Thursday, May 31, 2018

Canada quizzes U.S. at World Trade Organization

Canada wants the United States to explain why its politicians have opened its Commodity Credit Corporation coffers to provide up to $30 billion of trade-related help to farmers, and how it intends to spend the money.

It’s perhaps a timing coincidence that the questions became public just when the U.S. and Canada slapped each other with punishing tariffs on steel, aluminum, maple syrup and some other commodities.

Canada submitted its questions to the World Trade Organization’s agriculture committee which meets several times a year to examine farm support programs and challenge those deemed to be out of line.

The Commodity Credit Corporation can make loans and direct payments to farmers when prices for corn, soybeans, wheat and other agricultural goods are low. 

The White House is looking at ways to use CCC funds to offset farm income losses in a trade war with China or others, according to media reports.

Canada is also asking whether the U.S. could use the CCC money to buy products, such as skim milk powder, corn or soybeans.

The questioning amounts to a warning that Canada could file complaints with the World Trade Organization.

There is a problem, however, because the U.S. has not made appointments to the disputes-settling panels. The other World Trade Organization partners have been complaining for months about the lack of U.S. appointees.

Rail line to Churchill has new owner

Fairfax Financial has bought the rail line to the port of Churchill on James Bay, promising to do the repairs that Omnitrax of the United States failed to complete.

Omnitrax had an obligation to the federal government to get the line fixed so grain and supplies for Northern communities could once again be moved to Churchill.

It failed to live up to its commitment and now Fairfax has bought the business and the anticipated $86-million cost of fixing the line.

Fairfax is a Toronto-based investment company whose holdings include Cara, owner of restaurants such as The Keg and food catering businesses, and of Blackberry of Waterloo.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Huge food waste study launches

Second Harvest is working with Value Chain Management International (VCMI) on a huge project about food loss and waste.
The Walmart Foundation is providing funds for the first study of its type and degree in the world. It takes an entire Canadian food chain perspective, from farmers to consumers.
It includes Canada’s broad food and beverage industry- from fruits to vegetables, from milk and dairy products to meat, from grains and oilseeds to sugars and syrups, from beverages to seafoods.

“The purpose of the study is to establish a framework and metrics that businesses operating in the farming, processing, retail and foodservice sectors can use to:

- understand where losses are likely to occur and identify ways to improve their performance and profitability by reducing losses and waste,” Second Harvest said in a news release.

“The team will achieve this by collecting data that will allow an accurate estimate of food loss and waste occurring at discrete points along the value chain and evaluating the comparative impact of root causes. 

“The project will also estimate losses that occur during the redistribution of rescued and donated food, for example in foodbanks.”

When they are finished, the research team says it will be able to: 

 - calculate the total amount of food available for human consumption in Canada. 
- identify where, how and why waste occurs along the chain.

- identify potential root-cause solutions to reduce the percentage of Canadian food sent to landfill – by proposing improved redistribution, reuse and recycling practices.

- identify greater opportunities for food to be recovered and distributed to people who are food insecure.

All  this “will culminate in the production and dissemination of a manual of scalable and sustainable solutions for addressing and preventing food waste.”

The team intends to survey between 800 and 1,000 people involved in the entire value chain and across Canada.

The team expects to have the study done by the end of this year.

Nexus Robotics weeds crops

Nexus Robotics of Nova Scotia has won an American competition for robotics with a robot that weeds crops.

The team with help from an engineering professor at Dalhousie University has developed a machine that’s five by five feet and hovers four feet above the crop and has steering on all four wheels.

It can weed the crop, selectively spray herbicides and apply fertilizers.

It is engineered to distinguish between crop plants and weeds.

It won the weed and feed competition at Indiana agBot Challenge.

CRISPR-Cas9 promises genetic gains for farmers

CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology promises several major advances for farmers, including heat-resistant cattle and drought-resistant crops.

Those are two goals that are being pursued by geneticists using the new technology.

