Friday, June 28, 2019

Dairy distills vodka from milk waste

Dairy Distillery of Winchester, Ont., is distilling vodka from milk permeate.

Milk permeate is normally discarded as waste, but now will bring value to the dairy industry. It is a byproduct of ultra-filtered milk.

Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman was on hand to give Dairy Distillery one of the first Excellence in Agriculture awards.

The awards “recognize agri-food businesses, individuals and organizations that have raised the bar for agri-food excellence, demonstrated leadership in their field, undertaken strategic product development benefiting their sector, or advanced technological innovation.”

Earlier this week the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced it is relaxing regulations so vodka can be distilled from feedstock other than potatoes and/or grain.

Two farm truck accidents

There were two agriculture-industry truck accidents this week.

On Thursday a tractor-trailer hauling livestock rolled over on Wellington Road 16 near Fergus.


On Saturday a Grayridge Eggs truck toppled over on Highway 401 at Warden Avenue in Toronto.

Church supports local food producers

Community Christian Reformed Church in Kitchener is promoting the local food movement.

It is the largest Christian Reformed congregation in Canada and the members are being challenged to “remove three non-local fruits or veggies that your family regularly consumes and replace them with local options."

There will also be information sessions to help the members to ”consume only local fruits and vegetables.”

They are advised to  ”be sure to read the signs depicting where produce is from at farmer's markets or your grocery store. When in doubt, ask the farmer or the grocer."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Three more appointments revealed

In the midst of controversies over recent appointments, the Ontario government has revealed three more appointments to agriculture bodies.

Jennifer Doelman of Douglas has been appointed to a three-year term on the Grain Financial Protection Board.

K. Joy Levison of OroDemonte and Rita Spivak of Stratford have been appointed to three-year terms on College of Veterinarians of Ontario.

Three people picked by Dean French, top advisor to Premier Douglas Ford, for high-paying foreign postings had there appointments cancelled when backbenchers complained about blatant patronage.

Then French’s niece resigned from her appointment, but not until after Ford fired French. Ford has promised to review all appointments.

There was a long period of no appointments just before the election and for a couple of months after, but there have been many appointments in the last few months, including almost every board, commission and committee connected to agriculture.

Chicken production target rises 3.5 per cent

The national agency for chicken supply management has set a production target 3.5 per cent greater than a year ago for this fall.

For quota period A-159, which runs for six weeks beginning Sept. 29, Ontario will be permitted to produce 192,894,853 kilograms, which is four per cent more than a year ago.

Under a new market-sharing agreement, when there is a national increase, Ontario gets a bit more than the national average in recognition of the stronger market demand in Ontario.

The Ontario marketing board has used some of these increases to enable small-scale producers to develop local markets without requiring quota and also has incentives for processors to explore new products and markets with some of the the extra production.

More pigs than ever

The United States has more pigs than ever since 1954.

Total inventory of hogs and pigs on June 1, 2019, was 75.5 million head, up by four per cent from June 1, 2018, and up by one per crent from March 1, 2019.

Breeding inventory was up by one per cent to 6.41 million from the previous quarter.

Market hog inventory, 69.1 million head, was up by four per cent from last year, and up by one per cent from the previous quarter.

Milk processor rules relaxed

There have been major relaxations in rules for milk processing plants.

The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission has posted the notice of amendments on its website, including complete exemptions for plants that process only already-pasteurized milk and/or ingredients.

As examples of the changes, the regulations will no longer specify exact ceiling heights or drains. Instead processors will have to meet standards any way they choose, such as preventing condensation on ceilings and accumulation of liquids on floors.

Traders seek alternative pork markets

Traders are aggressively seeking alternative markets for Canadian pork now that China suddenly banned Canadian pork.

Police have been called in to discover the source of fake certificates and pork sent to China. Apparently 188 fake export certificates were found.

It was the Chinese who identified ractopamine in a shipment of pork tongues from Frigo Royal of Ste. Hyacinthe, Que.

That prompted Chinese officials to say they would be checking every shipment of Canadian pork and soon after the fake certificates issue surfaced.

China bought $310 million worth of Canadian pork from January through April, making it Canada’s third-largest market by value. It is Canada’s largest pork market by volume.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

New spin on fake export certicates

Somebody in Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s office has told CBC news that the meat entering China on a fake Canadian export certificate may come from a country other than Canada.

