Thursday, December 31, 2020

U.S. farmers get even more subsidies

Despite record-high profits this year, the United States Senate has larded another $26 billion of farm subsidies into the $960-billion COVID-19 relief bill that President Donald Trump finally signed Tuesday.

About half of that goes into food programs for low-income Americans. They have always been part of the budgets for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Farmers will receive $13 billion in new payments, this time more targeted than the previous COVID-19 subsidies.

House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson, who lost his re-election, insisted that it not be provided as a ‘slush fund’ to be distributed at the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture.  

Row crop farmers will receive a flat $20 per acre in payments for all crop types, totaling about $5 billion, and livestock producers who had to ‘depopulate’ their herds when meatpacking plants were either closed or operating at reduced capacity during the spring will receive some compensation for those animals.  

Payments will also be made to contract growers of livestock and poultry who did not benefit from previous relief packages.  

The Secretary will also be authorized to provide payments to producers of biofuels due to their unexpected losses during the spring.  

Specialty crop producers get $1.2 billion to purchase agricultural commodities for distribution via outlets such as food banks.

In addition, the bill provides $60 million as grants to small and medium sized meatpacking facilities to help them upgrade to federal meat inspection standards.

There is $20 million annually for the Agricultural Research Service to address gaps in nutrition research at the “critical intersection of responsive agriculture, quality food production, and human nutrition and health.”   

The is $28 million in state block grants to support farmer and rancher stress management due to COVID-19.  

Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas who is retiring and is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, got his National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at Manhattan, Kansas, transferred from the Department of Homeland Security to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The facility is being built to house highly sensitive research into plant and animal diseases that could devastate the U.S. agricultural sector, and is expected to be fully operational by December 2022.

This is what budgets look like when they're fashioned by committee and when leaders need to buy some politicians' votes to pass bills.



Argentina blocks corn exports

Argentina is blocking any further exports of corn because it says it needs the livestock feed at home.

The country is one of the world’s major suppliers of soybeans, corn and wheat, but has been experiencing big food-price increases this year.

“This decision is based on the need to ensure the supply of grain for the sectors that use it as a raw material for the production of animal protein such as pork, chicken, eggs, milk and cattle, where corn represents a significant component of production costs,” the government statement said.

It caught the global grain trade by surprise.

So far this crop year, Argentina has exported 34.23 million tonnes of the $38.5 allowed by export permits. That leaves 4.27 million tonnes that are now blocked.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

U.S. food guidelines draw criticism

A Canadian researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton is among a large number of academics critical of the new dietary guidelines the United States Department of Agriculture issued this week.

Dr. Andrew Mente, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at McMaster is critical of the advice to limit meat consumption. He is head of an international organization of epidemiologists who study the impact of nutrition on health.

“To date, the collective data on saturated fat do not support existing recommendations of limiting intake to 10 per cent of calories. 

“In fact, the most recent data indicate that restricting saturated fat intake to low levels is not needed and may even be harmful, he said.

Meats and dairy products “also contain a multitude of other nutrients that the body needs including monounsaturated fat, quality protein, vitamin B, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and vitamin D. 

“Instead, relaxing current restrictions on saturated fat intake but limiting intake of refined carbohydrates, added sugar, and ultra-processed foods is a better bet for improving the health of populations,” he said.

The Nutrition Coalition in the U.S. criticized the guidelines for failing to address the general public which includes significant percentages of people afflicted with diabetes and other chronic diseases.


The coalition said 60 per cent of the population now suffers one or more diet-related disease, including heart disease, obesity and diabetes and “the expert committee did not review any of the body of science on how to successfully treat these diseases with nutrition—not even any studies on weight loss.”

The coalition said the guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture are the single most important factor for dietary advice.

They are followed by most healthcare practitioners, kindergarten to grade 12 educators, media outlets, and the military, are used in the $100 billion spent by the USDA on Nutrition Assistance Programs for school lunches, feeding assistance for the elderly and women with infant children and food for disadvantaged communities.

Dairies urged to cater better to consumers

The dairy industry needs to do a better job of listening and catering to consumers, says Charlie Arnot, chief executive officer of The Center for Food Integrity and president of consultation firm Look East.

He said young people in particular want to know that their food is healthy, safe and good for the planet.

He said those who are researching and introducing dairy substitutes are paying close attention to these factors, so the dairy industry “needs to be on its toes.”


