Monday, March 30, 2020

Poultry COVID-19 advisory posted

The poultry marketing boards have posted special biosecurity protocols during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It tells farmers that they, too, must practice social distancing – i.e. two metres or roughly six feet between people.

And they are advised to wash their hands often, and to wipe down and sanitize all common-contact surfaces, such as doors and tables.

Chicken Farmers of Ontario, for example, has posted the complete protocol on its website.

Others involved in the poultry-industry command centre are the egg, turkey and hatching egg boards, poultry processors and egg graders.

Retail meat sales soar

Retail meat sales were 91 per cent greater for the week that ended March 22 than the comparable week a year ago, reports a tracking company in the United States.

Sales increases were even higher for local and regional grocers; one independent grocer said he sold six times as much meat as usual.

Volume was up by 78 per cent, so the rest of the increase was because of higher prices.

In the ground-meat category, this is how things were:

·       Ground beef increased 104%
·       Ground turkey, +87%
·       Ground chicken, +69%
·       Ground pork, +89%
·       Ground lamb, +33%f
On the other hand, movement via restaurants and cafeterias is probably down sharply.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Olymel shutters hog plant

Olymel has sent about 1,000 employees home, shuttering its plant at Yamachiche for 14 days, "due to the growing number of cases of COVID-19 among plant employees, which has reached nine," the company said in a news release.
Olymel said it "will offer its employees all the help and information they need in order to benefit from the government's current financial assistance programs."

Friday, March 27, 2020

COVID-19 shutters Alberta beef packer

Some Canadian Food Inspection Agency staff were pulled off the job Friday, effectively shutting down Harmony Beef north of Balzac, Alta.
Alberta’s health department notified Harmony on Thursday that a worker who had not been on the job for days had tested positive, Harmony spokesman Crosbie Cotton said. 

The company then sent the other workers in his part of the slaughter area home for 14 days, even though they did not display symptoms.

Then on Friday there were not enough CFIA inspectors at work to enable continued operations.

The plant has capacity to slaughter 750 head per day.

Be cautious about FCC credit

The Farm Credit Corporation is offering farmers  loans  of 
up to $500,000 flowing from the federal government's COVID-19 response.

Be cautious!

FCC president Michael Hoffert said in a letter to farmers "It is a 24-month credit line up to $500,000 at a rate of prime plus one per cent and no fees. The loan is secured by general security agreements or universal movable hypothec (Québec only)."

It's the security that should give farmers pause.

In effect, you are putting everything you own on the line.

But this is not really all that new. I have been told that the FCC has been doing this on many mortgages and loans, even for amounts that are a small fraction of the value of the assets they are asked to pledge - eg. a $250,000 loan on a farm with total assets of a million or more.

The FCC can, I have been told, then turn around and claim that entire pledged amount as its own security when it is trying to raise funds in the open market.

So, if the FCC should ever default, guess whose assets are at risk. Yours! All of them.

Be cautious. Have a lawyer or accountant check it out for you before you sign up for FCC loans. 

Grain farmers list COVID-19 requests

Grain Farmers of Ontario is asking its members to contact Members of Parliament to emphasize that they are an essential service and to ask for the following:

1.   A fully funded RMP program at 100 per cent with the cap removed;
2. An immediate injection of at least five per cent of a farmer‘s 2018 Allowable Net Sales (ANS) into AgriInvest accounts’
3. An increase to AgriStability to 85 per cent for 2019-2020 and remove Reference Margin Limiting, and

4. Protection of the supply chain – from seed, to inputs, to processing, to parts and repairs, to retail, and exports.

Blackburn cheese on recall

Fromagerie Blackburn is its Le Napoléon Firm Cheese due to possible contamination by Listeria monocytogenes food-poisoning bacteria.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is investigating to determine if other Fromagerie Blackburn cheeses might be contaminated.

The CFIA said there have been no reports of illness associated with the products.

Chicken supply chain disrupted

The closure of restaurants is upsetting the chicken supply chain, Mark Reusser, vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, told the Waterloo Region Record today.

He said the restaurant chains want chicken cut to their specifications which aren’t typical of what’s sold in supermarkets.

There is no mention of this issue in the on-line information Chicken Farmers of Ontario has posted on its website in lieu of holding its annual meeting.

