Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Global egg flaws revealed

A major release of information held by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reveals a multitude of persistent food safety issues at two egg-processing plants run by Global Egg Corporation.

The company is owned by L.H. Gray & Son Ltd., one of Canada’s largest egg-production, egg-grading and egg-processing companies.

Inspectors’ reports, released under Access to Information, reveal that Global was repeatedly chastised for failures to adhere to its written food-safety programs, for gaps in those programs and for shoddy facilities and procedures.

For example, three times inspectors’ reports identified a leaking roof over pasteurizing equipment. The company pleaded for – and was granted - three months to get the winter-time leak fixed.

Several times pasteurizing equipment was shut down after black flecks, possibly from a rubber seal, were found in processed egg products.

When the equipment was taken apart, inspectors identified contamination on plates.

One time they identified Listeria monocytogenes in product that was supposed to have been pasteurized.

They found pasteurizer temperatures were not hot enough, but the exact temperatures identified have been censored out. The inspector wrote that the plant temperature recording program was not effective.

There is heavy censorship in a number of the inspection reports and several have been completely denied to whoever filed the request for access to the reports on Global's plants in Etobicoke and Elmira.

Once a release has been made, anyone is free to file for copies for free, which is how they were obtained for this report.

Several times inspectors said they noticed that staff were failing to remove dirty and leaking eggs, as required, from the line feeding eggs into plant equipment. 

For example, in one instance the inspector said six leakers were not removed during a 60-second check. Another time it was three dirty eggs and four leakers in 60 seconds.

There were a number of reports that staff were not properly clothed and had failed to wash their hands after going to the toilet.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Hatching egg commission gets funding

The Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission is getting up to $141,450 from the federal and provincial agriculture departments to ugrade its traceability system.

The upgrade will reduce costs by further automating data inputting processes and allow other systems, such as on-farm sensors, to seamlessly connect and upload data, the commission said

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Pigs stolen in Oxford County

Ontario Provincial Police have asked for help after a farmer reported thieves took 130 six-month old pigs from his farm in South West Oxford.

The man notified police on Boxing Day, but said the theft happened sometime between Nov. 9 and 29.

There is no indication why it took him so long to report the 300-pound pigs were missing, nor have the police released the name of the farmer.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Climate change concerns poised to increase

Americans are about to move on from climate change denial to talking about causes and solutions, said a new report from the Center for Food Integrity.

And when it comes to farming, they will talk about greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, not about eating meat, the Centre said.

There will be a 3.6 per cent increase in conversations about climate change in the next two years, but there will be a 260 per cent increase in talk about what causes climate change and a doubling of conversations about solutions, it said.

The CFI used a research tool that analyzes millions of online conversations. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

PED outbreak in Oxford County

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus has hit a hog-finishing operation in Oxford County.

The outbreak on Dec. 20 is the first since April and the 127th since the deadly virus first came to Ontario in January, 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2019

China cuts tariffs on Canadian pork

China said it is going to reduce tariffs on pork, including from Canada and the United States.

Pork is within a package of 853 goods on which China is cutting tariffs.

China said the reduced tariff rates will be lower than Most-Favoured-Nation rates.

The tariff cuts “facilitate the open economy to a new level,” China’s Ministry of Finance said in a statement that has been reported by Bloomberg news service.

China’s move comes separate from, but just before, a trade deal with the United States is due to be signed. 

Under that deal, China is going to commit to buy up to $50 million worth of agrcultural products from the U.S. 

In the U.S., the National Pork Producers Council said cutting the tariff on pork could lead to $25 billion worth of pork exports to China.

Manure dumped at Premier Ford’s office

Toronto police say protesters dumped manure in front of Premier Doug Ford’s constituency office in Etobicoke on Sunday.

Extinction Rebellion, an environmental activist group, said in a press release the manure was a response to Ontario’s Auditor General “effectively declaring the Conservative provincial government climate action promise is a load of crap.”

Investigators say they responded to a call about the incident, but nobody’s filed a police report.

No charges have been laid.

A statement from the premier’s office says that if a response is what the protesters are looking for, they’re not getting one from Ford.