They want products that will improve their health, he said, so the dairy industry needs to give them reasons to feel good about buying milk and dairy products.

He said these ideas circulate on social media popular with young people..

“It really is a result from the pandemic that it’s spread across all demographics,” Arnot said.

“People are looking for what can I eat, what can I consume, what can I do to enhance my immune health to help protect myself, protect my family from the pandemic.”

He also found there’s an increasing divide between those who need to pinch pennies because of the pandemic and those who are affluent and shopping for higher-end products.

Confirming that observation is a recent survey which found that organic milk sales are currently about 8.5 per cent greater than a year ago.


African Swine Fever plagues Romania


Romania is struggling to stop the spread of African Swine Fever.

It has 409 active outbreaks in 32 counties, including a number of farms.

However, Romanian animal health authorities report that the number of active infections is fewer than in November. 

Nearly 200,000 pigs have been slaughtered in attempts to stop the spread. Those farmers have received compensation.

The disease seems to spread from east to west in Europe with reports earlier this year from Poland and Germany that African Swine Fever had been identified in wild boar populations.

China wants better meat-shipment disinfection

China is calling on Canadian suppliers of pork, beef and chicken to ensure complete disinfection of meat packaging and containers.

“China has been importing a large quantity of meats this year, and has detected virus on the packaging of cold chain products many times, even as lots of disinfection has been done domestically,” Gao Guan, spokesman for the China Meat Association, said by telephone on Tuesday.

“It should be better to handle this (virus control) at the meats exporting origins, and carry out disinfection at the production plants,” as the cost would be lower, and efficiency higher, Gao added.

Reported cases have shown that contact with packaging contaminated with coronavirus could lead to human infection, said the Chinese association. It is not an official government agency.

The World Health Organization has said the risk of catching COVID-19 from frozen food is low. Chinese officials echoed that such risk was low, but there was still a risk.

“The virus is new. We are still accumulating experience when fighting against it,” Gao said.

“We should get together and discuss how to use the most scientific, efficient and low-cost way to secure public health, and trade at the same time,” Gao added.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Researchers speculate on new solution to boar taint

Researcher Bj√∂rn Petersen and his colleagues have used CRISPR/Cas gene editing to remove a group of genes that determine pigs’ gender.

They got offspring that had the Y gene that makes them male, yet they looked like females with smaller-than-normal sex organs.

They were sterile.

This leads the research team to speculate that it should be possible to eliminate the gene or genes that control the production of skatol. That makes pork from mature males objectionable because, when cooked, there is a strong offenseive odour.

It could lead to a better alternative than castration.

The technology and research might also provide an animal model for investigating human sex determination and sex development disorders.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Province makes agricultural appointments

Four men have been appointed to the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario.

They are David McInnes of Ottawa, Nevin McDougall of London David Jenkins of Belmont and Ken Wall of Port Burwell.

These four have been appointed for terms that end in about three years.

Sean Weir of Oakville has been appointed executive chairman of the Animal Care Review Board for a two-year term. He is a lawyer on one of Canada’s largest legal firms.

This board oversees the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

He has also been appointed executive chairman of six other provincial boards and tribunals.

Amanpreet Sidhu of Brampton has been given a three-year term on the Council of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario.

Where are the capable women?

Pork producers showed gratitude

The Ontario Pork producers marketing board reports that its members stepped up to show generosity to people made needy by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic began, the board launched the Pork Industry Gratitude Project.

And it challenged its local organizations to pick a food-based charity in their community to receive donations before Christmas.

“The response has been tremendous.,” the board reported on its website.

This initiative builds on a long-standing spirit of food-based giving by local pork associations across Ontario, it said.

“Ontario Pork members and their partners across the industry have stepped up to demonstrate that even in difficult times, we can reach out to help our neighbours.”


Organic milk sales surge

There has been a surge in demand for organic milk in the United States.

It is probably because the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants and cafeterias to close, so more people were eating at home and they bought organic milk.

SPINS Mulo tracks sales and reports that so far this year organic milk sales are 11.3 per cent greater than last year in the United States. In the last 12 weeks, the increase is 8.4 per cent.

In Vermont there are about 200 organic milk producers ranging in size from about 15 to the largest with 350 cows. Prices are roughly double what is paid for conventional milk.

Right now, organic milk in Vermont is sold for $30 to $35 ($40 to $45 Cdn) a hundredweight, and there’s an extra premium for grass-fed milk, which ranges from $35 to $40 ($45 to $51). 

