Thursday, August 29, 2013

World aid declining

Canada's leaders have a perfect track record on promises to help the world's poorest nations and people.

Our prime ministers, both Liberal and Conservative, have broken every promise they have made.

While Canada gets richer and richer every year, our commitment to help the poor is going in the other direction under Stephen Harper's leadership. He has even abandoned aid as a special agency, folding the Canadian International Development Agency into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. And diverting aid funds to partner with Canadian mining companies.

Last budget year, Harper's management left $400 million of CIDA's budget unspent. I'll bet his Prime Minister's Office budget was fully spent! Certainly the Senators seemed to have looked after themselves quite generously.

The Worldwatch Institute reports that the 26 nations who signed on to the Millenium Development Goals in 2000 reduced their contributions in 2011 and again in 2012. The goals, such as cutting poverty in half, improving literacy and health and reducing hunger, are not likely to be met by the deadline of 2015.

Preliminary data indicate that official development assistance (ODA) totaled $128.4 billion (in 2011 dollars) in 2012, four per cent less than $133.7 billion in 2011.

The peak was $136.7 billion in 2010, six per cent more than in 2012.

The United States provided the largest amount of ODA, with a total of $29.9 billion in 2012, which was 23.3 percent of the 26-nation total.

Next in line were the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Japan.

With leadership from the late Lester Pearson of Canada, the United Nations set a goal in 1970 of donating 0.7 per cent of gross national income.

Canada has never done better than half that, but Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway and Denmark have all exceeded that goal.

The U.S. has one of the worst track records at 0.19 percent.

There is substantial aid coming from more than the 26 countries who signed on to the Millenium Development Challenge.

They donated about $7.2 billion in 2010; Saudia Arabia accounted for half of that.

There is another $56.3 billion coming from non-government sources, such as churches.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Liberal barn party

I see that the Liberals are planning a barn party tonight in Prince Edward Island.

It's a good thing they didn't try to hold it in Wilmot Township, or any of a number of other Ontario municipalities where the bylaw officers have shut down barn parties.

It's not safe, you know. Even though they can't point to a single injury or death.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bayer CropScience being hit by huge lawsuit awards

Bayer CropScience has lost another lawsuit related to contamination of commercial rice harvests with its genetically-modified rice

This time it’s a jury award of almost $48 million for 12 farmers in Arkansas.

The farmers were awarded $42 million to compensate for their losses and $5.9 million in punitive damages.
Bayer’s lawyer said the company will appeal.

The farmers were represented by attorney Scott Powell of Birmingham, Ala., who said he was not surprised by the verdict “given the overwhelming evidence of Bayer’s recklessness ... and the damage done to the farmers. The farmers were just devastated by this and continue to be hurt by it.”

The farmers will each get between less than $33,000 to $1.4 million, Powell said.

The award for punitive damages was applied because the jury decided that Bayer knew, or ought to have known, its conduct would cause damage, and continued recklessly.

Bayer’s general counsel said the amount awarded is “unreasonably excessive by any standard.”

This was the fourth lawsuit since the United States Department of Agriculture announced in August, 2006, that it had found Bayer’s GMO rice in commercial channels.

Bayer lost three previous cases and was ordered to pay about $4.5 million to farmers Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi.

Bayer still faces about 7,000 plaintiffs in multidistrict litigation in federal court in St. Louis, said Scott Poynter, a Little Rock attorney and co-chairman of the plaintiffs’ executive committee, which was appointed by Judge Catherine Perry of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to lead the plaintiffs’ legal efforts. 

Confidential mediation discussions for the multidistrict litigation will begin in St. Louis next week.

The next trial against Bayer in Arkansas is to begin in July in Desha County.

The third in a series of five federal bellwether cases against Bayer, this one brought by Houston-based Riviana Foods Inc. and affiliated companies, was settled last week.

Riviana received $5.8 million, or about 72.5 percent of its total claim, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Charles Schlumberger of Little Rock.

Claims against Producers Rice Mill and Riceland Foods have not been resolved, and no court date is scheduled.

Judge now has the COOL challenge

A judge in Washington, D.C., now has to decide whether to grant a temporary injunction sought by Canada, Mexico and several meat-industry organizations in the United States.