The statement wished the protesters a Merry Christmas and says the government hopes the protesters have a more productive new year.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

James Morin loses his appeal

James Morin, 36, of Massey has lost his appeal tribunal case in which he sought an exemption from the provincial Farm Business Registration program.

He testified that his objections are based on religious beliefs that closely resemble those of his Mennonite neighbours, but also said he doesn’t like doing the paperwork involved in paying the registration fee every year, then filing for a return of the money from the farm organization of his choice: the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

He also testified that he is not a member of the local Mennonite congregation, nor does he intend to become a Mennonite, although his daughter attends their school.

The tribunal acknowledged that he has a strong faith, but because he is not a Mennonite – they have been granted an exemption – or any other religious group that objects to the Farm Business Registration program, the tribunal said it thinks his real reason for seeking exemption is to avoid the paperwork.

Friday, December 20, 2019

No real trees in our home

There is no real Christmas tree in our home, but two small artificial ones, one each for matching windows flanking our fake fireplace.

At least these trees, unlike one Christmas when I was a wee lad, were not stolen.

We had a spruce-tree windbreak on the farm, protecting our frail home from vicious North-westerly winds.

And that Christmas, Dad said to Mom that he intended to go out and steal a Christmas tree by cutting the top from one of those spruce trees.

So, when my Sunday School teacher asked the class whether we had a Christmas tree up yet, I cheerily volunteered that my Dad had stolen one.

That admission spread through the congregation like wildfire!

And, ever since, I have been careful to never steal a Christmas tree, either real or fake.

May you have a Merry Christmas, and may your New Year be the best ever!

Canada missed BSE deadline

Canada missed an opportunity to improve its Bovine Spongiform (BSE) status with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), but federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said she’s aiming for next spring.

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is criticizing the federal government for missing the deadline and said it’s costing Canadian beef producers any opportunities for better prices from United States packers and opportunities to market beef to South Korea.

CPC agriculture critic John Barlow called it a “stunning setback” for farrmers.

Canada is currently listed alongside Ecuador, Greece, Ireland, Chinese Taipei, France and Ireland as having a “controlled” BSE risk. A longer list of countries is listed as having a negligible BSE risk, including Argentina, Brazil and the United States.

Countries are encouraged to review their risk assessment annually to help OIE determine if their situation has changed and a new designation is warranted.

Having a “negligible” risk as opposed to a “controlled” risk is more favourable, and according to Barlow, would open up new markets because certain countries — such as South Korea — will not import beef from a country that does not have a negligible risk designation.

“We’re asking if (the federal government) can get an exemption and apply right away, even though we’ve missed that deadline, and maybe there’s some way we can expedite the application process,” said Barlow.

Bibeau said the Liberal government knows how important it is to the beef sector to be granted negligible risk status and that her officials are, “working with the beef sector to develop a strong submission to the World Organization for Animal Health for spring 2020.”

Turkey price-fixing lawsuit launched

First it was beef, then pork, then chicken, and now it’s another price-fixing lawsuit, this time for turkey.

Agri Stats Inc. is at the centre of all of them, a company that collects market information, then sells it to companies.

Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative Inc. in Olean, N.Y., and John Gross and Company Inc. in Mechanicsburg, Penn., have filed the turkey-industry lawsuit and are hoping to have it certified as a class-action case.

They say the price-fixing took place from Jan. 1, 2010, to Jan. 1, 2017.
The defendants named in the turkey price-fixing suit are:

·       Butterball LLC
·       Cargill Inc. and Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation
·       Cooper Farms Inc.
·       Farbest Foods Inc.
·       Foster Farms LLC and Foster Poultry Farms
·       Hormel Foods Corporation and Hormel Foods LLC
·       House of Raeford Farms Inc.
·       Kraft Heinz Foods Company and Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC
·       Perdue Farms Inc. and Perdue Foods LLC

·       Tyson Foods Inc., The Hillshire Brands Company, Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. and Tyson Prepared Foods Inc.

Bibeau’s assistant is from Belleville

Neil Ellis, former mayor of Belleville, has been chosen Parliamentary Assistant to federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

Ellis was first elected in 2015 in a riding that once was a secure Conservative riding under Lyle VanClief who was agriculture minister from 1988 to 2004.