Is this based on any shred of credibility or simply political spin?

Bibeau has called in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate.

Among other things, they and the Chinese are trying to determine whence the pork came.

An investigation apparently identified 188 fake export certificates, but it’s not clear where they were found.

China has suspended all meat shipments from Canada pending the outcome of the investigations.

Vodka regs relaxed

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has amended regulations for vodka production to allow it to be distilled from more than either potatoes and grain.

Among stock that will now be allowed are honey, apple or milk.
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said it enables more innovation. 

The CFIA said on its website that it “gives consumers more choice and better aligns Canada with international standards, increasing innovation and competitiveness.

“To help consumers make informed choices, vodka . . . must be labelled accordingly using the statement ‘Produced from’. “

Vodka distilled from grain or potatoes will not need that label.

The CFIA said “Vodka will remain a neutral alcoholic beverage, meaning it is without distinctive character, aroma, or taste, but the revised standard allows distillers to achieve this outcome by using material or processes other than just charcoal. 

“The only filtration process permitted for vodka under the previous regulations was through charcoal.”

Viet Nam rocked by African Swine Fever

Viet Nam’s pork industry is being devastated by African Swine Fever that has wiped out about 10 per cent of the hog population.

It started with small herds, but now is hitting the huge operations.

"This is a very worrying sign as these farms have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of pigs each and therefore the damages would be significant," the government said in a statement.

Authorities culled hundreds of pigs at Phu Son Farm, home to more than 18,000 pigs, said Bach Duc Luu, the deputy head of Vietnam's Department of Animal Health.

China has lost about 20 per cent of its pigs to African Swine Fever and has yet to stop its spread.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

China suspends all meat importing from Canada

The Canadian meat industry is being rocked by a Chinese claim that export certificates were faked so it has suspended all meat imports from Canada, effective this week.

According to a statement released by China's embassy, a batch of pork from Canada was found to contain residues of ractopamine, a feed additive banned in many countries. Imports of pork from that facility were halted pending an investigation on the Canadian side.

"The subsequent investigation revealed that the official veterinary health certificates attached to the batch of pork exported to China were counterfeit and the number of those forgery certificates was up to 188," the statement said.

The pork was exported by Frigo Royal of Ste. Hyacinthe, Que.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau issued a statement saying "the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) has taken measures to address this issue and is continuing to work closely with industry partners and Chinese officials."

 "The CFIA is investigating this technical issue and has informed appropriate law enforcement agencies.

"This incident is specific to export certificates to China. Export certificates to other countries are not affected," the statement said.

The suspension comes right after an international trade report said China’s pork imports have surged this spring.

I hope the government and company officials involved are banned for life from having anything to do with the food industry.

Feds subsidize youth to work on farms

The federal government is offering up to $14,000 to hire youth to work on farms.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said she has $3.75 million for the Youth Employment and Skills Program to hire Canadians ages 15 to 30.

She said the program is particularly for youth facing barriers to entering or staying in the workforce. It is for both farming and the agri-business sector.

The government will cover half the costs, up to $14,000, towards hiring youth. 

For not-for-profit organizations, and applicants who hire Indigenous youth or youth facing barriers, the program will provide 80 per cent of total eligible costs, up to $14,000.

I recall in the 1970s that managers in the civil service would hire each other's sons for summer employment. Maybe farmers could copy the snivel servants.

Feds join chicken price-fixing case

The United States Department of Justice has joined the class-action price-fixing lawsuit against the biggest chicken processing companies.

That, say observers, raises the possibility of criminal charges. The agency’s motion asks that the court impose a six-month stay of depositions and non-evidentiary written discovery of the defendants and their current employees to protect a grand jury investigation.

The federal lawyers wrote the court to say “the government has a significant interest in ensuring the integrity of the Feds join chicken price-fixing lawsuit grand jury’s investigation and, if charges are filed, minimizing the extent to which discovery can be used to circumvent criminal discovery.”

Maplevale Farms, a distribution company in New York State, was the first to complain in 2015 about an alleged price-fixing conspiracy carried out by the nation’s 14 largest chicken companies with help from market intelligence firm Agri Stats Inc. 

The companies filed information with Agri Stats which compiled reports it provided back to them.

It seems a lot like A.C. Nielsen which routinely collects retail prices from Canadian supermarket chains, compiles the data and reports back to them. Just to be clear, I'm not alleging any price-fixing here.

