Sunday, January 31, 2021

Seasonal workers get travel exemption

Temporary foreign workers will be able to come to Canada without meeting new restrictions announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

They will be able to land at any airport, not just the four announced in Trudeau’s restrictions, and they won’t need to endure three days in airport hotels awaiting COVID-19 test results.

They will have to quarantine for 14 days after arrival in Canada, as has been the case since the first international travel restrictions began last spring, but the quarantines can be served on farm.

On the other hand, the Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced it will be keeping much closer watch on farms employing temporary foreign workers.

Sources report that federal officials quelled any fears the restrictions would prevent foreign workers from arriving in Canada.

Transport Canada is believed to be working with the major airlines to ensure flights carrying temporary foreign workers can land at any Canadian airport capable of welcoming them, rather than in one of the four designated cities.

According to sources, federal officials are also trying to find ways of ensuring the arrival of workers despite flights being suspended. Chartered flights are being considered — and indeed, already used often to bring in seasonal workers; but the federal government is also working to ensure foreign airlines carrying foreign workers can land in Canada.


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Chicken production remains on cut-back

The allocation for chicken production from mid-April to the end of May will be two per cent less than base quota.

That’s the Ontario allocation from the national agency, amounting to just under 64 million kilograms of the national total of l89 million.

Throughout the reductions, the Ontario board has allowed small-scale, artisanal and special breeds producers to continue without cuts. They are allowed to produce without having to own quota, but they must live within the marketing board’s policies and regulations.

Those three programs were introduced at a time when chicken markets were booming and Ontario was benefitting from a new national allocation program which allowed the province to increase at a rate a bit greater than the national rate, provided allocations are more than base quota.

That helped to address the chronic shortage of chicken in Ontario.

The Ontario board said the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the chicken market with less being sold via restaurants and more for in-home consumption.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Beef quality begins in uterus

Professor Marcio Duarte of Brazil is coming to Canada to research how development in an animal’s uterus impacts later life and meat quality.

He will join the University of Guelph’s Department of Animal Biosciences as assistant professor in meat science and muscle biology.

Duarte is currently an assistant professor in animal science at the Universidade Federal de Vi├žosa in Brazil.

Beef cattle are his main focus, although he also collaborates on swine research projects, and his specialization lies in improving meat quality through research into muscle biology, maternal nutrition, and fetal development.

“Skeletal development starts in the uterus and with a third of the animal’s life spent in-utero, we need to learn how we can manipulate the maternal diet to benefit fetal development,” he said.

“What we do during pre-natal development has consequences later in life for the calf.”

He also hopes to collaborate with animal nutritionists and geneticists to understand how the drive for feed efficiency impacts cellular development.

Several factors drew him to Guelph – the upgraded federally-inspected beef abattoir and new research facilities at Elora, colleagues who studied at the University of Guelph and support from Beef Farmers of Ontario.

It’s a welcome change in direction since the university cut eight faculty positions in Animal and Poultry Science as part of measures to slash the budget for Ontario Agriculture College in 2008.

Department chair Jim Squires said so far, the department has hired 14, including eight women. “We’ve built back up to our previous levels, and at the same time our productivity has grown, and our number of graduate students has grown as well.”



Bibeau hangs tough on AgriStability

Facing pressure from the Prairie provinces, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau is hanging tough on her proposals to reform AgriStability.


And Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman, who supports the package, is warning that time is running out if provinces and territories want the package to be retroactive to last year.


On the other hand, there has been no announcement from him indicating that he has signed Ontario on to the deal.


The changes would cost about $170 million in total; $102 million is the federal share. Removing the reference margin limit would boost funding available to farmers by more than 30 percent, while increasing the compensation rate would increase it by 50 per cent, Bibeau’s officials have calculated.


Bibeau said she’s willing to meet again – the package was presented Nov. 27 – but is not willing to re-open negotiations.


Manitoba’s agriculture minister Blaine Pederson has said he wants the package changed to address concerns raised by producers about the predictability, competitiveness, and timeliness of the risk management program.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Sixty-one University of Guelph students test positive

Sixty-one students in residence at the University of Guelph have tested positive for COVID-19 and about 200 are under lockdown quarantine. 

 Students apparently participated in a large party, explaining why so many have tested posit

The university is clamping down in hopes that its safety protocols will be followed by all students and stop further spread of the virus. It is also considering a curfew.


It is the largest single-site outbreak in Guelph and Wellington County.

Ontario Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano said he has discussed the outbreak and its cause with UG president Charlotte Yates.

“I had a conversation with President Yates and the situation is being monitored and under control,” he said .“Of course, that was an unsanctioned event that occurred and the institution is addressing it.”

