Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sheep politics get messy

The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Council has stepped in to try to straighten out a governance mess at the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency.

Elmer Buchanan
Commission vice-chairman Elmer Buchanan has been attending board meetings to guide the process of developing governance policies and a code of conduct and expectations, complete with disciplinary procedures, for directors. Buchanan is a former Ontario minister of agriculture.

The new board chairman, Dennis Fischer, when he was asked today what’s going on, said “there’s really nothing going on” and said Buchanan "is there as a resource person.“

He said he is enjoying his role as chairman and said "I want to put as positive a spin as possible on this."

He said there is no basis for comments that the board has turned away from commercial-scale flocks marketing to meat-packing companies and is serving small-flock owners who market direct to consumers as freezer trade.

Issues arose before the annual general meeting in late October, but were kept secret despite a board-approved motion that they be revealed during that meeting.

At that time, the main issue was the board’s three-month suspension of director Andrew Gordanier. He was disciplined for revealing board confidences during the annual general meeting of district five, which he represented.

The motion passed by the board on Oct. 27 is:
“Given the actions that occurred at the District 5 AGM, August 31, 2011 which involve breach of Board confidentiality, breach of board loyalty and breach of respect for staff, Andrew Gordanier is suspended from the OSMA Board and released of all his responsibilities as a Board member of OSMA for a period of 3 months from 10am of the 12th of October, 2011.”

The board subsequently apologized to Gordanier and in January the board rescinded that motion.

One of the outcomes of the conflict is a new board policy to post minutes of board meetings on the agency’s website.

Among issues making the rounds on the gravel roads is one about $28,000 the board spent on improvements to the building it rents from the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association in Guelph and another about $12,745 spent on governance consulting and legal fees.

During the dust-up, board chairman Christopher Kyle resigned. He has been replaced by Fischer who was vice-chairman. Fraser Hodgson defeated Gordanier in an election for vice-chairman.

The board has also held exit interviews with directors Neil Mesman, Markus Wand, Chris Kennedy and Mark Lenover.

Kennedy resigned since the annual meeting; the others left before the annual meeting.


Farm Credit remains optimistic

Farm Credit Canada remains optimistic about the prospects for Canadian farmers this year, judging by comments made by Jean-Philippe Gervais, senior economist for Farm Credit Canada, during a webinar today.

It probably means farmers will continue to have little difficulty getting even relatively risky loans from the government-backed agency.

Gervais cited an International Monetary Fund report that indicates the economies of China, India and parts of Africa will be growing faster than the rest of the world. The people in these areas are more likely to spend any increased money on food than people in other parts of the world.

However, Gervais cautioned that the financial crises in Europe will take a number of years to resolve and lagging demand from there could reduce economic growth in counties such as China and India.

He expects North American demand for corn, including demand for ethanol production, to remain strong this year. Even with declines in subsidies and tariffs, he said ethanol plants will continue producing to fill the quota set by government for ethanol content in gasoline.

Ethanol plants that are losing money right now will be back into profitable territory later this year, he said.
He expects interest rates will remain steady and low. If they do begin to rise late this year and next year, he expects the increases will be small and gradual at about a quarter of one per cent per change.

But he also cautioned that Canadian interest rates might climb faster than in the U.S., depending mainly on the degree of inflation here.

He said Canadian farmers are in good shape to cope with modest and slow increases in interest rates, but some farmers will be in trouble if the increases come fast and amount to two to three per cent.

He expects trade talks and deals to increase and drew particular attention to the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks which, because they include Australia and New Zealand, could result in pressure on Canada’s dairy industry.

He advised Canadian farmers to watch the progress of political action on a new U.S. Farm Bill. Some expect it might be done this year; others think it will only come after the November elections.

