Monday, May 31, 2021

Lawyers ponder suing A2

Law firm Slater and Gordon is preparing a class-action lawsuit against A2 Milk for misleading investors, reports the Australian Financial Review.

Share prices have dropped by 75 per cent since August’s high of $21.74 Australian.

.The law firm said that A2 may have engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, and breached stock exchange continuous disclosure rules.

A2 Milk downgraded its earnings forecasts in September and December last year, and then February and May this year.

“There may be basis to allege that by no later than August 19, 2020, a2 Milk was or ought to have been aware the full-year 2021 guidance did not adequately take into account a number of factors which would impact the company’s financial performance,” a letter by Slater and Gordon was quoted as saying.

A2 milk comes from cows with special genetics that reportedly make their milk more digestible.

China’s barley duties challenged

The World Trade Organization has agreed with Australia’s request to establish a disputes-settling panel to investigate China’s hefty duties on Australian barley.

China blocked an earlier attempt to establish a WTO panel.

It said it’s willing to continue negotiations and said its duties are justified under WTO rules.

One of the tariffs is to offset China’s claim that Australia subsidizes barley.

The duties were imposed after Australia criticized China’s handling of COVID-19, and it also imposed duties on Australian wines.

Canada also faced Chinese trade action against canola and pork after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, vice-president of Huawei, because the United States applied to have her extradited to face charges in the U.S.



Cyber attack on JBS

Australia’s largest beef and lamb meat-packing company has been shut down because of a cyber attack on its computers and telephone system.

JBS operations in Canada and the United States may also be impacted, reported Australia Broadcasting Co.

In Australia, the federal Department of Agriculture reportedly working with JBS to restore operations.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Five appointments to Farm Credit Canada.

The federal government has appointed three new directors to Farm Credit Canada and extended the terms for two others.

The new members appointed for four-year terms are

·  Rita Achrekar who began life in India where she obtained technology and management degrees, came to Canada where she was a banker and vice-president in charge risk management programs.and has served on several industry organizations.

·  Sylvie Chagnon was president and chief executive officer of the Quebec government’s Green Fund management board, vice president Credit and Financial Products at Investissement Qu├ębec, Regional vice president at National Bank of Canada, and general manager of operations at CIBC.

·  Michael Tees has had 25 years of experience in banking, rising to vice president in Western Canada for Marsh & McLennan Companies.

Those re-appointed to three-year terms are James and Michele Hentgen.

Friday, May 28, 2021

UN summit will disrupt agriculture

The United Nations will hold a meeting in September that observers say will disrupt global agriculture and set it on a new path.

It’s part of the Paris Accord on climate change and the meeting is being held to decide what to do about greenhouse gas emissions related to agriculture.

“The summit will awaken the world to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food,” said a website posting by the United Nations.

“The summit will provide an opportunity to unleash ambitious new actions, innovative solutions and plans to transform our food systems.”


Berry Marttin said “we are on the forefront of a new revolution in our industry.” He is on the board of directors of Rabobank.

Marttin said one likely outcome will be food labelling legislation that will set common standards around the world.

He expects the labels will provide information on emissions and water use.

Gordon Bacon who helped Pulse Canada to launch said he worries that the summit will be unduly harsh on beef farming and that it will try to impose global solutions whereas most farming takes place in specific environments and ecosystems.

For example, he said consideration should be given to beef coming from cattle that graze land that would otherwise not produce food.




Canada’s BSE risk rating improves

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has improved Canada’s rating for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) to its safest level.

It means international beef trade can resume to pre-BSE status, yet individual countries can still decide whether and when they choose to recognize the improved status.

Most countries have allowed resumed beef and cattle imports from Canada.

It was May 20, 2003, when an Alberta cow that died was confirmed to be infected with BSE, often called mad cow’s disease.

Canada lost all beef and cattle exports then. Later the Canadian Food Inspection Agency required packing plants to dispose of any parts of cattle that could be infected with the prions responsible for the disease.