Another is to eliminate the malaria-causing parasite from mosquitos. The gene that makes that possible has been identified, but so far the resultant mosquitos have not been competitive enough to crowd out the old mosquitos.

It’s not clear whether it’s CRISPR-Cas9 technology involved, but Semex has signed a deal with a Minnesota-based technology company to alter cattle genetics so cows won’t grow horns. The approach is to knock out the gene that results in horns and replace it with a gene from cattle that grow no horns.

Another goal under research is pigs that grow organs that can be used as transplants in humans.

Bayer needs to shed more businesses

Bayer needs to shed more businesses to gain approval from the Canadian Competition Bureau and from the United States Justice Department for its $97-billion takeover of Monsanto.

Bayer said with these decisions, it is now close to completing the deal. It has approvals from China, Brazil and Australia, but not Canada.

BASF, another German company, will pay $5.9 billion for canola, soybean, vegetable seed, herbicide and seed-treatment businesses as part of the agreements.

The Canadian Competition Bureau said it will now review the suitability of BASF as a buyer.

The deal with Monsanto makes Bayer the world’s largest supplier of pesticides and seeds.

But the U.S. Justice Department’s agreement has knocked down some of the stock-market value of Bayer shares because the company has conceded it will not be able to achieve the full measure of efficiencies it announced earlier.

BASF and Bayer made a $7.4-billion deal earlier to satisfy European Union anti-trust regulators, but the U.S. asked for more.

The Bayer-Monsanto deal is one of three. Dow Chemical merged with DuPont-Pioneer and China National Chemical Corp. bought Syngenta.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Semex teams up on no-horns genetics

Semex is teaming up with Recombinetics of Minnesota to develop genetic editing that eliminates cattle horns.

They know there are Holsteins that grow no horns and that the genetic trait is dominant, but it’s not a high priority with dairy farmers who look for other traits when they choose sires.

Rocombinetics uses genetic editing to kick out the gene that results in horns and to replace it with a gene that leads to no horns.

It is different from genetic engineering involved in genetically modified organisms (GMO) which has divided public opinion and acceptance of that technology. The technology for GMOs moves genes from one species to another - eg. a bacteria to a plant.

But genetic editing will require approval from federal government regulators in both Canada and the United States.

Cardinal is buying D&S Meats

Cardinal Meat Specialists of Brampton has bought D&S Meat Products Ltd. of Ajax which goes by The Elite Meat Company.

Cardinal specializes in hamburger and Elite Meat in bacon and sausages.Both are family owned.  

Elite Meat is the top Canadian producer of Peameal Bacon made from fresh Canadian pork. 

The company also makes a range of sausage products, including breakfast sausage, BBQ/dinner sausage, and a variety of European specialty sausages and chevaps.

“This acquisition will not only expand our portfolio of products, it will also give us additional sausage capability and a solid platform in the breakfast day part,” said Brent Cator, president and owner of Cardinal Meat Specialists. Cator is the third-generation owner of the family business.

“I am thrilled to join Cardinal Meat Specialists where I have found a match in family values and approach to serving customers," said Dan Milanovic, president and CEO of D&S Meat Products.

“My brother Sasha and I are very proud of our team, our culture and our products, which have grown substantially since the company was started by my parents, Radovan & Luba Milanovic on Gerrard and Coxwell in the early 70s.                      

New Zealand will eradicate mycoplasma bovis

New Zealand has a plan to eliminate Mycoplasma bovis that showed up for the first time last July.

It may have to slaughter about 150,000 cows because the plan involves eradicating any herd that has had the bacterial disease, including still-healthy cows.

The program will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and, if successful, would be the first time an infected country has eliminated Mycoplasma bovis.

The bacteria is common in Canada, the United States and Europe and can cause mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis and other diseases. It’s not considered a threat to food safety, but does cause production losses.

Freeland heading to Washington

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is heading to Washington to try to salvage North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

However, Mexicans will not be joining the talks, so the outlook for progress on nettlesome issues is dim.