The riding embraces Belleville and a significant portion of Prince Edward County.

Trade deal passes the House

The House of Representatives has voted overwhelming support for the new trade deal among Canada, Mexico and the United States.

It’s now off to the Senate where Republican leader Mitch McConnel said it will likely be discussed in early January.

Canada is expected to wait until the U.S. Senate and President Donald Trump seal their approvals before it brings legislation to Parliament to ratify the deal.

Mexico has already approved it.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Be cautious about expanding hog production

Hog farmers ought to be cautious about expanding production next year.

While the short-term outlook is great, the long-term outlook is not so great.

African Swine Fever in China and now nearby countries has created a price bubble as China looks to fill its needs with imports.

Canada was left out for much of last year because of a scandal with export certificates, but now it’s open again to export pork and beef to China.

That will increase demand and likely keep pushing prices higher. More important, the United States is poised to sell significantly more pork to China and that is already driving prices higher.

But China is busy now with plans to restore its hog population, and it’s going to be a much more modern, efficient and larger-scale hog-production sector.

That will leave the world’s pork exporters looking for markets other than China. It could also mean that China will be in a position to export pork from its modernized, efficient rebuilt pork sector.

And so, hog farmers should be taking a cautious look at their situation, ensuring that they are prepared to survive a market crunch that is likely to hit a in two or three years.

Grain farmer relief remains waiting

Relief for grain farmers via AgriStability is facing another set of delays following a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers this week, and it has Grain Farmerrs of Canada president Jeff Nielsen worried that there will be no help for this year.

Grain Farmers of Ontario president Markus Haerle had called on Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman to press hard for help to deal with farm income losses due to trade disputes and weather.

Grain farmers want the reference point for AgriStability to be restored to 85 per cent from the current level of 70 per cent.

Federal officials estimate that will cost more than $300 million and federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the federal budgets are tight.

The agriculture ministers issued a communique saying AgriStability will be studied further and recommendations will be brought to their April meeting.

 “To say again that they’re going back to review (AgriStability)… they probably won’t come to a conclusion until the summer meeting, so clearly we’re going to lose 2020. That’s my fear,” Nielsen said.

“It’s frustrating when we haven’t come up with anything new. This has been asked for some time,” he told a reporter for Glacier publications.

Natural gas expansion coming

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) will assess areas of rural Ontario for projects eligible for funding through the Natural Gas Expansion Program in early 2020, said Bill Walker, the province’s associate minister of energy, this week.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has been pushing for this for years and so Rejean Pommainville, an OFA director from Eastern Ontario said “I think it’s great news,” and “I think finally we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Pommainville said in an interview with Farms.com that only about 20 per cent of Ontario’s rural residents and businesses have access to natural gas, compared with about 88 per cent in urban areas.

The announcement comes soon after a CN Rail strike disrupted deliveries of propane that many farmers needed so they could harvest corn and to heat barns, such as those for newly-placed chicks.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Survey finds farmers concerned

Farmers have recently become more pessimistic, according to a national survey for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business,

An index measuring attitudes recorded a one-month five-point drop to 51.1 because the agriculture sector has been hit by trade disputes ,difficult harvest conditions in many parts of the country and costly carbon taxes, the federation said.

The federation wrote to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau calling for the following policies:

Federal carbon tax: Exemptions for farmers should be extended to include natural gas and propane used to dry grain and heat livestock facilities.

Trade and export: All federal, provincial and territorial governments need to focus on improving market access for Canadian agricultural products.

Regulation and paper burden: All levels of government need to continue to reduce the burden of red tape on farmers so they have more time to grow and expand their business.

Business Risk Management programs: Ensure programs are transparent, timely and predictable.

Intergenerational farm transfer: Make it easier for farmers and all small businesses to transfer or sell their business to a family member.

Congress moving on USMCA trade deal

The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday passed a motion to recommend the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), setting up a vote on the bill by the full House this week.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada will probably be the last to ratify the deal. Parliament is not scheduled tp resume until late January.

In prepared remarks published ahead of the action, Ways abd Means committee chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said the legislation makes the agreement enforceable by preventing a country from being able to block the formation of a dispute-settlement panel.

