Tuesday, July 31, 2018

China-U.S. trade talks possible

Bloomberg news agency says it has learned from top officials in Washington and Beijing that trade talks may soon resume between the United States and China.

There have been no negotiations for about three weeks as the two nations traded tariff threats and actual tariffs.

Canadian soybean and hog farmers have been side-swiped by Chinese tariffs on U.S. soybeans and pork that have depressed prices for those commodities.

So far there has been no agreement on when and where negotiations will resume.

Ontario Livestock Alliance is folding

The Ontario Livestock Alliance is folding after nine years.

It once had four member organizations, but is down to only Ontario Goat (OG) and Veal Farmers of Ontario.

The goat association is short of funds because attempts to get a mandatory checkoff have failed.

“OG as an organization will still exist but our capacity to function as a member of the Livestock Alliance will wind up and be completed by the end of 2018,” Dirk Boogerd, OG president, told FarmOntario’s reporter John Greig.

“It is important to OG that we are able to meet our responsibilities as part of the partnership that has shown us so much support and value over the years, and at this time, we are unable to do that.”

Greig quotes Tom Kroesbergen, president of Veal Farmers of Ontario, saying “while we still firmly believe in the concept of the Livestock Alliance and what it can do for our members, the reality is that in order for it to work effectively, all partners must have stable funding so that costs are shared equitably on a consistent and ongoing basis.” 

As for sheep, Baaaa!

Tariff turmoil impacts FCC outlook

 Economists at Farm Credit Canada have updated their outlook, reflecting uncertainties caused by tariff turmoil touched off by United States President Donald Trump.

The tariff war has particular impacts on the grains and hog sectors.


Canadian soybean prices usually track U.S. trends and the U.S. prices have dropped about 20 per cent since China and Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans.

Those two countries usually buy about 40 per cent of U.S. soybean exports.

Given that backdrop, FCC’s outlook says “uncertainty will, at the very least, introduce price volatility and an ambiguous U.S. farm price (US$8.00-$10.50 per bushel compared to US$9.35 per bushel in 2017-18). Despite the potential for risk, we expect the sector to weather the storm.”


“The average 2018-19 price is expected to slowly 
rise above the 2014-15 price for the first time.’


Canadian corn prices will continue to track U.S. markets which are showing declines in the futures market.  Canadian corn acres planted this year “may not be large enough to raise corn revenues.”


“Our January forecast for Canadian dairy failed to anticipate the challenges to profitability the sector faced in the first half of 2018. We expect profit margins in the P5 milk pool to be breakeven or slightly negative for the remainder of 2018.
“Trends in dairy product consumption remain positive. Cheese and yogout consumption each grew between two and four per cent in the first three months of 2018. The fluid milk market is holding steady and butter demand is still expanding, with over four per cent annual growth.’


Escalating trade tensions between the U.S and Mexico, and the U.S. and China and the resulting tariffs on U.S. pork exports may disrupt markets. 
“Around 40 per cent of U.S. exports wind up in those two countries. 
“Fewer trade opportunities for U.S pork may open the door for more Canadian pork exports, but also result in reductions in the hog price that Canadians receive.”


“The good news is that demand continues to be strong, both domestically and globally. Canadian beef prices have come down 0.6 per cent so far this year. That trend may last until December and this is good news for the cattle sector.

“Global markets continue to buy Canadian beef: beef exports increased 86 per cent in the last five years, with the U.S. leading the growth. Japan, Mexico and China have also stepped up their imports of Canadian beef.”

Food processors: 

Margins have been squeezed and the labour market is tight.
“The record in exports that Canadian food processors set in 2017 fell a slight 0.7 per cent up to June, but continued strong U.S. growth could spur exports in the second half of the year to make up for the slower pace recorded in the first six months of 2018. 

“Canada’s food processors could see further export opportunities expand beyond the U.S. market. Given ongoing trade tensions and tariffs applied to numerous U.S. products, foreign markets will look to source more competitively priced imports from non-U.S. suppliers. 