Those documents indicate that the top-priority issue is implementing new pricing based on an updated cost-of-production formula.

Processors have challenged the board’s pricing proposal, so the issue is now in the hands of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.

Last year chicken producers placed 249 million chicks, produced 590 million kilograms of chicken, contributed $3.81 billion to Ontario’s economy and built 116 barns.

Zinc chelate counters swine dysentery

New research indicates that a zinc chelate product marketed by Elanco is effective in treating swine dysentery (B. hyodysenteriae).

“The ID treatment resulted in a higher growth rate and improved general health, whereas no mortality was observed and no additional therapeutic treatments were necessary in contrast to the control pigs,” says the report published in Porcine Health Management.

Antibiotics work, but require a veterinary prescription.

Zinc also works to counter scours, but is a metal that carries a risk of over-use.

There has been a significant increase of swine dysentery in Europe and recently it has been showing up again in Canada.

COOL for beef coming in U.S.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is preparing to introduce voluntary Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef.

Unlike mandatory COOL that Canada and Mexico successfully challenged, voluntary COOL is unlikely to be pursued by the mainstream beef-packing companies.

That’s because implementing COOL requires segregation of animals and meat throughout the processing plant and supply chain, increasing costs significantly.

 USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced it plans to propose a new rule that would essentially create a voluntary country of origin label that could be used on beef from cattle that have been born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.

FSIS laid out its plan in its response to the U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) petition, submitted last October, regarding beef products labeling. 

USCA had asked the agency to amend its Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book so that any beef labeled in such a way as to lead the buyer to believe it came from U.S. livestock, had to in fact be fabricated from U.S. livestock, or mandatory country-of-original labeling. 

Mandatory COOL was devastating to Canadian and Mexican farmers because U.S. packers either didn’t buy any at all, or discounted prices to offset the costs and logistics of segregating their beef processing and packaging.

Canadian and Mexican prices for cattle declined to well below U.S. prices; the two countries won appeals to the World Trade Organization (WTO), but it wasn’t until the WTO cleared the way to impose retaliatory tariffs on a long list of U.S. products that the U.S. withdrew mandatory COOL.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Two more PED cases in Middlesex

Two more hog barns in Middlesex County have come down with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.

One is a grow-finisher operation, the other a sow barn.

They bring the total this month to nine and the all-time total to 144.

Egg demand soars

Some supermarkets temporarily sold out of eggs or rationed what they had to one or two dozen per household.

But the situation in Canada is far better than in the United States where wholesale prices have shot up by 180 per cent since the beginning of March.

Some egg-grading stations there say orders from retailers have increased six-fold. Retail sales for the first two weeks of March were 44 per cent greater than the same period last year.

Margo Ladauceur, egg-industry specialist with the Canadian Egg and Poultry Processors Council, said demand has been brisk, but Canadians have been able to meet it by diverting eggs that normally would go to the foodservice industry.

Demand there is almost nil because restaurants are shut down.

“Regarding egg prices, there are no significant changes that we're aware of,” she said of the Canadian wholesale market.

Normally grading stations, such as Burnbrae and Gray Ridge, import heavily from the United States in the weeks leading up to Easter, but Ladauceur said not this year because U.S. eggs are simply not available.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

PED spread via transport

There is a transportation link among recent Ontario outbreaks of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, confirms one of the swine veterinarians at South West Veterinary Services in Stratford.

A clinic is planning to issue a news release this week to outline the situation and stress the need for biosecurity.

The outbreaks at several sow-farm facilities was because of “security gaps,” said Dr. Doug MacDougald.

He said the recent cases underline the importance of maintaining biosecurity “with no gaps. Even the slightest gap is enough” for the virus to slip through.

The sow barns impacted this month were Mar. 17 in Perth County and Mar 2 and 11 in Middlesex County, finisher barns went down Mar. 19 in Lambton County and Mar. 16 in Halidimand, a farrow-to-finish barn Mar. 10 in Middlesex and a grow-finish barn in Middlesex Mar. 2.

Fertilizer industry asks for essential service designation

Fertilizer Canada, noting that the United States has declared parts of its fertilizer industry an essential service, is asking the Canadian government to declare the entire supply chain an essential service.

