Friday, November 29, 2013

A smigeon of Hong Kong dressed birds ok’d

The national supply-management agency for chicken has opened the door a crack for farmers to grow a special breed of chicken, Silkies, to meet the demand for Hong Kong dressed birds.

Hong Kong dressed birds have both head and feet left on.

CAMI International Poultry Inc. of Welland, Ont., has been the major supplier for this market, which is mainly Asian immigrants living in the Greater Toronto area, but it has bought regular chicken from quota-holding farmers, many of them in Quebec.

That source of chickens was cut off last year when the Ontario and Quebec marketing boards, with support from the major processing companies, agreed to ban cross-border trade in live chickens.

Most processors who were buying chickens from farmers in the other province had their needs met after this ban by re-directing within-province production to keep them supplied.

CAMI was not. It has filed court action, challenging the legality of the ban on inter-provincial trade.

The Ontario chicken board has developed a policy to supply chickens to processing seeking specialty markets, but has been held up on two fronts.

One is an appeal against the policy filed by the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors. CAMI is not a member of that association.

Another is the refusal of the national agency to grant Ontario the right to increase chicken production to serve these markets.

It’s unlikely that many quota-holding chicken farmers will be interested in Silkie chickens because they are more costly to raise.

That is one of the reasons why the Ontario chicken board failed to reach agreement with the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors who sought to limit the specialty-markets policy to specific marginal breeds.

The processors’ appeal is scheduled to be heard by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Appeal Tribunal Dec. 11 and 12 in Guelph.

On a related front, Ontario’s request to the national agency for additional production to serve the kosher market was voted down by all the other provinces except British Columbia.

It got surprising support from the Canadian Egg and Poultry Processors Council which represents the major processing companies who have so far failed to meet the demand for kosher chicken.

In fact, one of its members, Sargent Farms, is the reason for the current shortage. It bought the chicken suppliers from Chai Kosher Poultry Inc. of Toronto, putting that company out of business.

Others supporting Ontario on the kosher issue were the associations representing restaurants and foodservice companies and further-processing companies.

The chairman of Chicken Farmers of Canada, the national agency, and staff also supported Ontario’s request and all of those supporters have been thanked publicly by Ontario chicken board chairman Henry Zantingh.

On its website, the Ontario board says “a significant number of kosher consumers have expressed concerns over the quality and quantity of available kosher chicken products and national media reports have noted that the supply of kosher chicken was disappearing from grocery store shelves.

“Ontario’s unfulfilled demand for kosher chicken has also started to have an impact on kosher markets across the country, creating kosher chicken shortages in other markets with significant Jewish populations, such as Winnipeg.”

There is a group of investors, including the former principals of Chai Kosher Poultry, interested in resuming processing at the Toronto plant, provided they can buy chickens.

These actions by the farmers and processors who govern chicken production across Canada are, I predict, likely to prompt politicians to intervene and order them to supply these markets.

It could be the beginning of the end of unquestioning and unqualified support for supply management that has been repeatedly pledged by all of Canada's political parties.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nova Scotia egg board eases quota rules

The Nova Scotia egg marketing board is easing its restrictions to allow farmers without quota to raise up to 2,000 free-range hens without quota.

There will be a limit of 500 per producer and these production rights will be reserved for new producers.

That has Aaron Hiltz wondering whether he will quality because he has been challenging the board by keeping a free-range flock. The board has charged him with violating the province’s regulations and he could face a fine of up to $6,000.

The egg board also announced that it is doubling the number of hens people can keep without quota – from 100 to 200.

Hiltz has been keeping 200 birds and says he netted about $20,000 last year. He said he can’t afford to buy quota for the 200 because that would cost about $200,000.

Now, of course, he won’t have to buy quota for his 200 birds and he might qualify as a new entrant to add to that total.

Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada is hailing the change in Nova Scotia regulations as a major lobbying victory.

In Ontario, it’s main objective is to persuade the chicken board to increase the number of chickens that can be raised without quota from 300 to 2,000 per year.

Pigeon King trial in final stage

The trial of Arlan Galbraith on fraud charges related to is Pigeon King International business is drawing to a swift close after several surprises in Kitchener court Thursday.

Crown attorney Lynne Robinson withdrew two of the four charges she laid under the Bankruptcy Act. 

Both withdrawn charges related to Galbraith’s use of personal credit cards to withdraw money after he put the business into bankruptcy in July, 2008.

The second surprise was that Galbraith has chosen to not testify in his own defence. He is, however, acting as his own lawyer.