China, Mexico and the European Union are particularly enticing markets in the current global trade environment.”

Curtis Frank to run Maple Leaf Foods

Curtis Frank will become the chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Foods on Oct. 1.

He will take over from Gary Maksymetz who is retiring after four years as chief operating officer and nearly 40 years in the food industry, most of them with Maple Leaf Foods.

Frank, who is senior vice-president, has worked for Maple Leaf for 18 years.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Trees workshop planned

Trees for Woolwich is hosting a free workshop for farmers and rural landowners to learn about windbreaks, managing ash trees and invasive plants.

Managing Trees on the Farm is taking place on Wednesday, August 22 at Dennis and Helen Martin’s farm near Winterbourne, from 5:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. 

Registration is now open and is required. 

It begins with a pulled pork dinner, followed by a walking tour of the farm. 

There will be a tour of the Martins’ 20-year-old spruce windbreak and a talk about the benefits of windbreaks and to plan and maintain them.

There will be advice on how to identify and manage ash trees which are dying as a result of the invasive emerald ash borer insect. 

Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) staff will share tips on how to identify and manage three invasive plants — buckthorn, garlic mustard and phragmites. 

Following the tour, there will be presentations about Trees for Woolwich, the GRCA’s tree planting program and funding opportunities that are available through Waterloo Region’s Rural Water Quality Program (RWQP).

Landowners who own more than five acres (two hectares) may be eligible for funding for environmental projects. Successful funding applicants will receive 50 to 100 per cent of the cost of the projects they implement, depending on the type of project. A GRCA forestry specialist can visit the property to help create a custom tree planting plan.

Trees for Woolwich’s is a volunteer group that works to increase tree cover in the Township of Woolwich by partnering with the local community and landowners to plant trees on private and publicly owned land. 

Trees for Woolwich has been working with landowners in the township to plant trees since 2011.

For more information and to register, contact GRCA Forestry Specialist Meghan Clay at 1-866-900-4722 ext. 2259 or ruralwater@grandriver.ca. Preregistration is required.

Premium Brands buying Hamilton chicken processor

Premium Brands is buying a 62.6 per cent interest in Yorkshire Valley Farms Ltd., an organic chicken processing company in Hamilton.

Yorkshire started eight years ago and now sells about $85 million of organic chicken a year from its 40,000-square-foot processing plant.

The owners are a group of farming families led by Tony Ambler and Tom Ahrens. 

"We are delighted to be partnering with Yorkshire.  Not only are we gaining another very talented management team, who over a relatively short period established Yorkshire as a leading player in the Canadian organic chicken market, but we are also expanding into a new and exciting high growth product category," said George Paleologou, president and chief executive officer of Premium Brands. 

"Organic protein products are growing faster than the overall category in both Canada and the US.  This transaction, which combines the unique strengths of Yorkshire with our wide range of resources and capabilities, strongly positions Yorkshire to accelerate its growth in this rapidly expanding market segment,” he said.

James Sculthorpe, president of Yorkshire Valley, said "we chose to partner with Premium Brands based on their solid reputation as a supportive long-term investor that respects the unique cultures and values of the businesses they invest in.

Among Premium Brands’ Ontario companies are Belmont Meats and Piller’s Sausages and Delicatessens Ltd.

Premium Brands’ biggest business is making sandwiches for clients such as Starbucks.

This is what Premium Brands owns:

Audrey's, B&C Foods, Belmont Meats, Bread Garden GO, Buddy's Kitchen, C&C Packing, Centennial Foodservice, Conte Foods, Creekside Bakehouse, Diana's Seafood, Deli Chef, Duso's, Fletcher's US, Freybe, Gloria’s Best of Fresh, Gourmet Chef, Expresco, Grimm’s, Harlan’s, Harvest, Hempler’s, Hub City Fisheries, Hygaard, Interprovincial Meat Sales, Isernio's, Island City Baking, Larosa Fine Foods, Leadbetters, McSweeney’s, Maximum Seafood, Ocean Miracle, OvenPride, Partners, Piller's, Premier Meat Packers, Quality Fast Foods, Raybern's, Shahir, Shaw Bakers, Skilcor Food Products, Stuyver's Bakestudio, SK Food Group and Westcadia.