It also asked that workers who require training to retain certification be granted extensions while the emergency lasts.

"The next two months are critical, both for the Canadian response to the COVID-19 pandemic but also to our farmer customers who are already beginning preparations for the spring planting season," said Garth Whyte, president and chief executive officer of Fertilizer Canada. 

"The federal government must maintain our national food supply chains and, mirror the actions in the United States of America, draft a list of essential critical infrastructure workers that could be used by federal departments and provincial and territorial governments to make decisions," he said.

Gregory Vanden Bosch appointed to Agricorp

Gregory Vanden Bosch, owner of Vanden Bosch Elevators near Ottawa, has been appointed to a two-year term as a director of Agricorp.

Agricorp administers Ontario’s business risk management programs for farmers, such as crop insurance and AgriStability.

Monday, March 23, 2020

VIDO called into action

The federal government is giving $2 million to the Veterinary Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

It is being recognized as Canada's leading laboratory equipped to address the challenge.

It is usually working only on animal diseases.

Maple Leaf adds COVID-19 aid

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is going to offer is employees extra pay, is donating $500,00 for emergency food aid and offering to match others’ donations up to $2 million and is giving $2.5 million to a national fund for health workers.

"In this global crisis, we are compelled to look beyond our business and do what we can to support the many dedicated people who continue to deliver the critical services we depend on, as well as the most vulnerable in our society," said Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer.

"We encourage all companies with resources and capacity to do what they can to add their support. Together, we can make a meaningful difference in working alongside governments to fight this pandemic and restore our public and economic health."

The bonus for workers is $80 per week.

Feds give Farm Credit Canada $5 billion

Part of the federal government’s responses to COVID-19 is $5 billion for Farm Credit Canada.

It is normal for FCC to allow borrowers to pause loan repayments during times of crisis.

Advance payment loans that fall due in April will now be granted a six-month extension.

The national association representing restaurant owners is asking politicians to enact measures to suspend evictions for failure to pay rent.

It said rent is usually the largest bill restaurants face.

It also asked for an increase in the 10 per cent government subsidy for employees.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pleading – almost ordering – Canadians to stay home because anybody who picks up the virus can then pass it along to others.

He said it’s foolish for people to believe they are healthy enough to survive the disease because the issue is that they can infect many others.

COVID-19 requires new food policies

Canadians involved in food production and distribution need to be talking to each other to work out flexible plans to cope with the spread of COVID-19, say the agricultural economists at Agri-Food Economic Systems.

One of the major challenges will be employee absenteeism, they say, including Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors, truckers, etc.
In some cases, large processing plants be shut down if workers turn up with COVID-19. The economists point to the closure of the Toyota assembly plant in Cambridge when one of about 2,009 employees tested positive.

If a large meat-packing plant, for example, shuts down if, for example, there are no CFIA inspectors available, livestock will need to find another plant for slaughter. That means longer-distance trucking, so they say the government should temporarily suspend new regulations requiring shorter travel times without stops for water and rest.

They note that plant closures have already begun to occur in Brazil in some meat plants due to Covid-19; the fear of this occurring in the US appears to have roiled livestock futures markets. The effects of a plant closure could back up very quickly to the farm level in terms of much lower pricing and animal welfare considerations. 

They recommend that all employers establish a pool of back-up workers so they can cope with absenteeism. It also means stripping work to the essentials so operations can continue with fewer staff. 

“Similarly, it would be prudent for CFIA and provincial inspection agencies to recruit and train auxiliary staff to work under inspectors to build redundancy immediately,” they say.

“There is a need for a continuously operating dialogue among governments, industry leaders in all aspects of the agri-food chain, with policy research capacity attached to it,” they say. 

“The dialogue must lead to the setting of priorities, immediate, short term, intermediate term, and long term/recovery. 

“Governments will require continuous interaction with a wide range of people from involved industries, with their breadth of knowledge, to make this effective. “

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Seasonal workers approved by Ottawa

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has repeated a promise made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow seasonal farm workers to enter Canada.

Bibeau said any worker or student with a valid visa will be permitted entry, but will need to be in quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

But how, pray tell, are the 60,000 workers the Canadian Federation of Agriculture said are needed going to get here?

Maybe they can walk on water, eh?