The injunction would stop the government from implementing a new set of regulations for mandatory County-of-Origin Labeling (MCOOL).

The World Trade Organization ruled that the previous U.S. MCOOL regulations violated its trade obligations by discriminating against imports, mainly beef and pork from Canada and Mexico.

The new regulations are even worse than the old ones, say those who have filed the application for an injunction. The lawyers’ cases were presented to the judge on Tuesday.

The court action was put forward by the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Canadian Pork Council, Confederacion Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association and Southwest Meat Association.

This judge in the case, in U.S. District court in Washington, D.C., did not indicate when he is likely to rule on the motion.

NFU launches court challenge

The National Farmers Union – Ontario is planning to file for a judicial review of the tribunal’s refusal to grant it accreditation during several hearings over the last 18 months.
It is due to appear in Superior Court in Ottawa on Sept. 10.
Lawyer Sean Bawden says the NFU will claim that the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Appeal Tribunal did not have the power to ask the questions the panel members did during the re-accreditation hearings.
The panel was led by lawyer Nicholas Richter. The other members were Jane Sadler-Richards and Mary Field.
I sat through some of the hearings and noted that the NFU-O didn't hire a lawyer to represent them, so I find it curious that the organization is filing a legal challenge. On the other hand, Richter is a sharp lawyer I admire, having seen him in action both chairing hearings and representing a client at the pork-industry appeal.
The tribunal decisions regarding the NFU took a long time to be posted on the internet and were closely-reasoned, law-based and quite technical rulings. I think Bawden and the NFU are in for quite a battle if they think they can persuade a court to over-turn the tribunal decisions.
Bawden told Blackburn News that the tribunal erred in concluding that the Ontario branch does not represent Ontario farmers. The tribunal didn’t say that, but did find that the Ontario organization is not adequately independent from the national organization in Saskatoon.
Bawden says the judicial review is a good route to go since he argues we wouldn’t want the government to be changing the rules to fit the circumstances. The government is undertaking a review of the entire farm registration and general farm organizations funding legislation.
Farmers are required to register every year to receive benefits, such as property tax breaks, and to choose a farm organization to support with their registration fee. Having chosen an organization, they can apply to it for a rebate of the fee.
The tribunal surprised the three general farm organizations that have operated under this legislation for a number of years, gaining previous re-accreditations from the tribunal, by ruling that the organizations lacked clear evidence that farmers really want to be members of their organizations.
Bawden says the ideal result would be to have the judge order the tribunal to re-accredit the NFU-O.
He says an alternative would be for the judge to order the tribunal to take another look at it’s decision, only this time follow the judge’s strict instructions on what it can and cannot consider in that decision.
The Ontario Superior Court hearing is scheduled for September 10th in Ottawa.

Irish researcher claims he’s got a miracle solution

A friend sent my an article about Vi-Aqua from a newspaper in the United Kingdom. I told her that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. What do you think? Is this a real miracle, or Irish blarney?

Prof. Austin Darragh of Limerick University claims he has a miracle solution to global warming and food shortages.

Prof. Austin Darragh
He says his invention, about the size of a lunch box, converts 24 volts of electricity into radio waves that charge up water.

He says thousands of gallons of water can be charged in 10 minutes by connecting to a hose.

"Vi-Aqua makes water wetter and introduces atmospheric nitrogen into the water in the form of nitrates – so it is free fertilizer,” Darragh says.
“It also produces the miracle of rejuvenating the soil by invigorating soil-based micro-organisms.
"We can also make water savings of at least 30 per cent. When the water is treated it becomes a better solvent, which means it can carry more nutrients to the leaves and stem and percolate better down into the soil to nourish the roots, which in turn produces a better root system.
“Hence the reason you need less water and why you end up with larger and hardier crops," claims Professor Austin Darragh.
He says the larger, healthier plants remove more carbon dioxide from the environment, thus battling global warming.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Glenn Black calls for $10-billion refund from chicken farmers

Glenn Black says the members of the Ontario chicken board owe consumers about $10 billion for over-charging them by using a faulty cost-of-production formula.

The chicken board recently adjusted its formula to reflect improved feed conversion rates.

