Thursday, October 31, 2013

Horse trucker fined $40,000

A trucking firm from Lucan has been fined $40,000 after the Canadian Border Services detained a load of horses and called in veterinarians to assess animal welfare.

Loerzel Farm Transport Inc., operating as Ontario Corporation number 2023424, was inspected at the Windsor crossing. In addition to the company fine, Manfred Loerzel was fined another total of $6,000.
In April 2010, veterinary inspectors of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducted a routine inspection of a shipment of horses at the Windsor, Ontario port of entry.
The CFIA says “every person responsible for transporting animals in Canada must ensure that the entire transportation process including loading, transit and unloading, does not cause injury or undue suffering to the animals.

“The federal requirements for animal transport are set out in the Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII.

“They are enforced by the CFIA with assistance of other federal, provincial and territorial authorities.”

It may be a coincidence that Americans vigorously opposed to horse slaughter in general and to the revival of horse slaughter in the U.S. in particular were complaining about two horse-slaughter plants in Canada, one in Alberta and the other in Quebec.

Pullet agency decision coming soon

The panel that conducted hearings into the establishment of a national marketing agency for independent pullet growers is coming close to finishing its report which is likely to be presented to the board of directors at the next meeting of the Farm Products Council of Canada.

Nathalie Vanasse, the council’s hearing secretary, wrote in an e-mail that the council will be deciding what needs to happen next. One of the possibilities is that the council will accept its recommendations and forward them to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for a decision.

If the recommendation is to go ahead with a national agency and Ritz agrees, it will be the first new national supply-management agency in about 40 years.

It would also be a travesty of justice. Andy deWeerd of Tavistock has led the campaign and I certainly do not blame him for pressing for a better deal for independent pullet growers. They deserve prices closer to their cost of production as determined by an accountancy-firm study of costs.

But there are fewer than  20 independent pullet growers in Ontario; egg producers raise most of their own pullets. They already make more than enough profit. If a national agency is formed, granting power to roughly double prices, it will be a windfall for these egg producers because the egg boards will tack on the new and higher cost of pullets to their cost-of-production formula pricing.

If it's possible, the national agency powers ought to be restricted to independent pullet growers. However, if that happens, guess how many egg producers will be setting up sham operations to claim independent pullet production?

The council supervises national supply-management agencies for chickens, hatching eggs, eggs and turkeys.

The Canadian Dairy Commission supervises the national supply-management programs for dairy.

The council also supervises a national agency for beef-industry research and promotion and is expected to rule soon on an application for a similar national agency for raspberries.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Political approval for tax break on food donation

The agriculture committee of the Ontario legislature has approved Bill 104, drafted by Tory backbencher Bob Bailey of Sarnia, to grant farmers a charitable-donation tax receipt for food they donate to food banks.

It’s Bailey’s third attempt to get the legislation enacted and the third time it has gained widespread political support. The previous attempts fell into a void when the legislature prorogued before passing his bills.

Tory agriculture critic and former agriculture minister Ernie Hardeman a tax break for donors “will help get more fresh local food to those who need it the most.”

Among farmers pushing hardest for the legislation are produce growers in the Bradford Marsh who annually plow down, or trash, thousands of pounds of perfectly nutritious fresh vegetables because they fail to meet supermarket standards for appearance.

Farmers say they need some compensation, else it’s not worth the time, effort and expense to harvest the vegetables and truck them to food banks.

Wynne’s goals for agriculture are lofty

The goals Premier and Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne has set for expanding agricultural production, exports and jobs are so ambitious they will be tough to achieve, according to Bob Seguin, formerly chief policy advisor in the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and now the executive director of the George Morris Centre.

Seguin says achieving her goals will require agri-food investment, natural resource sustainability, expanding pools of talent and people, effective regulatory reform, and new and more risky investments in research and innovation.

He also notes that every country to which Canada hopes to increase exports is also trying to improve its domestic food production.

“Moving from the desired policy goals into successful implementation by private and public sectors will not be a smooth ride,” Seguin writes.

“Significant domestic policy, program and private sector investments must occur if these goals are to be achieved and the desired benefits for Canada’s agri-food sector, and its economy fully met. 

“It is clear that continuing the status quo is not sufficient to achieve these targets or the sustained prosperity that would result,” he says.

In other words, some things need to change.

Wynne’s goals are:
doubling Ontario’s agri-food growth rate;
doubling agri-food exports, and
creating 120,00 new jobs by 2020.

Seguin also notes that British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec all have similar goals.

“Unfortunately, the historical and current context for Canada’s agrifood sector is not as optimistic,” as Wynne’s goals and those of the other provinces, he writes.

“While the sector performed relatively well during the recent recession, cooperation between and among the agrifood supply chain members has not always been smooth.