The trade and other impacts were devastating. One of the fallouts was a loss of a market for cull cows; that hit the dairy industry so hard that SEMEX bought a beef-packing plant in Kitchener to provide a market.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Judge rejects Roundup compensation proposal

United States District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco rejected a $2 billion Roundup offer this week saying said the proposal "would accomplish a lot for Monsanto," which Bayer acquired for $63 billion in 2018, and "would accomplish far less for the Roundup users" who are currently healthy.

It comes a week after the judge asked questions about the proposal, indicating that it fell short of his expectations.

The agreement would have paused litigation linking Roundup to non-Hodgkin lymphoma for four years and would have barred Roundup users from seeking punitive damages once the pause on litigation expired.

In return, users could be eligible for free medical exams and compensation if they were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The proposed class action settlement was aimed at claims by people who have been exposed to the weedkiller and who become sick in the future.

Bayer has committed up to $9.6 billion to resolve some 125,000 existing cancer claims.

The plan would have grouped potentially millions of residential users and farm laborers in a class and provided them free medical exams for four years and up to $200,000 if they were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Chhabria's six-page order cast doubt on the value of the medical exam offer, given the 10-year to 15-year lag time between exposure and potential onset of cancer symptoms.

He also said most claimants could expect $60,000 or less in compensation and that compensation might not be available after the four-year plan expired.



Backyard chickens sicken 163 people

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that backyard chickens have sickened 163 people in 43 states with salmonella bacteria.

Thirty-four required hospitalization.

The CDC said the outbreak may be more widespread and have infected more people than the official count because not all salmonella infections are recognized as such or become severe enough to require medical assistance.

The outbreak encompasses salmonella infections with the serotypes Enteritidis, Hadar and Infantis, according to the CDC.

State and local public health officials have interviewed 92 people and found that  81 (88 per cent) reported contact with backyard poultry before getting sick, the CDC said.

Many Ontario municipal councils have been lobbied by residents wanting bylaw changes so they can keep backyard chickens.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Saputo goes vegan

Saputo, Canada’s largest cheese producer, is buying two companies including one that makes “cheese” from plant proteins.

Bute Island Foods of Scotland makes and markets vegan cheese.

The other is Wisconsin Specialty Protein of Reedsburg which makes value-added ingredients such as goat whey, organic lactose and other dairy powders.

It is vertically integrated with organic producers of milk from cows, goats and sheep.

Saputo said the two acquisitions, which cost a combined $187 million, fit with the company’s new global strategic plan. It also said it wants to increase its presence in the alternative foods sections of retailers.

A third canola plant for Regina area

A third company has announced plans to build a huge canola-crushing plant, this time south of Regina and at the U.S. border.

Earlier this month two companies unveiled plans for canola-crushing plants in Regina.

Ceres Global Ag Corp. said it will build its $350 million plant close to the hig-volume grain elevator it already owns at Northgate, Sask.

The plant will have capacity to process between 1.1 million and 1.2 million tonnes of canola annually and produce about 400,000 tonnes of canola oil per year.

It will start by marketing oil to the U.S. to be used as a fuel, but it said it could upgrade processing to food quality. It also said it could readily expand capacity by 30 per cent.

U.S. escalates dairy complaints

The United States has escalated its complaints about the way 

Canada has implemented tariff-rate quotas for dairy products.

The Biden administration said it will seek a disputes-settling panel under the Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade Agreement.

That will take about a month to set up and many more months to come to a conclusion.

Canada and the U.S. have been in negotiations for months over the U.S. complaints and, while Americans say there has been some progress, they still have major concerns.

Their main concern is that some of the quotas have been given to Canadian dairies. The Americans want the quotas opened to more potential customers for U.S. dairy products.

A tariff-rate quota entitles the holder to import dairy products at a tariff much lower than the regular rate.

They are a prized possession because the holders can usually make a windfall profit by selling at much higher prices into the Canadian market.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Rats, mice unlikely to spread ASF

American swine researchers working in Vietnam have determined that rats and mice are not likely to spread African Swine Fever.