Four-year-old killed by tractor

A four-year-old boy was killed by a tractor driven by a farm employee at a farm south of Mount Forest.

No charges have been laid.

Mount Forest division officers with the Ontario Provincial Police said the family has asked that their identity not be released.

Chicken production still increasing

Chicken production continues to increase, but at a slower pace than last year.

And consumers are eating more than ever as prices have held steady, only 0.5 per cent higher than last year.

Beef prices are up by 3.7 per cent; pork prices are down by 3.1 per cent from last year.

National chicken production so far this year is up by 4.2 per cent and Ontario production by 4.4 per cent.

Imports are down by six per cent, exports by 30 per cent, so far this year.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Feds propose labeling reform

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has opened public consultation on changes it is proposing to food labeling regulations.

It said “the proposed changes would make information on food labels clearer. They would improve consumers’ ability to compare products, read and understand labels, and obtain useful product information, such as where imported food comes from, what the food contains, and how long the quality of the food will last.”

It also said “the changes would amend outdated and unnecessary regulations and provide Canada’s food industry with some flexibility in how the regulations apply to certain requirements.

“The changes better align Canada’s labelling requirements with international standards, as well as the requirements of key trading partners, which would facilitate trade for Canada’s food industry.”

CFIA suspend’s dairy’s licence

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has suspended the licence for Fantis Foods Canada Ltd., a dairy establishment located in Saint-Jacques, Quebec.

The CFIA said the company has failed to exercise adequate cleaning and sanifation.

The plant is shut down until it can demonstrate compliance. There has been no recall of products.

Foreign workers to gain choices

Temporary foreign workers will get the chance to change employers under proposals the federal government has posted in the Canada Gazette.

It’s a change advocated by friends of temporary foreign workers, including the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario.

But the government stopped short of clearing a path for temporary foreign workers to gain permanent resident status and a step towards Canadian citizenship.

And foreign workers who want to change employers would need to find one within the sector, such as agriculture, stated in their permits.

The government said applications for temporary foreign workers increased by 25 per cent, coinciding with the lowest unemployment rate in 42 years.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Rabies board needs members

There are no members of the province’s Rabies Advisory Committee, according to online information on government boards, commissions and committees.

There are 11 vacancies, including the chairman position.

The committee is supposed to be advising the Ministry of Natural Resources on appropriate control measures.

It’s offices are at Trent University In Peterborough.

The Niagara Escarpment Commission is another body with a lot of vacancies –six of them.

There are few vacancies on agriculture-related boards, commissions and committees, possibly because farm organizations such as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture keep a watch and a list of prospective appointees.

One that is open is a spot on the Livestock Medicines Advisory Committee.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Saputo gets federal funds

The federal government is giving $1,933,060 to Saputo Dairy Products Canada G.P. for its expansion of the production area and cold storage at its plant at St. Marys.

The company is buying equipment that will increase production capacity and improve efficiency.

It is expected that the project will allow Shepherd Gourmet Dairy Inc. to increase the use of Canadian milk and to create approximately eight new jobs.

This is a huge waste of taxpayers' money because Saputo has been investing heavily to buy companies in Argentina and Australia, not to help the Canadian dairy industry which is its main source of profits.

The government is giving $149,238 to Stonetown Artisan Cheese Ltd. to purchase equipment to increase cutting, processing, storage and ageing capacity. 

Now that's a small-scale local company that could use the help.

The project is expected to increase use of Canadian milk and result in the creation of two full-time and two part-time jobs.

China has more African Swine Fever outbreaks

China has had two more outbreaks of African Swine Fever that killed 82 pigs and infected another 114 in two villages.

There have been three outbreaks in Guizhou province this month, indicating that China has still not managed to contain the deadly disease that has claimed about 20 per cent of the country’s hogs. 

There is no cure, treatment or vaccine. 

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said it will take years for China to contain the African swine fever (ASF) virus.

It has spread to other countries, including Viet Nam which has lost about 2.5 million hogs.  Recently Laos reported an outbreak.

Canada is on high biosecurity alert over ASF, including a watch on imports of feed ingredients.

Rod DeWolde named to farm practices board

Rod De Wolde of Millbrook has been appointed to a two-year term on the Normal Farm Practices Review Board.

It deals with neighbours’ complaints about farm noises, odours and dust.