He said there’s a potential for budget cuts that would reduce subsidies and impact Canadian competitiveness in U.S. markets and in world markets where farmers from both countries compete.
About 75 per cent of U.S. Farm Bill spending is on nutrition, such as Food Stamps and School Lunches, and 17 per cent is subsidies to farmers; crop insurance takes nine per cent and has been the issue drawing the most political attention so far.

Gervais also said high and rising Canadian labour costs and an increasing productivity gap with U.S. food-processing companies are worrisome trends.

To remain competitive, Canadian companies and farmers will need to invest to gain economies of scale and to become more efficient, especially in lowering labour costs, he said.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pigeon King’s his own lawyer

Kitchener - Arlan Galbraith, better known as the Pigeon King, told Justice G. Hearn here Monday that he is going to be his own lawyer to face one charge of fraud and four charges of violating the Bankruptcy Act .
His lawyer, Paul Williams, said there has been a breakdown with Galbraith.

Galbraith has seldom come to Kitchener, leaving it to Williams to handle court appearances. On Monday Williams and Crown Attorney Lynn Robinson were prepared to tell Hearn how they intend to proceed with the case, including a preliminary hearing and trial.

Now that has been delayed three weeks to March 19 and Hearn urged Galbraith to retain a lawyer because it’s likely to be a long and difficult trial.

Galbraith answered that it would take too long to brief a new lawyer in a case that involves more than 600,000 documents. He said he intends to seek a preliminary hearing and a jury trial.

He is accused to luring more than 1,000 investors into contracts worth more than $20 million to produce breeding stock. Officials in Iowa put a stop to his sales there, describing it as a Ponzi scheme, meaning investors could only earn profits on the contracts if Galbraith and his Pigeon King International Inc. were able to find a steady stream of new investors so their money could be used to pay previous investors.

Galbraith threw his company into bankruptcy on June, 2008,  and the next year some investors who had signed contracts with Galbraith before he set up the company petitioned him into personal bankruptcy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hudson a Hall of Famer

The Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame has selected Joe Hudson of Lyn as one of this year's inductees.

I wonder if the people at the Hall of Fame read the statement of claim that has been filed against Hudson's company and posted on this website? And what did they make of his dismissal from the board of directors of the Ontario Egg Producers' Marketing Board for blatant, self-serving violation of one of the so-called Pillars of Supply Management?

Then again, the egg board chose to honour Hudson during its annual meeting a couple of years ago, an honour that surely required some ethical and political gymnastics. Sorry, Joe. You are colourful and friendly, but I would be more inclined to put you in the Hall of Shame.

John Janzen, a former general manager of the Ontario Chicken Producers Marketing Board, has also been chosen. He spent more than a few stormy years trying to manage the province's most dysfunctional farm commodity organization and deserves any accolades people choose to bestow on him.

I can also fully appreciate the induction of Charlie Broadwell who managed the white bean board. The others I never had the pleasure of personally meeting.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tax food, economists say

Tax food!

So say two economists, one in Toronto, the other in Calgary, in a report due out a week from today.
They in fact recommend that the government end all exemptions, including food, from the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
They say that would garner about $39 billion per year.
That could be used to fund social services or reduce income taxes or both. Or it could be used to lower the GST, say Michael Smart of the University of Toronto and Jack Mintz, head of the school of public policy at the University of Calgary.
The report was commissioned by the school of public policy and is due to be released Friday.
Other exemptions that would be up for elimination are for books, financial services and medicines, but food is the main one the economists say ought to be taxed.
Their recommendations are bound to be controversial, but I rather like the idea of taxing everything equally. If we want to give certain people or things a break, let's do it with a transparent subsidy instead of a tax exemption because that way there will be competition among all of the many things that special interest groups want subsidized.
While they're at it, politicians might reconsider a recommendation made in the 1960s that all tax breaks be eliminated so every dollar, no matter how it is earned, is taxed equally. That might even appeal to the Occupy Movement.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Instant bacterial results possible

