and they had to find off-farm employment.

Farm incomes plunged by 40 per cent, banks wrote off 40 per cent of their farm debt and stopped lending to farmers. Young people left their family farms seeking other careers.

Young businesses, those that had recently expanded and those that were inefficient were hardest hit, he said. It was in some ways similar to the 1980-82 high-interest crisis that devastated Canadian farming.

But today, he found farmers do not want to return to the subsidies and agricultural policies prior to 1988. They are glad to have the government out of their businesses and off their backs. They don't spend any time filling out government forms; instead they focus on their business plans and management.

Today the sheep industry continues to decline to levels as low as 1955, but dairy and deer are increasing.
Dairy farmers graze cattle on excellent-quality pastures year round, he said. The chief challenge is enough water to survive droughts. One man can handle a herd of 200 dairy cattle because there is no labour required to handle feed or manure.

Milk sells for 30 cents a litre, but consumers pay about $2.50 a litre, he said. What he did not explain is that dairy farmers buy shares in Fonterra, which is the dominant dairy co-operative, and the number or shares governs their access to market and a substantial portion of their annual revenues.

Between 95 and 98 per cent of the milk is exported as dairy products, mainly to Asian markets. That explains why New Zealand is pressing hard for an end to supply management in Canada believing new Zealand could then expand its markets.

Robert said the New Zealand government now concentrates its agriculture-policy spending on university research, education and extension.

Most farmers hire private consultants to help them identify how they can reduce their cost of production or improve their farm management. Farmers do not talk about yields per hectare or milk per cow, but about profits per hectare and per cow, he said.

“They stay much closer to their markets,” he said, shifting to production that will enable them to survive or to reduce risks. For example, one dairy farm also markets lily bulbs and has sheep. Another farm has deer, sheep, hunting, fishing and tourism. It also has a supply-chain arrangement for genetically-special wool for production of a line of clothing.


Sugar policy critics

Canadians might take a hit if a pair of university agricultural economists persuade U.S. politicians to scrap the country's costly sugar policy.

Saputo's Dare cookies sales
 to U.S. markets would suffer
The Canadian losers would be food processing companies that have developed huge U.S. sales of products such as cookies because they have a significant sugar-based competitive advantage.

Another indirect loser would be corn producers and high-fructose-processing plants because imported sugar would compete for markets. Sugar beet producers in Southwestern Ontario would be wiped out.

The agricultural economists say U.S. sugar policy is costing consumers $1.7 billion in higher food prices, denying food-processing companies opportunities to increase production and hire more workers and benefitting only about 20,000 “mostly wealthy” farmers.

Vincent Smith of Montana State University and Michael Wohlgenant of North Carolina State University also say the U.S. sugar policy keeps out sugar produced by some of the world’s poorest farmers.
They support political moves to scrap the policy, including high tariffs designed to keep U.S. sugar prices at or above 23.3 cents per pound.

The Free Sugar Market Act has been introduced by Congressman Joe Pitts, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and the Free Sugar Act has been introduced by Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana.
The U.S. sugar policy has, however, been a major benefit to Canadians, such a market for corn sweetener and for sugar-containing foods, especially cookies.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Manure spill draws $345,000 fine

Van Boekel Hogs Farms Inc. of Woodstock, Van Boekel Holdings Inc. and Eric Van Boekel have been fined a total of $345,000 for a manure spill in the spring of 2007.
There is an additional 25 per cent victim surcharge that elevates the total to $431,250.
Van Boekel also faces 30 days in jail which he may serve on weekends.
He was convicted in March of last year of breaking three different acts – the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Environmental Protection Act and the Nutrient Management Act – and was sentenced earlier this month in Woodstock.

Hog farmers lobby lenders

The Ontario Pork marketing board is challenging lenders, including Farm Credit Canada, to lower interest rates on loans to hog farmers to the same level as loans to other farmers.
Doug Ahrens, director from Perth County, says “it’s not fair” that hog farmers are being charged about 2.5 per cent more than others, including highly-leveraged dairy farmers.

The interest rate challenge is one of about five goals the directors have set as their highest priority issues for this year, Ahrens told the annual meeting of the Waterloo Pork Producers Association held recently at Linwood.