Niagara-area rural internet coming

 The federal and provincial governments are each contributing $4.4 million towards a $21.2-million contract to deliver broadband internet service to rural areas in the Niagara Region.

Service will start being delivered to homes and businesses early next year.

In total, the federal and provincial governments are contributing $191 million to deliver broadband internet service to rural areas across Southwestern Ontario.


Greenhouse projects get $3.6 million

The Ontario government is spending more than  $3.6 million on 12 projects to help develop new technologies, recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and enhance competitiveness and innovation.

The money is drawn from the Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative (GCII).

Four of the projects are:

For Allegro Acres Inc.,  $999,345 to test the impact of up to 24 hours continuous low intensity lighting on a commercial scale with the aim of reducing electricity costs.

For Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, $149,634 to develop a cost-effective anti-viral coating technology to treat tools and surfaces to reduce the spread of plant and human viruses.

For Great Lakes Greenhouses Inc$547,720 to use artificial intelligence to develop an autonomous grower technology that will enhance environmental sustainability, accelerate transition to year-round production, support crop diversification and improve long-term resiliency and competitiveness. The technology will allow greenhouse operators to remotely grow cucumbers and eggplant crops, reducing in-person contact and allowing them to manage more sites remotely.

For Flowers Canada, $89,013 to help the greenhouse sector optimize dehumidification systems to achieve energy recovery savings and improve successful plant production at greenhouse floriculture operations.



China’s purchase boosts corn price

 Corn prices shot up Tuesday on news that China has made its largest purchase in six months from the United States.


China has also bought a record volume of ethanol.


Prices in the United States govern Canadian corn-market prices.

China bought 53.5 million bushels and Tuesday Arlan Suderman of Stonex Group said “it’s pretty significant and helps explain why we saw the big run up in prices on Monday with some follow through today(Tuesday).”

China also said it intends to buy more ethanol before the end of June.

If it is the rumoured 200 million gallons it would be the biggest annual buy ever by China, and happen in just six months.

“This would be a significant purchase,” said Ed Hubbard, general counsel and vice president of government affairs with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “It would be something that would shake the industry up. The challenge, though, is that we have to wait and see whether or not it actually materializes.”



Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Turkey processors and board reach fee agreement

The Turkey Farmer of Ontario marketing board and the Association of Ontario Turkey Processors have reached an agreement that will phase out fees producers pay the board. 

In May the board imposed a COVID-19 Emergency Fund license fee on producers in the amount of $0.06 per kilogram of turkey marketed, in order to generate a fund for COVID-19 response purposes. The Regulation imposing the License Fee had a term attached.


Now the board has agreed to phase out the fee by 0.005 per kilogram per week, which means it will be gone by May.


It was originally an issue under dispute and resulted in the processors filing an appeal with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.


But after the appeal was filed, they reached an agreement an Jan. 13 to wind down the fees by April 25.


The tribunal hearing went ahead as scheduled on Jan. 25, but was a formality to solidify the agreement as a directive from the tribunal.


Both lawyer Herman Turkstra, representing the processors, and lawyer Geoff Spurr, representing the turkey board, said a tribunal order gives the agreement “some certainty of conclusion” of the fees.


Turkstra said the industry has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, including employee absenteeism and higher costs for ensuring employees’ health and safety.


It ranks as one of the most unusual tribunal hearings I have attended over a span of more than 40 years.

Global food prices continue rising

 The index the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization uses to track global food prices rose again in October.

It averaged 100.9 points in October 2020, up 3.1 per cent from September and six per cent above October 2019.

The FAO Cereal Price Index climbed 7.2 per cent from the previous month and 16.5 percent above October 2019.

The surge was mainly driven by wheat prices amid shrinking export availabilities, poor growing conditions in Argentina and continued dry weather affecting winter wheat seeding in Europe, North America and the Black Sea region.

 Corn, feed barley and sorghum prices also remained under upward pressure in October while rice declined.

The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index gained 1.8 percent during the month, posting a nine-month high, led by firmer palm and soy oil prices.

The FAO Dairy Price Index rose 2.2 percent from September, with cheese rising the most, followed by skim milk powder, whole milk powder and butter.

The FAO Meat Price Index declined 0.5 percent from September, marking the ninth monthly decline since January, driven by drop in pork. Beef and poultry meat prices also fell.

Cuts in world production forecasts this month for corn, wheat and rice, amidst a faster pace in exports in response to strong global import demand, are forecast to reduce inventories, especially among the major exporters.  FAO has lowered its forecast for world cereal inventories by the end of seasons in 2021 by 13.6 million tonnes since October to 876 million tonnes, now falling below the 2017/18 record.