Black calculates that the difference between the old and new rates amounts to $1 billion per year, and that it’s been going on for 10 years, hence his claim for $10 billion.

He says that amounts to an average $3.7 million per quota holder and says they could pay it back by selling their quota.

Black further points to published claims by both the Ontario and national chicken marketing bodies that they charge only a fair price for their family labour and investment.

He says that’s false advertising and consumers could call in officials who enforce the Ontario Consumer Protection Act under the section that makes it a violation for “A representation that misrepresents the purpose of any charge or proposed charge.”

Black has set up a blog to serve as a critical watchdog on the chicken marketing board. 

He is lobbying for a policy change to allow people to raise up to 2,000 chickens per quota period without having to buy quota. The current limit is 300 per quota period.

Black used “chicken mafia” to headline his most recent posting on his blog

Maple Leaf sells Rothsay rendering business

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is selling its Rothsay Concentrates rendering business to Darling International Inc. of Irving, Texas.

The deal $645-million deal will give Darling a dominant hold on Canada’s rendering industry.
Maple Leaf says it’s going to use the money to reduce its debt load.

Rothsay has plants at Moorefield and Dundas, Ont., Montreal and Foxtrap, Que., Winnipeg, Man., and Truro, N.S.

Rothsay Concentrates was started in the 1960s by the late George Piller of Kitchener. Maple Leaf Mills bought it in 1969.

Canada Packers bought the plant at Dundas in 1980 and that same year the Young Group bought the five plants that are now part of Rothsay.

The McCain family, with backing from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund, bought the merged Canada Packers-Maple Leaf Mills business in 1995. By that time Maple Leaf Foods Inc. owned both the Young Group’s plants and the Canada Packers’ plant at Dundas.

Maple Leaf has used its ownership of feed milling, rendering and hatcheries to drive deals in the poultry industry, but in the last decade has unwound that vertical integration.

It has sold its feed division, its turkey hatchery and farms, its chicken quota and now its rendering plants. The company is concentrating on buying butchered meat from others and converting it into retail-ready products such as sausages and cold cuts.

Darling is the largest rendering business in the United States and also processes remains from the bakery industry.

Some of its plants convert animal fats into biodiesel. Rothsay has a plant at Montreal that produces biodiesel.

Giant burger fells 100 CNE clients

The giant Cronut Burger has sickened about 150 people who bought the calorie-dense food while attending the Canadian National Exhibition.

Photo from National Post website
The Toronto Public Health unit says the culprit is toxin-producing staphylococcus aureus bacteria. 

That bacteria can usually be easily controlled by proper cooking.

One man who ate a Cronut Burger became so sick he passed out in an ambulance taking him for emergency hospital treatment.

The Cronut Burger has been famous – or infamous – for creating a meal with a calorie count of 1,500. It’s made and sold by Epic Burgers and Waffles. It's stand is now closed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Milk price cut of 12 per cent would lower quota price to $25,000

Ontario and Quebec milk marketing boards could scrap their cap on quota prices and achieve the same $25,000-per-unit price by reducing the price of milk by 11.83 per cent.

That’s what doctoral student Alex W. Chernoff of Queen’s University, Kingston found when he prepared an economic model to find out how much the price of milk would need to be reduced to get quota prices down to the current cap of $25,000 per unit, which is about the amount needed for one cow’s annual production.

Chernoff notes that previous research indicates that imposing a cap on quota prices stymies quota trades which, in turn, retards progress towards greater efficiencies.

Quebec imposed the price cap of $25,000 in 2007 and Ontario followed in 2009. The policy has reduced quota trading to virtually nil because few farmers are willing to sell quota that would, Chernoff says, fetch about $32,000 if there were an open market.

That leaves a large number of dairy-farming families stranded with no realistic hope of ever filling their barns to capacity, let alone building larger ones to support maturing children who want to become dairy farmers.

Another study indicates that it’s not simply the more efficient dairy farmers who buy quota, but more specifically those who achieve greater efficiencies through running a larger herd.

They also found that the keenest quota buyers are the younger farmers, those with more barn space and those with a recent history of buying quota.

That study was done by Rebecca Elskamp and Getu Hailu of the University of Guelph. 