He said in conversation with a reporter that Farm Credit Canada is making loans to dairy farmers on the basis of cash flow, not assets such as land, quota and buildings.

The assets are, however, usually pledged as security.

Truckers seek better training

The Ontario Truckers Association is trying to persuade the livestock and poultry industries to support its efforts to introduce driver training modules for each type of livestock and poultry.

Deanna Pagnan, manager of the agriculture division of the Ontario Truckers Association, noted that the pork industry has a well-developed standard largely because truckers needed to be certified to haul hogs into the United States.

The Ontario Pork marketing board, when it had sole marketing authority, required all Ontario truckers to have their drivers trained to the U.S. standards.

Pagnan said ideally there would be similar industry-wide adoption of similar standards for all livestock and poultry.

The Ontario Truckers Association has already developed a general training program and standard, she said, and now wants to develop modules for each species.

She said the association has learned, for example, that the standards need to differ among poultry because there are differences between broilers, spent hens and turkeys.

Pagnan is trying to raise the profile of the Ontario Truckers Association’s plans in view of recent news reports that Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. faces 61 criminal charges laid by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and it, plus several other truckers, have been heavily fined by the CFIA for failing to meet legislated standards for animal welfare.

Pagnan said the association wants co-operation from those involved in the supply chain so those people and companies will, in turn, require driver training for those who are transporting their livestock and poultry.

Pagnan said she has spoken to a number of associations, such as the Ontario Farm Animal Council (now named Farm and Food Care) and poultry-industry associations.

At a recent meeting of the Waterloo Pork Producers Association, Katie Sinclair of Quality Meat Packers told how animal activists have organized protests at the company’s entrance in downtown Toronto and how that has created anxiety for truckers and plant staff.

The protesters typically take videos of everything the drivers and plant staff are doing as they unload pigs, they video pigs in the truck and they make nasty comments to the drivers,
Pagnan said that’s why the training will include media relations and reacting to protesters.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where have all the farmers gone?

The four-year financial crisis in the hog industry has decimated the number of Ontario producers, but left total hog production steady at about 4.7 million market hogs per year.

There were 18,000 producers registered with the Ontario Pork marketing board in 1981, half that, or 9,000 in 1991, less than half that, or 4,000, in 2001 and less than half again, or only 1,800, last year.

The figures were cited during the annual meeting of the Waterloo Pork Producers Association at Linwood recently. Waterloo’s total dropped from 174 in 2010 to 156 last year, but total production held almost steady at 121,900 in 2010 and 121,700 last year.

Waterloo has a number of Mennonite farmers producing to organic standards and/or animal welfare standards and relatively few large-scale hog barns.

Hog board secrets

Now that it has lost its sole marketing authority, the directors and staff of Ontario Pork are becoming quite secretive.

For example, farmers attending the annual meeting of the Waterloo Pork Producers Association at Linwood today asked, but were not told, how much market share the board's new arm's-length marketing service holds in the industry.

That, said two directors of the board, is a trade secret, just the same as the major packers won't divulge their market shares. However, in fact, two of the big three had representatives at the meeting and they did divulge their market shares - Quality Meat Packers of Toronto with about 35 per cent, Conestoga Meat Packers of of Breslau with about 25 per cent.

Fearman's Meat Packers of Burlington has most of the rest. Small-scale plants have about five per cent.

The other, and bigger, secret is the support levels in the new Risk Management Program for hog producers.

The farmers were told they will be briefed at meetings, but they won't be allowed to take notes or make recordings. The fear is, apparently, that hog farmers in the United States will learn the details and use them to hit Canada with trade actions that will make it difficult to export pork to the U.S.

I don't doubt for a minute that the U.S. hog producers will try to hit Canadians with trade actions, but I also don't doubt for a minute that they will not learn the details of the new Risk Management Program.

Those who will be kept in the dark are the Ontario taxpayers who fund a significant share of this new government program.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has repeatedly and outspokenly warned Ontario against precisely this kind of price-support program, and precisely because the U.S. might retaliate.

Maybe that's the real reason for the secrecy - embarrassment over the risks they have brought on themselves.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CFIA egg inspection

I was wondering, in light of the whistleblower allegations about cracks in the pack of Grade A eggs, and more recent inside information that came my way about grading stations putting stale-dated egg returns from supermarkets back into the pack going out to stores, what exactly the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is doing to ensure standards are met.