The resulting global cereal stock-to-use ratio in 2020/21 stands at 31.1 percent, still highlighting relatively comfortable global supply prospects in the new season.



Monday, January 25, 2021

Manitoba frustrates farmers who favour AgriStability reforms

Manitoba Agriculture Minister Blaine Pederson has not changed his position opposing a reform package for AgriStability, even though he has been sent a letter from 20 of his province’s major farm organizations urging him to support the package.

That leaves Ontario farmers, who have urged quick approval of the package, waiting to see what will happen now to the federal-provincial-territorial agreement. 

Some of them have said they need the money as soon as possible and others, such as Grain Farmers of Ontario, have put a major effort into lobbying for the reforms.

One of the key changes is pushing the reference margin from 70 to 80 per cent; ut was 85 per cent until the politicians deemed that too expensive. In simplified terms, the margin is the gap between production costs and prices and the reference margin sets the limit on the gap.

Pederson has said he also wants the package does not address concerns raised by producers related to the predictability, competitiveness, and timeliness of the risk management program.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said after agriculture ministers met in late November that if they ratified quickly the changes would apply to 2020, as well this year and 2022.

“Although the proposed changes fall short of those that we have been requesting since the AgriStability program was decimated under Growing Forward 2, they are at least a step in the right direction, and we believe, represent an acceptable compromise,” Keystone Agriculture Producers said in a letter to Pederson.

 “Removing the reference margin limit . . . will make the program more effective for those who suffer a significant loss,” the KAP said.



Saturday, January 23, 2021

GRCA has webinars for landowners

The Grand River Conservation Authority is offering webinars on topics such as tree planting and water quality projects for landowners.

People can register to attend the live webinars or choose to wait and pull them from the GRCA website.

The GRCA has been helping landowners with tree planting for more than 60 years and they have recently been planting about 100,000 a year.

It has also worked with landowners on almost 7,000 projects worth about $56 million. Last year there were 65 projects worth about $500,000.

The result has been reduced soil erosion and much-improved water quality.

For example, there are streams that were “dead” that are now alive with trout and other fish.

Friday, January 22, 2021

New poultry board managers

Before long, three of Ontario’s four poultry marketing boards will have new chief executive officers.

Ryan Brown is moving from general manager of Turkey Farmers of Ontario to become general manager of Egg Farmers of Ontario, replacing Harry Pelissero and interim general manager Bill Mitchell.


That leaves the turkey board looking for a replacement.


Rob Dougans, who goes by the titles of president and chief executive officer for Chicken Farmers of Ontario, has announced he plans to retire at the end of March.


Bill Van Heeswyk is executive director at the Ontario Broiler and Hatching Egg Commission.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Dr. Zheng named to Ontario Agriculture Research Council

Dr. Youbin Zheng, a horticulture researcher at the University of Guelph, has been appointed to a three-year term on the Ontario Agriculture Research Council.

The council advises the Ontario Minister of Agriculture and Food about how its research funds ought to be spent, such as identifying priorities and encouraging agricultural research.

In practice, almost all of the agriculture ministry’s research funds are spent on a contract with the University of Guelph.

This means that the government has put Dr. Zheng in a most difficult position should he ever see that the research contract and the projects being supported at the University of Guelph could, in his opinion, be better spent elsewhere.

None of this is any fault of Dr. Zheng's. It's the fault of those who put him into this conflict of interests.

Beef fraudsters get Trump pardon

 Three of the 70 pardons departing President Donald Trump granted on Tuesday were for members of the beef-farming Jorgensen family of South Dakota.

They were convicted of what is basically fraud in sales of meat products by Dakota Lean, Inc.

They formed the company in the mid-1980s to market beef from their farm, which was the largest Angus breeding business in the United States, and invited local cattlemen to join.

The aim was to increase profits and reduce risks by vertically integrating from cattle ranching into beef slaughter, processing and marketing.

Demand proved so strong that they cheated by adding commercial beef trim that was from cattle that did not comply with the standards they advertised in their marketing brochures.

Gregory Jorgensen, who headed the fourth-generation business, was sentenced to 24 months in prison, Martin Jorgenson to 15 months and Deborah Jorgenson to 12 months. They appealed their conviction and sentences and lost.

Trump’s pardons were to them and their late father, Martin Jorgensen.

The application for pardon included a brief from South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Senator Mike Rounds who wrote that the Jorgensens had an exemplary record of service to their community.

Since their convictions in 1996, the Jorgensen’s have served their community devotedly, the politicians wrote. 