The option of reducing milk prices to lower quota prices has been proposed many times before, but always rejected by the marketing boards who prefer pricing milk according to formulas that track changes in production costs and the Consumer Price Index.

The milk boards have, however, been gradually reducing prices by selectively pricing milk at much lower prices for some customers who face competitive pressures from imports or might otherwise import dairy ingredients.

The Ontario milk board recently reduced the price of milk used to make mozzarella cheese for pizza restaurants and is under pressure to reduce the price of milk to produce cheeses because processors have been cutting their costs by importing much cheaper ingredients from the United States and others.

Hurd dismisses concerns about antibiotics

Dr. Scott Hurd of Perdue University says the public has no reason to be concerned about the on-farm use of antibiotics as feed additives for chickens, hogs and cattle.

He says regular checking by federal government inspectors indicates that antibiotic residues in meats are rare; in fact, in poultry none have been detected in the last three years.

He says farmers are doing an excellent job of adhering to withdrawal times before they market their birds and livestock.

But residues are far from the major concern. The biggest concern is that the use of antibiotics as feed additives to improve feed efficiency and growth rates also greatly increases the presence of bacteria able to resist the antibiotics.

Once they develop that resistance, they can pass it to other bacteria, even without antibiotics being in the environment.

They can also pass along resistance to multiple bacteria.

The risk is that harmful bacteria, ones that give rise to life-threatening infections and illnesses, could pick up this antibiotic resistance and doctors would be severely limited in the medicines they can use to rescue patients.

Hurd made no comment about antibiotic resistance in his column.

I call this dissembling, which is misleading people while telling nothing but the truth. 

Hurd’s column will probably leave a lot of farmers thinking there are no risks to continuing to use antibiotics as growth promotants.

Scientific American magazine disses GMO labeling

Scientific American magazine has come out strongly against labeling food that involves genetic engineering.

The magazine says that “instead of providing people with useful information, mandatory GMO labels would only intensify the misconception that so-called Frankenfoods endanger people’s health.

“The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization and the exceptionally vigilant European Union agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods,” says the magazine.

“Compared with conventional breeding techniques—which swap giant chunks of DNA between one plant and another—genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, is less likely to produce an unexpected result.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested all the GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic. They are not.”

The issue hits the newsstands and mailboxes this week.

Benny DeJonge dead at 76

Bernard “Benny” DeJonge, head of the family that developed Better Beef into the biggest beef-slaughtering business east of Alberta, has died after a year-long battle with lung cancer. He was 76.

DeJonge immigrated to Stoney Creek from the Netherlands in 1957 and, together with three brothers, pursued his father’s profession as a butcher.

They bought a plant in Toronto and named it Better Beef and in 1972, over the strong objections of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association, took over the lease that bankrupt Essex Packers held on a packing plant inside a prison in Guelph.

The DeJonge’s expanded the plant and added a beef-processing plant on another site in Guelph.

DeJonge has been eulogized as an innovator and man of integrity who dealt with handshakes rather than contracts.

His track record is, however, includes a number of stains.

The plant was often cited for failures to comply with Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards, the CFIA veterinarian in charge rented a home from the DeJonges and regularly filled his trunk with beef at the plant and the federal agriculture department’s chief grader, when he visited the plant, found that ungraded beef imported from the United States was being stamped as Canada Grade A and sold to supermarket chains.

Benny was also well known for his loud voice and colourful profanity.

The DeJonges were fined for fraud. 

They also carried a conviction for short-changing farmers on cattle weights.

To the relief of many Ontario farmers, Cargill bought the business in 2005, but maintained the Better Beef name, partly because it helped the company develop markets in the U.S.

DeJonge is survived by his wife of 50 years, Grietje, and four children, Richard, Margaret, Robert and Thomas.

The funeral is 1 p.m. Friday at the Paramount Drive Alliance Church in Stoney Creek.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Serruya’s back in dairy retailing

Michael Serruya, who introduced Canadians to frozen yogourt via his Yogen Fruz chain of retail outlets that grew to include TCBY (The Country’s Best Yogourt) and then giant Coolbrands International Inc. before it flamed out, is back in dairy retailing.