The work was done on behalf of Canada’s Swine Health Information Center and involved researchers from South Dakota State University and the Vietnam National University of Agriculture.

Swine Health Information Center Executive Director Dr. Paul Sundberg says scientists spent about a month trapping rats and mice on farms across Vietnam which were then tested for ASF. They also tried, without success, to infect laboratory rats with ASF.

Perry Wilson to head FCC Ontario

Farm Credit Canada has chosen Perry Wilson to succeed John Geurtjens as vice-president of operations for Ontario.

Wilson has been with the FCC for more than 15 years, rising to  senior director of FCC’s London district. 

He grew up on a hog farm near Uniondale in Oxford County, is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University and of the University of Advanced Agriculture Leadership Program. 

He now lives near Denfield  and will use the London office to manage the 170 FCC employees in Ontario.

Hog producers invited to a survey

Hog producers can register their research priorities with a new survey launched by Swine Innovation Porc.

It’s at and at the survey link.

Chairman Stewart Cressman of New Dundee said the information will help determine what is most important to stakeholders and collaborators and identify any gaps.

The analyses of the data will go to the Business Development Committee of Swine Innovation Porc which will make recommendations on national swine research priorities.

Cressman has been a hog and beef producer and head of the Agriculture Research Institute of Ontario.





Friday, May 21, 2021

Fonterra in turmoil

Fonterra, the New Zealand company that markets the nation’s milk, is in turmoil.

The kay issue is declining milk supplies due to adoption of environment-protection measures, loss of farms to urban expansion and conversions from dairy to horticulture-crops production.

Another issue is the way investments are structured with one class of shares that dairy farmers must own to have a right to market their milk, the other class for  investors who are not dairy farmers.

There are concerns that dairy farmers will be banned from selling their shares to investors so the company will remain in the hands of dairy farmers, but other concerns that limiting ownership to dairy farmers will eventually lead to collapse.

Some dairy farmers want to limit their market to New Zealand. Others want the company to continue to seek export markets, including overseas milk production and processing to serve those markets.

The board of directors has set out some proposals that put these issues and options up for debate, prompting farmers’ share price to decline by about 15 per cent and investor share prices to decline by about 13 per cent.

That decline amounts to more than $930 million Cdn. 




Pork packers face line speed limit


A federal judge in Minnesota on Thursday denied Seaboard Foods' motion to delay a return to pork line speed limits and three other processors' requests for reinstatement of waivers.

The pork packers had gained waivers from the federal government allowing them to run line speeds as fast as they wished.

In March Judge Joan Ericksen threw the waiver provisions out and agreed with the United Food and Commercial Workers' argument that the waivers violated the Administrative Procedure Act and potentially put workers at risk.

Seaboard calculated that reverting to a line speed limit of 1,106 head per hour would take about 126,000 market hogs out of its production pipeline, according to court documents.

Canadian plants can run at much higher line speeds.

Three other processors, Quality Pork Processors Inc., WholeStone Farms Cooperative Inc. and Clemens Food Group, asked the court to intervene to clarify that the judgment throwing out the USDA rule also reinstated waivers that had previously allowed them to increase their line speeds.

Ericksen denied all the motions, saying they were not timely, and the court had concluded its consideration of the merits of the case.




Denver jury sends chicken price-fixing to court

A federal grand jury in Denver returned an indictment charging Norman W. Fries Inc., doing business as Claxton Poultry Farms, with participating in a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.

Claxton Poultry is charged with a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The case stems from the ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the broiler chicken industry. 

Claxton and company President Mikell Fries and Vice President Scott Brady are accused of conspiring to suppress and eliminate competition for sales of broiler chicken products to grocers and restaurants from at least 2012 through 2019, the Department of Justice said in court filings.

Fries and Brady are among 10 individuals who were charged in a in October, 2020, with participating in an alleged conspiracy. 

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., based in Greeley, Colo., pleaded guilty and was sentenced in February to pay a criminal fine of more than $107 million for its role in the scheme.

