Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Burnbrae eggs caught in union boycott

Burnbrae Farms has been caught in a boycott of its eggs arising out of a union strike against a Toronto hotel owner.

So far about 1,000 letters have been sent to Burnbrae, saying the writers will boycott Burnbrae eggs until Rehan Chaudary settles with workers at his Toronto Plaza Hotel.

Rehan’s son, Akhtar, owns Chaudary Poultry of Wainfleet which markets its eggs to Burnbrae.

Rehan has angered his workers who say he has called them animals and has refused to negotiate.

"The Toronto Plaza Hotel workers simply don't deserve the treatment they are
getting,” says the letter from Mohamed Baksh of the United Steelworkers Union.

“Akhtar Chaudary can help end this strike, but he's done nothing so far.

"Burnbrae can help reach him and we are pleased that over 1,000 people agree.

"Now it's up to Burnbrae to do the right thing," says his letter.

A news release from the union also draws attention to the lawsuit Best Choice Eggs has filed against Burnbrae Farms, L.H. Gray and Son Ltd. and the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board, seeking $33 million to settle allegations that they have conspired to drive Best Choice out of the egg-grading business.

Gray denies any wrongdoing.

Pork council loses lawsuit

The Canadian Pork Council has lost a lawsuit it filed to retrieve almost $1 million from a Brandon credit union that sold a hog farm to Hutterites after the barns were involved in the Cull Breeding Swine Program in 2009.

One of the conditions attached to the program was a promise to not put pigs back into the barns for three years.

In this case, Crocus Country Pork Inc. went into receivership after it received support from the program that was administered by the Canadian Pork Council.

Westoba Credit Union in Brandon took the land and buildings and in January, 2010, sold them to a Hutterite colony.

An inspector from the pork council found 2,500 sows in the barns when he visited the farm in September, 2010.

The pork council filed its lawsuit in February, 2012, seeking return of the $780,851 paid to Crocus Country Pork, plus a 10 per cent administrative fee and penalty that was also one of the terms of the program.

The pork council sued the Westoba Credit Union and BDO Dunwoody Ltd., which administered the receivership.

The judge dismissed the lawsuit because he said there’s little chance the pork council could win against either the credit union or BDO Dunwoody.

The judge also ordered the pork council to pay Westoba $11,995 to cover its legal fees and BDO Dunwoody $12,084.

The cull program was designed to reduce the Canadian breeding herd by 10 per cent, which was about 150,000 sows. At the time North American hog prices were in a severe depression because of too many hogs coming to market.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pecan shells counter listeria

Pecan shells seem to be a viable product to counter food-poisoning Listeria bacteria on organic chicken meat.

A study by the Institute of Food Technologies says extracts were taken from raw pecan shells and found capable of killing Listeria spp. and Listeria monocytogenes.

The study has been published in the Journal of Food Science.

The authors also report that the extract from pecan shells reduced spoilage organisms by more than 1,000 times. That  would increase the shelf life of the chicken.

The researchers concluded that the natural pecan shell extracts may prove to be an effective alternative antimicrobial against food pathogens and supplement the demand for organic antimicrobials.

Yes, but is it safe? 

Just because it’s natural and organic does not mean it’s safe to use on food for human consumption because the extract just might kill humans, too.


Independents gain tribunal status

The Ontario Association of Independent Poultry Processors has been granted status as an intervenor in the appeal the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors has filed against the Chicken Farmers of Ontario.

The appeal is scheduled for public hearings at the tribunal headquarters in Guelph on Jan. 22 and 24.

The chicken board has developed a policy to supply chicken to processors who need supplies to develop niche markets.

The Association of Ontario Chicken Processors has filed an appeal because it apparently believes the chicken will be taken out of its supplies.

An alternative would be to persuade the national agency to grant Ontario the right to increase chicken production, but so far the other provinces, led by Alberta, have been opposed to any increase for Ontario.

Alberta argues that Ontario ought to allow processors to compete for available chicken supplies.

Ontario stopped that years ago, deciding instead to divvy up supplies among processors based on their historic market shares.

The processors have traded their supplies among each other, often “renting” supply in return for money and sometimes buying a rival processor simply to gain its right to chickens.

