Thursday, May 30, 2019

Invasive species funding slashed

Budgets to fight invasive species have been slashed by the Ontario government, leaving those working on the issues discouraged and warning there will be more expensive long-term consequences.

Funding for the Ontario Invasive Species Council has been eliminated; it was $100,000 last year.

Funding for the Ontario Anglers and Hunters invasive species program has been cut by 43 per cent.

Belinda Jenkins, executive director of the Ontario Invasive Species Council, said the program to curb phragmites is an example of long-term expenses because the European grass is spreading relentlessly, breaking up roads, clogging drains, creating fires, threatening at-risk species such as turtles and changing landscapes.

The Ford government said the budget cuts are necessary to ensure there is enough money for medical care and education.

That's simply not true. Any lack of money is due more to Doug Ford's decision to cut taxes by $3.6 billion than to programs such as those to counter invasive species.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Maria Tassou gets plentiful jobs

Lawyer Maria Tassou from Maple, Ont., has been appointed vice-chair of the Animal Care Review Board, but it’s only one of about a dozen cabinet appointments she has recently been given to a broad range of advisory boards and tribunals.

Her most prominent and lucrative appointment is chair of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board where last year she was paid just short of $180,000.

Other recent appointments to agriculture-related positions are:

Harriet Lewis of Toronto joins Tassou on the Animal Care Review Board, but both were appointed only to the end of this year.

Appointed to the Species At Risk Advisory Board are Brian Gilvesy of Tillsonburg, Joe Vaccaro of Toronto, Lynette Mader of Barrie and Paul Norris of Indian River, all for three-year terms.

Brandi Neil of Orangeville to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal for two years.

L-glutamine works wonders for pigs

L-glutamine works even better than antibiotics for weaned pigs under stress, researcher Jay Johnson and his team at the United States Department of Agriculture’s research service has found.

They had already found at L-glutamine could improve performance as well as antibiotic additives in rations, but what they have now learned is that it’s even better than antibiotics for weaners stressed by 12 hours of travel to new facilities.

They found that:

  • Glutamine-fed piglets gained weight as well as the antibiotic group but showed fewer signs of intestinal damage from pathogens.

  • Glutamine group members were also somewhat less aggressive in pens with mixed litters than those given the antibiotic.

  • Compared to the control group, glutamine- and antibiotic-treated piglets showed lower blood plasma levels of tumornecrosisfactoralpha, a biochemical marker of inflammation and immune system activity that can use energy and divert it from the animals’ growth needs.

  • The meat quality of market-ready pigs from the glutamine group was no different than that of the antibiotic or control group 

Now they want to conduct research to determine why and how L-glutamine works so well.

China faces long battle against African Swine Fever

It will take China years to eliminate African Swine Fever, the OIE (world organization for animal health) said Tuesday.

It has launched a global initiative, to be coordinated with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to try to keep the deadly disease in check.

“The objective is to control the disease, strengthen countries’ prevention and preparation efforts, and minimize the adverse effects on animal health, animal welfare and international trade,” the OIE said in a statement.

The initiative will use the GF-TADs (Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases) mechanism to develop, improve and harmonize partnerships and coordination at national, regional and international levels.

Launched in 2004 by the OIE and FAO, GF-TADs aims to prevent, detect and control transboundary animal diseases, taking into account their regional dimensions. 

Meanwhile, African Swine Fever has spread to Vietnam where it has wiped out five per cent of the nation’s hogs in about three months.

WalMart joins chicken supplier lawsuit

WalMart has joined companies that have filed lawsuits against a group of chicken companies accused of rigging production and prices.

Companies named as defendants include: Pilgrim’s Pride, Koch Foods, JCG Foods, Koch Meat Co., various Sanderson Farms units, House of Raeford Farms, MAR- JAC Poultry, Perdue Farms and Perdue Foods, Wayne Farms, various O.K. Foods units, Peco Foods, Harrison Poultry, Foster Farms, Claxton Poultry Farms, various  Mountaire Farms units Amick Farms, various Case Foods units and Agri Stats Inc.

The lawsuit alleges that Agri Stats Inc. was hired to collect information about production volumes, facilities and breeds and the chicken companies used that information to police their price-fixing scheme.