Feds move to require traceability

Health Canada is putting new regulations in place requiring food processors to implement traceability systems and keep data making it easier to discover the source of food poisoning.

One in eight Canadians suffers food poisoning each year.

With traceability comes the likelihood that farmers who are the source of food poisoning will be identified.

The new Safe Foods for Canadians Act and regulations take effect Jan. 15. 

At the same time, Health Canada says it is embarking on a public education program that will try to be sensitive to consumers unfairly blaming farmers.

Health Canada learned from a survey that Canadians don’t know nearly enough about how they should be handling food safely.

The Canadian public’s knowledge about safe food handling has declined over the last eight years, the survey found.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Man dies in manure storage

Pieter Albertus Vandenbroek, 24, died in a manure pit on a farm west of Drayton and near Conestoga dam.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour will be investigating the circumstances.

Vandenbroek was an immigrant–employee from the Netherlands.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

CFIA yanks Pinty’s Oakville licence

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has suspended the operating licence of Establishment 232, Pinty's Delicious Foods Inc., in Oakville.
The plant will be closed until the company can meet CFIA standards.
The CFIA does not specify what it found deficient, but did say no products are under recall.
Olymel has an offer to buy the company and is awaiting anti-combines scrutiny and approval from the federal government.
Pinty’s main plant is in Port Colbourne and it has another plant in Paris. Poultry products are its main business which generates more than $300 million in annual sales.

Chicken agency continues growth targets

The national chicken marketing agency remains confident that demand will increase so it has set aggressive targets to continue expanding production for the balance of the year.

The production target for quota period A-153 (Oct 28 to Dec 22) is an increase of 4.5 per cent from last year and for A-154 (Dec 23 to Feb 16) an increase of 3.5 per cent.

The volumes, in eviscerated kilograms, for Ontario and Canada as calculated by the allocation formula are:
                        Ontario         Growth                   Canada               Growth
A-153              64,971,628    5.1%                       189,585,903         4.5%
A-154              62,008,082    4.1%                       180,107,337         3.5%

Ontario anticipates volume allocations for A-155 and A-156 will be set at the national agency’s board meeting on Nov. 21.

European court chllls gene editing technology

Europe’s top court has ruled that new crop varieties developed by gene editing fall under the same regulatory regime as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

It's another stupid block on progress.

Gene editing involves only the genes already resident in a species; GMO technology involves transferring a gene or genes from one species to another.

 “Organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs and are, in principle, subject to the obligations laid down by the GMO Directive,” the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said in a statement.

“The Court of Justice takes the view, first of all, that organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs within the meaning of the GMO Directive, in so far as the techniques and methods of mutagenesis alter the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally,” it added.

The ruling by the ECJ goes against the opinion of the court’s advocate general, who argued in January that the new techniques should be allowed.

Gene editing extends beyond crops to human medicine and livestock. For example, Semex is involved in a partnership to develop cattle that genetically will not grow horns and the Canadian swine industry has a project to develop boars that will not pass into puberty so there will be no “boar taint” in meat from uncastrated males. The boar gene that is muted can be reversed so farmers can get offspring.

German chemical industry association VCI, which represents companies such as Bayer, BASF and Merck, said the court’s ruling was “backward looking and hostile to progress.”

European biotech association EuropaBio said the ruling failed to provide regulatory clarity.

“Public confidence and science-based decision-making are both important for ensuring that genome editing can deliver needed solutions,” EuropaBio secretary general John Brennan said.
Environmentalists, anti-GMO groups and farmers concerned about the potential environmental and health impacts of all genetically engineered products said allowing gene editing would usher in a new era of “GMO 2.0” via the backdoor.

