Friday, March 29, 2019

Beef Products Inc. changes its name

Beef Products Inc., the company at the centre of the “pink slime” controversy several years ago, is changing its name to Empirical Foods.

When the controversy broke on ABC television, the company’s sales plunged and it closed several plants and reduced production at its main facility.

In the end, the company was found innocent of any wrongdoing, including the quality and integrity of its products.

It also won a large payment from ABC television, but the exact amount has never been revealed. It sued for $1.9 billion and the only published guess about the settlement amount is $177 million.

Since then the company and the United States Department of Agriculture have addressed the controversy and its now treated like everyday hamburger.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cargill profits rise 14 per cent

Cargill Inc. reported a 14 per cent increase in third-quarter profits to $566 million US, even though revenues decline by four per cent to $26.9 billion.

African Swine Fever in China reduced its animal nutrition division profits and so did a decline in ethanol demand.

The nine-months figures are a three per cent decline in profits to $2.33 billion and revenues totaled $83.5 billion.

Cargill is the largest privately-held company in the U.S. and has significant operations in Ontario and across Canada, such as Better Beef Ltd. in Guelph and feed and fertilizer facilities.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Two appointed to Business Risk committee

Hugh Simpson of Singhampton and Kim Sytsma of Athens have been appointed to the Business Risk Management Review Committee.

It deals with appeals farmers file over issues related to provincial subsidies, such as the Wildlife Damage Compensation program and AgriStability.

Simpson has been appointed to a three-year term and Sytsma for a two-year term.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

CFIA lays criminal charges against Quebec company

As a result of an investigation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), three charges have been laid under the Criminal Code, the Food and Drugs Act and the Canada Agricultural Products Act against Produits Vegkiss Inc. and Jean Otis of Joliette, Quebec.

The three charges allege that Produits Vegkiss Inc. and Jean Otis have:

  • committed fraud over $5,000 contrary to subsection 380(1)(a) of the Criminal Code;

  • sold food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety, which is a violation of subsection 5(1) of the Food and Drugs Act; and

  • packaged a product in a container that has a label that misrepresents the quality, quantity, composition, nature, safety, value, origin or variety contrary to subsection 6(1) of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations, committing an offence under the Canada Agricultural Products Act.

China bans Viterra’s canola

China has added Viterra to Richardson International, banning both from marketing canola to China.
“Today (the Chinese) are alleging another new pest of concern. We are quite perplexed. How can the quality of our canola suddenly change?” said Brian Innes, vice-president for public affairs with the Canola Council.
Besides, how can insects in stored canola survive this year's Prairie winter?
China’s customs authority said earlier this month it had found hazardous pests in canola imports from Canada and revoked the export registration of Richardson International.
Richardson has said its canola meets regulatory requirement.
The Chinese say they found pests in shipments from Richardson and Viterra
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he takes the bans seriously, mentioned political tensions over the U.S. request to extradite   and said Canada may send a high-level delegation to China to try to sort out the canola issues.
Canada responded to the U.S. request by arresting the chief financial officer of Huawei, an internet hardware company considered to be a world leader. The U.S. alleges the woman, a daughter of the Huawei founder, is involved in breaking a U.S. ban on trading certain technology products to Iran.
. China has been accounting for 40 per cent of Canada’s canola exports.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Economists foresee market disarray

Three members of Agri-Food Economic Systems foresee disarray for agriculture markets this year with possibly soaring hog prices and collapsing soybean and canola prices.

African Swine Fever is claiming huge hog numbers in China – roughly equivalent to the combined Canadian and U.S. hog herds– so China will be shopping for more pork, but buying fewer soybeans and canola because the demand for hog feed will decline.

Rabobank predicts China will lose 20 per cent of its sow herd to the disease, the authors note. That would be about seven million sows; the U.S. sow herd is six million.

Markets are also being roiled by politics, including the Brexit issue for the European Union and the tariff war sparked by United States President Donald Trump.