De Wolde is well known as a purebred hog breeder and elected leader in the Ontario swine industry.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Black promotes charity report

Senator Rob Black, famous for his work for 4-H and the Rural Institute of Ontario, is promoting a Senate report on charities.

It makes 42 recommendations, including Black’s favourite, which is a call to create a “home within government” for charities and non-profits.

Black said he hopes the government will accept the recommendations to reinstate a human resources council for the voluntary sector, the development of a human resources renewal plan, and the creation of a national volunteer strategy.

“I’ve been extremely impressed by the hard work and dedication of charities, non-profits, and volunteers across Canada,” said Black. 

“I hope that our report will lead to real change and help to reinvigorate the sector.”

Fair Oaks staff faked abuse

A court prosecutor said activists who shot an underground video of animal abuse at Fair Oaks dairy farm in Northern Indianna pressured employees to stage some of the abuses.

A local newspaper reports that Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Drinski said “a third party witness has come forward to corroborate the allegations made by a suspect that the Animal Recovery Mission employee encouraged or coerced the behaviour depicted in the portions of the video that have been released publicly. 

“Detectives continue to investigate these claims through additional interviews and written discovery,” the Rensselaer Republican reported.

Before the revelations, Fair Oaks founder Mike McCloskey said he was disgusted by what was shown on the video and he fired five employees. Another was employed by a trucking company.

Mexico’s senate approves trade deal

Mexico’s senate has ratified the North American free trade deal, but Canada and the United States have unfinished work ahead.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Washington today to meet with United States President Donald Trump and the trade deal will be one thing they will discuss. Another will be relationships with China.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has been speaking to politicians in Washington to urge approval of the deal and suggested some changes might be possible. Canada immediately responded with a firm “No!”.

Trudeau has said he could recall Parliament to pass ratification of the deal.

Gentian Violet deemed unsafe

Health Canada has issued an advisory to stop using Gentian Violet, sometimes called Crystal Violet, because it could cause cancer.

It is following up on a World Health Organization advisory.

Gentian Violet was once allowed as a dye tracer in animal and poultry feeds to judge the thoroughness of mixing.

However, Grand Valley Fortifiers once advised hog farmers to use it to counter DON, a use that was prohibited by federal regulations.

Documents obtained via Access to Information reveal that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency repeatedly warned Grand Valley Fortifiers about using Gentian Violet.

After its review, Health Canada has declared that there is no safe level of Gentian Violet. It has been used to treat fungal infections.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Quebec company banned from China

Frigo Royal of Ste.-Hyacinthe, Que., has been banned from exporting pork to China after Chinese officials said they detected ractopamine residue in pork from the company.

Ractopamine is a growth promotant that is banned for pork production destined for a number of markets, including China and Europe.

China earlier halted pork imports from an Olymel plant in Alberta and from Drummond Export of Quebec because paperwork was not up to date.

China has also said it will be opening every container of Canadian pork for inspection and in some cases every package in the container.
That will be a major impediment to trade.

China has also banned Canadian canola from two of the largest suppliers and has held up imports of soybeans so long that traders have diverted Canadian soybeans to other markets.

Monday, June 17, 2019

U.S. cuts out beef competitors for Europe

The United States said it has a deal with the European Union to increase beef exports, but it comes at the expense of Australia, Uruguay and Argentina.

Canada may also lose some market access, but that could not be immediately clarified.

The European Union has a quota on how much hormone-free beef can be imported and the U.S. originally got the lion’s share.

But the World Trade Organization said that wasn’t fair and so the U.E. parcelled out some of the quota to others, such as Australia, Uruguay and Argentina.

Now this deal takes much of that back for the United States.

While the deal has been announced, apparently it still has to go through some regulatory hoops before it can take effect.

Bibeau launches food policy

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced Canada’s first National Food Policy Monday, but no copies were posted online.

Instead she issued a news release announcing half a dozen initiatives backed with $134.4 million for the next four years.

There’s $50 million for local food infrastructure, $15 million for a Northern isolated community initatives fund, $25 million for a Buy Canadian campaign, $26.3 million to reduce waste estimated to be 11 million tonnes worth $5 billion per year, $24.4 million to fight food fraud and mislabelling and establishment of a Food Policy Advisory Council.

Bibeau also said she wants a national school food program.

