Thursday, August 30, 2018

Trump poised to impose tariffs on China

United States President Donald Trump wants to impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports as soon as a public-comment period concludes next week, according to six people familiar with the matte, reports Bloomberg News agency.

The comment deadline is Sept. 6 to deal with proposals to impose tariffs on a long list of Chinese-made products including selfie sticks and semiconductors.

The Chinese have threatened to hit back with measures that have so far not been articulated.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

BSE in Florida cow

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow’s disease) in a cow in Florida.

The cow’s meat did not enter the food chain, officials said.

It’s the atypical type of BSE, believed to very rarely occur randomly as opposed to via infection from a diseased animal or its rendered organs used in feed rations.

The spread from an infected animal is what caused a major upheaval in England, leading to the slaughter of thousands of cattle, and to a severe trading ban on Canadian cattle and beef after an infected cow was identified in Alberta.

The case in Florida is the only one since July of last year when BSE was found in a 11-year-old cow in Alabama. 

RFID tag makers merge

Antelliq is buying Agrident, its main competitor in making electronic identification systems for livestock.

Antelliq, until earlier this year known as Allflex, supplies ear tags and readers for the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency.

Agrident is based at Barsinghausen, Germany, not far from Hanover.

It makes and sells readers worldwide for farm animal management and traceability systems.

Agrident's RFID systems include AWR100, AIR100 and AIR200 handheld models and its ASR600 and ASR700 stationary panel readers. 

Allflex already has six handheld RFID reader models on the CCIA approved list.

Canada to make dairy concessions for NAFTA

Canada is prepared to offer the United States the same dairy-industry concessions it has given in the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, according to the Globe and Mail.

The Toronto-based newspaper cited Canadian officials close to both the Canada-U.S. negotiations and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canada is also prepared to bow to U.S. demands related to diafiltered milk, the Globe and Mail reports, but does not indicate what that means.

It might mean giving up pricing milk low enough so Canadian processors can make diafiltered milk at prices competitive with U.S. imports.

If that’s the concession, it would avoid the likelihood of a challenge to the World Trade Organization where Canada has lost another challenge on cross-subsidization via low prices for milk used to make export products.

However, it’s not clear that the concessions will be enough to satisfy U.S. President Donald Trump who has repeatedly railed against Canada’s supply management for dairy.

It’s the only issue he has cited in talking about a resumption of negotiations with Canada following the announcement earlier this week of a deal with Mexico.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

China, Romania battling African Swine Fever

China is struggling to gain control of African Swine Fever that has now broken out in four provinces and has prompted the United Nations to warn it could cross out of the country.

Romania has also confirmed that the highly-contagious and deadly virus has claimed its largest breeding herd.

It is culling 140,000 pigs.

The virus was confirmed on the farm, which consists of three adjacent properties in the southern county of Braila, after water samples were sent to the authorities. 

Romania’s national veterinary authority, ANSVSA, confirmed the outbreak on the farm owned by the Romanian company, TEBU Consult.

China is the world’s largest pork producer and has been importing heavily from the United States, Canada and others. The U.S. has recently been sidelined by a Chinese tariff.

U.S. farmers in line for big trade subsidies

The same day a trade deal with Mexico was announced, the Trump administration said it will pay subsidies of $8 a hog and $1.65 a bushel for soybeans as trade-action compensation.

The total package is worth about $12 billion and is designed to offset price declines resulting from tariffs imposed by China, Mexico, Canada and others in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs on steel, aluminum and a long list of items from China.

The question I have for the Trudeau government is "will you impose countervailing duties in response to these subsidies?" Our agriculture industry is being side-swiped.

The pork subsidy is $8 per hog based on 50 per cent of the animals owned as of Aug. 1. 

The bulk of the payments, $3.6 billion, is for soybean farmers at $1.65 per bushel multiplied by 50 per cent of expected production, Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said on a conference call.

China has traditionally bought about 60 per cent of U.S. soybean exports, but has stopped buying after Trump imposed more tariffs on Chinese goods.

“An announcement about further payments will be made in the coming months if warranted,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Other crop payments are 86 cents a bushel for sorghum multiplied by 50 per cent of production, one cent per bushel of corn, 14 cents per bushel of wheat, and six cents per pound of cotton.

The package includes a nearly $559 million purchase of pork for federal nutrition assistance and child nutrition programs, $200 million for developing foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products and some direct payments to farmers, including pork producers.