“That’s a price that farmers can make money, if you’re a good manager,” said John Cleary, New England manager for Organic Valley Cooperative. 



Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas.

He came to provide hope for the hopeless. To lift up the poor. To heal. 

And to rescue us from sin.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Fox Business News punked

Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo thought she was talking to Smithfield’s chief executive officer Dennis Organ but it was actually Matt Johnson of Direct Action Everywhere, an activist organization opposed to animal farming.

The interview is now on Youtube showing the six-minute interview during which Organ (in reality Johnson) said he wants to offer “transparency and, at times, brutal honesty”  and blamed animal agriculture for the appearance of new infectious diseases.

Howard “AV” Roth, president of the National Pork Producers Council, was not amused and said “taking advantage of this black swan event to drive an anti-meat, anti-livestock agriculture agenda is reprehensible.

“These radical extremist groups who typically work shrouded in secrecy and false identities – frequently while breaking the law – are only able to propagate their false narrative by hoodwinking journalists and posing as credible sources.”

Roth defended his organization’s members and pork industry workers who “remain dedicated to keeping Americans and consumers around the world supplied with affordable, nutritious protein.”

Better Beef to re-open Dec. 29

The Better Beef plant in Guelph will re-open Dec. 29, the company has announced.

It has been shut down because of an outbreak of COVID-19.

It employs about 950 workers, of which 82 tested positive for the virus and another 129 went into self-isolation because of their potential exposure to infected fellow workers.

The company said “employees should not come to work with COVID-19 symptoms or if they have had contact with someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.” 

Cargill owns the plant which is the largest east of Alberta and crucial to Ontario’s beef farmers since there are few alternative plants available to slaughter their market-ready cattle.

The federal and provincial governments announced they have $5 million available to help the farmers who were unable to slaughter their cattle. They can apply for the money to cover costs such as feed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Five workers land flight to Trinidad

Five of about 400 temporary foreign workers from Trinidad and Tobago who have been stranded in Canada have a flight booked to return to Trinidad on Jan. 28.

They worked for E Z Farms Ltd. Another 92 from the islands who worked for Schuyler Farms remain stranded.

The local community and the Schuylers are trying to treat them to some of the Christmas traditions they usually enjoy at home. They have assembled gift packages and some tradional foods.

Brett Schuyler said among those stranded is a pregnant worker who will not be able to fly by February.

He said he has been frustrated at not being able to contact officials to press for clearance for the workers to return home. 

Trinidad and Tobago don’t want travellers from countries with COVID-19 cases, and that’s certainly Canada where there have been issues among temporary foreign workers on farms in Southwestern Ontario.

Officials in Ottawa have said they are trying to persuade Trinidad and Tobago to allow the workers to return.




UG links with innovation investment company

The University of Guelph is linking with Thrive Canada which invests in new ventures, particularly in agriculture.

It might breathe life into the university’s lack-lustre track record in reaping financial rewards from the research it conducts. It has, for example, lagged far behind nearby University of Waterloo which has birthed hundreds of companies worth billions of dollars.

Thrive Canada is the Canadian arm of SVG Ventures/Thrive of Silicon Valley in California. 

The parent has connections with about 5,000 agriculture and food companies in 40 countries and said it has made 40 investments in agriculture technology.

Thrive Canada said that makes it the largest agriculture and food startup investor in the world.

It is also a partner with Farm Credit Canada.



Deli meats recall expands again

A recall of deli meats that began Dec. 7 and was expanded Dec. 15 has been expanded again.

Customers are warned to not eat the products processed by Levitt’s Foods (Canada) Inc. and sold under additional brand names, including Compliments house brands for Sobey’s, Foodland, IGA and Freshco.

The additional contamination with Listeria monocytogenes food-poisoning bacteria were discovered during investigations by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

It said that so far only one person has been identified as possibily made ill by the products.