“Supposing that input suppliers, farmers, processors, and retailers will easily come to a single unified view, trust each other, and work as a team to achieve growth targets is optimistic, and contrary to much of our experience. “

“Recent food facility closures and disinvestments do not bode well for a new spurt of industry growth.,” he adds.

“To achieve the desired growth targets and sustained prosperity, the current sector context must change.”

Attracting investment, achieving sustainability and hiring enough competent staff will all be huge challenges in the current global competitive marketplace, he says.

Canada has a good track record on agricultural research and supporting policies, he says, but lacks success in translating what’s discovered into profitable products, services and companies.

Canada will be far from alone in a world that’s also trying to improve commercialization of research discoveries.

One thing that’s significantly missing from his report is commentary on the dairy and poultry sectors where supply management stifles growth, innovation and advances in global competitiveness.

The three sectors all enjoy Canada’s competitive advantages in access to plentiful supplies of inputs, such as feed, water, energy and genetics.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CFFO presents ideas on Local Food Act

The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario appeared before a legislative committee at Queen’s Park in Toronto this week, suggesting that the proposed Local Food Act could be improved by enabling farmers who make donations to food banks to claim a receipt for a charitable-donations tax break.

The CFFO also recommended that the legislation provide for “aggregators,” meaning operations that collect food from a number of farms into volumes that are suitable for local retailers.

The CFFO said some customers may want to feature locally-produced food, but aren’t prepared to collect it from dozens of local farms to achieve the volume they require.

The charitable-donations proposal has been brought forward several times in the legislature by Tory Bob Bailey of the Sarnia area as a private-member bill.

It is sitting in the backlog now as Bill 104.

Mosaic buying CF’s phosphate business

Mosaic Inc. is paying $12 billion cash for the phosphate business owned by CF Industries Holdings Inc.
CF intends to use the cash to increase its nitrogen business where it is already the producer in the United States.

Mosaic is already the world’s largest phosphates marketer and this deal would increase its U.S. market share from 50 to 75 per cent.

And the Americans complain about supply management in Canada's dairy and poultry industries? That's nothing compared with this concentration of power that spans the entire cropping spectrum and reaches far beyond the U.S. into global markets.

Mosaic gets the South Pasture phosphate mine in Florida which produces about 1.8 million tonnes per year. Mosaic’s existing mines yield about 8.2 million tonnes per year.

CF will also supply Mosaic with about one million tonnes of ammonia per year; it’s used to make phosphate products.

Mosaic will shelve its plans to spend $1.3 billion to build its own ammonia plant at Faustina, La. It is also canceling plans for a $1-billion phosphate processing plant in Florida.

Earlier this year Mosaic signed a deal with a company in Saudi Arabia to invest $1 billion on phosphate mining.

Mosaic is strategically reducing its reliance on potash.

CF Industries is investing $3.8 billion to expand its nitrogen production in Louisiana and Iowa.

While there are concerns that the government might take a dim view of the concentration of power, this deal would leave concentration for phosphates and nitrogen lower than the concentration for potash.

Saskatchewan is the focus of the potash industry and Canpotex, a joint venture by Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, Mosaic and Agrium, has a monopoly on potash exports.

Russia and Belarus had a similar joint venture monopoly on potash from mines there, but the Russian company broke away this year and began cutting prices and increasing production.

That has already had a huge impact on share prices for Potash Corp., but so far only a modest impact on North American prices for potash fertilizer.

There has been a flurry of activity in nitrogen production, fuelled by farmers’ concerns about the sharp increase in prices in the last five years and by the increasing availability of plentiful supplies of natural gas being developed by fracking. Natural gas is used to make nitrogen fertilizers.

Organic imports taking markets

Organic food sales continue to increase, but faster than North American production so imports are increasing.

Soybean imports, including some from China, doubled to more than $90 million for the U.S. market last year.

So who trusts soybeans from China to be organic? And what's so great about organic soybeans anyway? And why, pray tell, are we importing any food from China? Are we short of land, water, farmers or know-how?

Organic food sales have grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $28 billion in 2012 in the U.S. where only one per cent of the farms are organic and 70 per cent of t hem are in the Northwest and Pacific regions.

There is no qualify difference for consumers to buy organic food, but an argument could be made that organic farming is better for the soil and environment. But at less than one per cent of our farmland, it's  a pittance in terms of impact.

Retail sales have been increasing by more than 10 per cent per year. Last year, even though it’s now from a much larger base, the increase was 11 per cent.

My mother often chided me that "a fool and his money are soon parted." I'm sure she'd say that - if she were still alive - about paying a premium for organic foods.

In 2011, certified organic cropland was 3.1 million acres which is only seven-tenths of one per cent of total U.S.

For corn, it was three-tenths of one per cent, for soybeans two-tenths of one per cent and for wheat six-tenths of one per cent.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mistele honoured by food banks

The late Paul Mistele has been honoured with an award from the Ontario Association of Food Banks for his pioneering work to develop a pork-donation program.