The third surprise is that both Galbraith and Robinson finished presenting their evidence Thursday.

That leaves Monday afternoon for them to present their final submissions to the jury, which has been reduced from 14 to 12 people, many of them younger than 35.

The judge said he plans to present his charge to the jury on Tuesday.

The jury will be deciding whether Galbraith is guilty of fraud for persuading hundreds of people to buy breeding pairs of pigeons from his company on the contract promise that he would buy back offspring at profitable prices.

Robinson argues that the business could not succeed because Pigeon King would run out of new investors providing enough money to honour the contracts to existing investors.

A forensic auditor testified Wednesday that the business would have needed $167million from new investors to survive until 2011 when Galbraith said he hoped to open a meat-processing plant near Cochrane in Northern Ontario.

To raise $167 million from investors, he would have had to sign 10-year contracts to buy back $1.5 billion worth of breeding pairs from those investors.

Robinson is also continuing to pursue two charges under the Bankruptcy Act, one a slam-dunk charge for failure to show up for a meeting of creditors, the other that the business was wrongfully thrown into bankruptcy, given its financial situation before and after Galbraith pulled the plug.

That charge is similar to the fraud charge.

The last evidence Robinson introduced was three sets of documents from Iowa, Washington and Maryland state officials outlining their concerns about Pigeon King marketing to investors there.

Iowa banned Pigeon King because it deemed it a Ponzi scheme. The others put Galbraith on notice that they were pursuing concerns about the nature of the business.

That evidence was gathered by RCMP constable Carol South who testified about working with the Waterloo Region Police Services on an investigation that lasted two years.

Galbraith called only one witness – Ken Hoffman of Heidelberg.

Hoffman and his wife invested $125,000 in September, 2007, and got 300 breeding pairs of pigeons. 

Pigeon King investor and salesman Ken Wagler joined him to place another 300 breeding pairs in his barn.

Hoffman said he asked for a joint venture to reduce his risks and testified that he was fully aware that the venture came with risks.

But in cross-examination, he said he did not have full information about the extent of Pigeon King’s contracts and had he known there were so many, he probably would not have been so optimistic.

He also confirmed during cross-examination that he had told police investigators that he felt the risks were so high that his 10-year contract might collapse in five years.

By then he felt he would have recouped his investment and have made some money.

He also testified under questioning by Galbraith that he knew the market for breeding stock would run out and that the success of the business would depend on processing young pigeons to market as squab.

He said Galbraith told him about plans to cross-breed the "sport pigeons" he was selling investors with a strain that grows larger with more meat and would be prolific. Hoffman said he never saw any of those meat birds, but he felt the idea was sound and he trusted Galbraith.

Although the price for the pigeons he would sell for meat would be much lower, Hoffman said his costs would also be significantly lower. Instead of raising breeding stock to 20 weeks old, squab would be “sold out of the nest” at four or five weeks age, they would not have to be fed and mortality losses would be negligible.

He estimated that he could make as much money per square foot of barn space raising meat birds as breeding pairs to be sold back to Pigeon King.

When Pigeon King went into bankruptcy, he said he had 2,200 birds. He was able to sell about 1,000 for $2 each at the rate of 20 each to Asian friends and euthanized the rest.

Hoffman also testified about his experiences growing up on a farm that marketed hogs and beef cattle, about raising veal and rabbits when he was young, working for a local livestock auction market and raising calves for a dairy farmer. In other words, he's familiar with farming risks.

He said he was aware that Pigeon King was still in the development stage, that the risks were relatively high, but said he trusted Galbraith and said he feels he has always dealt with him honestly.

He repeatedly answered Galbraith and Robinson that he does not consider Galbraith a criminal or guilty of fraud.

Impossible Pigeon King finances

A forensic accountant told a jury why Arlan Galbraith’s Pigeon King International business was bound to collapse.

Galbraith has been saying that he planned to build a pigeon-processing plant at Cochrane that would be ready to take pigeons by 2011.

But between 2008, when Galbraith declared bankruptcy, and 2011, the company would have needed to generate $167 million to pay investors with contracts.

And to generate $167 million, he would have needed to sign contracts promising $1.5 billion, accountant Jeff Good told the jury that will have to decide whether Galbraith is guilty of fraud.

Good testified that the contracts Pigeon King had on the books when Galbraith declared bankruptcy required $357 million in revenues. In the month he declared bankruptcy, he needed $2.7 million to pay investors.