“We welcome this landmark ruling which defeats the biotech industry’s latest attempt to push unwanted genetically-modified products onto our fields and plates,” Mute Schimpf, a campaigner for environmental group Friends of the Earth said in a statement.

Maple Leaf sales, profits down

Maple Leaf Foods reports a decline in sales and profits for its second quarter and for the first half of the fiscal year.

Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer, said trade and the launch of a new line of products are responsible for the declines and said that the results are actually better than the targets he set for the company.

Second quarter sales decreased 1.8 per cent to $909.2 million and net earnings declined from $37 to $35 million.

 For the six months ended June 30, 2018, sales decreased by 0.6 per cent and net earnings from $67 to $63 million.

Whey at root of huge recalls

Whey from an Associated Milk Producers plant in Blair, Wisconsin, has been fingered as the source of salmonella that is prompting massive recalls by companies making crackers.

It’s likely that more recalls for more products will be coming as the investigation continues.

Ritz crackers and Pepperidge Farm crackers are on recall across Canada.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently added a public health alert about certain packages of Hungry-Man Chipotle BBQ Boneless Chicken Wyngz. AMPI's whey powder is among the ingredients.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

EU, U.S. agree on no tariffs or subsidies

The European Union leaders and United States President Donald Trump have agreed to work towards eliminating all tariffs and subsidies on manufactured goods.

That leaves out automobiles and agriculture, which is a highly-protected European sector with intense and sometimes violent lobbying by France’s farmers.

But the Europeans did agree to buy more U.S. soybeans.

This agreement sets the stage for detailed negotiations and is a huge victory for Trump who has insisted that his bullying tariff tactics will lead to trade-rules changes that improve exports for the United States.

The two sides also agreed to work towards reform of the World Trade Organization which Trump has complained is unfair to the U.S.

This agreement leaves Trump to deal with China, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

As part of the agreement with the European Union, Trump has agreed to cancel tariffs on their steel and aluminum.

But those tariffs, and retaliatory tariffs by the affected nations, remain in effect against Canada, Mexico, China. and Asian member countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

If tariffs and subsidies can, indeed, be eliminated, it will be a huge gain for international trade. If it could extend to agriculture and food, it would position Canada and the U.S. to ramp up production and exports.

Trump promises farmers trade compensation

United States President Donald Trump has promised farmers up to $12 billion to compensate for losses related to tariffs imposed by China, Mexico and others in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.
It fleshes out his vague promises in the past. Canadian politicians have not offered any help for farmers hit by the trade wars, although it’s clear that their prices for products such as soybeans and hogs have been hard hit.d
Nor has the government said anything about using countervailing duties to offset the impact of Trump's new farm subsidies.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary said the money will come from the Commodity Credit Corp. and said “this obviously is a short-term solution that will give President Trump time to work on a long-term trade policy.”
In a speech in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, the President aggressively defended his trade policies. “We have to do it,” Mr. Trump said, blasting both China and the European Union.
But it’s all working out,” he said. Farmers would ultimately benefit from his approach, he pledged.
Congressional Republicans typically resist large-scale government assistance programs, so some are becoming critical of the tariff war. At least two Republicans have said they are thinking about introducing legislation to curb Trump’s power to impose tariffs on his own.
This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and the White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12-billion on gold crutches,” said Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who frequently criticizes Trump.
Tariffs are taxes that punish American consumers and producers,” Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul wrote on Twitter. “If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers – the answer is remove the tariffs.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Whey prompts another massive crackers recall

Campbell Company of Canada is recalling Pepperidge Farm brand Goldfish Flavour Blasted Xtreme Cheddar Crackers from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination.

In the United States, four brands of Pepperidge Farm crackers are under recall.

This follows a massive recall of Ritz sandwich crackers.