During the depths of a severe depression in the hog industry in 1988, Mistele persuaded hog farmers to donate pigs to food banks as a way to draw public attention to the losses farmers were experiencing and, at the same time help needy people.

I remember talking to him about his idea, and how impressed I was by his generosity and leadership.

The Ontario Pork marketing board has continued to organize the donation system.

Others honoured by the Ontario Association of Food Banks are Zoetis, Shur Gain and Mable Honor Farm run by the Fraser family.

The awards were presented during the annual Harvest Gala organized by Farm and Food Care and held in Milton.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Listeria in Reser’s salads

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is watching over a massive recall of dozens of Reser’s Fine Foods Inc.’s salads because of potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes food-poisoning bacteria.

The recall which began Oct. 21 has expanded daily.

The products were made at the company’s plant in Topeka, Kansas. The company’s head office is in Beaveton, Oregon.

The recall has mounted to 109,000 cases of products, including all that contain chicken, ham or beef.

So far there have been no reports of illnesses across Canada or the United States, but officials caution that symptoms could show up as long as two months after eating contaminated product.

The recall includes potato, egg, macaroni, four bean and chicken salads and cole slaw. All are marketed under the Reser’s Fine Foods label.

The CFIA and the company are warning the public to not eat these products.

A listing of the specific products, identified by best-before dates on the packaging, is on the CFIA website at 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

WTO deal may be reached in December

There is speculation that the World Trade negotiations may result in a modest deal ready to be signed before the end of the year.

The Doha round of negotiations began 12 years ago with high priority on agriculture reforms that would benefit the poorest nations and poorest farmers, compensating for failure to address their needs in the previous “Uruguay Round” on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

That’s no longer on the agenda for the deal under discussion.

The New York Times says in a weekend editorial that the new deal seems possible “because it does not include politically-sensitive, big-ticket issues like reducing tariffs on food or industrial goods.

“The agreement under discussion focuses instead on easing the flow of all goods across borders by requiring streamlined customs procedures and improved transportation.”

The Times says some of the poorest nations say they can’t afford to implement these reforms, so they may be offered help.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates this deal could cut costs by 10 per cent in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and by more than 15 per cent for developing countries such as Brazil and South Africa.

Every one per cent reduction in global costs is worth $40 billion. It explains once again why easing trade restrictions does more to help poor nations and people than all of the aid donors offer.

Canadians ought to be ashamed that we retain tariffs of 200 to 300 per cent against dairy and poultry imports, protecting a tiny class of millionaires in farming enclaves that are impossibly-expensive for outsiders to break into. You have to inherit quota these days to be a dairy or poultry farmer in Canada.

What's more, the supply-management system is a food tax on the poorest among Canadian consumers. It's a socialist system inside a capitalist society. And it's not working as intended.

CFIA issues “preventive recall”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has, for the first time, issued a “preventive recall”.

It’s for white and chocolate milks processed by Agropur and sold from its Natrel division under the Qu├ębon brand name.

The recall applies to milk with expiry dates for Nov. 1, 2 and 3.

Agropur Cooperative issued a news release, but did not specify what’s wrong with the milk.

The CFIA has posted Agropur’s news release on its website, including the claim that “there have been no reported illnesses associated with this product,” but there have been consumer complaints.

Agropur is asking consumers to return the milk to retailers and says it is “sorry for the trouble and inconvenience this may cause.”

This ranks as the strangest CFIA food recall I've ever seen. There's something wrong, folks, but we're not telling what it is. And there have been no reports of illnesses. Hmmmm.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Gene increases cancer risk

Scientists have identified a gene that increases the risk of colorectal cancer for people who like to eat processed meats.

The researchers compared 9,287 patients with colorectal cancer with 9,117 people without cancer and found the cancer victims carried genetic variant rs4143094 and ate processed meats.

The finding might lead to testing people to determine whether they are at higher risk for developing colorectal cancer and therefore should be more cautious about eating processed meats and exercising other precautions, said the lead scientist.

The genetic variant is on the same chromosome that carries another genetic variant that has been linked with several forms of cancer. Gene GAT3 normally plays a role in the immune system.

On chromosome 8, a statistically significant diet-gene interaction was found in another variant, rs1269486.

This variant was associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

The discovery was announced during a meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics in Boston.

Black poses tough questions

Glenn Black of Providence Bay is asking a list of pointed questions following the televising of cruelty at two Alberta egg farms.

Mercy for Animals captured the videos to alarm the public about how laying hens can be treated in barns with banks of cages.

The Egg Farmers of Canada has countered that it does not condone the extreme abuses depicted on the videos and said it has a standard of welfare and inspects farms to ensure compliance.

