Friday, August 29, 2014

Cull cow plant may come in Upper New York

Dairy farmers in Eastern Ontario and Quebec may get a new opportunity to sell cull cows to a packing plant, this time in Upper New York State.

The Common Council of Rome, N.Y., which is almost directly south of Kingston and the Thousand Islands border crossing, has approved amendments to the city’s zoning code that would open the door to a meat processing plant in certain industrial zones, the Utica Observer-Dispatch reported.

The changes come five months after the city’s zoning board shot down a local developer’s plan to locate a plant in a vacant manufacturing site.

Rome’s director of community and economic development says the city would like to support the local agricultural community with a processing plant for dairy cull cows and needed to get rules governing such a development on its books.

The former Levinoff-Colbex plant near Montreal has failed as has the Kitchener plant started by Gencor, an artificial insemination business.
Cargill’s Better Beef Ltd. plant at Guelph began taking cull cows, playing a part in the failure of the Gencor plant.

The main reason for the failures has been stiff competition from plants in the United States.

Mixed message for piglet rations

Centralia College has issued a report on research that indicates that adding spray-dried animal protein to nursing-piglet rations counters the negative impacts of vomitoxin from corn rations.

It would be nice if the researchers would also draw attention to recent findings that spray-dried pig plasma has been fingered as responsible for 17 outbreaks of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea in Ontario since late January.

The research at Centralia indicates that when spray-dried animal protein is added to rations where the corn has been contaminated with DON toxin that evolves from fusarium-mould-infected ears of corn, they fare just as well as piglets fed corn-based rations that have no DON toxin.

DON in piglet rations sets them back; PED virus kills.

FAO urges disease surveillance

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is calling for sustained monitoring of animal diseases, particularly those that can cross species barriers to infect humans.

I wish we had good animal-disease surveillance systems across Canada, let alone globally.

The authors note that an earlier FAO report estimates 70 percent of new infectious human diseases detected in recent decades are of animal origin.

They also cite the recent Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which is believed to have crossed over from wildlife to human populations.

Speaking at a meeting on the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) in Jakarta, Indonesia this week, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth said "zoonootic diseases that can make the jump from animals to humans are a real concern, but there is much that we can do before the jump occurs and outbreaks take place, causing loss of life and disrupting fragile livelihoods.”

According to FAO, the international community must provide global health support, with a new focus on investment in infrastructure, systems and capacities at the national level to help reduce the risks of such emergencies happening in the first place and increase the resilience of communities and health systems to respond when they do.

At the Jakarta conference, the FAO, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and representatives of 60 countries are discussing how to collaborate under the auspices of the GHSA to strengthen health systems to help prevent, detect and respond to emerging disease threats.

These organizations focus on the "One Health" approach, which looks at the interplay between environmental factors, animal health, and human health and brings human health professionals, veterinary specialists, sociologists, economists, and ecologists together to work on disease risks in a collaborative way.

Be aware of farm workers’ rights

Farmers ought to be aware of their workers’ rights guaranteed under federal law, says the Ontario Pork Industry Council.

It has posted information on its website alerting farmers that regardless of how small or large the farm, workers rights include:

- The right to refuse unsafe work;

- The right to know about workplace hazards, and

- The right to participate in workplace health and safety.

“None of these exist independently, and the three function together to guarantee and provide the fourth, generally unwritten right, specifically, the right to a safe workplace,” says the Ontario Pork Industry Council.

“Employers must recognize and make certain that employees are aware of these rights, and feel comfortable in exercising them.
“The result is a generally safer workplace, combined with proactive and empowered workers.

“Actions taken by employers which restrict or violate the three rights of workers are a violation of the legislation, and are subject to a number of penalties for both the individual actors as well as their corporate management,” the council cautions.

“Employers are well advised to be mindful of the rights of their employees and avoid actions which restrict or deny these.”

There is additional information on the OPIC website.

Pork from China fills Canadian void in Russia

Chinese pork products will replace banned pork exports from Canada, which are unlikely to win back their place in the Russian market even if the present ban is lifted, according to Russia's meat 
products watchdog.

Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance said in a statement on the agency's website that "the Russian government now is actively cooperating with China's veterinary authorities on pork supplies from certain highly integrated Chinese enterprises".

Russia's Far East region used to rely heavily on meat supplies from the United States and Canada.

The change in meat suppliers comes after Moscow imposed a one-year ban on a number of agricultural products, including meat, fish, poultry, fruit, vegetables, wine and dairy products from the U.S., the member nations of the European Union, Norway, Canada and Australia as retaliation for their economic sanctions.