That ought to touch off a battle among commodities to be included in the largesse. If you thought Canada's Food Guide was controversial, just watch for this food fight!

The department of agriculture said it consulted more than 45,000 Canadians during 2017 and ran an on-line survey to gather opinions and advice about a national food policy.

Quebec has bumper syrup crop

Quebec producers harvested a bumper crop of maple syrup this spring, even though production per tap was less than last year.

Producers took advantage of the marketing board’s relaxations and installed more taps this season.

Despite a late start, the harvest was more than 159 million pounds of syrup.

That's 41 million pounds more than last year and more than the 152.2 million pounds in 2017.

Jim Clark gets extension

Jim Clark has been given a six-month extension to his term as chairman of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.

And Ralph Dietrich, former chairman of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario milk marketing board, has been given a two-year term as a commission member.

Peter Seeman of Sharon has been given a one-year term as vice-chairman of the Rural Economic Development Advisory Panel.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Feds fund grape virus data bank

The federal agriculture department is investing more than $2.3 million to help the grape industry establish a data bank that will help keep vineyards free of viruses.

The money goes to the Canadian Grapevine Certification which catalogue and assess existing samples from nurseries and grape growers across Canada. 

A database will then be used to trace back every vine produced through this program and planted in a grower's vineyard back to the mother plants. 

This will help the CGCN keep Canada's vineyards virus free, the government said.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Ontario Pork Congress on next week

The Ontario Pork Congress will be open at the Stratford Rotary Centre next Wednesday and Thursday and will have another 20 exhibitors in 100,000 square feet of floor space.

It’s China’s Year of the Pig, but also a reminder that biosecurity needs to be top of mind as African Swine Fever continues to challenge the Chinese hog industry and hog operations in neighbouring countries.

Biosecurity will also be a feature of this year’s show which will segregate the live hog competition on Thursday into facilities that not all visitors to the show need to walk through.

The show will repeat most of the long-term favourites such as an art competition and scholarship, an industry leadership award, a contest for the best pork hock meal, a pork quality competition and the hog jog which will donate this year’s funds to l’Arche Stratford which works with developmentally-challenged people. It has four houses for 26 clients and runs a number of compassionate programs for them and others in the community.

Three to be added to Kent Agriculture Hall of Fame

Peter Sikkema of Ridgetown College is one of three people chosen for induction into the Kent Agriculture Hall of Fame this fall.

Sikkema developed confidence among farmers in southern Ontario for his research and extension efforts in weed control.

Dr. Norman Bradner was equally appreciated by farmers in Chatham-Kent for his pioneering plant breeding with soybeans.

Dianne Flook is being honoured for her contribution to rural goodwill among neighbours by educating them about normal and responsible farming practices.

Ethnic slaughter draws fine

Abdalssamia Ali of Hamilton has been fined $6,125 for running a slaughter operation without a licence.

There were about 40 people involved in slaughtering about 30 sheep at the farm when inspectors for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs arrived last August.

Ali admitted to running the operation without an inspector or licence.

I recall befriending a refugee, a single mother, from Africa who asked me to take her to a special store in Kitchener where she and many other refugees could buy sheep at reasonable prices.

She said they could also buy a live sheep and attend slaughter at a farm south of Cambridge, which would be consistent with the location for this conviction.

That was about 15 years ago and I informed OMAFRA meat inspectors at the time, but could only supply information about the Kitchener store location.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Politicians give booze a boost

The federal and provincial agricutture departments are giving more than $1 million to craft breweries.

The money is to encourage them to invest in improvements.

The politicians squander our taxes like drunken sailors.

Collingwood woman created Chickapea

Shelby Taylor of Collingwood has created a new food that is finding customers across Canada and into Europe.

She invented Chickapea by blending chickpeas and lentils into a recipe for pasta, a favourite of children.

The result is a nutritious, gluten-free product.

Taylor got her idea from interviewing clients at her health-food store, learning that their families’ favourite meal was pasta and that they realized it needed to be healthier than so loaded with carbohydrates.

Tannis Toohey reports in the Globe and Mail how she began marketing her product in health food stores, won an entrepreneur contest at Georgian College and began gathering investors.

Then the product and business became more professional, including a big company to manufacture Chickapeas.

That led to listings in supermarkets, such as Fortinos, Sobey’s and Loblaws and even to marketing in Italy which is famous for pasta.