Food safety is going to change dramatically with the development of new equipment hat can provide instant identification of harmful bacteria, says Don Blakely of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Researchers at Michigan State University have developed the equipment that can detect bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli within as little as one hour.
The equipment uses nanotechnology in a sensor.
“Testing for pathogens has traditionally required taking swabs of equipment and utensils and sending those swabs off for analysis in laboratories.
“Getting results can take several days and by that time the product may be in the food chain and on consumer’s tables,” says a news release from the OMAFRA extension office in Fergus.
“Ultimately some contaminated products may be consumed before any recall is enacted. This whole scenario is about to change” because of the new bio-sensor, the release says.
 “If this new device gets widespread use there is huge potential “ to keep poisonous bacteria from reaching consumers, OMAFRA says.

Drain defeats Schillngs

Vance Drain is back as a director of the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board.
He upset incumbent Hubert Schillings in a lively election and annual meeting for Zone 8, which is the Kingston-Peterborough area and includes Blackstock where Best Choice Eggs is located.

Svante Lind, owner of Best Choice, has filed a joint lawsuit against the egg board, L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. and Burnbrae Farms Ltd., alleging conspiracy to drive him out of the egg-grading business, contraventions of Canada’s Competition Act and cheating on egg grading.

The defendants deny the allegations.

Until Jan. 12 t his year, Drain was a member of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission which supervises the egg board.

Drain was appointed by his neighbour and friend, Leonna Dombrowsky, when she was provincial agriculture minister. She was defeated in last fall’s provincial election.

Schillings was a star member of the egg board, serving as its representative to the national agency and featured in the board’s highly-successful advertising campaign, Who Made Your Eggs Today?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Relax the rules governing GMOs

It’s been 15 years since we began widespread planting of genetically-modified crops and they continue to gain popularity with farmers around the world.

Last year about 160 million hectares were planted to varieties whose genes had been somehow altered by the new technologies. That was eight per cent more than the year before.

In all of that 15 years, I have yet to see any documented proof that a single person has been harmed by consuming food prepared from a genetically-modified crop.

I have yet to see documented evidence that any harm has come to the environment.

I have seen evidence, and plenty of it, that production costs have declined, that pesticide use for crops such as cotton has declined significantly and that the profits for farmers have improved, including some of the world’s poorest farmers in countries such as China and India.

So with this track record of costs and benefits, why is the Canadian government continuing to insist on expensive and lengthy research and trials to justify approvals for new genetically-modified varieties?

Do we not know enough about standard genetic technologies being employed in varietal development to grant carte-blanche approvals for the next generation of varieties employing these standard technologies.

Would not the time, effort and expense involved in meeting current GMO clearances not be better invested in addressing some of the well-known high-risk products, such as raw sprouts?

And in another related vein, why is our government granting patents related to plant breeding?

Patent protection, we were told, would bring more money into research and development and both speed up the delivery of improved varieties and increase the number brought to market. Can you see any evidence of that happening?

In fact, we have fewer plant breeders today than 20 years ago, we have fewer new varieties coming to market and we don’t even have the university resources left to teach a new generation of plant  breeders.

One Canadian innovation alone – canola – justifies every penny that has ever been spent by Canadian governments on plant breeding at public institutions. It came to market before GMO regulations and before government-funded plant breeding budgets were slashed to ribbons.

Do you think corporations would have ever bred canola and brought it to market?

Relaxing regulations governing genetically-modified crops and combining that with an offer of personal profits from the sale of improved varieties to plant breeders working at universities and government agriculture institutions might actually yield some tangible benefits for farmers and society.

Successful MCC heifer sale

Listowel - Sunshine brought out a standing-room-only crowd and aggressive bidding for 129 cattle at this year’s 31st annual Mennonite Central Committee Heifer Sale at Carson’s Sales arena.

Proceeds were either a record or close to it, said Clarence Diefenbacher – a total of $220,000, up from $169,000 last year.