The economic sanctions are designed to persuade Russia to back off its aggression in the Ukraine.

Tyson completes Hillshire purchase

Tyson Foods Inc. and Hillshire Brands Company are now officially merged, the companies announced Thursday.
The announcement came hard on the heels of a U.S. Justice Department order that Tyson divest a hog-buying business so there would continue to be competition in the market for sows, boars and culls. That satisfied government concerns about the merger.
The combination of Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands creates a single company with more than $40 billion in annual sales.
The integration of the two companies is expected to generate synergy savings of $225 million in fiscal 2015 and more than $500 million by fiscal 2017.

Tyson completes Hillshire purchase

Tyson Foods Inc. and Hillshire Brands Company are now officially merged, the companies announced Thursday.

The announcement came hard on the heels of a U.S. Justice Department order that Tyson divest a hog-buying business so there would continue to be competition in the market for sows, boars and culls. That satisfied government concerns about the merger.

The combination of Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands creates a single company with more than $40 billion in annual sales.

The integration of the two companies is expected to generate synergy savings of $225 million in fiscal 2015 and more than $500 million by fiscal 2017.

How big is big enough?

Olymel owes workers $14 million

Olymel is on the hook for $14 million owed to workers at plants it has closed.

It faces court orders to pay the workers at the St. Simon plant it closed in 2007.

There is no word yet whether the company plans to appeal.

Who thinks cooperatives are more people-friendly? It's profits, folks. Profits rule.

FCC boosts funding for young farmers

Farm Credit Canada is boosting its fund for young farmers by another $500 million to a new total of $1.5 billion.

Under the program that began in 2012 with $500 million, farmers 40 and younger can borrow up to $500,000 to buy or improve land and buildings.

The interest rates can be variable at half a per cent above prime or a special fixed rate. There are no loan-processing fees.

So far the FCC has loaned more than $861 million under the program.

What's so magic about people 40 years and younger? You might want to ask your MP since taxpayers are ultimately on the hook if the FCC is bankrupted.

Three named to powerful land tribunal

Three people have been appointed to an Ontario tribunal that hears appeals related to land, conservation, water and pesticides legislation.

They are Justin Duncan of Toronto, Sarah Jacobs of Windsor and Karen Kraft Sloan of Shanty Bay. All three were appointed by the Ontario cabinet to two-year terms.

The main role of the Environmental Resources Tribunal is to adjudicate applications and appeals made under the Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Nutrient Management Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Waste Management Act, the Pesticides Act, and leave to appeal applications under the Environmental Bill of Rights.

In addition, the Tribunal functions as the Niagara Escarpment Hearing Officer to hear development permit appeals and Niagara Escarpment Plan amendment applications under the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. 
The Tribunal also functions as the Hearing Officer under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act and under the Greenbelt Act

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Russia closes some McDonald’s outlets

McDonald’s Restaurants is appealing a Russian court order to close three of its restaurants in Moscow as punishment for violating food safety regulations.

Two more McDonald’s restaurants have been closed, also for food-safety violations.

Russian businessmen claim it’s really the ruckus over Ukraine that is the reason for the closures.

The U.S. has imposed economic sanctions on Russia to pressure the it to pull out of the Ukraine and Russia has been retaliating with bans on importing meat and other foods from Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Group urges mandatory nutrition education

The Ontario Home Economics Association (OHEA) is pushing for at least one mandatory food and nutrition course in Ontario schools, saying it would improve public health.

The OHEA said approximately one-third of children in Ontario are overweight or obese and increasing "food literacy" would help more people understand nutrition labels, make meals at home, make the most of their grocery budget and reduce waste.

"We think that all children need to have the basics of nutrition and some cooking skills so that they know how to make food from scratch and don’t reach out so often for fast food or prepared entrees or mixes and other items that are so readily available in our stores," said professional home economist Mary Carver.

"We can see the decline in health in Canadians in general, particularly children, there’s a great rise in childhood obesity… a rise in type 2 diabetes, a rise in high blood pressure and cardiac disease in adults.

“All of these are lifestyle and diet-related issues and they put a huge strain on our healthcare system," she says.

Carver said the current Ontario curriculum has 21 “family studies” courses, seven new ones dealing with subjects such as food and nutrition, food and health and food and culture added in 2013.

"A very small percentage of students across the province actually get to benefit from this excellent curriculum," she said.

The other 14 courses deal with child development, family relationships, fashion design and other topics that used to fall under the umbrella of Home Economics.

So, if they can't practice common sense, the Nanny State should pound it into their thick heads?