It’s now looking more likely that talks will be stalled until next year, after the Mexican and United States elections.

 “We’ve said all along we are ready to go (to Washington) at any time,” Adam Austen, spokesman for Freeland, is quoted by Canadian Press.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will impose a 25 per cent tariff on Canadian steel and 10 per cent on aluminum if a deal is not reached by Friday.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

PED virus hits Manitoba farm

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus has broken out on a farm in southeastern Manitoba. 

It’s the third year in a row that there has been a PED virus outbreak in that area in May or June.

Hog farmers have been put on high alert, especially in an area bounded by highways 75, 12 and 52 to the Red River and Provincial Road 210.

Pork Congress will take sharps

The Ontario Pork Congress will be taking in sharps on June 20.
Sharps can be dropped off during the Congress between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

It’s a joint effort of the Ontario Pork marketing board and industry partners.

The dropoff will be at a collection booth to the right of the main entrance to the community hall.

Sharps must be in a puncture-proof, leak-resistant plastic container with a tight-fitting lid – no larger than a two-gallon (14.5 litre) pail.

Secure the lid with duct tape to reduce the risk of spillage during transport and disposal.

The offer is for needles and scalpel blades only. They are not taking expired medications or used vaccine vials.

Collected sharps will be picked up immediately after the drop-off period which means that 3 p.m. is a firm deadline for drop-offs.

For more information,  contact Kathy Zurbrigg at 1-877-668-7675, ext. 1208 or

Saputo buys niche-market cheese company

Saputo, Canada’s largest dairy processing company, is buying one of Canada’s smallest cheese makers – Shepherd Gourmet Dairy Inc. of St. Marys.

Shepherd Gourmet is famous for feta cheese and Skyr Icelandic-style yogourt.

Saputo is paying $100 million for the company that was founded by Stewart Cardiff and now employs about 90 people.

Shepherd Gourmet had sales last year of about $57 million.

Cardiff left agriculture banking to launch the company in Tavistock, recognizing the demand for imported feta and some other cheeses and yogourt that he felt he could produce.

He started with milk from sheep at his family’s farm near Brussels, but then branched out to several types of milk.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Flies can spread PED

New research indicates flies can spread Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.

It might also explain why there are more outbreaks during cold weather when hog operations are less likely to practice fly control.

But the virus is also known to survive longer in cool conditions.

Even a few flies have the ability to infect pigs with PED virus, says veterinarian Grant Allison at the Walcott, Iowa, Veterinary Clinic.

Flies captured on swine operations amid outbreaks of PED virus and Senecavirus A, tested positive as carriers of the viruses in Iowa and Minnesota studies. 

In the case of Senecavirus A as well as PED virus, flies transmitted live virus—the first known such findings in a commercial setting.

Flies multiply in wet manure “so there’s an intimate relationship between manure and virus and flies,” Allison said.

Meat inspection varies

The safety of the meat you buy may depend on when government inspectors passed judgement on your purchase.

A study by the Harvard School of Business has found that inspectors catch fewer violations later in their shifts. They also worked faster when they were working later than usual.

If they have been catching a lot of violations, they are more likely to spot problems when they go to the next packing plant.

The research results are published in a paper, “How Scheduling Can Bias Quality Assessment: Evidence from Food Safety Inspections,” that has been published on the website of the Social Science Research Network.

The results are intended to apply to inspectors of all types of business sectors, but the study sample included information on 12,017 inspections by 86 inspectors over several years at 3,399 restaurants, grocers and schools in Alaska, Illinois and New Jersey, according to a report in Food Safety News.

In the area of food safety, the researchers propose that arranging an inspector’s schedule to account for such biases, if the rescheduling was 100 percent successful, would produce an average of 9.9 percent more violations noted which could result in 19 million fewer cases of foodborne illness each year, and savings of an aggregated $14.2 billion to $30.9 billion.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

China, U.S. reach trade truce

China and the United States have reached a trade truce agreement that President Donald Trump says it good news for farmers.