That’s what happened earlier this year when Sargent Farms bought Chai Kosher Poultry of Toronto, effectively closing the Chai plant and denying people who want kosher chicken any supplies from Ontario farms. Since then some of their demand has been met by kosher chicken from a plant in Montreal, but at higher prices.

The Ontario chicken board asked the national agency for more chicken to meet the demand for kosher chicken, but has been turned down at national agency meetings in November and December.

Processors who want to buy chickens to meet the demand for kosher and Hong Kong dressed chicken were hoping to take advantage of the Ontario chicken board’s new policy to find chicken for processors who want to develop new markets. That’s the policy that the large-volume chicken processors are opposing with their appeal to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Appeal Tribunal.

The Ontario Independent Poultry Processors Association is a strong supporter of the chicken board’s proposal to find chickens to develop niche markets.

The AOCP has consistently tried to stifle the association for small and independent processors. For example, at a hearing conducted by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Council the AOCP successfully argued that the independents ought to be kept from sitting on a chicken-industry committee designed to develop policies that improve the Ontario chicken industry.

During that hearing, the AOCP said it was on the verge of finalizing a plan but now, more than a year later, there is still no sign of a plan for the industry.

Meanwhile there are court challenges filed by CAMI International Poultry Inc. of Welland to throw out the deal Ontario and Quebec marketing boards and dominant processors reached to stop trade in live chickens between the provinces and to change a federal import policy so the company can import live chickens from the U.S. when it’s not able to buy them in either Ontario or Quebec.

Only in Canada, and only under national supply management, could such ridiculous marketplace shenanigans take place.

Quebec’s dairy protection challenged

Quebec’s regulations designed to protect dairy farmers are under challenge from Saskatchewan with support from British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. 

They are challenging regulations that protect dessert toppings and coffee whiteners from competition by substitutes made from vegetable oils.

A hearing is scheduled to begin Jan. 8 in Quebec City. Saskatchewan has filed its case under the pan-Canadian Agreement on Internal Trade.

Somebody ought to tell the chicken industry that the agreement has been found. A judge in Welland said in his decision earlier this month that lawyers arguing over whether the Ontario chicken board can continue to deny chickens for CAMI International Poultry could not find the agreement.

I'll bet the lawyers for the chicken board and Ontario chicken processors weren't trying very hard since they were involved in fashioning regulations to ban inter-provincial trade in live chickens between Ontario and Quebec.

Sean McPhee, president of the Vegetable Oil Industry of Canada, said oilseed producers support Saskatchewan's  trade challenge.
``Our members look forward to the time when vegetable oil-based alternatives to dairy products can be manufactured and sold in all parts of Canada,'' he said.

The Ontario has been silent on the dispute. I guess Premier and Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne figures that by keeping silent, she might not lose support from either soybean growers or dairy farmers. 


Friday, December 27, 2013

Republicans resist reforming food aid

The Obama administration wants to reform its food-aid program so more can be bought closer to where impoverished people need it.
The American Farm Bureau has persuaded Republicans in the House of Representatives that the U.S. should continue to ship food from the United States.
The result is yet another fight over the Farm Bill that has yet to pass in Washington more than a year after the previous five-year Farm Bill expired.
That old bill has been extended for a year, delaying a long list of reforms.
If and when the World Trade Organization is able to enforce voluntary guidelines on food aid, the U.S. would be forced to implement the change Obama is proposing.
However, for now he’s reduced to arguing the logic of donating cash instead of U.S. food. Canada has been donating cash for years.
Obama says giving cash would get food to needy people a lot faster and would save 25 to 50 per cent – enough to feed an additional 800,000 people.
The Republicans managed to narrowly reject the proposal that would account for 45 per cent of the $1.4 billion a year the U.S. donates to food aid.
The Senate, which has a majority of Democratic party members, approved a scaled-down version that would allow the federal government to spend up to 20 per cent of the $1.4 billion buying food close to where it’s needed.
The House and Senate are due to meet to try to develop a compromise Farm Bill that will move to a vote they hope cn  be counted in late January.
Chandler Goule, vice president of government relations for the National Farmers Union, supported a shift to more cash-based foreign aid in the Farm Journal debate. He said that local cash purchases help support farm economies in developing countries, which is key to addressing world hunger.
"You can’t make one program to fit every situation," he said, noting that it’s often more appropriate to ship food from the United States, especially when it’s not available locally. But large U.S. shipments can also set back foreign farm economies.
Mary Kay Thatcher, director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said her organization "feels really strongly about continuing to ship the products from here. If the assistance is from the [U.S.], it ought to say that. We are not for moving toward a cash system."
Goule said he was given assurances by USAID officials that even if purchases were made in a foreign country, they would still be delivered in a bag with a USA logo. "We would still get the message out there that we are helping these countries," he said.
Tjada D’Oyen McKennna, deputy coordinator for development for the Obama administration’s Feed the Future initative, strongly supported the measure in her address at the conference.
"We believe that this complements a lot of what we do at Feed the Future to build local and regional markets," she said. Having the flexibility to make cash purchases would help the agency establish local sales and delivery infrastructure. The cash purchases could also be used as leverage to ensure that local farmers meet quality and production standards. "We are very eager to see this go forward," she said.
Some days I despair of Republicans ever gaining some degree of wisdom.