Concord Meats recall expands

I find it hard to believe that more than three weeks after the initial recall, Concord Premium Meats Ltd. has added another product to its recall for Listeria monocytogenes.

The additional product was identified during the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) food safety investigation.

What kind of investigations do these civil servants conduct? And how many people were at risk during those three weeks?

Concord Premium Meats Ltd. is recalling Marc Angelo brand Smoked Prosciutto Speck, product of Italy.

The CFIA says on its website that people should not consume the recalled product packaged in 100-gram packets with a Best Before date of “14 NO 2” and a product code (UPC) number 6 27907 05740 3.

Small farms not better, says Al Mussel

Small farms are getting more praise than they deserve, according to the second in a four-part series about myths about farming by Al Mussel of the George Morris Centre.

The advertising and marketing people are pitching small farms to promote their products and many social activists are critical of “factory farms”, writes Mussel.

Yet the smaller half of the farm population in Canada produces only 10 per cent of the sales and the largest five per cent account for 30 per cent of sales.

“Small farms have come to be viewed as a core element of an agrarian cultural ideal,” writes Mussel, even promoting urban and rooftop gardening.

But there would be a “significant social cost” if Canadian politicians and society promoted small farms, he says.

Since 1941, when the number of Canadian farmers peaked at 700,000 farming 160 million acres, thousands have migrated from farm families to city jobs where Mussel says they have become the backbone of the middle class.

These people did not migrate to ghettos, but built the urban society that makes Canada much wealthier than nations that have a majority of their population engaged in farming.

He says it’s simply wrong to argue that small farms are more sustainable and that Third World development ought to concentrate on small farms as the way out of poverty.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Burger King and Tim Hortons agree on sale

The directors of both Burger King and Tim Hortons have reached unanimous agreement on a $26-billion deal that will see Burger King take over and move its head office from Miami to Oakville, Ont.

The deal brings Tim Hortons 4,546 restaurants together with Burger King’s 13,617 in 100 countries.

Despite the huge difference in the number of restaurants, their total share prices are close - $8.4 billion for Tim’s, $9.5 billion for Burger King.

Their combined annual sales are about $22 billion.

3G Capital, which controls Burger King, will hold 51 per cent of Tim Hortons.

The combination will become the world’s third-largest restaurant chain.

Burger King will maintain its international head office in Miami.

Moving the other head office to Oakville is seen by many Americans as an “inversion” to move from a 35 per cent tax on profits in the U.S. to 26 per cent in Canada.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Albertans sickened by E. coli 0157:H7

There are now 130 people sick with E. coli 0157:H7, says Alberta Health Services.

There are 63 confirmed cases in Calgary and 50 in the Edmonton region.

The source has not been revealed, but officials are warning people to take precautions such as washing hands with hot, soapy water — especially after using the bathroom — before preparing food and after touching raw meat.

Alberta Health Services also suggests cooking beef to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit and washing all fruit and vegetables.

“Washing don’t do much,” says food safety communications Dr. Doug Powell.

I'm betting that the outbreaks will eventually trace to cattle manure.

Ontario making progress vs. PED virus

Ontario’s hog industry is making steady progress ridding herds of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus.

There have been no new outbreaks since June 21 and more than 60 per cent of the herds that were hit have since eliminated the virus, report the Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board and the Ontario Pork Industry Council.

“To date 87 sites are enrolled in the PED ARC&E (Area Regional Concil and Elimination) sites.

“Of these, 40 sites are primary cases,” reports the council.

“This represents 64 per cent of the 63 primary cases reported in Ontario.

“This includes two sites infected with deltacoronavirus only and a third site infected with both porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), and porcine deltacoronavirus (PDCoV). 

“The remaining 47 sites are considered presumed positive due to pig flow based on veterinary notification and/or testing,” the council says in an e-mail. 

“As of August 15, we have had 15 successful PED eliminations at sites participating in the ARC&E program,” the council says.

The disease-freed farms include four nurseries, three finishing barns and eight sow herds.

One sow-herd site was freed of a deltacoronavirus via depopulation and a second herd was freed of both PED virus and deltacoronavirus.

The board and the council have established a working group to deal with PED virus and have invited all veterinarians dealing with outbreaks to join.

“This group meets to review site enrollment progress, discuss case studies and elimination plans,” the council says.

The group has also developed criteria for establishing when an infected farm has become free of PED virus.

CFO spurns renewed Black appeal

Lawyer Geoffrey Spurr, acting for the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board, argues that Glenn Black’s renewed appeal to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal remains frivolous and vexatious and ought to be dismissed.

