Thursday, February 28, 2019

Faster, cheaper disease detection tool unveiled

Researchers at Kansas State University have unveiled a faster and cheaper disease-detection tool.

Axiom Microbiome Array, or AMA, is the most comprehensive microorganism detection platform built to date and the first high-throughput microarray, the university team said.

"Two of the array's advantages are that it's faster and cheaper," said Raymond "Bob" Rowland, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State's College of Veterinary Medicine

"I live in the world of veterinary medicine and cost is critical.

"If we were to do a test using the LLMDA (Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array) it would have cost us about $250 just for the reagents; now with the AMA we can do the same tests for $40."

When biologists and computer scientists first unveiled the versatile LLMDA in 2010, it could analyse samples for nearly 3,000 bacteria and viruses, all within 24 hours. But it could only analyse four samples a day.

With the 96-well AMA, the new detection system can analyse 96 samples in three days. Additionally, each of the 96 wells contain about 1.4 million probes, so samples are analysed by about 132 million probes.

"One of the most important conclusions of our study is that this is the first high-throughput microarray that has been developed," said LLNL biologist Crystal Jaing, who heads the LLMDA/AMA efforts. 

"It increases the throughput by 10- to 20-fold and decreases the cost by five-fold."

The LLMDA was licensed in 2016 to Waltham, Massachusetts-based T
hermo Fisher Scientific and went on sale later that year as Applied Biosystems AMA.

Maple Leaf profits plunge

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. reports a drop in profits from $59 million to $11.9 million for the fourth quarter, and a drop from $164 million to $101 million for the year.

Fourth-quarter sales increased by two per cent to $894 million, but for the year were down by almost one per cent to $3,496 million.

Included in the fourth-quarter report is a “restructuring” cost of $46 million and a $250-million contribution towards building a new poultry processing plant at London

Nutrien buying an Australian company

Nutrien Ltd. is buying Ruralco Holdings Ltd. of Australia for $442 million.

Nutrien is the result of a merger of Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and Agrium, making it the world’s biggest potash producer and fertilizer retailer.

Ruralco provides a wide range of services to Australian farmers and will complement Nutrien’s ownership of Landmark.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sofina recalls another product

Sofina Foods is recalling another of its chicken products because of potential contamination with salmonella food-poisoning bacteria.

This has been an ongoing problem across Canada for more than half a year, not always with Sofina products, but with frozen breaded chicken.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is warning consumers that they need to take care to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen and to thoroughly cook frozen breaded chicken products.
The latest Sofina recall is for Crisp & Delicious Chicken Breast Nuggets.

New weapon against Colorado Potato Beetle

Colarado Potato Beetles, the scourge of potato farmers, might be duped into steering clear of the crop.

The researchers found that nematodes produce a distinctive chemical that prompts plants to put up their defences and deter Colorado Potato Beetles.

A team of entemologists, led by Dr. Anjel Helms, and Penn State University found the substance by studying entomopathogenic nematodes, EPNs, or insect-killing nematodes.

“For this study, we wanted to flip things around and determine whether plants and insect herbivores can eavesdrop on chemical cues produced by a predator,” Helms said.

Shefound that these insect-killing nematodes do produce distinctive chemical cues that both the plant and insect herbivores respond to.

The female Colorado potato beetles not only laid fewer eggs when the cues were present, but also the potato plant increased its defences.

This was especially important since the Colorado potato beetle is notorious for developing insecticide resistance, making them an especially devastating pest, she said.

“Not only are the EPNs directly killing insect pests in the soil, they also produce chemical cues that provide additional protection to plants,” Helms said. “They deter herbivores and enhance plant resistance to pests.”

Currie retiring from OFA

Neil Currie is retiring from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture after 19 years as general manager, the longest in OFA’s 83-year history.

Currie joined the OFA after serving as chief executive officer for the embattled Canadian Egg Marketing Agency.

“We’re grateful for Neil’s long-term leadership of OFA,” said OFA president Keith Currie.

“He has seen the organization through significant changes and challenges – numerous governments, complete board restructuring, farm financial highs and lows, and changes of office locations. Neil leaves OFA with a strong team to meet all future challenges.”

A hiring committee has been established to assist OFA in the search process for a new general manager. The organization hopes to begin interviewing potential candidates in late spring. Job posting details will be announced in the near future.

“From every one of our staff, board and the 38,000 members we serve – we thank Neil for his outstanding leadership, service and dedication to Ontario agriculture,” said Keith Currie.