He said they can produce as much as they want now that China has lifted its trade restrictions on pork and soybeans.

That is not only good news for U.S. farmers, but also Canadians because prices for both countries move together.

However, it also means that Chinese buyers will no longer be quite so keen about buying Canadian pork and soybeans to fill the gap when they weren’t buying from the U.S.

Deere poised to raise prices

Deere and Co. told stock market followers that it plans to increase prices this year to offset rising costs.

It said U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum have raised those costs and transportation is more expensive.

The company said it will be cutting costs and increasing prices to improve its profits, and the stock-market watchers responded by bidding higher prices to buy Deere shares.

Herbal supplement contaminated

Health officials in North Carolina say kratom from Southeast Asia is the source of salmonella they found in herbal supplements marketed by a company in Asheville.

The company is recalling its products, but said tests by an independent lab it uses failed to detect the salmonella; state lab tests found it.

The Centres for Disease Control reports that 132 people in 38 states have been sickened by salmonella in imported kratom.

So far neither the Canadian Food Inspection Agency nor the Public Health Agency of Canada has said anything about imported kratom.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Horses neglected, owners face charges

Three people will be in court July 6 to answer to charges that they neglected horses at their farm near Stouffville.
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigated after it received a tip from a concerned observer and an inspector found 14 horses and one pony living in unsanitary conditions.
Later another 10 horses were found buried with indications that they had starved to the point of eating wooden fencing.
The charges include permitting an animal to be in distress, failing to provide adequate food and failing to provide care necessary for general welfare.
The surviving horses have been re-homed and the OSPCA said Friday it is monitoring their care.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Weed inspector warns about garlic mustard

Weed inspector John Benham of Wellington County is warning farmers about garlic mustard.

It’s leaves are poisonous to insects and some animals and it soils the soil for crops.

“It prefers damper locations but will thrive almost anywhere,” Benham writes.

It has a two-year life cycle, growing close to the ground the first year and three feet tall the second year.

It has white rosette flowers in April and produces seed pods similar to the rest of the mustard family. Each pod can contain 10 to 20 seeds and there will possibly be 100 to 150 pods per plant that are shed during the summer and fall.

“One seed can very quickly become a patch that keeps growing each year,”Benham writes.

“Another trait is that it stays green throughout the winter and so is ready in the spring to complete its life cycle before other plants and so can out-compete the other desirable plants.

At least one species of butterfly is tricked into laying its eggs on this plant only to discover the larvae will not be able to eat the plant and so they perish.

Another trick it has is to grow with an ‘S’ in the stem near the root and so if it is pulled the stock breaks at that point and the root remains with the opportunity to send up a new seed head.

“I feel its biggest threat is to forests in that it produces a colony like a mat that in many ways discourages forest regeneration with the result the forest deteriorates,” Benham writes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Arsenault heads CSHIN

The Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Christa Arsenault as the new Manager of the Canadian Swine Health Intelligence Network (CSHIN).
“Having been a CSHIN member and a member of the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System, Dr. Arsenault has a good understanding of the challenges of the industry. She brings a wealth of knowledge and will be able to put forth her ideas to further the work of the network to the benefit of the entire pork sector,” said Canadian Pork Council Chair Rick Bergmann.
Dr. Arsenault is a Lead Veterinarian, in Animal Health and Welfare at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. She has also been employed as Veterinary Inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and worked in private practice.  
Dr. Arsenault succeeds Dr. Chris Byra who first set up the Canadian Swine Health Intelligence Network

Another small-bird chicken processor gets ok

Chicken Farmers of Ontario has approved a tthird processor for the small-bird market which is particularly popular at Portuguese barbecue outlets.

Sure Fresh Foods Inc., of Bradford, Ontario, is planning to start processing ‘Small Whole Birds’ for the Portuguese barbeque market in early fall of 2018.