Pigeon King signed 900 contracts with investors in the three years before bankruptcy. It took in $42 million from investors and paid out about $30 million, based on an estimate that breeding pairs raise 10 offspring per year.

Defending seasonal farm worker program

Farmers who hire offshore seasonal workers have issued a news release saying they need the program to continue in business.

Without the assurance of workers, Ken Forth, president of Farm Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS) says farmers would not invest and rural economies would suffer.

This year farmers approximately 15,000 seasonal workers from Mexico and the Caribbean, the news release says.
Under the federal government’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), people from Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad/Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean States are able to work in Ontario for a maximum of eight months and are guaranteed no less than 240 hours of work. The average length of stay is 20 weeks.
“These workers inject a significant amount of money directly into the local economy, buying consumer goods for their families back home from local businesses, as well as groceries, clothing and other items for themselves while they are working here,” said Forth.
Hold on! Any workers, no matter where they come from, would have to be paid at least as much as those coming in under SAWP and would contribute to the local economy.
“The seasonal worker program also supports Ontario’s agricultural industry and economy by enabling farm operations to remain viable in the face of a critical shortage of suitable and available Canadian workers,” the news release says.
Shortage?  What shortage?  This year we’re informed by the news media that Ontario had a relatively high unemployment rate, especially among students and recent immigrants and refugees.
These unskilled workers are precisely what farmers are hiring through the offshore program.
“Knowing a reliable source of seasonal workers exists allows farmers to plan for the future, invest in their operations and continue a livelihood that has sometimes been shared by their families for generations,” says Forth.

So if farmers need these workers, what, if anything, have they done to line them up in Canada?

“Without SAWP, some operations would be forced to stop growing fruits and vegetables altogether, or move into less labour-intensive crops,” the news release said.

Really? Are these farmers so lacking in ingenuity that they would not find a way to continue in business?

What I see is a program that brings a workforce into the province that is treated like slaves.

They live in housing provided by the farmers who then expect them to work from sunup to sundown.

The imported workers have nowhere else to go. They are tied to the farmer who hired them. They are like slaves.

I have worked with refugees and immigrants in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and one year knew that there were at least 30 of them who were farmers in their home country and wanted farm work. But they did not own cars, nor did they have driver’s licences.

I suggested to a farmer that they could be picked up at a central Kitchener location to be taken to the farm and returned in the evening. He said that would be far too much hassle compared with the offshore workers he had readily available through SAWP.

So many of those refugees worked as volunteers on Habitat for Humanity build project in Kitchener that summer. And we taxpayers supported them on welfare.

Frankly, at 15,000 workers per year, I think the SAWP is out of hand.  More effort ought to go into recruiting from the ranks of recent immigrants, refugees and students living in Ontario.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

No more chicken for Ontario kosher market

The Canadian Chicken Marketing Agency has once again turned down Ontario’s request for specialty-market production rights, specifically to supply the kosher market.

The directors from other provinces and those representing processors voted against Ontario at agency meetings again this week, turning down Ontario’s longstanding requests for the right to increase chicken production to satisfy market demand, particularly for niche markets.

Ontario’s kosher market was shorted when Thai Kosher Poultry of Toronto was bought by Sargent Farms which does not process to kosher standards.

That left those who want kosher birds trying to meet their needs from a processor in Montreal, but that processor is charging significantly higher prices.

There is a group in Toronto that wants to revive the Thai Kosher plant to process for the kosher market, but it can’t buy chickens under the marketing board’s policies to ration supplies among processors.

It will not make chickens available to newcomers and, in fact, is also shorting CAMI International Poultry Inc. of Welland so it’s unable to meet the demand for Hong Kong dressed birds (heads and feet on) that are popular with Asians. There is a huge Chinese population in the Greater Toronto area.

The Ontario chicken board has made a proposal to serve specialty markets, but the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors is opposed.

It filed an appeal with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Appeal Tribunal to block introduction of that policy, but withdrew earlier this year to undertake negotiations with the marketing board.

Those negotiations failed and so the appeal is on again, scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12 at OMAF’s tribunal offices in Guelph.

However, even if the Ontario board wins that appeal, it would be left short of chicken for the Ontario market and would only be able to satisfy the requests for specialty markets by shorting others.

As for the CAMI situation, the judge handling CAMI’s challenge of an Ontario-Quebec deal that cut off CAMI’s access to Quebec-grown chicken has ordered the chicken board to stop stalling and let  the case proceed.

CAMI’s challenge of the federal government’s policy that keeps it from importing birds from the U.S. is stalled because the federal government has changed lawyers.