In both cases, it’s salmonella in whey powder used to make the cheese-flavoured crackers that triggered the recalls in the United States and Canada.

How whey that has gone through the hot powder-making process manages to be contaminated with salmonella is a big question.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Tornado leaves 24 million pounds of pork indedible

A tornado ripped through Marshalltown, Iowa, and the JBS USA distribution centre, forcing the company to declare 24 million pounds of pork products inedible.

Insulation and panels were ripped off of two sides of the distribution centre.

The village officials were in negotiations with the local landfill to find a way to accommodate the meat disposal; the volume reportedly is about six months’ worth of disposal volume for the operation in a typical year. It also has to accommodate building debris and other garbage left behind by the tornado.

Despite the tragedy, JBS hosted a community barbecue for tornado victims and the community.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Mary Jean McFall resigns

Mary Jean McFall has resigned as chief of staff for federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

She plans to take a second run at election for the Liberals in her home riding east of Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

McFall’s appointment as MacAulay’s chief of staff drew media attention to her involvement with Burnbrae Farms Ltd. and lawsuits and her controversial testimony.

She is one of the children of Joe Hudson who owns Burnbrae, Canada’s largest egg farming operation and its largest egg-grading business.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Perth dairy farmers support health unit

The Perth District Health Unit recently received a $1,000 donation from the Perth County Dairy Producers Committee, which represents the 330 dairy producers in Perth County.

The donation will help continue to provide nutrition support to local families. 

The money is for milk-purchase coupons given to pregnant women and young families.

Receiving continued funding from the Perth County Dairy Producers enables the Health Unit to maintain this vital program and ease the financial challenges for families,” says Heather Kane, Public Health Nurse. 

“This donation will provide Perth County families greater access to nutritious food and will help support healthy growth and development in children.”

Japan re-opens market to Canadian wheat

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay says “the Government of Canada welcomes the decision by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture to lift the temporary suspension on imports of Canadian wheat, following its own thorough scientific testing of Canadian wheat shipments. 

“The decision by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture and the already-announced decision by South Korea on June 26, 2018 to resume shipments reaffirms the excellent quality and consistency of Canadian wheat.” 

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada issued a news release saying “this marks an end to all international trade actions arising from Canada’s announcement of an isolated discovery of unauthorized genetically modified wheat in southern Alberta on June 14, 2018.”

The source of the wheat is under investigation, but officials have made no announcement about their findings about the origin of the Roundup-Ready wheat growing in a roadside ditch.

Bill Crow dead at 80

Bill Crow of Puslinch Township, famous for breeding purebred Yorkshire hogs, has died. He was 80.

He won many Premier Breeder awards at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and the Canadian National Exhibition.

He founded Canstock Exports Ltd. and sold his Yorkshires to buyers around the world. He served as a judge at Canadian and international shows.

In semi-retirement, he bred Standardbred mares.

His wife, Marilynn,  who survives him, recently wrote a history of the property, Ardyne Farm.

I have fond memories of showing my father's Yorkshires in competition with Bill and his father, Gladwin Crow, and the friendships we enjoyed.

Saputo sells an Australian dairy

Saputo Inc. has sold the Koroit dairy to rival Bega Cheese to satisfy conditions laid out by the Australian government in its $1.3-billion purchase of Murray Goulburn Co-operative.

The sale price is $244 million.

Had it not sold the Koroit plant, it would have controlled two-thirds of Australia’s cheese market.

Sparry given Honorary Life Award

Ellen Sparry, general manager of C&M Seeds of Palmerston, has been chosen for an Honorary Life Award from the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association.

She has served on the association’s board of directors and on the board of the Canadian Seed Trade Association and represented it at the International Seed Federation and its Field Crop Committee.

Sparry joined C&M Seeds 24 years ago as a plant breeder, became manager of genetics and research and the company’s general manager in 2015.