“Open markets in agriculture adjust to an expected equilibrium of supply and demand, both domestic and international,” said Douglas Hedley, Agri-Food Economic Systems associate and co-author of the report.

"But there is no clarity or stability in the 'expected equilibrium' in the fall for field crops that will be planted this spring in Canada, the U.S. and other northern hemisphere countries, nor is there clarity in the livestock markets,” he said.

“The pathway to equilibrium is not even clear in this environment”.

Co-author Ted Bilyea said “the Chinese sow herd is expected to decrease by about the size of the North American sow herd, this year alone, due to African Swine Fever. The implied gap in Chinese meat demand is spilling over into a global market lacking the capacity to quickly fill it”. 

Co-author Al Mussel said “with the ongoing situation with U.S. soybean exports to China, and now Canadian canola, we face the remarkable prospect of a year with high livestock prices and exceptionally low crop prices, with little guidance for producers as to what to plant.” 

“Resolution of trade tensions between the U.S. and China may only make this worse for Canada, and China is likely to be in no hurry to resume buying canola from Canada. 

“The terms of trade that will face Canada at harvest time this year are now subject to major unknowns,” Mussel said.

In conclusion, they wrote that “in the spring of 2019, an ominous situation is developing in global agricultural product markets.”

And they said an early end to the tariffs imposed by China and the U.S. is not likely to happen. 

Even if that dispute is settled, Canada still faces difficult relations with China and therefore ongoing canola export difficulties.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Two more lawyers for appeals tribunal

Two more lawyers have been appointed vice-chairs for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeals Tribunal.

Both have been given three-year terms. They are Katie DeBlock of Mitchell and Tricia Schouten of Richmond.

John Kikkiert of Smithville has been appointed to a two-year term at AgriCorp. He is a former president of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and is a sales representative for Floradale Feed Mill.

Shawn Paiero of Guelph has been appointed for seven  months to the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk. He is curator of the insect collection at the University of Guelph.

Friday, March 22, 2019

No charges in Schuurmans dreath

The RCMP in Saskatchewan said Thursday that no charges will be laid in the death of Bettina Schuurmans, 56, when a truck crashed into their tractor making a cross-Canada tour in support of supply management for dairy farmers.

Henk Schuurmans said he is disappointed because he feels the driver ought to face some consequences for killing his wife.

Schuurmans and two daughters completed the trek by pickuip truck last fall. They are dairy farmers near Elmira.

The crash happened July 10 on a four-lane highway between Saskatoon and Langdon.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

China stops buying canola from Canada

China has stopped buying canola from Canada.

Canadians say they doubt there will be any quick or easy solution to the situation that began earlier this month with a ban on canola handled by Richardson International.

China is a big canola customer, buying $2.7 billion worth in 2017.

While the Chinese complained about contaminants in the Richardson shipments, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said its tests have failed to turn up anything of concern.

Some are speculating that it’s a political tactic to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhu, chief financial officer for Huawei.

She was arrested because the United States exercised an extradition order so they can try her on charges of breaking an embargo on shipments of certain products to Iran.

Canadian courts have yet to decide whether to grant extradition.

Another chicken recall

Sofino Foods Inc. is recalling Janes Pub Style Chicken Nuggets after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found some contaminated with salmonella.

It is part of a long-term and ongoing recall of frozen breaded chicken products contaminated with salmonella, resulting in more than 500 sickened consumers. The first recalls started in 2017. Many have been linked by whole-genome tests.

The CFIA is also found salmonella in organic teas marketed by OM Foods Inc.

The recall is concentrated on British Columbia, but the CFIA said they may have been distributed across Canada.

One of the teas is Organic Tulsi Tea Blend (Holy Basil) and the other is OM Organic Tea Blend.

Potash giant complains about tax

Fertilizer Canada is complaining that the Saskatchewan government did not consult it before increasing taxes on potash miners.