This is the answer I got today:

In response to your question, the CFIA regularly inspects product in
grading stations to ensure the products meet the regulatory requirements
for Canada A. The inspection frequency is based on the size of the
grading station and compliance of the product.

Eggs are inspected by randomly drawing samples from a lot designated by
the inspector and examining each egg of those samples both visually and
under a candling light (which illuminates the interior of the egg) to
ensure the egg meets the requirements of the regulations for Canada A.

Please let us know if you need anything further.

Thank you,

Lisa Gauthier

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kamenz mumbles on eggs

Geri Kamenz, chairman of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, has yet to show any progress on documented complaints he received in December, 2010, that the public is being exposed to food-safety risks because cracked eggs are being sold as Grade A.

If Kamenz won’t undertake a thorough inquiry into the Ontario egg industry, and report to the public, then why should the McGuinty government have any confidence in his ability to supervise the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board?

Kamenz says in a letter to whistleblower Norman Bourdeau, dated Jan. 19, that “under the circumstances, the commission’s ongoing review of your request (for an inquiry) continues to include consideration of how the common and related issues are evolving in the court proceedings.”
He gets a kick at Kamenz

How's that? Would you please stop mumbling!

The letter also notes that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for egg grading and food safety and that it received the same information from Bourdeau.

The CFIA has given no indication that it has done anything about the allegations. I've asked today, and maybe I'll get an answer before Valentine's Day. Or maybe not.

One of Gray's finest displays
Kamenz’s letter also refers to “court proceedings” where Bourdeau’s allegations and electronic files he took from L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. form a key part of the evidence that Svante Lind and his Best Choice Eggs want to introduce into a multi-million-dollar lawsuit filed against Gray, Burnbrae Farms Ltd. and the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board.

The egg board acknowledges in its mission statement, posted on its website, that it has a responsibility to ensure that the Ontario market is supplied with wholesome Ontario-produced eggs.

Yet where is the evidence that the egg board has done anything to ensure that Grade A standards are being met? It seems content to simply point to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, despite the evidence in the electronic files from L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. indicating wholesale violations.

So we now have the egg board and the commission, which is supposed to be the guardian of the public interest in supervising marketing boards, both gazing dumb-struck at their feet while serious allegations of widespread abuses are in the public domain.

When will the McGuinty government decide that enough is enough, and call the commission and the marketing boards it supervises to account?

When will egg farmers decide that enough is enough, and that they have to do something to protect the integrity of their products? 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Listeria response

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has posted its final report on how it is responding to the report by Sheila Weatherill on the Listeria monocytogenes in meats from Maple Leaf Foods Inc. that killed 23 Canadians in the summer of 2008.

One major thing that remains to be done is introduction of a bill to “modernize and simplify” food safety laws.

That is something that top-echelon staff have been recommending since the mid-1970s when they told me that food safety ought to be the responsibility of the meat-packing companies, not government inspectors.
Cartoon courtesy Dr. Doug Powell

They said then that it would be better to sample and test products pulled from retail shelves and if any problems were identified, the company would have to recall everything. They said that would get a clear message to the meat packers to smarten up.

They also recommended surprise audits of packing plants and shut-downs if they failed to meet standards.

That, they told me then, would put meats on the same footing as other food products, such as breakfast cereals.

At the time of the Maple Leaf crisis, federal-government meat inspectors were still in the packing plants, looking over the shoulders of staff and failing to notice that the deadly bacteria was contaminating products.

The company also failed to track down the source of contamination after Listeria monocytogenes began showing up in “environmental samples” taken in the plant at Barton Road in Toronto.

It wasn’t until after massive product recalls, a complete shut-down of the plant and repeated sanitation efforts that the company said it had found the source inside meat-slicing equipment.