She began her seeds-industry career in 1986 as plant breeder for King Agro of Listowel.

Glacier buys ProFarmer

Glacier FarmMedia has bought ProFarmer, a marketing and information company for Prairie grain growers.

Owner Mike Jubinville said  “working with the resources and great people of Glacier FarmMedia is an exciting opportunity for myself personally and for the future of ProFarmer Canada.” 

Jubinville said he “will continue to serve the farmers who currently rely on him for market information and insights” and will also be “an integral part of the team expanding those services to new customers.”
Glacier FarmMedia owns a number of farm publications including Country Guide, Manitoba Co-operator, the Western Producer, Alberta Farmer, GrainNews, Cattlemen and leBulletin.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fire destroys two barns

Fires near Ottawa and Kitchener destroyed barns on Tuesday.

Firefighters were called to a Roseville Road farm, about 15 kilometres south-west of Kitchenerr, about 5:25 p.m. Tuesday where a large barn was engulfed in flames. High winds fanned the flames and threatened a nearby home.

North Dumfries fire Chief Robert Shantz said all of his volunteers were involved in fighting the fire and they were assisted by firefighters from New Dundee and Kitchener, who hauled water to the scene from the north end of Ayr several kilometres away.

The barn was packed with freshly-cut hay and there were no animals kept in the building at the time of the fire. 

Along with the hay and some farm equipment, several snowmobiles were being stored in the barn,Shantz said. A car parked near the barn was also destroyed. 

The barn collapsed about an hour after the fire started, but it took several hours to douse the flames and fire crews remained on scene overnight to hose down any flare ups.

The fire caused an estimated $500,000 damage. It may have been started by heating hay.

At Toledo, near Ottawa, a fire at almost the same time Tuesday afternoon destroyed a barn with about 50 goats, a cow, a horse and cat.

Edward Cavanagh was inside his home when his wife saw the flames and called 9-1-1 Tuesday afternoon. 
"It spread too fast. It was hot, but not as hot as it could have been," he said. "I went outside and the barns were engulfed."
"The worst part was that you couldn't get to them (the animals) because it was too hot," Cavanagh said. 
Dozens of firefighters from three different communities responded to the blaze. It took crews roughly two hours to get the blaze under control. A local construction crew was then called in to tear down the barn as a precaution.

Scientists pick research priorities

A group of 146 scientists in the United States has picked five priorities for research for agriculture and food.

Described by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) as a "blueprint" for transformational innovation, the just-released report, "Science Breakthroughs 2030,"details how research can transform the fields of agriculture and food production. 

"Agriculture is confronting a crisis no less epic than the dustbowl of the 1930s," said Thomas Grumbly, president of the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation. 

"The American scientific community has now mapped out how we can transform food production, answering many of the challenges that have emerged to getting dinner on the table every night. 

“It's on us now to implement this blueprint,” Grumbly said.

The five critical areas for research are:

1.  The potential of microbiomes, primarily in the animal gut and in soil--to increase efficiency and overcome obstacles in production.

2.  Advancements in genetic evaluation and editing, including making the most of CRISPR and other technologies to accelerate the evolution of food production.

3.  Expanding and analyzing many pools of data involved in growing and producing food.

4.  Developing and improving sensors and biosensors across all agricultural sectors to increase productivity and better target interventions.

5.  Examining, through transdisciplinary collaborations, entire systems in food production and finding the keys to adapting and transforming them to overcome challenges and increase production.

According to NASEM, advocates plan to use the "Science Breakthroughs 2030" report to support efforts to increase the federal government's investments in agricultural research. Since 2009, USDA has received less than four percent of the federal research budget, down from almost 40 percent in 1940.

The situation is similar in Canada where the federal agriculture department once was the leading employer of researchers with a roster topping 1,000.

The U.S. now trails China in both government investments in agricultural research and agricultural production.
Canadian agriculture ministers routinely stress the importance of research, yet keep cutting budgets and staff.