Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dungate defends chicken pricing

In a spirited letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Section, Mike Dungate offers a spirited defence of chicken marketing board pricing.

Dungate, who is executive director of the Chicken Farmers of Canada national agency, was responding to a column by Barrie McKenna.

“Nothing could be further from the truth” than McKenna’s comment that chicken is “costing the consumer some big buck-buck-bucks,” Dungate writes.

In the last year, the price of beef increased by 19.4 per cent, pork by 14.4 per cent and chicken by “only 2.7 per cent,” Dungate writes. He adds percentage for two-year price increases to once again show that chicken price increases have been much less.

He says prices paid farmers have gone down by 1.6 per cent in the last year and by 9.9 per cent over the last two years.

“This includes passing benefits from improved efficiencies in 2011 and 2012’” Dungate writes, leaving out mention that the Ontario farmers were forced to reflect feed-efficiency gains in their pricing formula under orders from the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.
Ontario prices set the tone for what farmers are paid across Canada.

Dungate says that farm prices going down while retail prices go up “supports what we have said all along – the $1.63 a kilogram earned by farmers is fair and does not determine what consumers pay for chicken.

“This fantasy, where supply management is dismantled and savings are instantly passed on to consumers, is just that: a fantasy,” Dungate writes.

“All dismantlement does is threaten the sustainability of the Canadian chicken industry and the direct benefits it provides to Canada and Canadians.”

Egg bargains from the United States

Ontario supermarkets are offering eggs on special, including Metro Inc.'s Food Basics stores pricing them at $1.88 a dozen for Grade A Large in Burnbrae Farms packages.

The fine print reveals they are "Product of the U.S.A."

Loblaws is specialing eggs from the U.S. at its Shoppers Drug Mart, Zehrs Markets and other stores.

That's leaving Canadian-produced eggs gathering dust at these stores.

Apparently the officials at the Department of International Trade couldn't see that CAMI International Poultry Inc. of Welland was short of chicken for the customers who wanted Hong Kong dressed birds, but now are once again allowing of tractor-trailer loads of eggs from the U.S. to flood the pre-Christmas market.

The result will be the same as it has been for years - egg producers will, in about a month's time, be paying a tax on their marketings to cover the high cost of diverting eggs from the retail to the processing markets.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Milk regulator secrecy

Geri Kamenz has told a competing reporter that the Ontario government has approved a change in regulations to allow the marketing of milk in three-litres instead of the standard four-litre pouch packs.

Nowhere on the website for the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission does it say anything about this change in regulations.

Nowhere on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website is there a news release announcing this important change in regulations.

I guess the Ontario public is a bunch of mushrooms - kept in the dark and fed on warm manure-quality drivel on the commission and OMAFRA websites.

Free-trader U.S. defies trade ruling

The United States is refusing once again to comply with World Trade Organization rulings to scrap its trade-discriminating Country of Origin Labelling regulations for red meats from Canada and Mexico.

The U.S. has just announced that it intends to appeal the WTO's recent ruling that said the second set of COOL regulations adopted by the United States is even worse than the original set which the WTO said put the U.S. outside the four corners of the agreement it signed on world trade.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast issued a statement saying they're disappointed.

Furious would have been a better term.

Canada has prepared a list of products it intends to tax as a retaliatory measure for failing to comply with the World Trade Organization rulings. That is, of course, all on hold pending the outcome of the appeal.

This piece of justice in trade has been so long delayed that it is no justice at all. And the Canadian government has so far failed to offer even a single penny of compensation to the farmers who are losing more than $1 billion a year because of COOL. The farmers have substantiated their estimates of losses by hiring consulting companies to delve into the situation for cattle and hogs.

Here's the list of products Canada proposes to tax if and when it wins the WTO appeal decision.


Notice seeking comments on possible trade retaliation action against the United States in response to that country’s failure to comply with the World Trade Organization ruling on certain country of origin labelling requirements


On June 29, 2012, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body upheld an earlier WTO Panel ruling that United States (U.S.) Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) requirements under their 2008 Farm Bill discriminate against Canadian (and Mexican) livestock and violate their WTO obligations. The WTO gave the U.S. until May 23, 2013, to comply with its decision.
On May 23, 2013, the United States introduced regulatory changes to their existing COOL requirements. Canada does not agree that these changes bring the United States into compliance with their WTO obligations and intends to pursue a WTO compliance panel. If it is determined that these changes do not comply with the WTO decision, the United States can negotiate with Canada to provide compensation. If agreement cannot be reached on compensation, Canada will request authority from the WTO to retaliate to a level equivalent to damages resulting from COOL requirements.
The intent of these consultations is to ensure that Canada is prepared to react. Authority to impose any retaliatory measure would require the successful completion of all related WTO proceedings, which is not expected before the last quarter of 2014, at the earliest.