Friday, March 20, 2020

Lactanet suspends milk sampling

Lactanet has stopped milk sampling because of the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Chief executive officer Neil Petreney said “given the additional government and public health recommendations, effective immediately we will no longer provide milk sample collection services and are implementing a “No Contact” approach in order to minimize risk. 

“Where customers wish to collect milk samples themselves we will ask that neither they nor their staff be present when we attend the farm to pick up samples." 

The murky world of U.S. poultry shipped to Russia

There is apparently a lot of illegal activity surrounding exports of United States chicken that is supposed to pass through Russia to other countries, such as Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

Meatingplace Magazine reports on two issues in its most recent issue.
One is Russians who siphon the poultry into Russian markets, defying Russia’s ban on imports of U.S. meats.

The other is Russian officials declaring the U.S. poultry is contaminated with residues so Russia can grab the markets in Kazikhstan and Tajikistan for itself.

But the article also said demand for U.S. poultry continues to increase. For example, Tajikistan buyers are not happy with the quality of chicken they have been importing from Brazil and are showing a preference for U.S. poultry.

As for the size of trade, customs union officials told Meatingplace that Kazakhstan will be buying 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes by the end of this year.

Meat counters selling out

Supermarket meat counters are being cleaned out by nervous shoppers.

But in the United States, the North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) today said retail sales of poultry products are up by only 7.3 per cent and deli meat sales by 4.8 per cent.

The Institute said members are responding to increased global demand for meat under difficult circumstances.

“As the coronavirus began to spread overseas, our members acted to protect their employees and develop contingency plans to ensure plants could still provide food for families around the world,” said Meat Institute President and chief executive officer Julie Anna Potts. 

Two other products selling out in Ontario stores have been flour and eggs.

Tax deadlines extended

Canada has extended the deadline for filing taxes to August.

In the United States the extension is 90 days to mid-July, but is capped at $1 million.

There have been no indications that municipalities will extend their deadlines for property and business taxes.

Three more PED outbreaks

There have been three new outbreaks of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.

They are at finisher barns in Lambton and Haldimand and a sow barn in Perth County.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Gayle Ecker appointed to veterinarian board

Gayle Ecker, an equine specialist and animal welfare researcher at the University of Guelph, has been appointed to a three-year term on the Council of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario.

The council regulates the practice of veterinary medicine and is mandated to establish, maintain and develop standards of knowledge, skill and professional ethics among its members.

Swine dysentery re-emerging

Swine dysentery is emerging again in herds in Canada and even moreso in Europe, warns Dr. Matthew Costa, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota.

In the past it has been effectively controlled by adding Carbacox, an antibiotic, to rations for finisher pigs.

Costa said antibiotics are the only defense because there is no vaccine for swine dysentery.

There have, however, been restrictions on routine use of antibiotics as feed additives and there have been restrictions on the use of some antibiotics in agriculture, all aimed at reducing the incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A veterinarian can still prescribe antibiotics to treat the disease.
 Costa said this time swine dysentery is a bit different than in the past when bloody diarrhea was the obvious symptom.

Now the symptoms can be more gradual, such as the color of feces turning green, then red, and the consistency from watery to mucoid (like the mucus in clumps of snot).

Dr. Costa is conducting research to identify the strains involved in these outbreaks and to determine if an outbreak requires the presence of more than one bacteria and, if so, which ones.

Previous trials have indicated that swine dysentery bacteria on its own will not sicken healthy pigs.

Canadian meat inspection flaws detailed

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has some shortcomings, according to a report by inspectors from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture.

The report, filed in December, 2018, and released under Access to Information, said that “FSIS auditors identified deficiencies due to inadequate enforcement of sanitation standards operating practices and sanitation performance standards requirements by CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) personnel.”

The report also said “auditors identified deficiencies related to HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) design, monitoring and recordkeeping.”

It also said the CFIA “had not identified deficiencies nor documented deficiencies that could lead to potential unsanitary conditions affecting all audited establishments.”

The CFIA complained that the FSIS auditors should have said “some”, not “all”, audited plants.

The FSIS findings have been heavily censored, in some cases blocking out whole page-long descriptions of the auditors’ findings.