Claxton Poultry is based in Claxton, Georgia.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Grain Commission proposing fee reductions

The Canadian Grain Commission is proposing fee reductions that will reduce its revenues by about 20 per cent.

The changes require amendments to legislation and a comment period will open May 22 and close June 7.

There would be a combined reduction for official inspection and weighing services fees from $1.48 to $1.05 per tonne for ships, and a cost decrease of $37.88 per official inspection and weighing services for a railway car, truck, or container. The proposed reduction comes two years before the end of the current fee review cycle. 

Eigenbrood loses dairy appeal

 Tim Eigenbrood of Frankford has lost his appeal, hoping to escape penalties and be granted more time to complete construction of a new dairy barn.

On May 22, 2019, January 17 and February 18, 2020, inspectors from Dairy Farmers of Ontario declared the old barn failed to meet standards.

On February 3, 2020, the Appellant sent a letter to the Director of Regulatory Compliance appealing the January 17, 2020, inspection decision and asking for leniency due to his facility being old.  

Eigenbrood also sought to be exempted from facility-standards inspections for two years for the new barn to be built.

The Director of Regulatory Compliance denied that appeal, prompting Eigenbrood to file with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Tribunal.

The tribunal agreed with lawyer Geoff Spurr, representing Dairy Farmers of Ontario, that “the arguments and pleas made by the Appellant do not have any legal merit.”



China’s hog recovery slowed

China’s hog production recovery still faces uncertainties and the risk of African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks remains “relatively great”, the country’s agriculture ministry said this week.

The sow herd is now at 98 per cent of 2017 levels before African Swine Fever wiped out about half of China’s hog population, but sow reproduction rates are lower than normal, the ministry said.

There have been 10 outbreaks of African Swine Fever this year.

"The work to stabilise hog production shall not be relaxed," the ministry said, based on information gathered in a meeting with 14 large-scale hog breeding companies.

Health Canada gives Imidacloprid a reprieve

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency has issued a long list of restrictions for Imidacloprid, a popular neonicitinoid pesticide.

It did not ban the product as had been feared when Health Canada issued its proposals in 2016 to deal with neonicitinoids.

Gaucho, Merit, Admire, Alias and Sombrero have been cleared for continued sale.

Health Canada said Wednesday that comments and “new data/information received” led to revisions of its occupational and environmental risk assessments and “resulted in changes to the proposed re-evaluation decision.”

Some products have been banned, including Bayer’s Merit Granular and Merit Solupack wettable powder, Adama’s Quali-Pro 0.5 Granular and Quali-Pro 75 WSP wettable powder, and SBM’s BioAdvanced granular grub control.

New rates have been set at reduced levels:

- seed treatment for field corn at 13 grams of active ingredient per 80,000 seeds;

  • seed treatment for sweet corn, to 67.2 grams per 100 kg of seed;
  • seed treatment for soybean, to 62.5 grams per 100 kg of seed;
  • seed treatment for lettuce, broccoli and cabbage, to treatment of seed for crops grown or started in greenhouses, with no direct seeding to fields permitted;
  • foliar application for soybean, down to one application per season maximum, at a maximum application rate of 24.4 grams per hectare, and
  • foliar application for potato, legumes other than soybeans, and tobacco, down to one application per season.

The new cuts to imidacloprid’s maximum application rates lead to outright cancellation for some previously-allowed uses, such as:

  • seed treatment for corn flea beetle on field corn and sweet corn;
  • seed treatment for direct field seeding of brassica vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage and leafy vegetables such as lettuce;
  • in-furrow application on brassica, leafy and root and tuber vegetables, including potato;
  • in-furrow application on tobacco;
  • field application of tray plug drench application on leafy vegetables;
  • foliar and granular application on turf;
  • foliar application on lowbush blueberry; and
  • soil drench application on brassica, leafy, and root and tuber vegetables, including potato (but not sugar beet), based on the usual row spacing for those crops against the revised maximum application rates.