He has gained control of Cold Stone Creamery and plans to double the location partnerships with Tim Hortons Inc.

Michael and his brother, Aaron, ended up in financial trouble when they over-extended themselves in a series of audacious take-overs of dairy companies.

Their business that peaked at sales of $450 million a year in 2004 skidded and they began selling in 2006.

The Serruya family, including younger brother Simon, has  been rebuilding Yogen Fruz and recently launched Yogurty’s.

And now the family has bought Cold Stone Creamery via an auction of its parent company, Kahala Corp. which controls about a dozen fast-food chains with 3,035 locations in 23 countries.

It has annual sales of more than $1 billion and includes brands such as Taco Time, Blimpie Submarines and Samurai Sam’s Terriyaki Grill.

Kahala came up for auction after the owner, Robert Peterson, died in 2007, leaving no heirs after his two sons died in a plane crash in 2005. He was a billionaire publisher.

Trichinosis case was a Mennonite child

The single case of trichinosis that turned up in official data turns out to have been a Mennonite child near Chesley who ate pork from a pig slaughtered on the farm.

Why trichinosis turned up in Ontario was a bit of a mystery at the time since it’s believed that it has been wiped out as a threat to health.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency hasn’t found any trichinosis in Canadian pork for a long time.
It tests about 18,000 hogs at packing plants every year and every three to five years tests about 16,000 sows as part of its surveillance program.
Farmers are prohibited from feeding meat and meat byproducts to swine.
The Bruce County case happened in January , says Dr. Hazel Lynn, medical health officer for Grey and Bruce counties.
None of the pork was sold to others, she says.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Urs Kressibucher lays it out

Urs Kressibucher, until two years ago a director of the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board, lays things out plainly in a letter to the editor in this week's edition of Ontario Farmer.

Kressibucher says Ontario is chronically short of chicken. He was Ontario's director on the national agency for a number of years and wasn't able to get more.

He says the situation will be worse because of a court decision that allows French-speaking chicken producers in Eastern Ontario to sell to Quebec processors. And he says Quebec is the only province blocking a proposal from Ontario to allow increased production to meet the demand for specialty markets.

Kressibucher further blames the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors for much of what's wrong today. He says the system of guaranteeing each of the AOCP members a percentage share of the chicken that's produced in Ontario is wrong.

The AOCP has also argued against increasing production in Ontario, and especially against a policy that would give more chicken to the best marketers - many of them tiny family-run processing businesses - who have clientele begging for more chicken.

There are two huge specialty markets that are getting no chicken from Ontario producers today - the kosher market and the Asian Hong Kong dressed-bird buyers who want the heads and feet left on.

Kressibucher says he hopes the current situation can be rectified during hearings that the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Council plans to convene.

Good luck! Those do-nothings are entirely unlikely to rock any boats, even when the changes that are necessary are plain for all to see.

And where, pray tell, is Premier and Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne on these issues in the chicken and egg industries? Silent. Totally silent.

Ontario chicken board adjusts pricing formula

The Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board is once again adjusting its pricing formula as it relates to feed costs.

It took a 1.5-cent reduction for quota period A-111 when the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission ordered a review of the feed component of the pricing formula.

Now it’s rescinding that price reduction and says it will implement a new pricing formula.

Under the new formula, prices will move up or down one cent per kilogram whenever feed prices move up or down by $5.81 per tonne. Under the old formula, the adjustments were made for every $5 change in feed costs.

The new formula will take full effect for quota period A-120, which begins Oct. 6.

The chicken board hasn't uttered a peep about the reliability of the feed prices that are plugged into the formula. Glenn Black has shown that Ontario's poultry-feed prices are out of line with U.S. prices and Ontario feeds for livestock.

However, that new formula will probably be short-lived because there are negotiations underway between the chicken board and the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors on the entire pricing formula.

Meanwhile, the two have still not settled on a policy for specialty markets. The AOCP filed an appeal with the tribunal when the chicken board said it would implement the policy, but the tribunal suspended the action because the two returned to the bargaining table.

The stalemate leaves two significant markets without Ontario-produced chicken – the kosher market, which is entering a peak religious-season demand period the beginning of September, and the Asian market for Hong-Kong dressed birds with feet and legs left on.