Both the quantity and average quality of heifers was better this year, he said – 129 heifers this year compared with 117 last year and an average selling price of $1,525 this year.

The top heifers were once again donated by two teams whose donations have topped the sale for many years.  Joe and Roy Snyder, in combination with Clarence Diefenbacher, donated a heifer that sold for $4,050 and Murray Gerber,  Norm Roth and Ken Erb’s heifer sold for $4,100.

Carson’s donated a carving of a horse and buggy that they bought at the sale in 2,000. Their donation was in memory of directors Gerald Bauman and Lyle Martin who died this year, and Farm Credit Canada bought it for $2,300.

The sale raised $16,000 from the sale of miscellaneous items and there was $7,000 in cash donations.

Diefenbacher said about 300 volunteers are involved in the sale. Proceeds go to help some of the poorest people in the poorest countries.

The sale is attracting donors from a wider geographic area each year, expanding into Grey and Bruce Counties and east in Wellington County to the communities around Alma and Mount Forest, Diefenbacher said.

Pigeon King case inching forward

Kitchener – The court action against Pigeon King principal Arlan Galbraith inched ahead in provincial court here with an adjournment to Feb. 27 to deal with procedural matters.

It’s likely that lawyers for the prosecution and defence will lay out a schedule for moving the case forward.
Galbraith is facing one charge of fraud and a number of charges under the Bankruptcy Act, all relating to the collapse of his pigeon-breeding business in Waterloo.

He persuaded thousands of people to invest in buying breeding pairs of pigeons with a promise that Galbraith and, later, his Pigeon King International inc., would buy back offspring at profitable prices.

Government officials in Iowa called it a Ponzi scheme, meaning that it could only work as long as new investors were found to funnel money to previous investors. Once the market for breeding pairs of pigeons would be exhausted, the business would collapse.

Galbraith’s lawyer has obtained a court order sealing all of the information that has so far been filed in court, including the information the police have gathered to support the charges that have been laid.

New general farm organization forming

A group of disgruntled members of the Ontario branch of the National Farmers Union is organizing a new general farm organization they call Practical Farmers of Ontario.

Their organizing meeting will be March 31 at Peter Gzowski College, Trent University, in Peterborough.
The leaders include Sean McGivern, who was elected head of the Ontario branch of the National Farmers Union, but deposed by the National Farmers Union executive in Saskatoon.

Two other former NFU directors, Michael Schmidt of raw-milk fame and Steve Dick are also scheduled to lead discussions at the founding meeting which will begin at 9 a.m. They are charging $20 per person.

McGivern says the new organization will provide a voice for farmers whose concerns are not being pursued by any of the existing general farm organizations that receive funding via the Ontario Farm Business Registration process – the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation, the Ontario branch of the NFU and an organization for French-speaking farmers.

For example, they all provide unqualified support for supply management, but McGivern said there are a number of issues with supply management that should be open to critical debate.

The organizers of Practical Farmers of Ontario hope they will be in a position to file for certification under the Farm Business Registration process by next year.

At the founding meeting, they will be considering a constitution and bylaws and electing an executive that is to include a president, vice-presidents for Eastern and Western Ontario, a secretary, a treasurer and five directors at large.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Massive burger recall

New Food Classics of Burlington is recalling burgers from across Canada, including No-Name Club Pack burgers marketed through a number of Loblaws-owned supermarket chains.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the burgers may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 and may not look or smell spoiled.

The Loblaws chains that carry the product as Club Pack Beef Steakettes.

In Ontario they are marketed through Loblaws-owned Cash&Carry/RCWC Ontario Corporate stores, Extra Foods, Freshmart, Loblaws Great Food, no frills, Real Canadian Superstore, SuperValu, Superstore, Your Independent Grocer and Shop Easy.