Since a food distributor Maplevale Farms of Falconer, N.Y., filed a similar suit in September 2016, restaurant and retail chains, as well as some consumer products companies and distributors have filed additional suits.

The Walmart lawsuit does not name Fieldale Farms as a defendant because it has agreed to pay $2.5 million.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Meat Council comments on ersatz meats

The Canadian Meat Council has come out with its first statement on the growing media coverage of plant-based burgers and sausages.

It said the imitators will have a tough challenge matching the taste, texture and flavour of meats, notes that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency only allows meat trimmed from a carcass to be labeled meat and said the environmental benefits of plant-based imitators remains to be established.

“Today, we’re able to produce more meat using fewer animals, water, land and other resources than ever before,” the council said.

‘It’s a true industry success story that will continue to improve as the industry seeks to improve its environmental footprint.

“There have been many claims made about the environmental impact of plant-based products with little science to back those up, so it’s hard to make a true comparison. 

“It is unclear if the plant-based products will be able to maintain what they claim is a limited environmental impact as they work to scale up production,” the Canadian Meat Council said.

Vietnam has devastating swine fever losses

Vietnam has lost 1.7 million hogs to African Swine Fever, including 500,000 culled in the last two weeks.

The death toll has taken five per cent of Vietnam’s hog population in just three months. The disease has hit in 42 of the country’s 63 provinces.

In next-door China, African Swine Fever has claimed 20 per cent of the country’s hog population since the first case in August.

China is the world’s largest hog producer and a Chinese company, WH Group, owns Smithfield Foods, the largest hog-producing and pork-packing company in North America.

New measures to counter chicken salmonella

The Public Health Agency of Canada said this week that the industry is adopting new measures to fight salmonella in raw chicken.

That comes after laboratories have confirmed 584 cases of food poisoning were linked to salmonella in raw chicken, including frozen breaded chicken products.

The agency reported the provincial and territorial breakdown: British Columbia (44), Alberta (85), Saskatchewan (18), Manitoba (29), Ontario (215), Quebec (119), New Brunswick (31), Nova Scotia (19), Prince Edward Island (seven), Newfoundland and Labrador (12), Northwest Territories (two), Yukon (one), and Nunavut (two). 

There have been 97 cases so severe the people needed to be in hospitals. Three deaths have been of people infected with these salmonella bacteria, but in two cases the agency said salmonella was not the cause of death and in the third it’s not certain what was the cause.

Despite efforts to address the problem, including many advisories from the Public Health Agency of Canada and health units to cook raw chicken, including frozen breaded products, outbreaks continue.

One that began in September is still active and the tally is 11 sick people in seven provinces and one of them hospitalized.

There have been 18 national recall issues for 15 products, the most recent one earlier this week for Our Compliments brand chicken strips made by Sofina Foods.

Our Compliments is the house brand for Sobeys supermarket chain and related stores, such as Food Basics.

One product was held off the market by a retailer, so no recall was required for it.

All of the salmonella cases have been detected since whole genome sequencing became the standard for testing in May, 2017. It is a precise method to identify the specific strain of salmonella involved in outbreaks, including linking several cases to a single source.

The health agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the companies involved have not said whether the salmonella have been traced to a farm or farms.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Wet weather here for the summer

As if it hasn’t already been far too rainy, now Canada’s chief meteorologist Chris Scott predicts it will be a rainy summer.

He said there will be some downpours in Southern Ontario, posing the risk of flooding, and the total rainfall will be greater than average.

“But we don’t want to convey that this is a washout of a summer — it does not look that way,” he added. “It just means that when it rains it pours.”

He said the wet spring will persist into the summer months, leading to a “heightened threat for flash flooding.”

Northern Ontario and Quebec will be cooler than average, but temperatures for the south will be normal, which will be a relief from last summer’s scorchers.

The Prairies will be hot and dry and British Columbia will be much warmer than average, he said and there will be more wildfires.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

China has two ASF vaccines

China is set to test two African Swine Fever vaccines that have shown promise in the laboratory.

State-owned Harbin Veterinary Research Institute has discovered the two vaccine candidates, reports Reuters News Agency.

But Liz Wagstrom of the National Pork Producers Council in the United States says it may prove difficult to get an effective vaccine because researchers have been trying for more than 50 years.

African Swine Fever has about 70 times as many proteins as average viruses, which explains why the challenge is so great.