The agreement includes methods to monitor and address violations of labor obligations; labour terms in Mexico was one of the terms the Democrats demanded to gain their support for the new deal.

The bill also provides for more than $600 million in funding for environmental problems in the region and reauthorizes the North American Development Bank.

What farmers in both the United States and Canada seek most is a return to stability in trade terms.

Locusts swarming Somalia

Swarms of locusts are chewing up crops, leaving many Somalians in poverty and without food.

Tens of thousands of hectares of crops and grazing land have been devastated in the worst invasion of desert locusts in 25 years, said the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The locusts have damaged about 70,000 hectares in Somalia and neighbouring Ethiopia, threatening food supplies in both countries and the livelihoods of farming communities, the FAO said.

An average swarm will destroy crops that could feed 2,500 people for a year, the FAO said.

Conflict and chaos in much of Somalia make spraying pesticide by airplane – which the FAO called the “ideal control measure” – impossible, the agency said.

“The impact of our actions in the short term is going to be very limited.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Grain farmers want help, not more talk

Markus Haerle, president of Grain Farmers of Ontario, lit a fire under Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman, pressuring him to speak up for immediate help for farmers hit by trade issues.

His comments came as federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers are meeting and seemed tardy in addressing the needs of grain farmers.

 “Farmers need meaningful support immediately not minor tweaks and more reviews,” Haerle said in a news release.

Farmers in the United States have already received $28 billion in subsidies to offset trade issues with China.

Canadian politicians have been saying the AgriStability program is designed to meet these kinds of needs, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in his mandate letter to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, mentioned updates to AgriStability and changes that would speed the flow of funds when trade issues arise.

Coaticook cheese on recall

Laiterie Coaticook Ltée. found Listeria monocytogenese food-poisoning bacteria in its cheddar cheese and has launched a recall.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said there have been no reports of any customers falling ill.

The recall involves seven batches, most of them mild cheddars.

Monday, December 16, 2019

COOL proposal back again

 New Jersey senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker has proposed a return of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat.

Corey Booker
That defies two sets of World Trade Organization rulings that COOL breaks the rules and WTO orders that the legislation be dropped, else Canada would be in a position to impose punitive tariffs.
But Booker is also seeking a number of other measures bound to be popular with farmers across the United States.
They are:
  • Phase out CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) by 2040;
  • Hold corporate integrators responsible for pollution caused by CAFOs;
  • Provide a voluntary buyout for farmers who want to transition out of a CAFO;
  • Prohibit the use of tournament or ranking systems for paying contract growers;
  • Protect livestock and poultry growers from retaliation, and
  • Create market transparency and protect farmers and ranchers from predatory purchasing practices.

Booker’s bill would also strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act “to crack down on the monopolistic practices of multi-national meatpackers .”
The new bill uses the Environmental Protection Act’s definition of a CAFO, which includes farms with at least 700 dairy cows, 2,500 hogs, 1,000 cattle and 125,000 broiler chickens. 
Up to $100 billion over a decade would be set aside for voluntary buyouts to owners who want to transition to other types of agriculture, or to help pay off any outstanding debt.
“Our independent family farmers and ranchers are continuing to be squeezed by large, multinational corporations that, because of their buying power and size, run roughshod over the marketplace. We need to fix the broken system – that means protecting family farmers and ranchers and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing,” Booker said in a news release. “Large factory farms are harmful to rural communities, public health, and the environment and we must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system.”
Booker has been a vegan since 2014.
Among those supporting his proposed legislation are Family Farm Action, Indiana Farmers Union, Pennsylvania Farmers Union, American Grassfed Association, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Women Food and Agriculture Network, Missouri's Food for America, Family Dairy Farms LLC, American Public Health Association, Food & Water Action, Center for Food Safety, Public Justice, Waterkeeper Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council and Mighty Earth.

China commits to ag. buying from U.S.

China has agreed to buy a minimum of $40 to $50 billion worth of agricultural products per year, beginning next year, said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during a television interview.

And China has further agreed to buy a total of $200 billion of U.S. goods per year, he said.

This year China is buying about $10 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products and in 2017 it was $21 billion.