Perth finisher has PED

A finishing barn in Perth County has had an outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.

It came the same day that two outbreaks were reported earlier in Huron County.

That brings Ontario’s total to 124 cases.

The outbreaks are becoming more worrisome in the face of concerns that African Swine Fever could spread to North America. It’s deadly and highly infectious and China and Viet Nam are having difficulty getting on top of outbreaks there.

The virus has been spotted in shipments from China to other countries, including Australia, but so far has not led to outbreaks on hog farms in those countries

Canada wants steel, aluminum tariffs dropped

Canada is telling the United States it won’t sign the free trade agreement that includes Mexico unless and until the U.S. drops its tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada.

But there is also speculation in Ottawa that Canada is prepared to negotiate a limit on steel and aluminum exports to the U.S., in effect preventing Canada from becoming a back door for companies in other countries that want to avoid U.S. tariffs.

United States President Donald Trump has repeated that he wants the deal his administration negotiated to be approved by all three countries.

In the U.S., that the Senate. In Canada it requires the government to introduce legislation to Parliament.

Toledo-area farmers face threat of lawsuits

The citizens of Toledo, Ohio, have gained the right to sue anyone who “causes harm” to the lake’s ecosystem.

It’s making farmers nervous.

“It’s one of those things if it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable,” said Joe Cornely, director of corporate communications at the Ohio Farm Bureau. 

“And any citizen of Toledo who feels that something they see on a farm might be damaging Lake Erie is empowered to sue those farmers and the City of Toledo would collect the penalties.

“Of course, farmers would also end up paying all the legal costs for himself or herself and the city,” Cornely said.

Toledo had a water safety scare in 2014 when Lake Erie water was declared unsafe to drink. 

It took five years for angry citizens to persuade the legislature to pass the new law.

Ohio already had laws regulating how farmers apply manure and fertilizers, but now power is in the hands of its citizens, both the informed and uninformed of on-farm practices.

Ontario has initiatives to stop farm pollution of Lake Erie, but so far none are mandatory.

Patience! Spring is coming

The Weather Network predicts a sharp shift into spring will arrive about the middle of March.

And it says March and April will be warmer than normal, but there will be some big temperature swings during that time.

Meanwhile maple syrup producers are fidgeting impatiently because sap has not been running as is normally the case in South-western Ontario by the end of February.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Agricorp to manage tax program

Agricorp is taking over delivery of the Ontario Farm Property Class Tax Rate program.

The province said that will simplify the process which involves first gaining a Farm Business Registration.

Five added to Ontario Agriculture Hall of Fame

Guelph- Four men and one woman will be added to the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame at a ceremony at Milton this spring.
They are Marie Pick, John Maaskant, Kenneth Porteous, Wilfred Schneller and Peter Twynstra.

Marie Elizabeth Pick, (1913 to 1986). After immigrating to Canada from Czechoslovakia in 1938, Marie and her husband Otto established Otto Pick Agricultural Service in 1947 to promote advanced pasturing systems based on seed mixtures of varying legumes and grasses. When Otto died in 1959, Marie took over with her sons, Tom and Martin and the company expanded across Canada and into the United States.

John Maaskant, (1948 - ). John Maaskant began his farming career at the age of 16 and since then, has been extensively involved in many agricultural organizations, known for his strategic leadership and consensus building skills. He served as chair of Chicken Farmers of Ontario (1992 to 1995), the Ontario Farm Animal Council (2003 to 2011) and later Farm & Food Care Ontario (2012 to 2016). As co-chair of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition, John helped launch the Environmental Farm Plan program.

Kenneth Porteous, (1936 - ) Ken Porteous has been at the front lines of Ontario agriculture since the early 1970s. He started his farming career on Lingwood Farms, becoming an elite dairy breeder who sold bulls as far away as Cuba and Africa. When he sold his herd in 1973, he expanded expanded his orchard and today, Lingwood Farms has grown to 865 acres which Ken farms in partnership with his son, son-in-law and grandson. Ken was a co-founder of the Norfolk Cherry Company and Norfolk Growers, was president of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, vice chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers Marketing Board and president of the Canadian Horticulture Council (CHC). Under his leadership, the CHC developed the Canada Gap program which is internationally recognized and used as a model in other countries. 