“In the next step, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences will accelerate the progress of pilot and clinical trials, as well as vaccine production,” the Chinese report said.

Although several vaccine candidates have already been identified by researchers in other countries, many more steps are required before putting an effective product on the market. 

There are also at least two strains of the virus circulating in China and a vaccine would be unlikely to protect against both, Reuters reported.

African Swine Fever has claimed about 20 per cent of China’s hog population since it began its devastating spread in August.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Salmonella at Sofina prompts another recall

Salmonella has prompted yet another recall of chicken products processed and distributed by Sofina Foods.

This time the Public Health Agency of Canada identified Compliments brand Chicken Strips as responsible for some of the many cases of salmonella food poisoning that have been turning up for months all across Canada.

As of March 22, there were 566 laboratory-confirmed cases of salmonella illness connected to recalled breaded chicken, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported.

Compliments is the in-house brand name for the Sobey’s family of supermarkets which includes Sobeys,Safeway, Price Chopper & Foodland, Thrifty Foods, some IGAs and FreshCo.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Zoning for African Swine Fever

If African Swine Fever breaks out on a hog farm in Canada or the United States, rather than outright trade bans the two have agreed to divide their nations into zones.

The United States Department of Agriculture and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced their deal this week.

They are changing their export certificates to allow trade of live swine, swine semen, pet food and animal by-products and meat to continue in approved disease-free zones in the event of an ASF outbreak, the chief veterinary officers for both nations said in a joint statement.

The agreement builds on zoning arrangements entered into by CFIA and USDA last August that established principles for zoning and trade.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation this week said the Chinese retail pork market appears to have stabilized for the time being, with meat cases stocked and price increases muted, despite estimates that China has lost more than 20 per cent of its hog herd to ASF.

Reuters said China has reported more than 120 outbreaks of the disease in all of its mainland provinces and regions, as well as Hainan island and Hong Kong, since it was first detected in the country in early August.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Japan lifts BSE ban

Japan has lifted the final restrictions it imposed in May, 2003, after an Alberta cow died of bovine spongiform encepthalopathy (BSE, or mad cow’s disease).

Japan first relaxed its ban to exempt beef from animals too young to be considered a risk of spreading BSE. Now it will accept beef from cattle of any age.

It is also reducing its tariffs, first from 38.5 to 26.6 per cent and, over the next 14 years to nine per cent. That’s part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Japan and the United States also announced a new trade deal that gives the U.S. much more open access to the Japanese market.

The Canadian agriculture department said the new deal with Japan could lead to a 20 per cent increase in beef exports to Japan.

Fire destroys bank barn and 12 cattle

Fire destroyed a bank barn south of Moorefield, 12 cattle died, but 50 were rescued.

The fire started in the upstairs of the century-old barn on Concession 6 Mapleton Township.

Wellington County OPP and Mapleton Fire and Rescue responded to a fire on Monday afternoon.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Nothing extra virgin about olive oil

A Quebec company has been fined $4,000 because it falsely labelled its product extra virgin olive oil.

There have been many complaints over the last 20 years about this type of cheating in the olive oil market.

The Montreal-based company 9301-1062 Québec Inc., operating as "Aliments Gaudium" pled guilty to a violation of the Food and Drugs Act.

Besides the fine, the Court of Québec ordered the confiscation and destruction of the offending products.

CFIA suspends La Stella Foods licence

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has suspended the licence of La Stella Foods Manufacturing Ltd. of Burnaby, B.C.

The CFIA said the company failed to come up to snuff for sanitation and pest control.

Suspensions are usually a last resort after CFIA notices fail to elicit the desired company response.

La Stella is a dairy-industry company.

Canada lifts meat tariffs against the U.S.

Canada has lifted a long list of tariffs now that the United States has scrapped its 25 per cent tariff on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum.

Mexico has also lifted its tariffs, including 20 per cent on U.S. pork that helped depress hog prices in both the United States and Canada.

It remains to be seen whether hog prices will now rise. China still has tariffs on U.S. pork and that also pressures hog prices lower.

Canada applied a 10 per cent duty on U.S. cooked/prepared beef products. 

According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, U.S. beef exports to Canada were down 14 per cent in both volume (23,199 metric tons) and value ($143.8 million) in the first quarter of 2019. 