Applications open Sept. 4.

Coop Federee buys W-S Feeds

Co-op Federee of Quebec has bought a half interest in W-S Feed and Supply Ltd. of Elmira.

The company mills a complete range of feeds at plants in Tavistock, Conestogo and Mount Forest and sells through dealers. The Mount Forest mill is certified organic for hog and poultry feeds.

The dealer outlets include Durham Farmers County Co-op in Orono, Merv Keupfer warehouse in Chesley, Quick Feeds in Copetown and Farmers Plus stores in Elmira and Arthur.

Earl Wideman and Doug Spencer started the business in St. Jacobs in 1965, bought Mount Forest Elevators in 2001 and the Tavistock New Life Mill in 2008.

W-S president Paul Wideman said the deal with Coop Federee “will bring new opportunities for our business and new expertise and value to the Ontario farmers that we serve.”

Coop Federee bought Cargill’s Ontario crop input and grain assets in March. That deal still needs federal Competition Bureau approval.

Monday, August 27, 2018

U.S. reaches trade deal with Mexico

The United States and Mexico have reached a trade deal, but no details have been released.

United States President Donald Trump said now attention will turn to negotiations with Canada.

The Mexican president said he hopes Canada can be incorporated into a joint deal, but Trump said the North American Free Trade deal is dead and the new one is the U.S.- Mexico trade deal.

He also twice said he will impose tariffs on cars as one of his negotiating chips, and repeated complaints about Canadian dairy-product tariffs.

He said negotiations with Canada will begin “almost immediatly.”

Keen interest shown in U.S. meat labeling

There have been so many comments about a proposed change in United States meat labeling that the Department of Agriculture has extended the comment period beyond Aug. 17.

The proposal is to allow labeling of meat as “Product of the U.S.A.”.

It is quite close to Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation that Mexico and Canada fought and persuaded the World Trade Organization to condemn as discriminatory.

But there is divided opinion between two groups representing the U.S. beef industry. One organization, R-CALF, is critical of the proposal because it allows imported meat that is processed at a U.S. facility to be labeled “Product of U.S.A.”.

R-CALF wants that label restricted to meat from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.

The other beef organization, Organization for Competitive Markets, supports the proposal as is.

Strub’s pickle plant for Wallaceburg

Strub’s pickles is opening a plant at Wallaceburg, adding 100 jobs before next year’s harvest.

The company is owned by Whyte’s Foods of Quebec which is investing $16.5 million.

The plant will produce pickles, peppers and relish.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Feds subsidize organic agriculture

The federal government is providing up to $8.3 million for the Organic Federation of Canada to “enhance productivity through better soil health and fertility management, advance crop breeding research, improve pest management, and evaluate the environmental impacts of organic farm practices.”

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay also announced an additional $292,555 to help the Organic Federation of Canada streamline the review process of the Canadian Organic Standards and improve the Canadian organic industry's competitiveness and international market access.  

This is in addition to $250,000 announced by MacAulay on January 26.

That was towards the Canadian General Standards Board to complete the 2020 review of the Canadian Organic Standards.

Union wants buyback of Canadian Wheat Board

The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees wants Canada to buy back the Canadian Wheat Board from a consortium headed by the Saudi Grains Organization.

The union says it’s not right that Canadian grain exports are under the control of a Saudi Arabian company after the country broke off diplomatic relations and declared it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley.

It also recalled its ambassador and about 20,000 students on scholarships at Canadian schools and universities.

The G3 Global Grain Group bought the Canadian Wheat Board after the previous Conservative government stripped it of its long-held monopoly over the export of Prairie-grown wheats.

The union also noted that there are some Prairie farm groups that have called for the buyback of the board and restoration of its grain-exporting monopoly.

Grain Farmers of Ontario reviewing federal subsidies

Grain Farmers of Ontario has received funding from a federal-provincial program to research improvements to their business risk management programs.

It appears that the focus is on improving AgriStability in the event of a price drop of 15 to 30 per cent.

Grain Farmers of Ontario has been asked to develop several options and to canvass about 1,000 members for their opinions on the options.

After that it will test the choices to see how they would have performed had they been in place in the past, drawing on data for production and market experiences.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

More protein may decrease diabetes risk

Increasing the amount of protein in the diet may reduce the liver’s fat content and lower the risk of diabetes in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to a study to be published soon in the American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism.