Agriculture needs to change to feed the world

 The World Resources Institute says the global agriculture and food industries must change if people are to get enough to eat 40 years from now.

World population is forecast to increase from seven billion now to 9.6 billion in 2050, and that means the world will need 69 per cent more food, says the institute.

It can’t come from the way we currently produce food because there won’t be enough land, water and energy.

Agriculture already accounts for 24 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, takes 37 per cent of the global landmass and uses 70 per cent of the available water.

If governments continue with current goals for ethanol and biodiesel fuels from farming, that will take 32 per cent of current production volumes, yet provide only two per cent of the energy requirements 36 years from now.

It’s often said that there’s enough food for everybody and that the challenge is distribution, but the institute points out that even if all the food we’re currently producing were distributed absolutely evenly to everybody in 2050, people would be short by 974 calories.

Among the solutions the World Resources Institute identifies are:

-Reducing waste which currently claims a quarter of production before crops move from fields to dinner plates. Eliminating waste would narrow the food gap by 20 per cent.

 -Eating healthier diets. Reducing beef consumption by 20 per cent would free up a lot of land to produce other foods, the institute says.

-Reducing family size, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where the population is projected to double by 2050.

-Increasing cereal-crop yields on the same trend line that currently exists. That would close the gap by 30 per cent.

U.S. loses $5 to $6 billion in meat sales to Russia

The United States meat industry estimates it is losing $5 to $6 billion a year in meat sales since Russia banned imports of beef and pork that has been raised with the help of growth-promoting ractopamine.

That’s a taste of what Canadian beef and pork producers face because the United States has imposed mandatory country-of-origin labelling regulations.

The two sets of protectionist policies indicate why international trade issues are likely to loom large in the coming year.

On the positive side, Canada and the United States are involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations that are designed to liberalize trade with Pacific-Rim countries but may have an even bigger impact for Canada on trade with the United States, particularly if there is any liberalization that will increase competition in Canada’s dairy and poultry sectors.

The U.S. is also negotiating a trade deal with Europe that could also have a major impact on North American agriculture.

And there are renewed hopes that the world trade negotiations can make some progress in reducing trade barriers and subsidies that are costly follies for the global agriculture and food sectors.

As for the Russian ractompamine issue, Meatingplace Magazine reports that U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul in Moscow is exerting pressure on behalf of American meat exporters.

Traffic jams could be eased with more roads

Traffic jams that are costing billions in terms of time and diesel fuel could be reduced by building more roads, not by investing more in public transit systems, says Brian Lee Crowley of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa.

The Ontario agriculture and food industry is experiencing increasing costs to move livestock, poultry and produce in and out of Toronto and even a massive investment in public transit won’t improve that situation, Crowley indicates from data gathered from cities across North America and around the world.

A study released in August estimated that traffic jams in Toronto increase costs by $11 billion a year.

The Ontario government policy has, however, been to shift priorities from highway building to public transit systems, including subways and light-rail systems for Toronto and other urban centres, including the Waterloo Region.

Crowley points to studies that began 30 years ago at the Texas Transportation Institute, which is located at Texas A&M University, and have found that congestion was eased in cities that continued to invest in highways and roads, but got worse in cities that shifted budgets away from road-building into public transit.