David Herring, president of the National Pork Producers Council  in the United States said "Mexico's 20 per retaliatory tariff on U.S. pork has cost our producers $12 per animal, or $1.5 billion on an annualized, industry-wide basis.”

Friday, May 17, 2019

OFA urges action against animal activist invasions

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is advising farmers to take action before more animal activists try to invade farms.

There have been a number of invasions and so far no successful law-enforcement convictions.

The OFA list of advice is:

  • Post No Trespassing signs and any necessary biosecurity signs to clearly mark private property.
  • Lock all building doors and vehicles. Remove keys from tractors and equipment and store them somewhere safe.
  • Monitor visitors and watch for suspicious vehicles or activities on or around farm property.
  • Consider adding video surveillance to barns or high traffic areas of the farm.
  • Train family and employees how to respond to unwanted visitors and situations that would require calling police.

China may need to cull 100 million pigs

China has culled about one million pigs due to outbreaks of African Swine Fever, but he Swine Disease Global Surveillance Report issued this week said that could increase to 100 million before the end of this year.

In the past month, three more provinces in China have reported outbreaks, the report said.

“This progression indicates that all geographical regions of China have been affected by the disease,” it said.

Reuters News Agency reported that pork prices have held steady as consumer demand has declined and many import orders have been cancelled.

Grain Farmers looking for DON forecasting ability

Grain Farmers of Ontario, backed with funding from the federal and provincial agriculture departments, is looking for a way to forecast the likelihood of DON in corn crops.
The money comes via the Canadian Agricultural Partnership program.

The aim is to enable farmers “to make early, informed decisions about their crops and the use of fungicide or other treatments that reduce the risk of DON,” Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said.

“This will also help reduce DON-related challenges faced throughout the corn value-chain and is similar to a forecasting tool for wheat,” it said.

It took the opportunity to review measures it took to address high levels of DON in last fall’s harvest:

·     Creating a tiered corn salvage benefit in support of requests from farmers who dealt with DON in their corn crop last year. The benefit will more accurately reflect the additional costs associated with harvesting and handling corn affected by DON and help farmers trying to find a market for it. 
·     Establishing another partnership with the Grain Farmers of Ontario to develop best management practices for in-season mitigation of DON and for effectively managing the storage of high-DON corn. 
·     The provincial government extending its Commodity Loan Guarantee Program loan repayment deadline, giving farmers affected by DON additional time to market their corn. The Ontario government also increased the maximum guaranteed loan limit, on a pilot basis, from $120 million to $200 million for the 2019 and 2020 program years. 
·     Launching a cost-share program through the Partnership to provide special assistance to farmers experiencing revenue loss over testing for DON in corn. 
·     Hosting two roundtable sessions with industry representatives to work on connecting farmers with mental health supports and to provide solutions to help the sector find alternate markets for corn with high levels of DON.”

Chicken gaining on burgers

NPD Inc. said its most recent tally of customer receipts for foodservice outlets across the United States indicates chicken sandwiches are gaining on hamburgers.

But burgers still rule at 14.7 orders per restaurant customer in the year that ended in February compared with 8.7 for chicken sandwiches.

Counting meal orders that included a burger or chicken sandwich, burgers came in first at 14.1 per cent and chicken sandwiches second at 6.5 per cert.

Chicken sandwich orders increased by four per cent to four billion last year while hamburger orders held steady at 8.6 billion.

Quebec beef farmers challenge Beyond Meat

The Quebec Cattle Producers Federation wants the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to step in against advertising by Beyond Meat.

The federation said in a complaint to the CFIA that Canadian rules do not allow the company to advertise its products as plant-based meat.

The CFIA told reporters for CTV that the regulatory definition of meat is the carcass, blood, product or by-product of a food animal, and federal rules also prohibit false, misleading or deceptive food advertising, but would go no further in commenting on the federation’s complaint.

It would only sayit is reviewing its regulatory compliance.

Under Canada’s rules, simulated meat products must clearly display the phrase “contains no meat” or “contains no poultry” on the front of the package, and the packaging cannot have any images that suggest the product contains meat.

There was no mention of regulations for restaurant meals.

The federation's frontal attack may backfire by generating free publicity for veggie burgers and their political correctness.