NAFLD—sometimes referred to as a “fatty liver”—occurs when more than five per cent of the liver’s weight is made up of fatty tissue.

Excessive fat in the liver can lead to scarring, which may increase the risk of liver cancer or liver failure.

People with NAFLD are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop NAFLD. In fact an estimated 70 percent of people with type 2 diabetes also have a fatty liver.

Obesity is also a major risk factor for NAFLD.

Previous studies have found that short-term protein supplementation helps reduce the fat content in the liver, but there have been few studies on the long-term effects of protein on NAFLD.

Researchers conducted a two-year study to determine the long-term impact of dietary protein on a fatty liver after weight loss.

Twenty-five adult volunteers—15 of them previously diagnosed with NAFLD—participated in a low-calorie diet for eight weeks to lose up to eight percent of their body weight.

After weight loss, the volunteers were directed to maintain their weight for two years and to follow either a moderate- or high-protein diet averaging from 0.8 to one gram of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

After two years maintaining their weight loss, the increase in dietary protein was associated with reduced liver fat content in the volunteers. In addition, more than half of the participants who were previously diagnosed with NAFLD no longer had a fatty liver.

These findings stress the clinical implications and potential benefits of increased protein intake after weight loss for people with NAFLD at risk to develop diabetes,” the researchers wrote.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nutrien manages to push potash prices up

Reuters News Agency reports that Nutrien has been successful in pushing potash prices higher by scaling back production at its mines in Saskatchewan.

But it says Nutrien runs a risk of being too successful, meaning that a global mining giant, BHP, could speed up development of its new mine in Saskatchewan.

BHP has been slowed down to almost a holding pattern on its billion-dollar Saskatchewan mine because world prices were depressed.

Nutrien is the name now for what was Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and Agrium of Calgary. It was a combination of the world’s largest potash producer and the world’s largest fertilizer retailer.

African Swine Fever hits China’s hogs

China is struggling to contain outbreaks of African Swine Fever that has shown up in three provinces this month.

WH Group, owners of Smithfield Foods, has closed one of its pork-packing plants.

The highly-contagious disease is deadly.

The Swine Health Information Centre said “the swine industry has never seen an ASF outbreak in such a production landscape, and control measures are untested. 

“The Chinese industry has had difficulties in controlling Foot-and-mouth disease and Classical swine fever, and has relied heavily on the use of vaccines. 

“As a vaccine is not available for ASF, the industry is thus reliant on heightened biosecurity, rapid diagnosis, complete isolation, and then elimination of infected pigs and contaminated materials.”

That will be challenging in a country and industry that involves many small family herds and some commercial operations larger than anything in Canada.

Mexican corn produces its own nitrogen

Researchers have found a variety of corn that produces its own nitrogen and can tolerate dry growing conditins.

They began studying the corn about 10 years ago, but have kept it to themselves while they undertook more research because they found this corn “almost outrageous”.

While much research and development remains to be cone before new varieties are ready for sale, they think this corn could ultimately transform the way the largest crop in America and the world is grown.

The potential improvements in water and air quality – not to mention financial savings – are staggering, says a report from WHAS 11 in Louisville, Kentucky.

But scientists at University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Davis and Mars Inc., the candy-making company, have determined that farmers in Oaxaca in Southern Mexico have been growing corn that creates its own fertilizer for centuries, if not millennia.

The plants have bizarre fingerlike roots sticking out of their stalks. 
The roots secrete a mucus contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
 The process is part of a cycle. The bacteria live on carbon, which the plant supplies in the form of sugar.

Nitrogen fixation is best known for occurring in legumes such as soybeans. 

The researchers found out about the corn from Howard-Yana Shapiro, the chief agricultural officer at Mars and adjunct professor at UC-Davis. 

Decades ago, he had the idea to look for unusual traits in crops that traditional farmers have adapted to their particular climate and soil. 
He hoped to find something that could improve crops globally. 

Hold on. Things that appear tp be too good to be true often are. 

Public still distrusts GMOs

Despite decades of research and use, the public remains sceptical about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in their food supply.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 Americans conducted by the International Food Information Council, about half said they try to avoid GMOs.

More than one-third (36 per cent) admitted they know very little or nothing at all about bioengineered or genetically-modified foods, identical to the number who said they know at least a fair amount. 

Forty seven per cent said they avoid GMO foods at least somewhat.