The recall also involves The Country Morning Beef Burgers distributed across Western Canada via COOP and TGP grocery stores.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says there has been one illness associated with this product.
E. coli 0157:H7 can make people very sick; some people die, as happened in Walkerton where the drinking water was contaminated with this poison-producing bacteria.

The CFIA says on its website that “symptoms include severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhoea. Some people may have seizures or strokes and some may need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis. Others may live with permanent kidney damage. In severe cases of illness, people may die.”

The CFIA does not say how many kilograms of products are involved in the recall.
It issued the first alert at mid-afternoon Saturday, Feb. 18, the start of a Monday-holiday weekend.

The no name Loblaws products are :
no name Club Pack Beef Steakettes2.27kg0 60383 01321 9BB 2012 AL 10 EST 761

The Country Morning Beef Burgers are:

Country Morning Beef Burgers1kg0 57316 02941 652841 EST 761
62841 EST 761
72841 EST 761
82841 EST 761.


Friday, February 17, 2012

RMP too cushy

Economist Don Drummond singled out Ontario's new risk management program (RMP) for comment in his report on why the Ontario government needs to cut spending and where savings might be achieved.

Drummond identified the weakness in the RMP as doing little or nothing to encourage farmers to improve. There are no incentives for innovation, improving efficiencies, adopting new technologies or improving management; there is only a cushion against declining revenues and he warns that could be extremely expensive.

He might have added that the program design leaves Canadian farmers open to international trade retaliation, especially from our biggest and most litigious customer, the United States. That is, of course, a risk  that has been pointed out, ad nauseum, by federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

When he was looking for savings in agriculture, he might have noted that farmers with supply-management quotas get to charge prices that cover costs plus providing a return on labour, risk and management. So why not cut them off from any additional subsidies or tax breaks?

Or, alternatively, if they get those subsidies and tax breaks, the government might consider forcing them to roll back prices by a comparable amount. That would have the benefit of improving their chances of survival when tariff protection begins to decline.

But, then again, farm policies are a simple, straight-forward reflection of the farm lobby, led by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. And when, pray tell, has the OFA ever been hailed as a bright beacon of innovation, change and entrepreneurial excellence?

Shhh! We're recalling spinach

How do you recall 114 tons of spinach without telling the public?

The United States Food and Drug Administration and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did just that, beginning New Year’s Eve, according to information posted on her eFoodAlert website by microbiologist Phyllis Entis.

"I realize that not all recalls are created equal, and that not all recalls require public notification. But I cannot understand the rationale behind NOT publicizing a Class I Hazard recall of a ready-to-eat item of produce that may be contaminated with a potentially lethal pathogen," Entis wrote.  "Would anyone care to explain this to me?"

Sorry, Ms. Entis, but it will be a frosty day in July when Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz explains anything to you, he of "death by a thousand cold cuts" fame.

FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did not publish public notices of this recall in December or January - and still have not -- and the FDA enforcement report did not say whether there were any illnesses linked to the recalled spinach.

According to the enforcement report, Tiro Tres Farms notified its own customers of the recall by letter on Dec. 31, 2011, but the FDA report does not indicate if any of the spinach was sold by retailers.

Entis says the potentially contaminated spinach from Tiro Tres Farms of Eagle Pass, Texas, was distributed in Ontario, Quebec, Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

I recall that after a major food poisoning was linked to spinach from California, the head of  company that provides fresh salads to McDonald's Restaurants of Canada said he stopped including spinach in the mix long before that outbreak surfaced because he deemed the product too risky. The bacteria can hide in crevices in the leaves. Cooked spinach, anyone?