This puts the lie to urban planners who have said that building more roads and expressways makes downtown gridlock worse.

Portland, Oregon, ignored those urban planners and spent its money on more roads and expressways; its ranking for congestion improved from 47th to sixth in North America.

On a global scale, Crowley writes in the Globe and Mail today that Canada ranks third in terms of longer commute times because of congestion - i.e. traffic jams.

The average Canadian commute now takes 25 per cent longer than necessary.

There are only five cities in North America that are worse than Toronto.

Vancouver is now the worst in North America and third-worst in the world.

Crowley concludes with advice for urban planners: “Remember urban sprawl is not a problem to be solved, but part of the answer to how vast numbers of people can live together in big cities without life grinding to a half in traffic.”

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chicken board stuck with $202,467 bill

The Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board has been stuck with a bill of $202,466.70 to compensate AndrĂ© Lamoureux  for court costs related to a lawsuit Lamoureux filed on behalf of French-language chicken farmers in the Ottawa Valley.

Justice Michel Charbonneau said in his decision handed down this week that it was a complicated and expensive case for Lamoureux to file. There were two dozen French-speaking farmers involved.

The chicken board, in Charbonneau’s words, “threw in the towel” and changed its regulations, effectively allowing the French-speaking farmers to continue marketing their birds to processors in Quebec despite an agreement the Quebec and Ontario marketing boards reached to ban cross-border sales of live chickens.

Charbonneau awarded $170,000.00 inclusive of taxes for fees plus $32,221.02 for disbursements. That came to the total of $202,466.70.

His decision clearly names the Chicken Farmers of Ontario as owing the money, although some media are reporting that the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors will pay.

They might as well since the two were big buddies in instituting the trading ban.

EU finds human harm from neonics

Two neonicotinoid seed-treatment pesticides could harm fetuses, says a new report from the European Union.

But Canadian officials say our standards are already below those recommended by the European research team.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are under intense pressure because beekeepers are certain they are contributing to the death of bees.

The pesticides are popular as seed treatments, particularly for corn.

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has them under review and has already said current practices are “not sustainable.”

The Ontario corn industry has been responding with promises to reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and to change management practices, such as using additives that will reduce the likelihood that the pesticides will be wafted away like dust.

A study by the European food safety agency indicates that acetamiprid and imidacloprid neonicotinoids might harm a fetus’s developing nervous system much as happens with exposure to nicotine.

The study says the chemicals could affect memory, learning ability and motor use.

On that basis, the study recommends lower human exposure standards for the chemicals.

The Toronto Star reports that a Health Canada officials says Canada’s tolerance levels are already lower than those proposed by the European food-safety agency.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Kellogg, Heinz closing should teach lessons

There are lessons that need to be learned from the closings of the Kelloggs breakfast-cereal plant in London and the Heinz ketchup plant in Leamington, says Bob Seguin, executive director the George Morris Centre food-industry think tank at Guelph.

The reasons for the closures are more complex than media reports suggest, Seguin writes in a report for the agriculture and food industries.

The closures demonstrate that investments are necessary to keep facilities competitive, that companies need skilled workers, that they have to keep up with many changes such as trends in consumer preferences, packaging, processing and information technologies, and invest in research and development.

The closures also reflect the increasingly competitive global environment.

On the other hand, several major investments have recently been made. 

Seguin mentions the Dr. Oetker plant being built in London, Ont., the many investments in canola-processing plants in Western Canada, the Premium Brands’ purchase of Piller Sausages and Delicatessens Ltd. of Waterloo and the $184-million investment Oxford Frozen Foods is making in wild blueberry processing in New Brunswick.

He could have added Maple Leaf Foods Inc. investment in a large bakery in Hamilton, its companion investments in a centralized meat-processing plant at Hamilton and a distribution centre south of Guelph and a Chinese investment in an infant-formula plant in Toronto.

Seguin says “the primary focus of any significant market or policy responses must be on obtaining new domestic and foreign investments, and re-investments in this industry. Entrepreneurial growth and investments (re-investments) in scale and new technologies must be complementary priorities.

“New investments in developing new and needed labour pools for a successful food manufacturing industry must be encouraged and spurred. 