And where, pray tell, is Ontario Premier and Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne in the face of this persistent chicken-industry fiasco.

No doubt making speeches about growing the Ontario agriculture industry. Talk, talk, talk. Just another Toronto wind tunnel.

U.S. dairy farms out-compete Ontario

Dairy farmers in New York State are 11 per cent more efficient than Ontario dairy farmers, says University-of-Guelph economist Peter Slade.

Writing in the fall issue of the university’s online magazine for the economics and business department, Slade says the supply-management quota system “appears to induce poorer managerial decision making.

“This inefficiency is passed along to consumers through the pricing formula used by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario which bases 40 per cent of price changes on changes in the cost of production,” Slade writes.

He says Ontario farmers are less competitive because they are shielded by supply management and tariffs.

Together with associate professor Dr. Getu Hailu, Slade studied production costs between 2006 and 2008 in New York State and Ontario and concluded that the Americans were 11 per cent more cost efficient.

They got less support from governments.

They finger two reasons for poorer efficiency in Ontario – money invested in quota and using more home-grown feed.

While economies of scale were not found to be very important to efficiency, they did find that the U.S. farms were about 75 per cent larger.

In another article in the magazine, student Alex Cairns and Dr. Karl Meilke found that quota prices tripled between 2004 and 2006 because interest rates were low, because lenders such as banks and Farm Credit Canada gained greater assurance that loans would be repaid when the marketing board agreed to make deductions from milk cheques and because worries about the survival of supply management faded.

But the marketing board, blaming speculation, imposed a ceiling on quota prices that has dried up quota transfers.

That, according to a third article by doctoral student Rebecca Elskamp, is holding back industry-wide efficiency gains because the most efficient and profitable farms are not buying quota from the least efficient and profitable farmers.

She found in her study that the quota exchange was working fine until the price cap was imposed and she recommends the board make a policy U turn by scrapping the price cap.

Tories fail to walk the talk

Two master’s-degree students at the University of Guelph have found that Conservatives fail to walk the talk when they’re in power and holding the purse strings on farm subsidies.

Instead of leaning right and cutting subsidies,  they found that spending on farm subsidies has been more generous under Conservative governments.

The study is published in an online magazine for the department of business and economics. The students are  Tor Tolhurst and Shuang Li.

Their explanation is that the Tories are more closely aligned with rural Canada and “Liberal parties were aligning themselves with urban and labour interests”

They concluded that “it might surprise some Canadians to know how much of their taxes go to support those in the agriculture industry; it might surprise them even more that the data supports the reality that Conservative governments are often the leviathan for the industry.”

It just goes to prove the old adage: watch what they do, not what they say!

PED team

I am impressed by the proactive approaches the Ontario hog industry is taking to keep Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea out of the province.

It's now clear that the U.S. has lost any chance of stopping the spread of this deadly disease among hog farms there - 1,151 in 19 states now and spreading at the rate of 85 to 90 more per week.

So far there have been no known cases in Canada.

Dr. Doug McDougald of the Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board and its sister organization, the Ontario Pork Council, has done an excellent job of tracking down all 22 truckers whose rigs haul hogs into the U.S., and making sure they all know how vital it is that their drivers take precautions to keep from brining the virus back.

His team has learned that none of the 15 U.S. packing plants buying Ontario hogs has stepped up biosecurity, so they are likely to be spreading the virus to Canadian truckers and rigs.

What's more, the manure scrape-out centres and U.S. wash bays are more likely to spread PED than to stop it from spreading. Many re-use water which is obviously contaminated.

That has prompted the Ontario team to urge truckers to do their washing and disinfecting at Canadian facilities.

And hog farmers are asked to ensure that no truck comes on their premises unless and until it has been thoroughly cleaned, washed, disinfected and dried. They ought to also clean, wash and disinfect their own farm trucks.

The Ontario team has also set up the protocols for how it will respond if and when PED does show up here. That includes communications among those who will need to know and actions, such as immediate lock-downs to keep the virus from spreading.

The team-work has been impressive. The Ontario Pork marketing board, truckers, packers, swine veterinarians, hog farmers, assembly yards, the federal and provincial governments, the diagnostic lab at Guelph are all involved and co-operating.

Ontario is far ahead of other provinces.

And, heck, even the Canadian Food Inspection Agency hasn't got its act together because border vigilance and enforcement of standards for returning hog-industry trucks and truckers is not consistent across Canada, according to Dr. McDougald.

I guess Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is too busy glad-handing and issuing news releases patting the Harper government on the back to actually check whether his departmental staff are on top of this situation.