The products under recall are:







Montreal Style Smoked Meat 

150 g 

8 82756 71684 4

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Smoked Beef Eye of the Round Pastrami

175 g

0 68820 13355 1

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Corned Beef

175 g

0 68820 13356 8

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Montreal-Style Smoked Meat

175 g

0 68820 13357 5

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Roast Beef

175 g

0 68820 13358 2

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Roast Beef

300 g

0 68820 13359 9

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Smoked Beef Pastrami

175 g

0 68820 13360 5

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Montreal Style Smoked Meat

150 g

8 82756 71084 2

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Corned Beef

150 g

8 82756 72084 1

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


New York Style Pastrami 

150 g

8 82756 73084 0

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Seasoned Roast Beef

150 g

8 82756 74084 9

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48


Old Fashioned Montreal Smoked Meat


Starting with 2 61043

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48

The Deli-Shop

Sliced Pastrami

175 g

0 59749 95373 3

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48

The Deli-Shop 

Sliced Pastrami 

2 x 175 g

0 59749 95227 9

All best before dates up to and including 2021/JA/22 EST 48






Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Turkey appeal set for end of January

The appeal that turkey processors have filed against the Turkey Farmers of Ontario marketing board is set for Jan. 25 and 29 via video conference.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal has opened this hearing to the public.

 Last week it held a pre-conference hearing that was closed to the public.

Markus dairy appeal set

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal has set Jan. 25 for a pre-hearing conference on an appeal D & S Markus Farms Ltd. Has filed against the Dairy Farmers of Ontario marketing board.

Darryl Markus of Mount Elgin will pursue his appeal via video conference which is closed to the public.

Monday, December 21, 2020

New leaders for Canadian Grain Commission

Doug Chorney has been chosen chief commissioner and Patty Rosher assistant chief commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission.

They were appointed to four-year terms by federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

In Ontario, the commission has its provincial head office in Chatham. 

Among many responsibilities is checking international grain movements.

Bibeau said Chorney has been “an active player in the grain industry for 24 years.” He is a former president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, Manitoba’s counterpart to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

Rosher’s most recent job was general manager of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

She is the first woman to hold a senior appointed position on the commission.

World Trade Organization crippled

The World Trade Organization is crippled by failure to agree on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and a proposal to prevent countries from banning food exports needed for international aid emergencies.

The 180 members were also unable to choose a new director general during a three-day meeting in Geneva.

The United States has been a rebel among the ranks, refusing to co-operate with the organization and refusing to name members for disputes-settling panels, meaning that the organization can’t enforce its trade rules.

But India was the main objector to the proposal from Singapore to prevent countries from banning food exports needed for food aid programs.

Reuters news agency reports that United States Ambassador Dennis Shea, in his final major address to the organization this week, described “wide divergences among the membership” and said the WTO had underperformed.

However, critics blame the Trump administration for its difficulties, saying Washington has hamstrung the WTO by blocking the appointment of a new director-general and opposing judge appointments to its top court.

Canada has led “the Ottawa group” to agree on a disputes-settling protocol for countries other than the United States.



Russel Woods dead at 95

Russel Woods of Belwood, a founding member and former chairman of the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board has died. He was 95.

He was a calm presence during storms of political controversies among the ranks of chicken producers.

He was also a long-time director of Peel Maryborough Insurance, now named Edge Insurance.

He was a mechanic and tail gunner on Lancaster bombers during World War II.

He is survived by his wife, Betty, and three sons, Larry, Bill and Jack. Bill runs the chicken farm and has also served as a director of the chicken board.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Five million available to beef farmers

The federal and Ontario governments have put up $5 million for beef farmers who can’t find a home for market-ready cattle in the wake of the COVID-19-related shutdown of the Better Beef plant Cargill owns in Guelph.

“I commend the federal and provincial governments for moving swiftly to ensure this tool and funding support was made available to Ontario cattle producers to help mitigate the impact of the disruptions we’ve experienced at processing,” said Rob Lipsett, president, Beef Farmers of Ontario. 

Beef farmers can apply for funding to help cover increased costs of feeding and setting aside market-ready cattle due to COVID-19 related processing delays. 

"We care deeply about the well-being of our farmers and understand the repercussions that short-term capacity reductions have on livestock producers,” said the federa; Agriculture Minister Marie- Claude Bibeau.

“This is another measure we are taking to support our cattle farmers and to continue to keep high-quality and affordable meat products available to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hatrdeman said “we are continuing to work with our farmers and all the agri-food heroes in our food processing network to help them meet challenges posed by COVID-19 and to keep a steady supply of safe and nutritious foods available for Ontario families.”


More than 80 workers at the plant have tested positive for the virus and another 40 who were in close contact are ordered to stay in isolation until they test negative.

The plant has been shut down indefinitely, but the company said it will re-open as soon as it’s deemed safe.