The biggest member of Fertilizer Canada is Nutrien which is both the world’s largest potash mining company and fertilizer retailer after Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan merged with Agrium.

“These changes will have significant impacts on the business operations of our members and creates uncertainty,” Fertilizer Canada said in a news release.

"This is not the way to treat the potash industry, which continues to contribute so much to the Saskatchewan economy," said Garth Whyte, president and chief executive officer of Fertilizer Canada.

The news release said “this surprise $117 million tax announcement is very disappointing.”

Whyte said "massive job-creating investments have been made over the past decade in Saskatchewan.

"While it is unclear exactly how much additional taxes our members will now be subject to, it does create uncertainty for any future investments."

Fertilizer Canada said “these changes will result in Saskatchewan potash production being subject to the highest royalty and tax rates in the world.” 

So what will the Saskatchewan government do with the money? Maybe invest in education and health care, which is a lot better value for money than a sliver of Nutrien profits.

CFIA charges native with smuggling

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has laid charges against Jared Jock of the Akwesasne Reserve in New York State, claiming he was trying to import 57 boxes containing 977 kilograms of frozen chicken.

Jock is to appear in provincial court in Cornwall on March 19.

Roundup loses another court case

Roundup has been found to be a “significant factor” in a cancer patient who has successfully sued Bayer which bought Roundup’s maker, Monsanto, for $63 billion US.

It was the second jury verdict against Roundup, both in California, and prompted Bayer to issue a warning to stockholders that it faces 11,200 lawsuits filed by farmers, landscapers and gardeners.

As in the first case, this one in San Francisco found that Roundup was implicated in a case of non-Hodgins lymphoma.

Bayer’s stock price fell by 12 per cent Wednesday.

Bayer continues to insist that Roundup is safe.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Border guards say dog is working well

Canadian Border Service agents say their sniffer dog, Wade, has been working well at Pearson International Airport.

So far this year Wade has sounded alerts about 100 times, resulting in 64 seizures from passengers arriving from China.

The officials confiscated three meat products, including pork, and 62 plant products.

The Canadian Border Services Agency is taking extra care to scrutinize passengers arriving from China, part of increased Canadian vigilance against African Swine Fever.

Billions for farmers in budget

There are billions of dollars worth of promises for farmers in the budget that Finance Minister Bill Morneau presented Monday.
There is $3.9 billion for dairy and poultry farmers, including a guarantee for quota values.
That total includes $250 million already promised to offset dairy-industry impacts related to the free trade agreement with Europe.
The rest is for the impact of the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement. There is no mention of compensation when the World Trade Organization’s ban on all subsidies for exports comes into effect.
The budget has $1.5 billion for the promise to guarantee quota values will not sink below pre-TPP levels. That’s similar to the promise Stephen Harper and his Conservative government made before election defeat.
What other business in Canada has a government guarantee for investments? This is crazy!
There is also a vague promise for help for processing companies that use supply-managed products.
The budget also has $5.2 billion, starting with $134.4 million over the next five years, to develop and implement a national food policy.
The $134.4 million funding includes:
  • $50 million for a local food infrastructure fund;
  • $25 million for a Buy Canadian promotion campaign;
  • $15 million for a northern isolated-community initiatives fund, backing local food projects, skills training and community freezers and greenhouses, etc.;
  • $20 million toward a Food Waste Reduction Challenge grant plan, and
  • $24.4 million to boost federal capacity for detection of and enforcement against food fraud.

Meat Council praises immigration announcement

The Canadian Meat Council is praising the federal government for opening the temporary foreign worker program for three years to help agricultural companies fill job vacancies.

The pilot program will allow employers to bring in full-time, non-seasonal agriculture workers that will include a pathway to permanent residency.

The Canadian Meat Council said it “has been advocating for many years the need for government to create a program that would help the sector to deal with critical and chronic shortage of butchers and issues with the current Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) Program. 