Wilfred John Schneller (1902-1987) Wilf Schneller owned Spruce Grove Farm at Baden, recognized for its excellent herd of high producing Ayrshires. But it was his drive to learn about new practices, test them with extension and academic partners and then to inspire other farmers to adopt new technology and management solutions which set him apart as a key agricultural leader of his time. As a devoted conservationist, he began to implement new soil and water conservation methods on his farm to inhibit soil erosion. Through farm tours, demonstration plots and presentations, he showed others how to employ these practices. He became president of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association in 1954 and in 1959 was made an Honourary Member of the Soil Conservation Society of America. He planted more than 56 varieties of trees on his own farm and helped to develop an Arboretum near New Hamburg which opened in 1964. 

Peter Twynstra (1939 - ) Peter Twybstra is widely recognized as an agricultural innovator, a proven marketer and for his leadership in a number of agriculture and commodity organizations. He purchased his father’s farm in 1962, incorporating it in 1967 as Twilight Acre Farms. A key part of his business was the production of edible beans. In 1978, he founded The Great Canadian Bean Company. The business grew to provide markets for more than 400 contract growers across Canada and the USA. Later, Peter travelled to many parts of the globe, developing diversified markets for edible beans. He was a director and president of the Ontario Bean Dealers Association and a director and founding member of Pulse Canada. He also served other organizations including the Ontario Farm Safety Board and as chair of the 2002 International Plowing Match in Middlesex County. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Trump cancels Mar. 1 tariff hike

United States President Donald Trump has cancelled his plan to hike tariffs against Chinese goods from 10 to 25 per cent effective Mar. 1.

Trump said good progress was made during weekend trade negotiations with China, so he has suspended the tariff increase without setting a new deadline.

The Chinese promised to buy more U.S. soybeans during the negotiations.

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David McNaughton, has also said recently that he expects the U.S. will soon drop its tariff on Canadian steel and aluminum.

If so, it’s likely that Canada will drop its retaliatory tariffs on a long list of U.S. products.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Saputo pays $1.7 billion for U.K. company

Saputo is plunging into the turmoil surrounding Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union by paying $1.7 billion cash to buy Dairy Crest Group of England.

It is Saputo’s first purchase in England and Europe.

It owns operations across Canada, the United States, in Austalia and Argentina.

Britain's exit from the European Union has not been going well. Prime Minister Elizabeth May said he plans another vote in Parliament on March 12. She lost a previous vote on a deal negotiated with the EU which has repeatedly said it will not budge any more.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Second PED case in Alberta

Officials with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry have confirmed that there has been a second outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus in the province.

This one is at a 600-head farrow-to-finish hog operation. Officials are not saying where.

“At this time, it is uncertain whether the first and second reported cases of PED are linked in any way,” Alberta Pork, the province’s hog producer agency, said.

Both Alberta Pork and provincial veterinary epidemiologist Dr. Julia Keenliside have confirmed the second case is not geographically close to the first, which was detected in January on a 400-sow farrow-to-finish operation in central Alberta.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Les Nichols elected president

Les Nichols of Formosa has been elected president of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.

He grows corn, soybeans and wheat on 150 acres in Bruce County.

He is a licensed seed crop instructor and has 30 years of experience in custom application and agriculture sales.

Heinz-Kraft fortunes plunge

Shares of Kraft Heinz Co declined by 20 per cent – by $12 billion US - late Thursday after the food company posted a quarterly loss, disclosed an Securities Exchange Commission investigation and wrote down the value of its Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands.

The company is owned by Warren Buffet and the 3G Group from Brazil, the same team that bought Tim Horton’s, Burger King and Popeye’s.

The 3G partners are in charge of managing the companies and have a reputation for ruthless firing of experienced executives in place when they took over the companies.

For example, they fired the entire head-office staff at Tim Horton’s and then gave next-tier employees, such as regional managers, only minutes to justify why they should retain their jobs.

The company blamed declining sales on trends in consumer preferences. However, Fortune magazine reported months ago that 3G has a track record of boosting short-term profits by slashing costs, but also declining sales revenues.

Quebec olive oil leads to fraud charges

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has laid a charge of false and misleading labeling against a Quebec company marketing a product it called Aurum extra virgin olive oil.

The charge alleges that Aliments Gaudium violated subsection 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act which the CFIA enforces.

The company is scheduled to appear in court in Montreal on Feb. 27.

There have been many reports of cheating in the “virgin olive oil” market, in the species of fish and the meat content of sausages.

The University of Guelph has been using its world-leading bar-code genetic research system to detect these types of fraud.