·      In its response to Weatherill’s report, filed in July, 2009, the government says it now is:
  • ·      Identifying and fast-tracking the approval of food safety interventions such as food additives that reduce the growth of Listeria monocytogenes and other pathogens.
  • ·      Hiring 170 additional full-time inspectors to increase CFIA’s presence in federally registered meat processing plants.
  • ·      Developing new detection methods for Listeria and other hazards in food that reduce testing time and enable more rapid response during food safety investigations.
  • ·      Using innovative laboratory technologies in outbreak investigations and expanding the outbreak detection lab network to include public health and food safety partners across Canada.
  • ·      Supporting national public health surveillance to improve collection, reporting and analysis of a wide range of health information.
  • ·      Providing Canadians, including those most vulnerable, with the information they need to reduce the risk of a foodborne illness through a new online food safety portal and national public information campaigns.
  • ·      Updating the Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol, which guides how all levels of government work together to respond to a national or international outbreak.
  • ·      Ensuring that health risk assessment teams are available 24/7 to support food safety investigations.

    • ·      Building surge capacity in order to respond more quickly and effectively to potential future foodborne illness outbreaks.

The government report says it now has a “heightened awareness of the significance of food safety and it is a high priority at all levels of government.”

It says Health Canada has undertaken a comprehensive review of its Listeria monocytogenes policy and the government now has tests to identify the harmful bacteria more quickly.

It says there is improved sharing of information among bureaucracies involved in food safety, such as the Public Health Agency with headquarters in Winnipeg, Health Canada in Ottawa and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency offices across Canada.

There is a Special Committee of Deputy Heads to oversee implementation of Weatherill’s report.
Food companies are now required to do more in-plant environmental sampling and testing and more product sampling and testing.

Government inspectors have been granted more flexibility to check hunches about food-safety issues. They have also been retrained and new inspectors’ training now involves 29 modules and both classroom and on-the-job training.

The Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol has been overhauled.

The report identifies several announcements of increasing funding for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, but it’s not clear what the real total has been. It says $489.5 million, spread over five years, was announced in 2008,  $75 million in September, 2009, $13 million per year for two years in 2010 and $100 million over five years in $2011.

The union representing meat inspectors cites a promise to hire 170 additional inspectors and says that promise is temporary and likely to disappear in the upcoming fiscal budgets because they are lower than for 2011-12.

As for food additives, the report says Sodium Acetate and Sodium Diacetate were approved for use in processed meat and poultry products in 2008 and in December, 2010, Carnobacterium maltaromatium was approved as an additive effective against Listeria.

The report also says there has been increased checking to determine whether the food-safety standards are being met. The Compliance Verification System review was completed by October, 2010, the report says, but does not indicate what was found.

It all sounds so wonderful, eh? I think most of it is a crock of bureaucratic balderdash. Nothing much happened in the mid-1970s after I reported on major faults in Canadian meat-packing plants, other than similar bureaucratic balderdash.

And I only have to look at the egg industry to make my point. We have a whistleblower's account, detailed in documents filed in court, claiming that about five per cent of the Grade A eggs sold by one of the largest egg-grading companies in Canada are cracked.

Those cracked eggs go through manure-polluted wash water, so there is a very real possibility that thousands of cracked eggs are carrying harmful bacteria right through the system into kitchens, including the kitchens of hospitals, nursing homes and day-care centres where some of the most vulnerable Canadians have their meals prepared.

I have yet to see so much as a single statement - even a single sentence - from the federal government about its response to the court documents and the food risks involved.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Record egg surplus

Despite evidence that there were plenty of locally-produced eggs in Ontario in late November and early December, grading stations are declaring a record volume of surplus eggs to go to breakers.

All of those eggs cost egg farmers money because they cover the price gap between “table-market” Grade A eggs sold at supermarkets and “industrial-market” eggs that are broken and processed.

Canada’s largest egg-grading companies are also the largest egg-processing companies.

They have also been the main importers of United States eggs in the weeks leading up to Christmas, apparently able to convince the federal government that there aren’t enough Canadian eggs to meet market demand.

According to the Egg Farmers of Canada national marketing agency, so far this year the grading stations have declared 170,158 boxes of surplus eggs, 15 dozen per box.

That compares with 127,912 boxes at this point last year, a total so great that there wasn’t enough processing capacity to keep up with the supply.

The year before, in 2010, the total was 120,248 boxes.

The processing companies and the national egg agency are at an impasse, trying to negotiate new terms for dealing with these surplus eggs.