Most (85 per cent) of those who avoid GMOs cite health concerns, with the environment (43 per cent), animal health (36 per cent) and agriculture/farming (34 per cent) following.

The survey also gathered information on statements on labels and found they are shopping for:

All Natural (100 per cent) Natural or Natural (71 per cent)
Raised without Antibiotics (71 per cent)
Sustainable (62 per cent)
Locally Sourced (61 per cent)
USDA Certified Organic (60 per cent)

Too bad they didn't ask how many of the skeptics voted for Trump.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Good Food conference launches

The Good Food Institute has announced the Good Food Conference, “the only event in the world focused on accelerating the commercialization of plant-based and clean meat”.

It features those who are developing alternatives to meat that look, taste and have mouth feel like meat.

The meeting will be in Berkley, California, September 6 and 7, but many more are expected to follow the proceedings via the internet at

Attendees are expected to include “the world's leading scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers and investors.” Conference panelists are slated to include former United States Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, the founders of Impossible Foods and Memphis Meats, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Archer-Daniel Midlands, Kraft Heinz, Kellogg's, MosaMeat, Spark Capital, Tyson Ventures and others, the organizers said.

Journalists from The New York TimesWall Street Journal,BBC, Good Morning America, Vox, Inc. Magazineand MIT Technology Review are among the scheduled moderators

NAFTA talks progressing

Mexico has dodged another bullet in its negotiations with the United States to reach a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

Apparently the United States has dropped its demand for seasonal protection from Mexican crop imports.

The direct talks have focussed on the automotive trade and there is reported agreement on a minimum Mexican wage of $16 US per hour.

However, sources say the U.S. also wants that to apply to auto workers employed by European companies, and Mexico is not willing to make that concession.

The news from the NAFTA negotiations is being reported by Reuters news agency.

U.S. President Donald Trump says once the talks with Mexico are finalized, attention will turn to Canada and sup;ly management for dairy and poultry farmers.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Chicken consumption still rising

Canadians continue to eat more chicken.

So far this year, it’s up by 5.8 per cent from last year.

And given that border controls are more effective, thanks to being able to distinguish between spent hens (burned-out egg layers) and broilers (raised for meat), more of that chicken was grown by Canadian farmers and processed by Canadian workers.

Canadian production for the first half of this year increased by 6.7 per cent.

In Ontario it increased by 8.9 per cent, in British Columbia by 10.3 per cent, but in Quebec by only three per cent. Those three provinces are Canada’s leading chicken producers.

Harold Rudy to publish a book

Harold Rudy, who was executive officer of research and business development for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, is about to publish a book about what happened on his watch.

He helped the organization develop and implement a number of programs that garnered financial backing from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs during his 31 years with the OSCIA.

He was raised on a farm in the Waterloo Region and spent his life helping farmers to improve their fields and crops.

For example, he introduced the annual Forage Masters’ Competition.

The Soil Conservation Council of Canada inducted him into the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame in 2017. He also received the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association’s Honourary Life Award in 2016.

The OSCIA is planning an official book launch this fall. Rudy plans to donate royalties from The Soil Fixers to the OSCIA.

The book will be available in softcover, hardcover and electronic formats from FriesenPress.

Tyson to buy Keystone Foods

Tyson Foods Inc. is going to buy Keystone Foods from Brazil’s Marfrig S.A. for $2.5 billion, reports Reuters news agency.

Keystone makes chicken nuggets for McDonalds and others.

It has plants in the United States, Korea, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Canadians help crack wheat genome

Canadian researchers have cracked the genome for Chinese wheat, a feat  once considered near impossible.

The team was led by the University of Saskatchewan and included the University of Guelph, the University of Regina, the National Research Council and the federal agriculture department’s research branch.

For the past 13 years, more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutions in 20 countries have been endeavouring, through the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), to complete the genome sequence for bread wheat and make publicly available the new genomic assembly for breeders seeking to develop improved varieties.  

“With funding from a range of partners and cutting-edge sequencing technology from our industrial partner NRGene, our research team at the University of Saskatchewan played a key role in the international consortium’s success, a discovery that has the potential for disruptive innovation in wheat improvement,” said Curtis Pozniak, researcher and wheat breeder at the Crop Development Centre in the university’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources.