'The industry’s past successes using traditional sources in rural and urban Canada are not sustainable,” Seguin says. “New investments in seeking both domestic and foreign labour as well as improved management expertise (for a much more competitive marketplace) must be priorities in order to successfully compete.”

Canadians need to be aware of increasing global competition, he says. This includes learning from competitors, including the public policy and regulatory supports available to these current and new competitors, he says.

Governments need to expand their approaches to regulatory reform, moving “beyond just removing unneeded or outdated regulations.

“The competitive impacts within a dynamic marketplace must become a critical factor in the regulatory choices and processes for implementation. 

"Improved measures of results, impacts and effectiveness must become standard if the domestic industry is to adapt while sustaining public demands for different regulatory standards,” he writes.

He says public research needs to be better coordinated with private-sector innovations.

“It is important to build upon past research successes, and to seek more innovative market and policy responses needed to match Canada’s innovation investments and successes (real results in the marketplace) with its competitors,” he writes.

The report is posted on the George Morris Centre website.

I wish he had added another admonitiation to marketing boards of all types and provinces - stop acting only for farmers and start looking into supply-chain innovations and improvements. That might mean yielding centralized marketing-board controls to individual farmers so they can pioneer their own futures.

Chicken board wins partial victory

The Chicken Farmers of Ontario, the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors and several of the biggest chicken processors in the province have won a partial victory over CAMI International Poultry Inc. of Welland.

CAMI has filed a lawsuit against them, claiming a conspiracy among them to deny the company enough chicken supplies to satisfy its customers’ demand for Hong Kong dressed birds.

Justice J.R. Henderson agreed with the chicken board and processors that there is some “confusion about what was taken” from CAMI when Ontario and Quebec marketing boards signed an agreement to ban inter-provincial trade in live chickens.

CAMI had been buying Quebec birds to keep its customers supplied with about 800,000 birds slaughtered each quota period. After the ban went into effect, it could only source about 250,000 birds per quota period.

CAMI argues that the trading ban left the Ontario chicken board with birds that were being exported to Quebec and it divided those birds among Ontario processors, but denied CAMI its share.

That, CAMI claims, violates a number of laws, including the competition act, the federal-provincial agreement on internal traded, and amounts to expropriation without compensation.

Henderson said “there is at least a germ or a scintilla of a chance” CAMI could succeed on this claim that the members of the AOCP ended up with supplies that should have been granted to CAMI.

The chicken board argued that CAMI had no base quota covering the birds it was importing, therefore the chicken board took nothing from CAMI.

Henderson disagreed and said CAMI might succeed with its claim that something of value was taken by the chicken board and distributed to other processors.

Henderson also dismissed the chicken board and processors’ challenge that there has been no violation of the Competition Act. That claim, says Henderson “has a chance of success.”

There were no arguments presented during this court challenge about the federal-provincial agreement on internal trade because the lawyers can’t find a copy of the agreement.

The main court case is scheduled to be heard in Welland early next year.

CAMI has filed another court challenge against the way the federal government and the federal-provincial marketing boards deal with applications for supplementary import permits.

When CAMI applied for a permit to import chickens from the U.S. so it could meet its customers’ demand for Hong Kong dressed birds, the marketing boards said they could find regular chicken to fill the orders. CAMI is arguing that it’s not right to deny a supplementary import permit on this basis because the specialty market is left unfilled.

Beef supplies will be tight

Rabobank predicts that beef supplies will be tight next year as ranchers hang on to more females to rebuild herds.

The report came at the same time as the U.S. reported a five per cent decline in the number of cattle on feed.

Rabobank says herds are being rebuilt because cattle prices were high this year and because feed costs are declining.

It says one of the big question marks is how much beef consumers in North American and Europe will want to buy.

Brazil and Argentina will be increasing exports, but global production will decline, predicts Rabobank.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

California salad-maker sets up in Brantford

A salad-making company from California is setting up a processing plant in Brantford that will employ 70 people and plans to expand to 130 the next year.

Misionero Vegetables serves both conventional and organic markets and both retail and foodservice customers.

Misionero was started by Floyd Griffin in 1973 and now is run by his childen.

It has processing plants at Gonzales and Salinas, California, and Yuma, Arizona.