Invitation to submit views

If and when authorized by the WTO, Canada intends to levy a 100% surtax on imports of selected products from the United States. Should Canada be authorized to retaliate, the products subject to a surtax would be drawn from the list in Table 1, and would reflect comments received from Canadians. The list of products outlined at the tariff heading, tariff subheading, or tariff item level, should be read in conjunction with the Schedule to Canada’s Customs Tariff, which can be accessed at Any surtax would be rescinded in the event of U.S. compliance with their WTO obligations or in the event of a negotiated solution.
Interested parties are invited to submit comments in writing to the following address by no later than September 30, 2013: COOL Retaliation Consultations, International Trade Policy Division, Department of Finance, L’Esplanade Laurier, 14th Floor, East Tower, 140 O’Connor Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G5, 613-992-6761 (fax), (email).
Tariff heading, sub-heading, or item
(see footnote 15)
Live bovine animals
Live swine
Meat of bovine animals, fresh or chilled
Meat of bovine animals, frozen
Meat of swine, fresh, chilled, or frozen
Cuts of offal, fresh or chilled of spent fowl
Cheese, not including the following: fresh (unripened or uncured) cheese, whey cheese or curd; grated or powdered; processed cheese; blue-veined cheese or cheese containing veins produced by Penicillium roqueforti
Apples, fresh
Cherries, other than sour cherries (Prunus cerasus)
Cherries, provisionally preserved (unsuitable in that state for immediate consumption)
Corn (maize)
Semi-milled or wholly milled rice, whether or not polished or glazed
Prepared or preserved — prepared meals of spent fowl; prepared meals of specially defined mixtures
Prepared or preserved — specially defined mixtures, other than in cans or glass jars; spent fowl other than in cans or glass jars
Prepared or preserved swine cuts, other than ham and cuts thereof, other than shoulder and cuts thereof
Prepared or preserved meat of bovine animals
Maple sugar and maple syrup
Glucose and glucose syrup, containing in the dry state at least 20% but less than 50% by weight of fructose, excluding invert sugar
Other fructose and fructose syrup, containing in the dry state more than 50% by weight of fructose, excluding invert sugar
Chocolate and other food preparations containing cocoa — preparations in blocks, slabs or bars weighing more than 2 kg or in liquid, paste, powder, granular or other bulk form in containers or immediate packings, of a content exceeding 2 kg
Chocolate and other food preparations containing cocoa — chocolate ice cream mix or ice milk mix; chocolates; chocolate coated nuts and other confectionery
Pasta, whether or not cooked or stuffed (with meat or other substances) or otherwise prepared, such as spaghetti, macaroni, noodles, lasagna, gnocchi, ravioli, cannelloni; couscous, whether or not prepared
Prepared foods obtained by the swelling or roasting of cereals or cereal products (for example, corn flakes); cereals (other than maize [corn]) in grain form or in the form of flakes or other worked grains (except flour, groats and meal), pre-cooked or otherwise prepared, not elsewhere specified or included
Bread, pastry, cakes, biscuits and other bakers’ wares, whether or not containing cocoa; communion wafers, empty cachets of a kind suitable for pharmaceutical use, sealing wafers, rice paper and similar products
Potatoes, prepared or preserved otherwise than by vinegar or acetic acid, frozen, other than products of heading 20.06
Orange juice, frozen
Tomato ketchup and other tomato sauces
Wine of fresh grapes, including fortified wines; grape must other than that of heading 20.09
Ethyl alcohol and other spirits, denatured, of any strength
Sugars, chemically pure, other than sucrose, lactose, maltose, glucose and fructose; sugar ethers, sugar acetals and sugar esters, and their salts, other than products of heading 29.37, 29.38 or 29.39
Peptones and their derivatives; other protein substances and their derivatives, not elsewhere specified or included; hide powder, whether or not chromed
Articles of jewellery and parts thereof, of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal
Other tubes, pipes and hollow profiles, welded, of circular cross-section, of stainless steel
Parts of stoves, ranges, grates, cookers (including those with subsidiary boilers for central heating), barbecues, braziers, gas-rings, plate warmers and similar non-electric domestic appliances, and parts thereof, of iron or steel
Grinding balls and similar articles for mills, forged or stamped, but not further worked, of iron or steel
Swivel seats with variable height adjustment
Wooden furniture of a kind used in offices
Mattresses of materials other than cellular rubber or plastics, whether or not covered