Pigeon disposal cost $100,000

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food spent $100,000 disposing of 175,000 pigeons in Ontario barns after Pigeon King International Inc. went bankrupt in 2008, leaving the pigeon owners with no market for their birds.

And that's not counting the staff who worked long hours dealing with the fallout of the bankruptcy.

Poultry specialist Al Dam spent six weeks on the situation, he testified in court in Kitchener as the fraud trial of Pigeon King owner Arlan Galbraith continues. I recall chatting with Dam soon after the job was finished and he was pooped.

Dam testified that the ministry considered either letting the pigeons fly free or processing them into meat, but decided the best option was to euthanize them.

They were gathered into 14 holding barns for disposal.

The owners gladly gave them up rather than running up more bills to keep them fed.

The investors lost about $20 million on contracts that would have been worth about $320 million had Pigeon King and Galbraith honoured the contracts.

Pigeon King made its money by marketing breeding pairs and promising to buy back offspring at profitable prices. It lured thousands of investors from across Canada and the United States, but then quite suddenly Galbraith declared bankruptcy of the Waterloo-based company.

A few months later a disgruntled investor pushed Galbraith into personal bankruptcy.

In addition to the fraud charge, he faces four charges of violating provisions of the Bankruptcy Act.
The jury trial, where Galbraith is defending himself without a lawyer, is expected to continue until Christmas.

Some investors did quite well with their Pigeon King contracts, such as Ken Wagler of the Woodstock area who testified he pocketed about $200,000 profit  on his contracts. He became a salesman for the company and also testified that no investors were ever pressured to buy pigeons.

India blamed for WTO impasse

India is being blamed for yet another failure to negotiate a new global trade deal.

World leaders were to meet in Bali next week to sign a deal that features harmonized customs procedures, but India is holding out for the right to continue food subsidies.

Roberto Azevedo, the secretary general of the World Trade Organization, says he doesn’t think a deal can be brokered next week.

Any deal needs unanimous support from the 159 nations that belong to the organization.

The current deal that emerged from the Uruguay Round of negotiations featured major changes for agriculture and food trading, especially the agreement to convert all trade barriers into tariffs.

That should have made it much easier to negotiate a reduction in trade barriers.

Poor countries did not fare well in the Uruguay Round because high tariffs remain to protect the farmers of Europe, North America and Japan, denying Third World countries and their farmers the opportunity to make money selling food into those markets.

There have been many studies to indicate that reducing the tariffs would do more to help poor countries than all of the aid programs offered to those people.

When this round of negotiations, called the Doha Round, began a dozen years ago, the emphasis was on reducing agriculture and food trade barriers to benefit poor nations.

However, as the negotiations dragged on, it was United States demands for access to countries’ financial services sectors and Third World countries, led by India, demands for access to industrial markets that resulted in one impasse after the other.

Michael Punke, who has been negotiating for the U.S., says a deal next week now appears unlikely.
He said other countries are likely to copy India’s tactic of holding out for a better deal on specific items, what he calls “hostage taking”, and things will become too complicated for a meeting of political leaders to sort through in such a short time.

The failure of the WTO negotiations has put Canada in a more difficult position, trying to negotiate trade deals with much bigger and more powerful blocks of wealthy nations such as the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership group that includes the U.S., Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The World Trade negotiations always held out the hope that the combined efforts of countries with medium and small-scale economies could pressure the powerful and wealthy nations to offer concessions.

The WTO needs to change the rules so thoroughly corrupt politicians, such as those running India, can no longer thwart necessary reforms that will benefit millions of impoverished people.

A-G slams CFIA

Auditor-General Kenneth Ferguson is highly critical of the meat inspectors running the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

In a report presented to the House of Commons Tuesday, Ferguson says the CFIA created a lot of confusion when XL Foods Inc. was in the midst of a crisis trying to handle the largest beef recall in Canadian history.

He says the CFIA staff presented a lot of demands that over-burdened a company already struggling to deal with the situation. 

The recall also took longer than necessary because the distribution records the company turned over to the CFIA took several days to convert into electronic files the CFIA could use.

But once things got sorted out, Ferguson said that recall went reasonably well.

Other recalls have not gone nearly as well, he reports. In many cases the CFIA failed to follow up to determine whether the recall was complete and what needed to be done to improve company operations.

Now that Health Minister Rona Ambrose has taken over responsibility from Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for the CFIA’s food safety programs, she has promised swift action to correct the deficiencies Ferguson has identified.