“Essentially we have completed the wheat genome jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces put together in their correct positions and order, providing an enormous advantage for breeders when searching for genes that control important traits in the crop,” said Pozniak. “This breakthrough research will help produce better wheat varieties over the long term.”  

Pozniak leads Canada’s contribution to the IWGSC-led wheat genome initiative through the Canadian Triticum Applied Genomics (CTAG2) project.

“The new genome assembly provides a chromosome-by-chromosome representation rather than the fractured picture available previously and will elevate wheat research and breeding to a level equal to, or even better than, other major crops,” said Andrew Sharpe, director of Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) and co-lead for the CTAG2 project.  

AAFC wheat breeder Richard Cuthbert said, “breeders will now have the information they need to identify economically important traits more rapidly, which will better enable development of wheat varieties with increases in yield, enhanced grain quality, improvements in disease resistance and more resilient to environmental stresses. 

“The result will be more nutritious grain that can be grown more effectively and efficiently in harsher climates.” 

In Canada, wheat accounts for more than $4.5 billion in annual sales and, when value-added processing is factored in, contributes more than $11 billion each year to the Canadian economy.

With the world’s population expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, Maurice Moloney, executive-director of GIFS, said this discovery will have a major impact on global food security. 

From my perspective, this is far more valuable than the entire budget for federal-provincial business risk programs, yet the researchers are constantly under pressure to source enough money for their projects.

Bayer concludes two big deals

Bayer closed its merger with Monsanto this week and a related deal to sell its vegetable seeds business to BASF.

The price tag for Monsanto was $8.5 billion The BASF deal offset that by $2.6 billion.

BASF said Nunhems® “adds a well-recognized brand with a very successful business track record.

The acquired vegetable seeds business comprises 24 crops and about 2,600 varieties. It also includes Bayer’s research and development and breeding programs for more than 15 crops.

Now that Bayer has merged, the Monsanto name will eventually disappear, but it will retain brand names such as Dekalb, Asgrow and Channel.

Bayer also said it intends to vigorously appeal the California jury award of $289 million US to a school employee who claims he developed terminal cancer from exposure to Roundup.

Farm organizations to face tribunal

Ontario’s three biggest general farm organizations have been called to answer to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeals Tribunal on Sept. 28.

Their certifications to enable them to collect membership fees are up for review.

The three are the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and the Ontario branch of the National Farmers Union.

The tribunal traditionally requires the organizations to provide accounting for what they have done with the money they collected and how they serve the interest of farmers.

U.S. to buy $60 million worth of beef and chicken

The United States Department of Agriculture has announced it plans to buy up to $60 million worth of beef and chicken products to support welfare programs.

The chicken purchases will include whole bagged chicken, consumer split breast, and dark meat parts.

National Chicken Council president Mike Brown said the program will help balance the supply and demand situaton in the market. 

“As such, it will provide continued and improved employment in the poultry industry, underpin steadier family farm grower incomes, and enhance better feed demand for the on-coming expected bumper harvest of corn and soybeans," Brown said in a statement. 

The program will benefit financially stressed families, group feeding kitchens, disaster-relief operations, schools and consumers needing food assistance, Brown said.

The announcement came right after the department said that it will, for the first time, buy fluid milk for the welfare programs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Critics say court ruling will stall progress

The European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders says a recent court ruling will rob farmers and the public of many genetic advances.

The European court ruled that gene editing should be regulated in the same way as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs.

Unlike GMOs, gene editing deals only with the genes already within the genome of a species, such as pigs, cattle or crops. GMOs often involve introducing a gene from another species, such as a gene discovered in bacteria to produce Roundup-Ready corn and soybeans.

The EFFAB said gene editing technology holds the potential to improve farming in the following ways:

·      Animal health – creating resistance against diseases such as PRRS in pigs or Avian influenza in poultry, to increase the protection of livestock health. Increasing resistance in pigs to PRRS assists to reduce other associated diseases in pig farming and the overall use of antibiotics.

·      Animal welfare – enforcing hornless cattle to avoid the dehorning procedure of calves and protect farmers and castration-free piglets.

·      Wildlife protection – gene editing in aquaculture can protect wild populations of fish from mixing with farm escapes.

·      Better use of resources – improving the feed efficiency in poultry and aquaculture.
·      Climate change – breeding of ruminants with lower methane emissions.

·      Sustainability – with regards to a growing human population, the ongoing climate change and the economics of low income for farmers, gene editing is a tool to improve sustainability in livestock production.