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Egg case resumes Monday

The marathon court actions in Ontario’s egg industry resume Monday in Toronto.

This time it’s an appeal filed by Sweda Farms Ltd. from a summary dismissal of the lawsuit Sweda filed against Burnbrae Farms Ltd.

A similar attempt for summary dismissal by L.H. Gray and Son Ltd. failed.

Sweda has charged the two companies which grade about 90 per cent of Ontario’s egg production of conspiring along with Harry Pelissero, general manager of the Ontario egg marketing board, against Sweda.

The sensational lawsuit also alleges that the two egg-grading companies routinely cheat on egg grading to incorporate cracked and dirty eggs in cartons that should only contain Grade A eggs and that they conspired to keep Sweda from importing eggs when it was unable to buy enough on the Ontario market to meet its needs.

None of the allegations have yet been tested in court and lawyers for the egg-grading companies deny any wrongdoing.

Court documents indicate that Sweda has lined up witnesses to testify about Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards for Grade A eggs and the degree of CFIA inspection of automated grading equipment.

Witnesses have also been subpoenaed to outline interactions among the Ontario and national egg marketing bodies, Burnbrae and Gray and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in responding to Sweda’s requests for supplementary import permits.

The witnesses who were called to questioning sessions were Neil Newlands of Orleans on supplementary import issues, Gord Davis on egg grading and the joint purchase of Metzger Produce egg-grading business by Burnbrae and Gray and about negotiations to sell Sweda’s egg-grading business to Burnbrae, Robin Horel of Nepean, chief of staff for the Canadian Egg and Poultry Processors Council, to testify about supplementary egg import procedures and specifically about Sweda Farm’s applications, and Judy Scaife of Nepean to testify about CFIA standards for Grade A, Grade B and Nest Run eggs and about CFIA checks – or lack of them – on automated crack-detection equipment at egg-grading plants.

Wynne chooses two for Growth Steering Committee

Premier Kathleen Wynne has chosen Amy Cronin, chairman of the Ontario Pork marketing board, and Dr. Deb Stark, deputy of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for her Growth Steering Committee.

The committee faces the daunting task of making good on Wynne’s vision to double the agriculture industry’s growth rate and add 120,000 jobs.

Wynne was her own agriculture minister when she set that goal last year. Now Jeff Leal is her agriculture minister, adding that to his previous responsibilities as cabinet member for rural affairs.

When Wynne announced her growth goal last year, many thought it was to double agricultural production. Now it’s clear that the goal is doubling the growth rate.

Just after Wynne’s announcement last year, Kellogg’s announced closure of its plant at London, Ont., and Heinz announced closure of its ketchup-processing plant at Leamington.

Wynne said by way of a news release that Cronin and Stark will “bring together industry and government leaders and experts to identify opportunities to help the industry meet the Growth Challenge.”

Judge orders egg-quality information released

Burnbrae Farms Ltd. has lost its court challenge to keep egg inspector reports on its operations secret.

Justice Cecily Y. Strickland of the Ontario Court of Appeals has said almost all of the information contained in the reports may be released to those who apply under Access to Information.

The exception is the names of customers and the brand name on the packaging for those customers.

Burnbrae sought to also keep the volumes of the eggs inspected secret, but the judge agreed with the lawyer speaking for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that the records are only one point in time and do not reveal general sales volumes.

The Access-to-Information request was for CFIA inspection records for random sampling during the final three months of 2010, 2011 and 2012 for Burnbrae and for L.H. Gray and Son Ltd.

Ted Hudson, vice-president of marketing for Burnbrae, argued that if repeated applications under Access to Information are filed, the person asking for the files can develop a picture of Burnbrae’s business.