Council president Chris White said “this pilot is vital to our sector. Our members provide year-round, permanent jobs. There’s nothing temporary about meat processing’s workforce requirements. 

“We currently have over 1,700 vacancies to fill with 900 butchers looking for permanent residency.

“This immigration Pilot will provide a pathway to residency for butchers in all provinces which isn’t available to us right now,” White said.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Organic growers get DON benefits

The federal and provincial governments have responded to the Organic Council of Ontario by changing the corn salvage benefit program to support eligible organic corn growers.

The council said it “heard from several organic corn farmers who were affected by deoxynivalenol (DON) in their corn crop last year due to wet weather, but were ineligible for the DON corn salvage benefit. 

“OCO was in touch with Agricorp, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Grain Farmers of Ontario in order to understand and get to the bottom of this issue. 

“We learned that when the organic corn insurance plan was developed in 2011, a salvage benefit was excluded due to the nature of the organic market at that time. 

“However, this exclusion does not reflect the current reality of the organic market and the needs of organic producers,” the council said in a news release.

The council expressed its thanks.

Heirloom chickens sell for $40 each

If you have a hankering for heirloom, slow-growth chickens raised on pasture, you can buy them across the United States for $40 each, processed, frozen and delivered.

Cooks Venture's has bought 800 acres in Arkansas to raise the chickens and two plants in Oklahoma to process them.

The birds are three to four pounds each and also sell for $70 for two and $90 for six.

The company also plans to distribute to grocery stores and restaurants by summer.

Alberta has fourth PED case

Alberta has had its fourth outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, but the provincial agriculture department and the Alberta pork board won’t say who or where.

The three previous cases were all in Southern Alberta.

Any producers within 60 kilometres “will be notified separately and provided additional biosecurity instruction,” the Alberta Pork marketing board said.

Ontario has had 124 outbreaks.

As with Alberta, Ontario officials don't name the farmer or the precise location - only the county or region - when there's an outbreak.

Whose interests does this lack of detailed information serve?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Potter to head Vineland Research Centre

Dr. Ian Potter is the new chief executive officer of Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

He will take over from Dr. Jim Brandle whose term ends April 1.
Potter has worked for the National Research Council Canada and For Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures.

“He is a well-rounded executive who brings significant operating expertise and commercialization know-how to Vineland,” said Dr. Warren Jestin, chairman of the board for Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

“His team-focused approach aligns well with the extensive skill base and expertise already within the Vineland team and will support continued growth and impact for the horticulture sector.”

Doug Powell is retiring

After 26 years and 15,287 posts on , food safety communications expert Dr. Doug Powell is retiring.

He has continued his postings of food safety information from around the world.

And in his retirement post today, he wonders whether colleague Ben Chapman in North Carolina will continue .

Powell has been fearless in calling out those in authority who have failed to protect the public by being careful about food safety.

He has been dismissed, or pushed out, by the University of Guelph and the University of Kentucky.

He has continued his crusade for food safety from Australia.

In his farewell, he wrote “I did my best, even when my best wasn’t good enough.
“I still love it – I haven’t been paid in over two years — but someone else should be in charge.”

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Border agents seize Chinese pork

Border guards have seized about one million pounds of pork products entering the United States illegally at the port of New York/Newark, New Jersey.

They will be incinerated to make sure no African Swine Fever that might be in the pork can infect North American pigs.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency said it’s the biggest seizure in history.

It undermines the credibility and integrity of Chinese shipments.

“This was highly orchestrated,” said Stephen Maloney, the Customs and Border Patrol’s acting port director for the Port of New York/Newark. He said this was a concerted effort to conceal product. 

More than 100 CBP agricultural specialists and K-9 (sniffer dog) teams worked to uncover the prohibited food. 

The pork was smuggled in various ways including ramen noodle bowls to Tide detergent containers, said deputy chief agricultural specialist Basil Liakakos.

In some cases the packaging in the shipment matched the products on the manifest, authorities said, but the contents inside were prohibited pork. In other cases, the pork was simply packaged among the other products.