All of the FSIS findings are accompanied by CFIA comments, most of them simply citing what Canadian regulations and operating procedures require.

The FSIS has been auditing Canadian packing plants and CFIA labs for more than 50 years. 

In the 1970s, scores of Canadian plants were banned from exporting meat to the United States because they failed to meet Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards.

After decades of deficiencies, the federal government transferred CFIA inspection from the agriculture to the health department in October, 2013.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Crosby Devitt to head Grain Farmers of Ontario

Grain Farmers of Ontario is promoting Crosby Devitt from vice-president to chief executive officer.

He takes over from Barry Senft who has been executive director since the organization was formed 10 years ago from a merger among wheat, corn, soybean, oat and barley organizations.

Devitt came to Grain Farmers of Ontario from the Canadian Seed Trade Association where he was executive director.

He handled research projects and relationships and is currently vice president for strategic development.

GFO chairman Markus Haerle said Devitt faced competition from a strong group of international competitors.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Marini sausage license suspended

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has suspended the license for Marini of Toronto because of it “failure to implement effective corrective measures for non-compliances.”

The company has 90 days to come up to standard, else it will permanently lose its license.

It cannot operate during the suspension. It makes fresh Italian sausages and dry cured meats under brand names Rea, Marini and Bona

Sow barn in Middlesex has PED

Another barn, the fourth this month in Middlesex County, has come down with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.

It is also the second sow barn his by the highly-infectious disease that is deadly to young piglets, but harmless for humans.

It is the province’s 139th case.

China to build overseas hog farms

The Chinese government is encouraging companies to build hog farms overseas to meet its domestic demand for pork.

That could include Canada because Reuters news agency reports that the government said “the pig farms should be built in countries with stable bilateral trade relations with China, and are African swine fever-free.”

Smithfield Foods of Virginia is owned by a Chinese company. It is by far the largest hog producer and pork packer in North America and at one time owned J.M. Schneider Inc. of Kitchener. It sold to Maple Leaf Foods.

China's message came from the top government document, issued by the national development and reform commission and ministry of agriculture and rural affairs.

Beijing has been taking various measures to boost pig production and increase pork supplies, including urging local authorities to secure construction materials for new and expanded pig farms during the coronavirus outbreak, and allow farmers to build pig pens on deserted land and facilities for animal waste treatment and sterilization on some farmland.

Animal welfare for organic industry coming soon

A judge has ordered the United States Department of Agriculture to publish final regulations for animal welfare for organic farmers.

The regulations have been in the works for a decade and the Organic Trade Association finally sued the government to get them enacted.

They are in the Organic Foods Production Act and the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Proposed final rule.

The lawsuit said the USDA illegally delayed the standards.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer has set a Sept. 8 deadline for the agriculture department to publish a final rule and fully explain an updated cost-benefit analysis. 

She said the department “should move quickly” after what she described as “these many efforts.” 

Previous efforts to issue a final rule were scuttled in April 2018 when USDA identified policy and legal issues and withdrew a provisional final rule under consideration at the time.

Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19 impact on meetings

  • March 16-18 Ottawa Valley Farm Show – cancelled
  • May 17-May 1 Environmental Farm Plan, Growing Your Farm Profits and Biosecurity workshops from OSCIA – cancelled
  • March 24 Grain Farmers of Ontario March Classic – cancelled
  • March 25-26 Drayton Farm Show – cancelled
  • March 25-26 Beef Farmers of Ontario Feedlot Management School – cancelled but to be rescheduled
  • March 24-25 Ontario Pork Annual General Meeting – postponed until further notice
  • March 26 Chicken Farmers of Ontario annual meeting – cancelled
  • April 1 and 2 Canadian Dairy Xpo – postponed and looking for possible dates to host the event this summer.
  • April 1 – Beechwood Agri Annual Organic Grower meeting – cancelled
  • April 8 and 9 National Poultry Show, London, Ont. – cancelled

London, Elgin Dairy Farms withdraw appeals

London Dairy Farm and Elgin Dairy Farm have withdrawn their appeals against the Dairy Farmers of Ontario marketing board.

Notice of withdrawal appeared on the website today for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.

Really, timely, guys!

The public hearing was scheduled to take place Mar. 4 to 6 at the tribunal headquarters in Guelph.