Hudson also argued that the inspector’s ratings on issues of food safety, such as wash-water temperature and pH, is confidential information that would give a competitor insights into Burnbrae’s proprietary procedures.

The judge disagreed, saying the reports only indicate whether the eggs fail to meet regulatory standards and don’t outline the equipment or procedures Burnbrae uses to meet those standards.

Hudson said by way of an affidavit that the company’s business has been harmed by misleading reports arising from the records on a blog. He quoted from in making that argument.

The judge said that’s an issue for Burnbrae to pursue via a libel or defamation suit. It’s not an issue about whether the reports themselves ought to be made public.

Hudson did not detail what was misleading about the blog postings.

He did, however, testify that it harms Burnbrae in its negotiations for contracts with customers.

While Hudson seems to assume the Access-to-Information request under court review was filed by Jim Romahn who writes , there is nothing in the court documents that reveals who filed the Access-to-Information request.

There is also an ongoing lawsuit among Burnbrae, L.H. Gray Son Ltd., the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board and Sweda Farms Inc. and it’s possible that lawyers involved in that litigation filed for the inspection reports. Or it could be CBC Marketplace or any number of other people.

There's one sure way for Burnbrae to avoid losing customers from the release of CFIA inspection reports: run a clean business.


Texas cattlemen oppose beef imports from Argentina

The president of an organization that speaks for Texas beef producers is worried that foot and mouth disease could strike because the United States Department of Agriculture intends to clear the Patagonia area of Argentina to export beef and cattle to the United States.

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) is deeply concerned with this proposal, writes president Pete Bonds in an on-line article.

“FMD is a severe and highly contagious viral disease of cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer and other animals with divided hooves.

“It is considered to be one of the most economically devastating livestock diseases in the world and poses a significant risk to not only our country’s cattle herd, but also our national food security,” he writes.

“FMD could also cost our industry hundreds of millions of dollars.  

“I am extremely worried if FMD comes into the cattle herds, especially in Texas with the high population of feral hogs, we could see an unstoppable outbreak of the disease.

“Pigs are more susceptible to the disease than cattle, and with feral hogs being a problem in most of the state, the disease could spread throughout the country,” Bonds writes.

One of the immediate results of any FMD outbreak in the United States would be a ban on exporting red meats, cattle, hogs, sheep and other mammals.

Chinese woman denies stealing GMO seed

Mo Yun, a Chinese woman accused of conspiring to steal genetic material from Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred and LG Seeds, has failed in her bid to have the charges dismissed.

She told a federal judge she wasn’t working for the company when the alleged thefts occurred.

But the judge decided that the charges against her and her brother and five others will go to trial.

Prosecutors say more than $500 million worth of intellectual property was stolen from Pioneer Hi-Bred, Monsanto, and LG Seeds.

Mo Yun’s husband is chief executive officer of a biotechnology company in China.

Mo and her brother were arrested this year in the U.S and are scheduled to be tried together in Iowa.

The other five suspects are believed to be in China, which has no extradition agreements with the U.S.

Her attorneys recently argued that most of the evidence alleges crimes committed after she left the company in 2008, including allegations of digging in cornfields to find seeds and shipping them out of the country in 2011 and 2012.

Trying them together would allow jurors to hear evidence unrelated to Mo and could sway jurors, defence attorney Terry Bird argued.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

XL customers lawsuit settled

Customers whose XL Foods Inc. beef was recalled will be able to share in a $1-million settlement to a class-action lawsuit, says Rick Mallett, a lawyer for the Edmonton law firm handlng the case.

He said the proposal will go before a judge early next year for approval.

"The parties have reached a settlement on beef refund claims subject to approval of the court," Mallett said Tuesday following a hearing in Court of Queen's Bench.

"It applies to anyone who purchased recalled beef — XL beef — and disposed of it and didn't get a refund."

XL Foods recalled more than 1.8 million kilograms of beef in Canada and the United States.

In its statement of defence the company has denied liability and the allegations contained in the class action. The plant in Brooks was sold to JBS Canada last year.

The recall in 2012 was the largest meat volume in Canadian history, but far from the largest in terms of people who got sick.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ontario aims to cut neonicitinoid use by 80 per cent

Ontario’s agriculture and environment ministers announced a goal of reducing neonicitinoid use by 80 per cent by 2016.

They hope to achieve that goal by reducing the number of corn and soybean acres planted with neonicitinoid seed treatments.