That has prompted Black, who speaks on behalf of small flock owners, to ask the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) the following questions:

1.            What were the dates of those EFC inspections for the two Alberta farms that were recently alleged to have had animal abuse for their chicks and/or layers?
2.            Can EFC provide me with copies of these audit reports?  If not, why not?  If no copies of the audit reports will be provided, can you provide the audit scores, or number of non-compliances found, or number of non-recommended practices found, or number of recommendations made?  If not, why not?
3.            Did the scope of these annual EFC inspections include animal welfare issues?  If not, why not?
4.            Did EFC or a third party ever audit these farms for animal welfare issues as part of that audit?  If yes, what was the date of those audits for these two farms?
5.            What is the EFC mandated attitude, training, education, skills, and prior experience of the EFC's inspectors that qualifies them to do these inspections?
6.            Can you supply me with a copy of these documented requirements for EFC's Inspectors?  If not, why not?
7.            Can EFC supply me with substantial objective evidence that clearly shows these EFC inspectors who did these 2 farms were qualified to do so?  If not, why not?

8.        Can EFC supply me with substantial objective evidence that clearly shows that all non-compliances or recommended improvements were promptly implemented by these two farms, and these corrective actions were subsequently re-inspected by an independent inspector and found to be 100% complete, consistently applied, and effective?  If not, why not?

Black has been aiming barbs at the chicken marketing boards, trying to persuade the Ontario board to increase from 300 to 2,000 birds per year the number that can be raised by farmers who own no quota.

In this case, he can readily guess that the EFC did not adequately inspect the Alberta egg farms.

After all, why would it? The marketing boards have animal-welfare codes of practice entirely as a public relations exercise. They don't intend to force their members to do anything to clean up their act - until they're caught on embarasing videos.

Olivieri pasta sold to Ebro

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. says it’s going to sell its Olivieri-brand fresh pasta and sauces business to Ebro Food SA of Spain for $120 mllion.

The deal is scheduled to close by th

e end of the year.

About 375 people in Hamilton and Delta, B.C., produce the Olivieri products.

Maple Leaf said earlier this week it’s considering its options for the future of Canada Bread; it owns 90 per cent of that company’s shares. Selling Canada Bread is among the options.

Maple Leaf has been shedding businesses at a record pace – it’s turkey farms, quota and hatchery in August, its Rothsay Concentrates business in September and now Olivieri.

It’s applying the proceeds to reduce its debt.

Maple Leaf is also nearing completion of a $575-million meat-processing plant at Hamilton. It’s also closing a number of smaller and older meat-processing plants, including the main Schneider Corp. plant in downtown Kitchener.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pig virus continues to spread across U.S.

 Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus continues to spread across the United States.

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians reports the total of confirmed cases has risen to 768, an increase of 44 from last week.

Another 484 samples of the environment have detected the virus.

The most-affected states are North Carolina, 580; Oklahoma, 529; Kansas, 450; Iowa, 192; Minnesota, 139; Colorado, 79; Ohio, 72 and Indiana, 26.

There have been cases in 17 states.

So far there have been no confirmed reports of the disease from Canadian farmers or veterinarians.

Egg board determined to push quota transfer controls

 The Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board leaders are determined to push through a board-run system to control all quota purchases and sales.

Producers in Districts eight and nine voted unanimously against the board’s proposal, but general manager Harry Pelissero told them the system’s going into effect no matter what they say.

Board chairman Scott Graham and Geri Kamenz, chairman of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission and Paul Glennie, commission staff member who deals with egg-board issues, were also in attendance at the producer meeting called by the board to discuss the proposal.

The commission has called for an investigation of egg-board issues with a focus on governance. It's due in December.

Pelissero said the proposal has met favourable responses in other district meetings held across the province.

That is, however, at variance with grapevine reports that the meetings have been hot because many farmers are strongly opposed. It’s also at variance with reports of upset farmers prior to the district meetings, including complaints that the system would give too much control to Pelissero whom they do not like or trust.

Under the proposal, all buyers and sellers would need to submit a price to the marketing board that they are willing to pay or accept.

When the bidding closes, the board excludes the lowest and highest bid prices, then calculates the price at which the maximum volume of quota would change hands.

That becomes the price that all willing sellers and buyers then pay.

It’s a system that was pioneered by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario milk marketing board; that board has since changed policy to set a ceiling price on quota transfers.

The Ontario proposal is similar to one introduced in Quebec.

Since it began there, the volume of quota that is changing hands is a small percentage of previous trades because many sellers have not been willing to participate.

There have been complaints from Ontario farmers that they won’t know who is buying or selling quota and that they won’t be able to make deals with friends and neighbours.

That, for example, is a major concern of members of the Mennonite communities who strongly prefer to sell only to fellow Mennonites, often at prices below the prevailing market prices.