Greenhouse uses, such as a soil drench or transplant tray plug drench, are still allowed as long as “measures are in place to prevent releases, effluent or runoff from greenhouses containing this product from entering lakes, streams, ponds, or other waters.” Greenhouses using imidacloprid in a closed recirculation or closed chemigation system will have to pass third-party audits.

Imidacloprid product labels must also be changed to require spray buffer zones, inform users of “potential toxic effects to sensitive biota” and make note of revised restrictions for use of treated seed, such as seed disposal instructions and a ban on broadcast seeding of treated seed, Health Canada said.

The final re-evaluation decision also calls for risk-reduction measures to protect workers and those who enter imidalcoprid-treated areas, including changes to personal protective equipment  and engineering controls for seed treatment uses.

It also called for restricted-entry intervals and/or spray drift precautions where not already included on labels, and “clarification that the use in greenhouses is not allowed for uses only registered for outdoor areas.”

All product label changes must be made within 24 months, Health Canada said. 

Companies holding the registrations for cancelled products may still sell those products for one year from the decision’s publication date, followed by a year of sale at retail, followed by a year of permitted use.

The one exception among cancelled uses is as a soil drench for control of European chafer on ginseng crops. Ginseng growers were “found to lack suitable alternatives,” Health Canada said, so that cancellation will be delayed for 24 months.




Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Guelph wins dairy competition

Students from the University of Guelph have won a North American competition for dairy-farm management.

Rebecca Barr, Brooke Boonstoppel, Clayton McWilliams and Tyrone Wagler competed against three other schools to present the best dairy farm management recommendations.

Dr. Trevor DeVries’ coached the team chosen from his fourth-year  class studying Challenges and Opportunities in Dairy Production. DeVries is a professor in the Department of Animal Biosciences. 

Every year he chooses students for a team to compete in the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge. 

Agentinas’ beef producers stage strike

Meat producers in Argentina have announced a retaliatory strike in response to a government ban on meat exports.

The export ban – which was implemented this week and will last at least 30 days – is part of the government’s attempt to control runaway inflation. So far in 2021, meat prices are up by 22 per cent and are 65 per cent higher than a year ago.

But according to a report from the Buenos Aires Times, the Liaison Commission for Agricultural Entities (which includes producers) has announced it will cease “all categories of cattle trade” from midnight Thursday to May 28.

"We are going to join together immediately to totally reject this disastrous measure," Daniel Peregrina, president of the Argentina Rural Society industry group, told the Times. "The damage caused by the measure will decrease the supply of meat, making prices rise as has happened in the past."

A one-year ban that turned into 10 years resulted in a 12-million-head decline in the nation's beef herd.

The Rafaela Alimentos processing plant in Casilda, which employs 650 workers, temporarily shut down.

Argentina is the fourth-largest beef exporter in the world, and in 2020, it exported $3.37 billion in beef and cow leather, mainly to China, Germany, and Israel. 



Ontario had three rabid skunks, one bat

 Ontario has had three rabid skunks and one rabid bat confirmed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The skunks were detected during March, the bat in January.

The Canadian total is 17 with five of them in Quebec – one red fox, one Arctic fox, one dog, and two bats.

Roundup settlement hits a snag

 U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco has raised questions that might derail a multi-billion class-action settlement agreed to by Bayer, owners of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

Chhabria noted in his final question that jury trials have gone very well for plaintiffs = i.e. those suing Monsanto.

Given that, the judge asked why class members should agree to a settlement that requires them to present at future trials a report from a science panel that will spend the next four years determining if Roundup causes cancer.

“The last question is a killer,” said David Noll, a professor at Rutgers Law School.

The company has said decades of studies have shown Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate do not cause cancer and are safe for human use. Consumer groups and personal injury lawyers have criticized the plan because it prevents lawsuits for four years and bars class members from seeking punitive damages.

If science panel decides that Roundup has not caused the cancers victims claim, then Bayer would be off the hook.

Another question Chhabria posed is how all of the millions of people exposed to Roundup could be contacted to share in the settlement agreement.