Black has revealed the chicken board’s arguments in a posting on his website.

The tribunal is likely to rule soon whether Black’s second attempt at an appeal over the chicken board’s 300-per-year limit on chickens that can be raised without quota can proceed to a public hearing.

The tribunal rejected Black’s original appeal on a number of grounds, including lack of tribunal jurisdiction over issues Black raised. It instructed him to stick to the 300-bird issue and allowed him to file a renewed appeal.

Spurr argues that Black’s renewed appeal continues to raise most of the same issues as the original one and that it does not stick to the single issue.

Black’s renewed appeal cites many legal precedents, including Supreme Court decisions, in his arguments that he ought to be able to raise broader issues.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Burnbrae gifts $500,000 to UG

Burnbrae Farms has expanded its long-standing support for poultry research at the University of Guelph by gifting $500,000 for Dr. Alexander Harlander to study egg-industry housing systems.

She will also examine hen behaviour and biology.

Burnbrae is the largest egg-producing and egg-grading company in Canada.

One of the family members who own Burnbrae, Helen Anne Hudson, is chair of the Ontario Poultry Industry Council which is heavily involved in poultry research promotion, planning and co-ordination.

Friday, August 22, 2014

WTO rules on COOL

As Canadians expected, the World Trade Organization (WTO) panel has ruled that the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling regulations are illegal.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “sources familiar with the panel’s confidential report” say the panel made a clear-cut decision against the U.S.

Canada and Mexico filed a challenge against the regulations and were backed by Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand, Australia, Colombia and Guatemala.

“We all know what the report says. The U.S. lost,” one source told the Wall Street Journal.

Another said, “We do for a fact know that the ruling, when it is made public, will be in favor of Canada and Mexico.”

WTO rules give the United States 60 days to appeal from the date the report is published.

If the ruling stands and the U.S. refuses to bend, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has said Canada is prepared to retaliate against the U.S. with tariffs that would need WTO approval as appropriate to the circumstances.

The U.S. lost a similar ruling earlier, but rather than withdraw COOL, it amended the regulations. Canadian beef and hog farmers said the amended regulations were even worse than the originals.

They hired consultants who estimate the annual cost to Canadian farmers is more than $1.6 billion, mainly because American packers faced higher costs to handle Canadian hogs and cattle, therefore bid less for Canadian livestock, driving down prices for all Canadian livestock because Canadian packers don't need to bid against American buyers.

Canadian employee faces Cargill lawsuit

Cargill has filed a lawsuit against Jason Kuan who used to be the Canadian manager of the company’s case-ready business.

Cargill says he took company secrets to JBS’s operations at Greeley, Colorado, when he accepted a job offer there. He left Cargill Aug. 1.

Kuan received a laptop from Cargill as part of his employment there, the lawsuit states.

Cargill says he resigned Aug. 1 without notice, and Cargill launched an investigation.

Cargill’s lawsuit says a forensic analysis of the laptop revealed he had downloaded hundreds of “highly confidential and proprietary” files to an external hard drive that he did not return to the company before his resignation.

Kuan had signed a confidentiality agreement that, among other things, Cargill says prohibits such transfer of proprietary electronic information.

In rare cases when such transfer is appropriate, the company provides specially approved, secure devices for such purposes, the lawsuit states.

Cargill believes Kuan has the following Cargill property:

  • Strategic plans for Case Ready North America, which include customer plans, financials, key focus areas, and growth plans;

  • Presentations on Case Ready plant transitions, which include capital investments, plant layout, project spending, pictures of the plant floor and equipment, staffing plans, yield info, customer plans, volume by customer, audit findings, functional area plans and progress;

  • Presentations to CRLT on progress for Case Ready Canada plants, which include information regarding new packaging systems, plant layout, and operational planning.
JBS owns XL Foods of Brooks, Alta., Canada’s second-largest beef-slaughtering plant.

On Aug. 1, Cargill says in the complaint, it learned that Kuan took a job with JBS USA, and that on or about Aug. 6, JBS announced that Kuan would head up JBS’s new case ready division.

“Kuan’s use of Cargill Case Ready’s highly confidential and proprietary information would allow him to reap an unfair and unlawful advantage over Cargill,” the lawsuit says.

“Kuan should not be permitted to keep, duplicate or in any manner use the highly confidential proprietary information siphoned from Cargill Case Ready for his benefit or that of his new employer.”
Cargill is asking a judge to enjoin Kuan’s use of the information and award damages to be determined at trial.

The suit does not name JBS USA as a defendant.