A few days before he issued his report, Ambrose also announced that the CFIA will start to fine meat packers for failures to comply with food-safety standards and procedures.

The CFIA has had this power to impose “administrative monetary penalties” for years, but so far has not used it to discipline meat packers, although it has used it to discipline others such as farmers and truckers.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What took so long?

Health Minister Rona Ambrose, now that she has gained control of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, announced she's going to fine meat packers who fall short of standards.

What took so long?

The CFIA has had the power to administer fines, which they call "administrative monetary penalties" for years.

The CFIA has used them against truckers who fail to meet standards for humane treatment of livestock and poultry, to fine farmers who fail to tag cattle with identity numbers and to fine feed mills that fail to meet standards.

Why meat packers have been left untouched is simply astonishing. Did they carry that much lobbying clout when the CFIA was under the agriculture minister?

And was it a matter of the meat packers wanting to escape public scrutiny and attention because the levying of fines was open to Access to Information requests and, more recently, AMPs have been posted on the CFIA website?

Believe me, I filed a number of Access-to-Information requests to find out about AMPs levied on meat packers. The answer was, of course, none.

But we know for sure that not everything was sweetness and compliance at the meat-packing plants. 

Some - but far from all - of the shortcomings became obvious after the major food-poisoning cases related to processed meats marketed by Maple Leaf Foods and beef marketed by XL Foods Inc.

Would both have done a better job had there been administrative monetary  penalties and attendant publicity? 

I think probably so.

We shall see what happens now.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Potash cartel patching up differences

The Russia-Belarus potash cartel may soon be back in business as both made steps to patch up differences this week.

Belarus released Uralkali’s chief executive officer, Vladislav Baumgertner, to Russian officials. Belarus arrested him on charges that he used the cartel, which he operated, to the advantage of Uralkali and short-changed Belarus.

The Russians have agreed to investigate Baumgertner when he returns.

For its part, the Russians’ investor, Suleiman Kerimov, says he has made a deal to sell his 21.75 stake in Uralkali.

When the cartel split apart, both began discounting potash prices and that had a global impact, including those with huge mines in Saskatchewan.

The three main miners in Saskatchewan – Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, Mosaic and Agrium – run their own export cartel, called Canpotex.

It has government approval because the Saskatchewan government then realizes higher revenues from royalties.

The Uralkali-Belarus cartel controlled about 40 per cent of the global market and Canpotex most of the rest of the $20-billion-a-year market.

Dried distiller grain exports strong

This year when the meat and poultry industries in the United States complained that corn prices were heading too high because too much corn was being used to make ethanol, the ethanol industry countered that there were still dried distillers grains, a byproduct of ethanol production, to feed cattle and hogs.

It turns out that wasn't quite as true at the ethanol defenders made out.

In fact, 25 per cent of the dried distillers grains were exported and China was the big buyer.

Holly Jessen, managing editor of EPM, says the demand for DDGs has become so keen that it now sells at prices equal to corn; the traditional price has been 85 per cent of corn.

While exports to Canada and Mexico have declined, exports to China and 80 other countries have more than made up for those declines.

There is keen demand from buyers in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Raw-milk cheese is risky

Raw-milk cheese is risky, yet legal to make and market in Canada.

It may be no riskier than many other foods, but it is, in fact, risky.

That’s why Health Canada says on its website that “pregnant women, children, older adults and people with a weakened immune system (should) avoid eating cheese made from raw milk.”

I guess the person who died this summer after eating raw milk cheese made on a farm in British Columbia, and contaminated with E. coli 1057:H7, didn’t know about that advice from Health Canada.

Health Canada says people ought to check cheese labels to know whether it’s been made from raw millk – i.e. never pasteurized to kill bacteria.

Ron Doering, who used to be president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and now works as a consultant and writes columns, says that’s not very helpful advice because there is no law requiring cheese to be labeled that it’s made from raw milk.

That, he says, is where regulations ought to begin.

He does not recommend banning raw milk cheeses, but does note that Reg.B.08.002.2 (1) of the Food and Drug Regulations makes it illegal to sell raw milk anywhere in Canada.

The number of people making raw milk cheese has been increasing in Ontario as dairy farmers set up cheese-making facilities on their farms.

A number of them are immigrants from the Netherlands and Switzerland who apply recipes they learned in Europe, such as making Gouda cheeses.

So far there have been no outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in Ontario arising from these on-farm raw-milk cheese factories.

But, as Doering writes, there is always a risk that some poop will get into the milk.