Two more PED cases, both in Huron County

There have been two more reports of outbreaks of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus this week, both in Huron County.

One is a farrow-to-finish operation, the other a finishing operation.

They are the 122ndand 123rdcases in the province.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Sickle Farms wins environment award

Sickle Farms of St. George has won this year’s Environment Stewardship Award sponsored by RBC Royal Bank and Beef Farmers of Ontario.

The award was presented to Steve and Amanda Sickle during the BFO annual meeting this week in Toronto.

They farm 900 acres, 350 of which they own, and provide custom work for another 500 acres. They pasture 25 cow-calf pairs.

They rotate corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, and almost always include a cover crop to help prevent erosion.

Steve followed his father, Bill, in promoting soil and weater conservation, starting in the 1970s.

They took advantage of incentives offered by the Grand River Conservation Authority, fenced their cattle out of the watercourses and wetlands, installed a solar-powered water bowl, implemented rotational grazing, planted intensive cover crops and intercropping and adopted no-till farming.

Steve said it’s better to have living roots in the soil year-round.
"The forest never dies, so let’s not let the cropland ever die either,” he said.

“It seems like we’ve been leaving the farm in better shape with each generation. The land is what grows the crops, so let’s leave it better than we found it.”

 Steve has held leadership roles with the local, regional and provincial Soil and Crop Improvement Associations, the Brant Federation of Agriculture and Brant Cattlemen’s Association. He is also a member of the Ontario Soil Network and a former member of the Brant County Agricultural Advisory Committee.

"Steve is an influencer and displays an infectious enthusiasm for sharing knowledge with others,” said Louise Heyming, supervisor of Conservation Outreach for the Grand River Conservation Authority. 

“For more than a decade, he has worked with the GRCA’s Rural Water Quality Program to adopt water and soil best management practices on his farm. Steve has always been an ambassador for improving environmental health; his awareness and concern for the environment are commendable,” she said.

Li fined $20,000 for importing diseases

Gang Li has been fined $20,000 for trying to import seven vials of poultry diseases.

He was caught by Canadian Border Services Agency officials at Pearson International Airport.

They found the vials contained Peste des Petits Ruminants Virus, Newcastle Disease Virus, Duck Adenovirus 1, and Parainfluenza Virus 5.

Li had no permits to import the vials, the court in Brampton was told.

"All of these viruses may pose serious disease threats to animals,” said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Ontario still odd man out on beef agency

Ontario remains the only province that has failed to increase its support of the Canadian Beef Check-off Agency from $1 to $2.50 per head.

Last year a vote at the annual meeting of Beef Farmers of Ontario failed to gain the necessary degree of majority to approve the increase.

This year there was no similar vote on the national agency checkoff, but delegates did vote in favour of an increase of $1.50 for the provincial checkoff.

Whether that increase will be passed on to the national agency remains unclear.

Quebec was the other temporary holdout but it is now forwarding $2.50 per head to the agency.

Pork agency proposal still languishing

It has been almost two years since the Farm Products Council of Canada made recommendations about forming a national pork agency for promotion and research, yet there is still no word from federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

Public hearings were held in January and February of 2016 and the council made its recommendations in April, 2016.

There has been no word from MacAulay’s office about what, if anything, is holding up his decision.

Meanwhile, there have been expressions of interest in similar agencies for the hemp and barley industries.

Council limped through last year

The Farm Products Council of Canada limped through last year with only three members and no chairman after Laurent Pellerin’s term expired.

Mike Pickard, a poultry farmer from Saskatchewan, held the fort as acting chairman with help from the two other board members, Kimberly Hill and Maryse Dube, a Quebec lawyer.

Hill’s term has expired.

Brian Douglas, who was executive secretary to the provincial cabinet in Prince Edward Island, was appointed to a three-year term as chairman after the council's fiscal year ended.

Yvon Cyr, a poultry producer from New Brunswick, was appointed to a three-year term as a board member.

The agency’s annual report highlights issues such as a new quota allocation system for the chicken industry and a company that filed a complaint against the national turkey agency, went to court when it didn’t like the council’s decision to dismiss the appeal and then dropped the court case to engage in further negotiations led by Dube.

The national beef agency proposed a levy increase from $1 to $2.50 per head, but Ontario and Quebec objected.

There were also inquiries about setting up national promotion and research agencies for the hemp and barley industries.

The egg industry continued to increase production and that resulted in more levies to underwrite the diversion of surplus table-market eggs to processors. It also helped that prices for processing eggs, based to be comparable to U.S. prices, rose during the year, so the fund actually increased despite more eggs moving to processors.

