Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ontario farmers unite to oppose urban expansion

Ontario’s three general farm organizations – the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and the Ontario branch of the National Farmers Union – are all calling on the provincial government to freeze urban boundaries in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

They are joined by a dozen other Ontario farm organizations – a record-setting degree of agreement – in calling for the freeze.

The organizations count membership from about 52,000 farms and 78,000 farmers.

“The province needs to impose real boundaries on urban expansion, not more restrictions on farming,” says Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA).

“Hard municipal growth boundaries must be part of the solution to supporting agriculture in the GGH so we don’t pave over the region’s farmland and displace more farm families and farming communities,” he said.

The agriculture groups say that the province’s recently proposed changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Greenbelt Plan fail to protect the majority of farmers and farmlands in the region from ongoing and poorly-planned urban sprawl.

They are concerned that the proposed new policy reinforces and enables status quo sprawl, making it difficult to see a future for local food and farming in the region.

 “Nothing is more fundamental to protecting farmland and achieving the goals of the Growth Plan than freezing urban and rural settlement boundaries,” said CFFO President Clarence Nywening.

“This holds municipalities accountable to meeting their growth targets by using urban lands more efficiently and supporting denser, transit-oriented developments rather than allowing councils to be passive and complacent about sprawl.”

But when it comes to numbers, there are more city people seeking affordable housing than there are farmers seeking to stop cities from expanding with new subdivisions.

Fungicides in dispute

 St. Jacobs – The question stumped the speaker at a Healthy Soils workshop here recently: do fungicides kill beneficial fungi?

Christine George
Soil microbiologist Christine George waffled and mug-wumped, replying that some scientists believe they are harmful while others believe they are temporary and do little or no lasting harm.

But she added that repeated year-after-year use of seed-treatment fungicides will probably upset the previous soil balance of microbes.

The farmer who posed the question said he has received conflicting answers from recognized experts in crop and soil management.

What was clear from George’s presentation is that fungi serve a useful purpose by transporting nutrients through their long filaments to the zone right next to roots so plants benefit.

Her workshop presentation outlined how bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes are necessary for good soil health and crop growth.

She emphasized that organic matter is a key to good soil health, improving soil structure, water-holding capacity, water penetration and providing a home and food for bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes.

She said both beneficial and disease-causing organisms are necessary, but also said that it’s good crop management to encourage the beneficial ones so they can out-compete the disease-causing ones.

The workshop was presented by the Grand River Conservation Authority with funding from a number of sources, such as the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association and the federal and provincial agriculture departments.

George, who is a Masters-degree graduate from the University of Guelph, works for the Grand River Conservation Authority.

Cargill employee repaying $3.5 million

Diane Backis, 50, has pled guilty to stealing more than $3.1 million from Cargill, Inc.

Her fraud cost the company as estimated $25 million because she charged customers less for products than what Cargill had paid for them.

Imagine what Cargill could have done with that money to boost the Ontario economy.

Backis was a former accounting manager at Cargill’s grain-shipping terminal at Albany, New York.

She admitted in federal court in Minnesota Monday that over the course of 10 years, she instructed customers to return payments directly to her, then falsified entries in the company’s accounting software and pocketed the difference.

“Ms. Backis stole millions of dollars from her employer in a decade-long scheme to enrich herself so she could live beyond her means,” according to a statement from prosecutor Richard S. Hartunian.

The Minnesota Star Tribune reports that Backas has agreed to pay Cargill a minimum of $3.5 million in restitution plus the forfeiture of her house, investment brokerage account and Cargill pension benefits.

 She could also face up to 20 years in prison for falsifying an income tax return and committing mail fraud.

Non-GMO cheese coming

Bothwell Cheese company in Manitoba plans to market non-GMO cheese, a first for the Canadian market.

It is yet another example that consumers will buy almost anything that is advertised as free of anything.

What the benefits of non-GMO cheese might be is impossible to decipher.

Texas study finds beef is good nutrition

Beef contains ingredients that are good for health, including antioxidants that are not found in plants, according to a study at Texas A&M university.

The study, funded by the Beef Checkoff,  notes that U.S. beef consumption has declined by about 14 percent since 2005 “due to a variety of factors, including insufficient knowledge of animal protein.”

The findings are reported in the Journal of Animal Science.

The researchers say beef is good for child development because the composition of amino acids in the beef chuck, round and loin, are all excellent sources of proteinogenic and antioxidant amino acids and peptides to improve human growth, development and health.

“Our findings may help guide future decisions regarding human and animal nutrition,” the A&M authors wrote.