Farmers find neonicitinoids effective in controlling worms and bugs that attack their crops.

When they were introduced with federal government approval, they were considered far safer than the pesticides farmers had been using.

They have, however, become the target of people worried about bee mortality rates.

Experts researching the reasons for bee death rates say there are many factors, but agree that neonicitinoids do play a role.

Ontario’s goal includes reducing bee mortality rates to 15 per cent by 2020. There is no mention of the other factors, such as the nutritional health of bee colonies, in the government’s news release which contains pictures of Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal and Environment Minister Glen Murray.

Neither one knows a whole lot about farming or beekeeping, but both know a lot about politics.

The news release says the government will consult with farm organizations and other stakeholders until July 1, 2015, which means nothing will happen for the upcoming planting season.

Corn and soybean growers have said they need clarity about regulations as soon as possible because they are ordering seeds now, hoping to get some of the most popular varieties before supplies run out.

Tribunal overturns CFIA trucking fines

The Canada Agricultural Review Tribunal has dismissed three trucking fines, each totaling $7,800, against a company hauling spent fowl to the Maple Lodge Farms processing plant near Brampton, Ont.

Tribunal chairman Don Buckingham writes in his decision that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was not able to prove its accusations against 473629 Ontario Inc. (Little Rock Farm Trucking) owned by Mark Reuber.

Most of the evidence covered in the written decision concerns a shipment picked up in September, 2012, from Giroux’s Poultry Farm Inc. at Chazy, New York. it is listed as a delivery from Lacolle, Que.

The evidence indicates that 425 birds were dead on arrival at Maple Lodge’s plant. The weather was cold and wet, the tarps were not down on the truck and the birds had poor feathering.

The other two cases involved 537 dead birds delivered from Fort Erie in October and 583 dead in a delivery in January, 2013, from Lacolle, Que.

The Fort Erie and Lacolle, Que., sites are border crossings from the United States.

The tribunal is scheduled to hear five more appeals from trucking companies, including another involving Maple Lodge Farms.

The chicken marketing boards and national agency are probably not pleased with this decision. 
If they had their way, no spent fowl would be allowed into Canada.

OVC to study pet-owner bonding

IDEXX Canada is giving Ontario Veterinary College $1.5 million to establish a research chair to study bonding between pets and their owners.

IDEXX  Laboratories Inc. is a multinational corporation that produces diagnostic and information technology-based products and services for the veterinary industry.

“This is an important and innovative area of scholarship,” said University of Guelph president Franco Vaccarino.

“It merges two distinct, yet intertwined, subjects that are foremost in the minds of animal owners – the bond with their pets and the availability of the new and emerging information.

“The superb work of the OVC in epidemiology, primary health care, and innovative teaching, makes it an ideal home for this forward-looking chair.”

Peter Mosney, director and country manager for IDEXX Canada, said “the new chair at OVC is a milestone in our continued efforts to advance the standard of care within the veterinary profession and solve complex medical problems in today’s fast-paced, information-rich environment.”

The chairholder will create and teach new ways to recognize and reinforce the importance of animals in their owners’ lives. Experiential learning opportunities for student veterinarians will focus on technology to support bond-centred care.

It's another example of how pets are moving to the fore, leaving livestock and poultry farming in decline at OVC and most North 
American veterinary colleges.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Avian flu alarm in Europe

Alarm is spreading in Europe because a wild duck has been found to be infected with H5N8 avian influenza.

The concern now is that this highly-contagious and deadly – for chickens and turkeys – virus could spread throughout the poultry industry.

Earlier this month a flock of 150,000 laying hens in The Netherlands was slaughtered when this virus turned up there.

A 10-kilometre quarantine zone was declared, preventing all poultry barns inside that zone from moving any of their birds or eggs to market.

The wild duck was found in Northern Germany. That’s also where the virus was first discovered earlier this month in domesticated birds at a turkey farm.

There has also been an outbreak in the United Kingdom.

Authorities say that the first wild bird case strengthens the suspicion that the source of the European outbreak lies in the wild bird population.

"We must now talk about a Europe-wide epidemic," said Till Backhaus, the agriculture minister of the German state of Mecklemburg Vorpommern, where the wild bird was found.

He ordered all poultry farmers in his state to keep their animals inside enclosures and away from wild birds.