The council reports that it has concerns about the “natural surplus” of eggs in the industry, an apparent reference to the heavy importation of U.S. eggs just before Christmas and Easter seasons followed by a deluge of surplus declarations.

Chicken demand continued to increase – production up by 4.8 per cent in 2017 and allocations up by 6.1 per cent in 2018.

That prompted the hatching egg agency to increase its marketings by 6.7 per cent in 2017 and by 4.5 per cent last year.

Sausage makers improve

Canadian sausage makers have improved their performance, judging by research conducted at the University of Guelph.

Four years ago they found 20 per cent of the sausages picked up at retail stores had meat other than the label claimed.

This time it’s down to 14 per cent.

"The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) took follow-up action after our initial study, and it appears that it had an impact," Robert Hanner, lead author and integrative biology professor at the university's Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, said in a university press release. 
Published in the journal Food Research International, the study involved sausage packages labeled as containing only one type of meat. 

The researchers used DNA barcoding along with digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to determine which meats were in the sausage samples.

The same technology is being used by the CFIA to detect fraud in the marketing of "pure virgin olive oil".

Olymel to close plant bought last year

Olymel is closing a processing plant at Quebec City that it bought from Triomphe Foods last June.

The Triophe deal included another plant at Laval.

The Quebec facility, known as the Vanier plant, employs 47 workers and produces bologna, pepperoni, spaghetti sauce and cretons, a pork meat spread.

Production will move to Olymel’s plant at Blainville where it will invest about $2 million and generate 30 jobs.

Olymel said it studied several options, but none would result in a profit at the Vanier facility.

More African Swine Fever problems in China

China is experiencing more problems with African Swine Fever, including discovery of the virus in consumer-ready pork dumplings.

The processed food products were recalled after the virus was detected.

The United States has also intercepted and dumped a number of pork products from China to protect its hog industry from the deadly and highly-contagious disease that has no known cure or vaccine.

On another front, the disease spread to more farms and a new district in China this week.

The first case in Shandong province hit a herd of more than 4,500 pigs near the provincial capital of Jinan, Chinese officials reported today.

On Tuesday the government reported an outbreak in Guangxi region.

There have now been more than 100 outbreaks since August in 27 provinces and regions.

The Shandong outbreak is more worrisome because that province reported 47 million hogs last year, accounting for seven per cent of China’s hog population.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Animal codes get funding

The federal agriculture department will be giving up to $4.56 million to update codes of practice for farmed animals.

The money will go to the Canadian Animal Health Coalition (CAHC), on behalf of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC).

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said the money comes from the AgriAssurance program of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

The investment will go towards:

·         Updating the transportation Codes of Practice;

·         Updating the dairy Code of Practice that will address new scientific findings, changes in industry practices and address changes in market and consumer demands;

·         Updating the goat Code of Practice that will respond to growing buyer and consumer expectations for on-farm animal welfare; and

·         Developing a new Code of Practice for farmed finfish. Fish welfare is a new and emerging animal welfare concern, the agriculture department said.

Farrow-to-finish barn has PED

A farrow-to-finish farm in Grey County has fallen victim to Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.

It’s the 121stcase in the province.

Transplanting machine to be tried in Kent County

A European-made machine that transplants vegetable plugs will be tried by Bercab Farms in Kent County.

Jennen Bros Inc. and Sydenham Farms are also involved in the project which has backing from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial fund.

The “Agriplanter” can, it is said, transplant faster and with greater accuracy than workers, but it needs larger plugs, so special trays are being used for the trial.

The Agriplanter is being used in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, but this is a first in North America.

The use of the Agriplanter is expected to reduce labour needs by 70 per cent and save fuel and time.

Agriplanter can transplant 20 per cent more per hour than hand planting.

The Agriplanter improves plant-to-soil contact, so they should get off to a better start which could result in greater yields.

More African Swine Fever reported

Viet Nam has reported an outbreak of African Swine Fever and China reports it had another outbreak, bringing its total to more than 100 since August.

China’s outbreak in the city of Beihai in Guangxi killed 924 animals in two farming communities with 23,555 pigs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a statement on its website.

Vietnam’s authorities have culled all the pigs on the farms located in Hung Yen and Thai Binh provinces, southeast of the capital Hanoi, the department said.

Pork accounts for three quarters of total meat consumption in Vietnam, a country of 95 million people.