So far the Farm Products Council of Canada, to which the egg agency filed an appeal, has not stepped in to force a settlement. It has told the two sides to try to come to an agreement.

Too bad the council didn't act before egg farmers faced the bills to pay for yet another record volume of surplus eggs. And too bad the staff at the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board couldn't find the Ontario-produced eggs that would have kept the supplementary-import-permit eggs from entering.


Ritz comments on Red Tape commission

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has accepted one of the 90 recommendations from the Red Tape Commission – to eliminate one regulation for each new one the government adopts.

I'd have more respect for Ritz if he gave us a list of some regulations he's prepared to eliminate.

Far more important than eliminating regulations is the federal government's failure to enforce some of the key regulations on the books, such as Grade A eggs being, in fact, Grade A, fertilizers actually containing full value for label claims, feeds meeting registration standards and/or label claims and seed meeting standards for germination, variety integrity and weed-seed content.

But Ritz issued a press release to try to upstage the Red Tape Commission's findings that Canadian farmers are at a significant disadvantage because they can't get access to the pesticides and veterinary biologics that will keep them competitive.

And he even deigned to boast that the government is working with a joint Canada-U.S. committee to streamline pesticide registrations so our farmers keep up with U.S. competitors.

He either does not know, or chose not to comment, on the failure of pesticide companies to participate in this joint-registration system, apparently convinced they can get products on the U.S. market faster by dealing with U.S. regulators rather than with the joint body.

And so Canadians continue to wait until the companies feel moved to file applications to market their products here. Some simply don't bother, leaving it up to Canadian farmers to file applications to catch up.

"Farming, not form-filling, made Canada's agriculture industry the powerful economic driver it is today,” Ritz said in a news release.

“That's why our Government continues to work hard to help farmers make their money from the marketplace, not the mailbox,” he said.

Now that's a real pile of rubish, coming from a federal government that spends the majority of its agriculture budget on cheques to go into farmers' mailboxes.

Some of what made Canadian agriculture great was world-leading research and plant breeding by scientists on the agriculture department's payroll and world-leading standards for quality, and the enforcement disciplines and mailbox incentives to ensure the standards were met.

For example, Canada once had by far the best purebred hogs in the world, backed by federal government research and subsidies to farmers who bought top-notch boars and marketed the highest-quality carcasses.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Get cracking

Given the allegation in court documents that L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. routinely added cracked eggs to its Grade A cartons, it's ironic that the egg farmers have re-introduced the Get Cracking theme in the current television ads.
Of course, I should add that Gray denies the allegations.

Targeting low-interest loans

The Bank of Canada has been keeping interest rates at record lows in an effort to keep the economy from tanking.

Jim Flaherty
However, at the same time Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are cautioning Canadians to reduce their debts from record-high leverage levels.

One way out of this dilemma is to target the low interest rates. For example, the cheap loans could be targeted to companies that hire more employees. Or cheap loans could be directed to consumers who could well afford to carry greater debt.

Carney and Flaherty might be able to achieve these goals by negotiating with bankers and other money lenders.

Flaherty might be able to reduce the degree of leverage on mortgages by limiting Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. insurance to 75 or 85 per cent of the appraised value of the property.

Mark Carney
Incidentally, if he’s worried about high quota prices, he could instruct Farm Credit Canada and other lenders to require greater equity in the farm, not counting quota value, for any loans to buy more quota.
Flaherty might also introduce a tax on loans to highly-leveraged borrowers.

My point is that simply holding interest rates low is too blunt an instrument in these times of high debt and global economic fragility.

The foolish ones who borrow beyond reasonable limits put not only themselves, but all of us, at risk.
Certainly that should be one of the lessons we could learn from the Wall Street crises of 2008 and the current crises of the governments and banks of Europe.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mexican migrant workers pact

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has signed a pact with a Mexican labour organization aimed at ensuring migrant workers on Canadian farms on better informed and protected.

The UFCW has no bargaining rights for the migrant workers from Mexico, but has been trying for years to unionize those who work on Canadian farms, including long-standing battles with the Ontario government.

The new deal is between the UFCWU and Instituto Oaxaqueno de Atencion al Migrantes.

The UFCW will be holding workshops in Mexico to brief prospective migrant workers about their human rights, labour rights and social security.