Gregory was elected twice to the Tripp County Board of Commissioners and spearheaded infrastructure projects to improve access for Native American communities. 

Deborah is a lifelong member of a non-profit dedicated to promoting educational opportunities for women. 

Martin was named National Beef Cattleman’s Association Businessman of the Year. 

The Jorgensens have shown remorse for their previous action, and in light of decades of exemplary public service, they are well deserving of these pardons, they wrote.



Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Agriculture to regulate livetock gene editing

In his final week in office, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue signed a memorandum of understanding that makes the agriculture department the chief regulator over farm animal biotechnology and gene editing.

He said it enables American farmers to compete on a level playing field around the world.

“In the past, regulations stifled innovation, causing American businesses to play catch-up and cede market share,” he said.

Establishing a new, transparent, risk and science-based regulatory framework will ensure food safety will continue, he said.

The memorandum of understanding applies to genetic engineering for cattle, sheep, goats, swine, horses, mules, or other equines, catfish, and poultry grown for agriculture purposes.

Until this deal, oversight was shared by the agriculture department with the Food and Drug Administration.

The USDA will be responsible to safeguard animal and human health by providing end-to-end oversight from pre-market reviews through post-market food safety monitoring for certain farm animals modified or developed using genetic engineering that are intended for human food.





Beef set-aside program has ended

The federal-provincial program to help beef farmers feed and maintain cattle that could not be slaughtered when the Better Beef plant in Guelph shut down in December because of COVID-19 among staff has ended.

The program ended up paying applicants for three weeks because the plant resumed production Dec. 29.

Applications were received Dec. 22, 39 and Jan. 12 and were scheduled for Jan. 18, but program administers deemed the emergency ended soon enough that the Jan. 18 intake was withdrawn.

Dairy farmers need to register for trade compensation

Dairy farmers will have to register before Mar. 31 with the Canadian Dairy Commission to get their share of $468 million this year.

And they will have to re-register for the next two years to get their share of the $1.405 Billion in compensation for trade concessions to the U.S., Mexico, the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Signed registrations must be received at the dairy commission before the Mar. 31 deadline.

The CDC said it will collect information from provincial milk marketing boards on licensed quota holders, use that to calculate how much they are eligible to receive based on the amount of quota they hold.

The poultry industry is still waiting to learn how it will be compensated for its trade-related losses.


The total dairy package, including what has already been paid and help for processors, is $1.75 billion.


City people investing in farming partnerships

Area One Farms is a Toronto-based company that is linking invrestors with farmers.

The investors are typically interested in more than making money, but in improving the environment and having a connection with farming, explained the Globe and Mail in a feature article.

So far Area One Farms has raised  $450 million and is preparing for its fourth round lining up investors.

It has also lined up 24 farm partners in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Area One Farms is considered an impact investment – one that has, alongside financial targets, environmental and social results measured by the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

These are global standards being widely adopted by industrial companies, financial institutions and pension funds, said the Globe and Mail.

For farmers, Area One Fams also has a network of experts and fellow producers to mentor farmers on sustainable agriculture, as well as marketing and other services. Its social impact sees farms staying in the hands of families keen to expand to provide a future for the next generation, but prefer to invest in things other than land.

One woman investor said “on both income and appreciation [the farmers] take more than what they owe because they’re managing it. In our view, they’re not just managing the business and the crops, they’re actually managing the land,”

“So where we have most of our money invested and they have most of their money invested, you want that to go up not just because the market goes up, you want to make it better all the time,” she said.

On environmental improvement, the firm pushes regenerative farming techniques, including no-till approaches to managing soil, which minimize erosion and serve to capture carbon.

A report last year by the Canada West Foundation quoted research from the University of Saskatchewan’s Lana Awada, who found that increases in conservation tillage and no-till seeding have led to a 400-per-cent increase in carbon sequestration since the mid-1990s. As a result, Western Canadian farms capture more CO2 than they emit.

“When we didn’t tie up all our capital in land purchase, we were able to use our capital to expand our herd, which worked very well with” the investor said the farmer with whom she is partnered.

 “We had grassland and we could run cows on the grass and have a full operation to work together on it,” he said. “So we stayed together as a family in a family operation.”



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Bibeau, Hardeman push Agristability refrorm

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman are pushing for approval of a reform package that would greatly increase government support for AgriStability.

They are co-chairs of the forum for the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture.

But Manitoba remains hesitant to support the deal, saying only after Tuesday’s announcement that they want time to study it.

At a Nov. 27 online meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts, Bibeau proposed to remove AgriStability’s reference margin limit and to boost the compensation rate for when a payout is triggered to 80 per cent from 70.