Before the chicken board launched its program for small whole birds, the Portuguese barbecue restaurants and outlets were starved for supplies because the processors who had been serving them dropped that line because it was less profitable.

Two new processors could only get into the market because the chicken board, which rations birds among processors, has chosen to supply them.

Two new processors could only get into the market because the chicken board, which rations birds among processors, has chosen to supply them. Farm Fresh Poultry of Harriston was supplying this market previously and has been included in the marketing board’s new program.

Conscious Living Cuisine Processing Ltd. is the third processor in this category.

Whole Foods recalls cheese

Whole Foods Market is recalling Reblochon Cheese "raw cow cheese" due to possible E. coliO26 contamination.
This is an update from a May 14 recall issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The cheese has sickened some consumers in France, but so far no illnesses have been reported in Canada where the cheese was distributed in British Columbia, Alberta and now Ontario..
The product has been sold from the following Whole Foods Market locations in Ontario:
  • 4771 Yonge Street, North York
  • 301 Cornwall Road, Oakville
  • 951 Bank Street, Ottawa
  • 87 Avenue Road, Toronto.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Food processor groups merge

Food and Beverage Ontario and the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processors Association have made a deal to work closer together to streamline operations.

The new agreement will help the organizations have a more unified voice on shared industry issues and relations with government, they said in a news release.

Food and Beverage Ontario will provide operational support to Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processors Association and will work collaboratively on strategic industry goals such as raising the profile of the industry, improving coordination along the supply chain and promoting Ontario processed products.

“It makes sense that processing sector associations look at every opportunity to provide the best possible value to members. With this partnership we are strengthening the voice of Ontario food and beverage processors and gaining efficiencies operationally,” said Norm Beal, chief execuive officer of Food and Beverage Ontario.

As part of the agreement, Beal will assume the role of executive director of Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processors Association and the organization will retain its current governance structure.
Food and Beverage Ontario will manage the day-to-day operations of Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processors Association coordinating all board meetings, regional member meetings and the annual general meeting,

in addition to leading government and public relations. Food and Beverage Ontario will also assist in organizing the annual Processing Vegetable Industry Conference in collaboration with the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers.

Steve Lamoure, president of Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processors Association,said “this is an important development for fruit and vegetable processors in Ontario. 

“Our sector has been through a lot of change over the last 10 years – consolidation, re-locations to the U.S. and retirement closures. 

“For the remaining businesses in the province we want to be absolutely sure we are doing all we can to support our industry and strengthen relations across the supply chain. The agreement with Food and Beverage Ontario will do exactly that,” he said.

Bavarian Meats’ licence restored

Effective April 23, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has restored the licence of Bavarian Link Meats Products Ltd. of North Bay.

The CFIA suspended the licence earlier for failure to comply with CFIA standards.

Premium Brands profit slips

Premium Brands reports record sales of $584.9 million, an increase of 22.3 per cent for its first quarter, but profit slipped from $15.3 to $13.2 million.

The British Columbia company has signed deals to make more investments - Oberto Sausausage, to buy another third of McLean Meats so it now owns 66.2% andto buy Penguin Meats Supply, a distributor of protein products to foodservice and retail customers in B.C. The combined purchase price for these three investments is approximately $242.4 million.

Also subsequent to the quarter the company completed a $172.5 million convertible debenture offering and issued $172.7 million in common share subscription receipts that are contingent upon completion of the Oberto acquisition. The convertible debentures bear interest at 4.65 per cent and mature in April 2025.

Pig virus may jump to people

Researchers have shown in lab experiments that a virus recently discovered in pigs can jump to humans. 

But what they don’t know is whether it can make that jump outside of lab conditions and, if it does, what it means for human health.

The worrisome part is that this virus is similar to SARS which touched off a panic when it spread to Toronto and other places around the world.

The virus in question is porcine deltacoronavirus and the recent research was performed at The Ohio State University and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. And published online in the journal PNAS.