CBP teams are working hard to keep African Swine Fever, a highly transmissible, deadly virus of pigs, out of the U.S. 

The ASF virus can survive for 150 to 180 days in fresh meat. In frozen meat, reports say the virus can live indefinitely. 

Officials announced this seizure of more than 50 shipping containers during a press conference Friday morning at a warehouse in Elizabeth, N.J. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

CIGI to get up to $6.2 million

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the government will give up to $6.2 million to the Canadian International Grains Institute in Winnipeg.

The money is to “expand the market for Canadian wheat through technical support, market research, employee exchanges and customized training for customers and commercial partners in over 50 countries,” a government news release said.

“This project, funded through the AgriMarketing Program, under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, will enable Cigi to strengthen relations with buyers and prevent future market access issues, while expanding existing markets and developing new opportunities around the world,” the government said.

Canada has been experiencing technical trade difficulties with India and China.

India is complaining that Canada has failed to treat shipments of lentils and peas with a fumigant that is banned in Canada. Canadians have countered that our cold winters eliminate the pests of concern to buyers.

China has banned some canola shipments, has said it will increase testing and has removed Richardson International from its list of approved suppliers.

After the World Trade Organization agreed on tariffs and other main trading issues for agriculture products, there has been an increase in complaints and trading restrictions based on concerns about diseases, pests and food safety.

Some (including me) see these concerns as attempts to restrict trade so domestic producers gain an competitive advantage.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Canada says it takes African Swine Fever seriously

After the U.S. recently announced increased vigilance to keep African Swine Fever out, the Canadian government responded to a request to know what it’s doing.

It said “the Government of Canada takes seriously the threat posed by ASF to the health of our animals and the Canadian pork industry, which contributes $24 billion to the economy.  Canada's pork industry is the country's fourth largest agricultural sector supporting over 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.  

“While ASF is not a risk to human health, it could have a significant impact on farms and those who rely on the pork industry. 

“We are working closely with the farmers, processors, provinces, international partners, and government agencies to prevent the entry of ASF to Canada. In addition, we are working closely with the U.S. on ASF preparedness. 

“With the Canadian Border Services Agency we are targeting passengers and goods coming from high-risk areas.

“Detector dog capacity (had been) redirected to Canada's international airports by CBSA.

“We are reaching travellers through a social media campaign that has been seen by 15 million people to date, and by working with airport authorities and travel suppliers to remind travellers that it is illegal to bring pork products and by-products into Canada. 

“Major international airports have either already erected or are in the process of adding additional digital signage and posters on these topics in key areas of airports.”

The CFIA said “we are collaborating with the Canadian Pork Council on awareness and outreach for small producers and overall on-farm biosecurity.

“We are partnering with Canada's pork industry to help maintain a high level of vigilance and standards on pig farms.  This includes getting information out to pig farms about measures and actions farmers can take to strengthen their efforts to prevent diseases such as ASF from infecting their animals. 

"The industry is also developing a national standard to strengthen farm-level biosecurity.”

The CFIA said it is “working closely with industry, provincial and federal partners to prevent and respond to an outbreak of ASF.
“We are working . . . to reduce the risk from feed imports containing ASF entering Canada.

“We have instituted a federal, provincial and industry Executive Management Board on ASF to consider, adopt and implement actions rapidly, and to coordinate our efforts for maximum impact.”

It took four working days to get this answer. I can only hope the CFIA can react much faster to an outbreak.

Wheat grading change proposed

The Canadian Grain Commission is asking the wheat industry whether it wants to add falling numbers and DON content to grading standards.

Both have become increasingly important in wheat marketing and making them part of the grading system would result in better pricing information.

Because falling numbers would be more precise, the commission is asking whether “sprouting” or “severe sprouting” could be removed from the grading standards.

The commission is asking for comments before the end of May.
The discussion paper is posted on the commission's website.