“Accepting the proposed changes soon is key to ensuring the enhanced supports can be applied retroactively to 2020, something we know farmers across the country have been asking for,” Bibeau and Hardeman said Tuesday.

“Since the federal government has confirmed its 60 per cent contribution, it rests with the undeclared provinces and territories to come forward with their 40 per cent share. We thank those provinces who have already confirmed their participation and hope to hear from those others soon.”

Deere makes deal with sprayer company

John Deere has struck a deal with Smart Guided Systems to sell and support its spraying technology.

It will sell the Smart Apply Intelligent Control System through its dealerships in Canada, the United States and Australia.

The system can be added to orchard, vineyard and nursery sprayer equipment to ensure that only the needed amount of pesticide is sprayed where it’s needed.

“The Smart-Apply system will help ensure that only the canopy gets sprayed and automatically adjusts spray volume based on plant density per nozzle zone. This results in less wasted product while positively contributing to environmental sustainability, maximizing potential profit, and maintaining agronomic efficacy for our growers,” Deere said.


Lawsuit filed against input suppliers

A class-action lawsuit has been filed in Illinois against all of the major farm input suppliers in the United States.

They have responded  by declining comment while the lawsuit is in the courts, by saying they are compliant with all laws and regulations or by declining comment.

The class-action lawsuits need the name of one complainant and in this case it’s Barbara Piper, the executor of the estate of her husband, Michael Piper, who died in 2017.

He grew row crops at Mount Vernon, Ill. 

Claims include: “The existing distribution process maintains supracompetitive crop input prices by denying farmers accurate product information, including pricing information.” 

The complaint names as defendants:   

  • Bayer Cropscience 
  • Corteva
  • BASF Corporation
  • Syngenta Corporation 
  • Cargill Incorporated
  • Winfield Solutions
  • Univar Solutions
  • Federated Co-Operatives Limited
  • CHS Inc.
  • Nutrien Ag Solutions 
  • Growmark Inc.
  • Simplot 
  • Tenkoz 

The complaint gives as an example Piper’s purchase of Liberty herbicide from Gateway FS, a retail outlet of Growmark. 

One should be surprised that co-operatives, which should be farmers' friends, are included on the list. But I'm not surprised and I expect you're not either.

Piper is seeking a trial by jury.



Students eligible for farm-work subsidy

The Canada Summer Jobs Program is accepting applications until Jan. 29 for a 75 per cent subsidy for student employees.

The program is open to farmers as well as others and this year the government is prepared to support 120,000 students compared with 80,000 last summer.

Similar to last year, workers can stay on the job until late February. They can also be hired for part-time work. The program is open to students between ages 15 and 30.

Only farms employing fewer than 50 quality and farmers must demonstrate that they can provide quality work experience.



Rob Dougans leaving Chicken Farmers of Ontario

Rob Dougans is leaving his post as president and chief executive officer of the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board effective March 31.

He guided the industry over a major change in attitude, opening the door for small-scale producers who no longer need quota, to an artisanal market policy that also granted approval to produce and process chicken without requiring either production or plant-supply quota and launching a special breeds program that helped satisfy demand for red-feathered birds among the Asian immigrant population.

When Dougans began as chief executive, the chicken board was cracking down on any person keeping meat-bird chickens without quota.

Also during his term, the Ontario board won a long-standing drive to persuade the national agency to grant more production to meet strong Ontario demand that had led to premiums and then a ban on inter-provincial movement, mainly between Ontario and Quebec.

The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission also intervened to force price-reducing changes related to improving efficiencies as production volumes increased.

U.S. soybean industry launches logo

The United States soybean industry is launching a logo to promote products made from its soybeans as Sustainably Grown U.S. Soy. 

It coincidentally complements the “buy American” campaign promised by incoming U.S. President Joe Biden.

The new mark denotes agricultural practices, such as no-till and cover crops, that deliver sustainable outcomes.



Monday, January 18, 2021

Richardson grain buys Bison trucking

James Richardson and Sons Ltd. has bought Bison Transport of Winnipeg, one of Canada’s largest trucking companies. No terms of the deal have been disclosed.

Bison employs about 3,700 people and contractors, running 2,100 trucks and 6,000 trailers across North America, Richardson said.

“We are excited about the opportunity to acquire Bison, which has an outstanding reputation for customer service, dependability, employee relations and safety built over the past 51 years,” said chief executive officer Hartley Richardson.

Richardson is an old and large grain-trading company based in Winnipeg, but with extensive facilities in Ontario, including the port of Hamilton.