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spies in the skies watching farmers

Drones that armies use to spy on enemies are being adapted to spying on farmers.
A report from Europe indicates they are in widespread use there to catch farmers who are cheating on subsidies. In 2010, the spies in the skies are estimated to have conducted surveillance on 70 per cent of the farmland.
Scanning a farm with a satellite costs about one third as much as sending an inspector on a field visit - £115 ($180; 150 euros) rather than £310 ($490; 400 euros), says the United Kingdom’s Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which is responsible for disbursing the subsidies in the UK and checking for irregularities.
"The RPA follows up only on those claims where there is some doubt about accuracy, and then only at the specific fields for which the doubt exists," the RPA says. "This saves time, lifts the burden on farmers and reduces cost to the taxpayer."
Satellites can rapidly cover a huge area in detail and quickly return to photograph it again if necessary.
In 2010, about 70% of the total required controls on farm payments in the EU were done by satellites, which photographed more than 210,000 sq km (81,000 sq miles) of land in all.
This reminds me of an interview I had in about 1971 with an official in the federal agriculture department in Ottawa, a man who showed me aerial photographs of farms and told me what they revealed, including a booze factory at the back of one farm and which way the family usually headed at the end of the farm lane.
Of course, it's well known that the Canadian Wheat Board uses satellites to watch crops around the world. It can guess yields and by spotting any large areas under stress, can guess who's going to be eager to buy Canadian harvests.
So, what with spies in the skies and the Harper government set to snoop into e-mails, what are the chances of keeping anything confidential these days?

HSUS strikes truce with egg farmers

Blow me down with a feather!

United Egg Producers, the largest organization representing egg producers in the United States, has made a deal with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Rather than spending $10 to $15 million to fight egg farmers, HSUS negotiated the deal that they are jointly taking to politicians in Washington, urging them to pass a law setting minimum standards for caging laying hens.

The farmers have agreed to double cage space per layer, to add perches and nesting boxes in return for peace with HSUS. The new standards are to be phased in over 15 years, meaning barns can be re-equipped when cages are likely to be due for replacement.

There are no indications that the egg marketing boards in Canada have approached animal activist organizations with a view to reaching a similar truce. There have, however, been talks aimed at developing new Codes of Practice which are voluntary welfare standards.

Those talks involve a broad spectrum of interests, including leaders of relatively moderate animal welfare groups that are not nearly as activist as HSUS and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Joint pesticide registration

I am heartened by the news that Luna, a new fungicide from Bayer CropScience, is gaining near-simultaneous registrations in the United States and Canada and a number of other nations.

Luna gained approval earlier this week from the U.S. States Environmental Protection Agency. Canada is expected to follow in May, says Craig Hunter, pesticide specialist for the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

Bayer says “Luna fungicides have a unique chemistry and systemic mode of action that provides unprecedented control of some of the most problematic fungal diseases to help growers deliver the best possible fruits, nuts and vegetables.”

It provides systemic control of Alternaria blights, scab, powdery mildew and white mould.
Bayer says it has “demonstrated improvements in long-term tree health and on fruit quality and storability.’

It comes from a new chemical class that maintains control where other products are failing.

Hunter says it will be used in combination with other fungicides because that will delay, if not eliminate, the risk that resistant fungi will emerge.

Hunter explained that Luna has a new mode of action, so fungi with genetic resistance to that new mode of action would need to emerge. But if they do, they will be hit with the other fungicides in the tank mix.

“The chances of two types of resistance emerging simultaneously are remote,” he said.

Bayer applied for approval in a number of countries at the same time, adopting an approach long urged by farmers who want to remain competitive in global markets.

Hunter said the registrations in the U.S. and Canada carry the same standards for residues “ so with potatoes, for example, there will be free movement across the border.”

"The horticultural market has the highest value crops attracting top dollar in markets around the world,” said Herb Young, product manager at Bayer CropScience.

“With so much money on the line, growers need solutions that will help them overcome problematic disease and resistance issues," he said.

The Luna portfolio includes three solutions -- Luna Sensation, Luna Tranquility and Luna Experience -- each of which includes dual modes of action.

Bayer says these brands are uniquely designed to address the specific needs of individual crops as follows:

In apples, Luna Sensation helps to keep crops disease-free and ensures that the fruit's high quality will be maintained through storage and transport.
Trees treated with Luna Sensation will hold leaves longer and have greatly reduced inoculum levels the following season. 