It also intends to keep in touch with them through 10 worker support centres it operates across Canada.

The UFCW says it intends to help the Mexican migrant farm workers before, during and after their work on Canadian farms.

It says it also has agreements with Mexican governments in Michoacan, Tiaxcala and Distrito Federal.

Red Tape commission report

Agriculture and food figure prominently in a long-awaited review of Ottawa’s regulatory burdens on business.

As with its general recommendations for all departments, the Red Tape commission says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada ought to keep tabs on how they each, and together, impact businesses, particularly small and medium-scale businesses.

They ought to develop a service-based culture and, to that end, should post service performance standards by the end of this year.

They ought to review their regulations with a view to more co-ordination among departments and with provincial governments to eliminate overlap and reduce the burden on businesses.

And they ought to consult with business before they change regulations or adopt new ones. For every new regulation, they ought to drop an existing one.

If the commission’s recommendations are adopted, farmers and food processors could expect:
-       Faster approvals for new pesticides and veterinary biologics.
-       Relaxation of regulations on low-risk fertilizers.
-       One-window engagement with all departments when dealing with issues such as registering a pesticide, gaining approvals to produce and market novel foods and gaining approvals for new technologies.
-       Equivalency with the United States for dairy product sanitary standards.
-       Equivalency with the provinces on meat inspection and dairy products and integration of laboratory networks.
-       Improvements in inter-departmental approaches to food safety and bio-safety containment.
-       Faster approvals for food-product labels.

The commission basically says bureaucrats ought to put themselves in the shoes of the businesses they are regulating to consider how costly and time-consuming their requests are, and whether small and medium-scale businesses can realistically meet the requirements.

That includes requests for information.

The commission says departments ought to co-ordinate their websites to make it easier for businesses to determine all of the regulations they need to meet to satisfy the federal government. I take that to mean that if you want to register a genetically-modified crop variety, you ought to be able to see from a visit to any one of the following - the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada or Health Canada - what each of them will require.

The commission also says government regulators ought to keep a close eye on international standards so they can keep Canada in step so businesses can remain competitive.

It recommends that all departments pick the 20 per cent of regulations considered to be most burdensome and review them within a year. The next year they should pick the next 20 per cent and so on until all regulations undergo review with a view to reducing and simplifying them.

The commission’s recommendations are on the Treasury Board website.

Helps replaces Griffiths

Scott Helps has been elected to take over as director for Zone 1 of the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board.

Carolynne Griffiths
He replaces Carolynn Griffiths who did not seek re-election. She was also chairman of the board, but faced adverse publicity when allegations in a court case indicated she had close personal relationships with Bill Gray, owner of L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. and that a significant percentage of the undergrade eggs shipped from her farm were paid as Grade A by Gray’s company.

The allegations have yet to be tested in court. Gray has denied any wrongdoing.

Dianne McComb was re-elected director for Zone 2 and Roger Pelissero, brother of egg board general manager Harry Pelissero, for Zone 4.

More zone meetings and elections remain to be held.

Small flock survey results

The Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board estimates there are about 12,000 small flocks in the province, all of them with fewer than 300 birds and therefore not requiring quota or membership in the marketing board.

And it says its survey of small flock owners indicates they pose only a low risk of starting a devastating disease outbreak in the industry.

Growing flu vaccine
The board has yet to decide how it will deal with the data it collected. There was speculation from some that the board might use the survey as an excuse to crack down on the small flock owners.

The board says in its current newsletter that:

             The majority of small flock owners practice acceptable production management including flock inspection, disposal of dead birds and cleaning between flocks;

         Approximately 40 per cent monitor barn temperature and test water for bacteria;

         Approximately one-third of survey respondents reported having implemented new biosecurity practices as a result of educational materials provided in the last two years, and

         Few (3.2 per cent) have contact with commercial poultry. Those who do primarily encounter them at provincially-inspected processing facilities.

Getting a handle on small flocks in the midst of an outbreak of a highly-contagious disease, such as a deadly strain of avian influenza, can be difficult, as California officials learned in 2010.

Not only did they have trouble finding the flocks, but also faced angry owners when they moved to slaughter the birds. Among the owners were breeders of fancy strains kept for many generations and illegal fighting cocks.