Porcine deltacoronavirus was first identified in 2012 in pigs in China, but it was not associated with clinical disease. It was first detected in the United States in 2014 during a diarrhea outbreak in Ohio pigs, and has since been detected in various countries.

Young, infected pigs can experience acute diarrhea and vomiting; and the disease can be fatal. As of yet, no human cases have been documented, but scientists are concerned about the possibility.
Before it was found in pigs – including in the Ohio outbreak – it had only been found in various birds,” said study senior author Linda Saif, an investigator in Ohio State’s Food Animal Health Research Program at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), in Wooster.
We’re very concerned about emerging coronaviruses and worry about the harm they can do to animals and their potential to jump to humans,” said Saif, a distinguished university professor of veterinary preventive medicine.
Emergence of the virus is especially worrisome to veterinary and public-health experts because of its similarity to the life-threating viruses responsible for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreaks.

Monday, May 14, 2018

China houses pigs in high-rises

More “high-rise hog hotels” are going up on Yaji Mountain in southern China, as the country rapidly modernizes and expands its hog industry.

One building will have as many as 13 floors—the world’s tallest building of its kind.

“There are big advantages to a high-rise building,” said Xu Jiajing, manager of Yangxiang’s mountain-top farm, according to Reuters.

“It saves energy and resources. The land area is not that much but you can raise a lot of pigs.”

However, building up costs more for feeding, ventilation, manure management and using elevators to move pigs.

And recently China’s hog producers have pulled back on their aggressive expansion plans because profits are being squeezed by lower hog prices and higher feed costs, some of that because of a new tariff on U.S. soybeans.

Farm manager Xu said Yangxiang reduces the risk of disease by managing each floor separately, with staff working on the same floor every day.

New sows are introduced to a building on the top floor and are then moved by elevator to an assigned level where they remain.

The ventilation system is designed to prevent air from circulating between floors, instead coming from the ground channels to ducts on each floor.

A central exhaust is on the roof with extraction fans pulling air through filters.

A waste treatment plant is still under construction to handle the site’s manure. After treatment, the liquid will be sprayed on the surrounding forest and solids will be sold to farms as organic fertilizer.

Yangxiang will house 30,000 sows in this 11-hectare (27-acre) site by year-end, producing 840,000 piglets per year.

The company has spent nearly 16,000 yuan ($2,524 US) per sow on the new farm, about 500 million yuan ($79 million US), not including the cost of the pigs.

Locating the farms on a mountain has challenges, but the site is close to Guigang, a city with a river port and waterway connections to the Pearl River Delta, one of the world’s most densely populated regions.

In Fujian province, Shenzhen Jinxinnong Technology Co. Ltd. also plans to invest 150 million yuan ($24 millionUS) in two five-story sow farms in Nanping. Two other companies are building high-rise hog farms in Fujian as well, according to an equipment firm involved in the projects.

Thai livestock-to-retail conglomerate CP Foods is also building four six-story pig units with local firm Zhejiang Huatong Meat Products Co. in Yiwu, a Chinese city near the large populations around Shanghai.

China’s 10 largest pig farming firms accounted for only 5.8 per cent of hogs sent to slaughter in 2016, but that was up by 2.8 per cent from the previous year, said Zhang Guangan, director of the China Swine Industry Association.


B.C. firm buys pot growers in Exeter, Markham

Aurora Cannabis of British Columbia is buying MedReleaf Corp. for $3.2 billion in the biggest deal far in the emerging marijuana-growing industry.

MedReleaf has greenhouses in Exeter and Markham.

Canada has granted licences to more than 70 firms to produce and sell medical marijuana, with more than half granted in 2017 or 2018.

Vancouver-based Aurora and Markham, Ont.-based MedReleaf together expect to produce mofre than 570,000 kg per year of cannabis through nine facilities in Canada and two in Denmark.