In his research, Dr. Keith Yoder, Virginia Tech University, found that Luna Sensation not only provided excellent powdery mildew and scab control on apples, but virtually eliminated primary powdery mildew outbreak the following spring. 

For potatoes, Luna Tranquility offers the broadest spectrum of disease control on the market while also increasing yield.
The product is highly effective broadcast or through chemigation in controlling white mold, black dot, the entire early blight complex, including Botrytis and brown spot. 

Dr. Jeff Miller, Miller Research, found that when Luna Tranquility is used with potatoes, white mold and early blight control have been outstanding. Luna was very effective on key diseases when applied through chemigation. 

In watermelons, Luna Experience is effective against Strobilurin and Boscalid-resistant strains providing excellent Gummy stem blight control where other products are failing.
Luna offers growers effective disease control at nearly half the rate of current industry standards.
Dr. David Langston, The University of Georgia, found that Luna Experience offered greater control of Gummy stem blight in watermelon than all other solutions in his trials. 
For cherries, Luna Sensation helps growers deliver high-quality fruit at harvest and in transit protecting against powdery mildew, cherry leaf spot, brown rot blossom blight and fruit rot and various post-harvest rots.
Dr. Jay Pscheidt and John Bassinette of Oregon State University conducted trials of Luna Sensation against powdery mildew. After six applications, from start of petal fall to preharvest, Luna Sensation outperformed all other solutions within the trial.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tipster disciplined

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency could learn a lesson or two from officials in North Carolina State where a veterinarian has been disciplined for tipping off Butterball's turkey-growing farm that inspectors were coming to check animal welfare.

Here in Ontario, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency routinely informed L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. that audits were coming, usually about two weeks in advance of the inspections.

After I put that information on this website, the CFIA sent a note to its staff that there should be no advance notice of audits and inspections.  But I have heard nary a word about discipline for some of the relatively senior staff who provided the tips to Gray.

ABC news is reporting that days before a Butterball turkey farm was raided by police because of allegations of animal abuse, the company had been tipped off that it was under investigation.

That leak, according to officials, came from a veterinarian at a government agency charged with overseeing the health of Butterball's birds.

In December officials in Hoke County, North Carolina, raided the Butterball facility, spurred by hidden camera video obtained by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals.

A Mercy for Animals activist had worked undercover at the farm for three weeks and documented what the group called "acts of violence and severe neglect" on turkeys housed there.

In the video, workers can be seen kicking and stomping on turkeys, as well as dragging them by their wings and necks. The video also shows injured birds with open wounds and exposed flesh.
I'm not happy about animal rights groups spying on farmers, but this issue of tipping off the farm is a matter of principle. Who wouldn't pull up their socks if they knew in advance about an investigation?