He wondered if labeling Roundup to say it might cause cancer would be a better solution. Bayer has staunchly resisted the labeling option.

The agreement would provide free medical exams and up to $200,000 in compensation if a class member is diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer.

A year ago Bayer agreed to commit $9.6 billion to settle 125,000 claims over Roundup. That is a separate case.

Bayer bought Monsanto, owner of Roundup, for $63 billion in 2018.






Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Beef farmers protest loss of farmland

Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) has taken a strong stand in favour or protecting farmland from urban development.

It is supporting a campaign by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario was the first general farm organization to propose strong measures to protect farmland, including a ban on lot severances for family retirement homes.

The lobbying arises in the face of a number of measures the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have taken that are friendly to urban developers and reduce environmental protections and farmland preservation.

Some of those measures were tacked into legislation for Ontario’s COVID-19 response.

You'd think that Premier Doug Ford would realize that his support came almost entirely from rural Ontario and certainly not from the largest cities where his development-company cronies seem to be pushing the move to gut farmland and environmental protections.

But nobody has accused him of being brilliant.

“BFO has long advocated for the protection of farmland, but more specifically marginal land that isn’t suitable to grow crops, but where beef cattle can thrive on healthy pasturelands,” said president Rob Lipsett. 

“Every acre of pastureland that is protected contributes to soil health and provides a home for earthworms, wildlife and birds, not to mention the carbon storage ability of our tame grasslands.”

The impacts of the loss of farmland extends beyond concerns around food production capacity. Farmland and pastures play a significant role in providing and maintaining habitat for pollinators and species at risk, BFO said.

Research has found the decline in cattle numbers in Canada is directly linked to the decline in grasslands, which leads to a decline in habitat for grassland birds like the Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark who rely on these lands as much as ruminant livestock do, BFO said.

Pasturelands are also critical for oxygen production and carbon sequestration, maintaining and improving soil health, water cycling and biodiversity.

“The symbiotic relationship between grasslands and beef cattle has a measurable impact on the environment and the well-being of people,” said Lipsett. 


“Ontario’s beef farmers continue to protect this important natural ecosystem, but we need government to work with us to manage urban development responsibly.”

Agriculture is the backbone of our rural communities and is important to the quality of life of all Ontarians. In addition to environmental benefits, beef farms and the broader beef cattle sector have a presence and economic impact in every county and district in Ontario, sustaining more than 61,000 jobs in primary production, processing and retail across the province. 

Ontario’s beef industry, and the farmland used to raise cattle and produce beef, is vitally important to the well-being and growth of families, businesses and communities, BFO said.

U..S. dairies press for action vs. Canada

A group of 67 dairy companies and associations urged U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai to initiate a dispute settlement case with the Canadian government over its dairy tariff-rate quota (TRQ) administration if ongoing consultations and a U.S. Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Free Trade Commission meeting do not result in immediate resolution.

The USTR started consultations with Canada in December, 2020, over its TRQ policies.

Several months post-consultations, it is not readily apparent that progress has been made on resolving Canada’s circumvention of its trade obligations, the U.S. dairies said.

In a letter sent to Ambassador Tai, the U.S. dairy industry urged USTR to establish a Dispute Settlement Panel in the event there is not an immediate, positive resolution emerging from the consultations that begin soon.

Caution urged about spreading PED manure

Hog farmers need to take care about spreading manure from farms that have had an oubreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PED), said  Dr. Jette Christensen, manager of the Canada West Swine Health Intelligence Network.

Manitoba has the disease under control now with no new cases reported this year, but the Network cautions that April to June is normally the period when PED cases peak.

Ontario had no cases from Jan. 15 to last week when there was one outbreak in the Waterloo Region.

Texas politicians restrict meat names

Politicians in Texas have passed a law that limits the names of chicken, beef, pork and goats to meat harvested from animals.

They intend to ban those names for products derived from plant proteins, insects or cell-culture procedures.

The legislation requires senate approval and the signature of Governor Greg Abbott before it can take effect.