MedReLeaf’s assets include a 55,000-square foot indoor facility at Markham, just north of Toronto, with annual production capacity for 7,000 kg; a 210,000 sq. ft. indoor site at Bradford, about 40 km north of Markham, with 28,000 kg per year capacity; and a one million-square foot, 105,000 kg/year greenhouse at Exeter, about 50 km north of London, Ont., growing cannabis for extracts.

B.C. flooding

One of the stranger sights I have seen is irrigation pumps spraying orchards within a few hundred yards of flooded homes in Osoyoos, British Columbia.

The lake is at one of the highest levels in living memory and there are indications that more water is coming from a fast snow melt in temperatures in the mid-30s, moving the melt ever higher into the mountains where there is about double the normal snowpack.

The irrigation is a constant necessity here at the northern tip of the Sonora dessert which stretches from Mexico.


Friday, May 11, 2018

May 17 NAFTA deadline

Paul Ryan, powerful Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, says the negotiators for a new North American Free Trade Agreement need to make a deal by May 17 if they want approval this year.

Under the “fast track” trade negotiating law, there are lengthy notification periods before U.S. President Donald Trump could sign a new North American Free Trade Agreement and before Congress could begin considering it.

Letting negotiations drag on much longer would delay consideration to a new Congress elected in November that will take office in January 2018. Polls indicate Trump’s Republicans will lose some seats to Democrats who will be critical of any NAFTA deal Trump’s team reaches.

“We have to have the paper — not just an agreement, we have to have the paper — from United STR btates Trade Relations Office May 17 for us to vote on it this year, in December, in the lame duck” session, Ryan said.

A spokeswoman for Ryan said that he was referring to a notification of intent to sign the NAFTA agreement, not necessarily the full text.

The negotiators are in Washington this week. Supply management remains an issue that has not been resolved.

Treated seed, vaccines will need French on labels

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has served notice that bilingual labels will be mandatory by April 22, 2020, for treated seeds and for veterinary biologicals, such as vaccines.

The CFIA says the deadline is two years away to provide time to sell inventories that have only English on the label.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Three directors named to National Farm Products Council

Brian Douglas begins a four-year term as the newly- appointed Chair of the Farm Products Council of Canada, which oversees national supply-management agencies for poultry and several commodity agencies for research and promotion.

Yvon Cyr joins the Council for a four-year term, effective immediately; and Maryse Dubé returns for her second three-year term, which began on April 30.

Douglas is a graduate of the University of Guelph and has been a public servant for more than 3 years.

From 2015 to 2016, Douglas was the Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to Cabinet for the Government of Prince Edward Island. Douglas spent most of his career at the Department of Agriculture where he rose to deputy minister.

He currently serves as general manager of the World Potato Congress Inc.
Yvon Cyr is a poultry producer from Saint-Francois-de-Madawaska, New Brunswick and a manager and founding shareholder with the Groupe Westco Inc., a chicken processing business.

He has served on the boards of both the Chicken Farmers of New Brunswick and the Chicken Farmers of Canada. He is also a past chair of the local chamber of commerce.
Maryse Dubé completed her law degree at Laval University in 1996 and was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1997. She is a partner of Sylvestre & Associés where she specializes in commercial and food law representing several financial institutions.

She also practices real estate law and handles collection cases. Mrs. Dubé also represents small to medium-sized enterprises in security law, bankruptcy, commercial litigation and corporate law (manufacturing and agricultural components). She is active in a number of communnity organizations.

She has been a member of the Farm Products Council of Canada since April, 2015.

Study finds contaminants in iron supplements

New data shows concentrations of arsenic, chromium and/or lead exceeding the permitted daily exposure limit for humans in 15 of 16 widely used injectable iron products for baby pigs.

Only one product was free of the three contaminants, according to the study done at Iowa State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

“These substances should be avoided in the pork production chain and it is up to the pig producers to make sure that arsenic, chromium and lead are not injected into piglets,” said Professor Jens Peter Nielsen of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The contaminations exceeded the FDA and EMA permitted daily exposure limit for humans.