Canadian Christians respond in Niger

A growing food crisis has put between five and nine million people at risk of going hungry in the Sahel region of West Africa, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC)
and other international relief agencies are reporting.
Especially vulnerable are some one million children in the area, which has been plagued with chronic levels of food insecurity, poverty and malnutrition for many years.
As CRWRC is completing its $10 million response to the devastating drought elsewhere in Eastern Africa, the agency has begun to turn its attention to providing help to people in the semi-arid region south of the Sahara. CRWRC is the disaster relief and development agency of the Christian Reformed Church.
A season of erratic rainfall, drought and insect infestations have led to the severe food shortage. The region, which has encountered droughts in the past, includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.
CRWRC’s immediate focus will be on Niger, which is one of the most severely impacted countries in the region. In Niger, insufficient rains nationwide led to a 31 percent decline in crop production compared to last year. Experts estimate that cereal production for Niger’s 15 million people is likely to be the lowest in 20 years.
As with other countries in the region, Niger has also been impacted by very steep increases in food prices. The country has also experienced difficulties due to the recent the crisis in Libya.
For years, many Nigeriens have depended on family members who lived and worked in Libya. During the crisis people fled Libya, leaving behind their jobs and belongings, and causing many Nigerien families to suffer from the loss of income and the added burden of more mouths to feed. In the last week, many people have also fled to Niger to escape a new crisis in Mali, further increasing the number of people who are vulnerable.
As a result of this combination of events, one-third of Niger’s population has been declared “food insecure” by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This means that people are unable to access enough nutritionally adequate food to stay healthy and active. In urban areas of Niger, 32 percent of the people are already food insecure, and in rural areas the percentage is 51 percent.
In a news release on Tuesday, the Sahel regional representative in Dakar for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimated that up to 23 million people in region have been affected by the drought and could face hunger if a disaster is not averted.
In the face of this new crisis, CRWRC is in the planning process with its partners to determine how they will respond. They are currently planning a food assistance response, including the subsidized sale of grain, various food-for-work activities, distribution of seeds, and possibly digging wells.
CRWRC has been working in Niger for nearly two decades, partnering with local churches and community organizations to carry out long-term community programs as well as responses to disaster situations.

Chicken farmer pleads for mercy

John Feddes of Dundas, owner of Primavera Farms, made a plea for mercy on a chicken-board penalty of more than $20,000 during a public hearing before the Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal here recently.

The big marketing-board chill
Feddes, who has been in the Ontario chicken business for more than 30 years, conceded that “a serious mistake” was made by his daughter, Joanne, when she took over management of the chicken business in April.

Feddes testified that she was confused by two letters sent out by the chicken board, the first informing her that the farm is eligible to produce more than 65,000 kilograms in the upcoming quota period, the second one received about eight days later saying the eligibility was less than 54,000 kilograms.

Feddes said that by the time the second letter arrived, Joanne had already placed an order with a hatchery in Stratford and because the second notice appeared similar to the first, she didn’t pay close attention.

An experienced farmer would know that it’s the second notice that should form the basis for ordering chicks because it includes calculations for previous over-production or under-production, for the current allocation from the board and other adjustments.

Lawyer Geoff Spurr, acting for the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board, established during questioning that production actually far exceeded even the 65,000-kilogram target – it ended up at more than 78,000 kilograms – and that Feddes provided no supervision for Joanne in calculating how many chicks should have been ordered.

He also established that Feddes remains sole owner of the numbered company that owns the quota and farm and that the chicken board never takes inexperience or other factors into account when it assesses penalties for over-production.

Feddes said it’s not fair to come down so hard on a first-timer making this mistake. I sympathize with Feddes; this is clearly a mistake, not defiance of the marketing board's production controls, and it's an issue that should have been easy to resolve around a kitchen table, perhaps with a 50 per cent reduction of the penalty. Joanne and John Feddes have both clearly learned a painful lesson because the penalties also involve a reduction of future production by an amount equal to the over-production.

The tribunal chairman for the hearing, lawyer Harold McNeely of Edwards, Ont., promised the tribunal will do its best to issue a decision within 30 days. The other panel members were Richard Smelski of Shakespeare and Tim Mousseau of Dresden.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Here's why we need whistleblowers

Journalists for KING 5,a television station in Washington State, report that federal inspectors complained for years about significant food safety violations at a Yakima plant but their superiors didn’t put a stop to it.
"I thought it was terrible because I have never seen anything like that in my life," said Jerry Pierce, a recently retired United States Department of Agriculture inspector who was assigned to the Snokist Growers plant in 2008. He said he watched Snokist employees “reprocess” and sell applesauce that belonged in the garbage bin.
“It's appalling that the company would take those measures just to make a few dollars," said Wendy Alguard, the USDA inspector who worked at Snokist from 2009 until the summer of last year.

The company went into bankruptcy protection from its creditors on Dec. 11.