China’s purchases are likely to shore up U.S. agriculture products prices and that, in turn, will shore up Canadian prices.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Vaccine found for African Swine Fever

Researchers have developed a vaccine that is proving effective against African Swine Fever.

The work has been done by United States Department of Agriculture scientists at the Plum Island, New York, site for the Agriculture Research Service.

They are ready to begin trials in commercial herds.

The early results of the trial look promising as all pigs in remained essentially free of clinical signs of the disease after being exposed to the complete virus. 

Unvaccinated pigs in the groups also remained free of clinical signs, indicating that the vaccine does not increase the risk of other animals contracting the virus through shedding.

This new vaccine was developed upon the discovery that deletion of a previously uncharacterised viral gene produces complete attenuation in swine. 

The vaccine has been trialled in a clinical environment, with all animals inoculated intramuscularly with the gene-deleted virus remaining clinically normal during the 28-day observational period.

The new vaccine was described in the published paper as "one of the few experimental vaccine candidate virus strains reported to be able to induce protection against the ASFv Georgia isolate, and the first vaccine capable of inducing sterile immunity against the current ASFv strain responsible for recent outbreaks."

China, U.S., reach trade deal

 The United States and China have reached a first-stage trade deal that might sideswipe Canadian wheat exports.

The deal includes a commitment by China to buy wheat, corn and rice from the United States which has so far not been a major supplier of those commodities for China.

Canada pioneered wheat sales to China more than 60 years ago when then-agriculture minister Alvin Hamilton signed a major export deal. At the time Europe and the U.S. would not sell wheat to “Communist China”.

U.S. President Donald Trump said the new deal includes provisions for intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, currency and foreign exchange. 

It also protects Chinese companies doing business in the U.S. and vice versa.

Under the agreement, the U.S.will retain 25 per cent tariffs on about $250 billion of imports and reduce to around 7.5 per cent tariffs imposed on $120 billion of other Chinese imports.
China has agreed to suspend retaliatory tariffs, targeting goods ranging from corn and wheat to U.S.-made vehicles and auto parts, that were due to take effect Sunday.

Bibeau’s mandate letter posted

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants his agriculture minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, to revamp AgriStability, improve farm inheritance transters, protect supply management and increase exports.
  • It’s all outlined in her mandate letter which says:
  • In collaboration with the provinces and territories, undertake a review of risk management programs, with a special focus on AgriStability. Help producers manage environmental and business risks by providing faster and better adapted support. Draw lessons from recent trade disputes and evidence-based research.
  • Work with the Minister of Finance and farmers on tax measures to facilitate the intergenerational transfer of farms.
  • To support farmers as they succeed and grow, lead the consolidation of existing federal financial and advisory services currently scattered among several agencies. The new entity, Farm and Food Development Canada, will serve as a single point of service, delivering products from across government, with an expanded and enhanced mandate and additional capital lending capability.
  • Continue to protect supply-managed agricultural sectors and work with them to develop a vision of the future. This will include concluding the work related to full and fair compensation for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement following its ratification.
  • Support the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade in identifying additional tools to help Canada’s agricultural andagri-food businesses export their products and diversify into global markets.
  • Draw on lessons from recent trade disputes and evidence-based research to develop additional capacity within your department to respond to export protections against Canadian agriculture, such as were recently faced by canola, beef and pork producers. This should include the ability to provide faster short-term support for industry when required. Continue to work with the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade to diversify Canada’s export markets.
  • Lead work across government to move forward with the new Food Policy for Canada introduced in Budget 2019. This policy has four areas of near-term action, including:
    • Help Canadian communities access healthy food;
    • Make Canadian food the top choice at home and abroad;
    • Support food security in northern and indigenous communities; and
    • Reduce food waste.
  • Support the Minister of Health to ensure that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency is making science-based decisions that lead to the safe and sustainable use of crop protection products in Canada.
  • Work with the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages to create a new fund to help producers and processors close the technology and infrastructure gap in order to develop domestic and international markets. This fund will be administered through Western Economic Diversification Canada to connect farmers, researchers, agribusinesses and energy companies.
  • Support the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to create a new Canada Water Agency to work together with the provinces, territories, Indigenous communities, local authorities, scientists and others to find the best ways to keep our water safe, clean and well-managed.