Only one product – Uniferon – had non-detectable levels of both arsenic and lead.

Canadians hit by U.S. romaine lettuce food poisoning

The huge outbreak of food poisonings across the United States has hit six Canadians who are romaine lettuce and fell ill with E. Coli 0157:H7 food poisoning.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says two of the six Canadians reported travelling to the U.S. before falling ill, three became infected in Canada and the remaining case is under investigation.

On of the Canadians is from British Columbia, one from Alberta and two each from Saskatchewan and Ontario.

One Canadian was hospitalized.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region in Arizona and California is no longer being produced and distributed, so the potential for exposure to contaminated lettuce is reduced.

At least 160 Americans have been sickened, 64 have been hospitalized, including 17 with kidney failure and one person from California has died.

So far the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has not posted a recall on its website.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

New timelines for apple negotiations

There are new timelines in place for apple-industry negotiations for apples for juicing.

The Ontario Apple Growers marketing board and processors have until Aug. 31 to strike a deal for the upcoming harvest.

If negotiations fail, they are to submit a list of names for an arbitration board to the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.

Then each side is to submit final offers on the issues which remain outstanding and the arbitration board has until Sept. 15 to choose which of the offers it will forward to the commission which has the final say.

Taxpayers back Bonduelle upgrades

Ontario is investing up to $8.5 million so Bonduelle can upgrade three vegetable processing plants.

The upgrades will cost the France-based company about $80 million, but the province says it will enable the company to increase exports to the U.S. by 55 per cent.

The upgrades to the frozen-food plants are at Tecumseh, Ingersoll and Strathroy.

The investments will go to “adopt new technology to put new frozen vegetable products and packaging formats on the domestic and export markets, increase productivity, enhance food safety and increase exports,” the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said in a news release.

The province is determined to stem the tide of losses in the fruits and vegetables processing sector. Last year it made highly-controversial moves to turf the marketing board representing vegetable growers and to install its own negotiator for 2017 crop prices.

It has since revamped the negotiating powers and rules for the marketing board and has arranged for elections of a new board of directors to represent producers.

If Bonduelle is able to increase exports by 55 per cent, it would be worth more than $30 million a year.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

“Stolen” seedlings found

The owner of about 500 apple seedlings worth about $4,000 has found they were not stolen after all.

He had called in Grey County Ontario Provincial Police on Monday, but on Tuesday he called again to say he had found that he had sold them.



Friday, May 4, 2018

Rents are cheap for most expensive farmland

The most expensive farmland in Ontario is in Peel Region, on the doorstep of Toronto.

The lowest farmland rental rates are also in Peel Region.

How can that be?

Political subsidies is the answer – specifically the property tax break on farmland.

There is a chart, by county and region, in the most recent issue of “research” magazine from the University of Guelph, showing the results of a survey to discover farmland prices and rental rates.

The midpoint- or median – farmland price for Peel Region was $50,000 per acre and the median rental rate was $50 an acre.

Only the rents in Hastings, at $25 an acre, were lower, but there farmland prices were also the lowest in the province at $3,000 per acre.

Developers and speculators who have bought farmland obviously want the property tax break, so they offer farmers an incentive to rent their fields.

It’s not all easy going for the farmers who have to contend with lots of traffic, with nearby neighbourhoods whose teens and others can damage crops and scatter trash or even grow pot in a stand of corn.

So, move out to Huron County where the neighbourhood is decidedly more rural. The median land price is $14,000 an acre and the median rental rate $250 an acre.

Perth County must be home to more aggressive farmers because the median farmland price there is $18,400 and the median rental rate $300 an acre.

Of course, with a median, half of the farmers are paying more than those prices and rental rates and half are paying less.

So what would happen if there were no property tax break? And what would happen if there were no political subsidies for farming, including supply management?

I don’t think we’ll ever know.