Friday, September 30, 2022

Avian flu in Clarence-Rockland

Highly-pathogenic avian influenza has been confirmed in a commercial poultry flock in Clarence-Rockland in Eastern Ontario.

It is on the banks of the Ottawa River east of Ottawa.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, with co-operation from poultry marketing boards, has informed those within a 10-kilometre radius of the outbreak are under quarantine restrictions on traffic to and from their premises.

The west is having greater problems with, for example, three outbreaks in Saskatchewan on one day late last week.


Cargill, Sanderson and Wayne Farms to pay $85 million

Sanderson Farms is paying $38.3 million, Wayne Farms $31 million and Cargill Meat Solutions $15 million in a court-approved settlement.

They were accused of conspiring to fix and depress poultry workers’ pay.


The settlement has cleared the way for a merger of Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms, then the purchase of the merged business by partners Cargill and Continental Grain.

"The Court finds that the proposed settlements … have been negotiated at arm’s length and are sufficiently fair, reasonable, and adequate," U.S. District Judge Stephanie Gallagher wrote in the order.

The settlement agreements include all people employed by the three processors, their subsidiaries or related entities at poultry processing plants, hatcheries, feed mills or poultry complexes in the U.S. from Jan. 1, 2000, until July 20, 2021, the order states.

The companies walk away without admitting to doing anything wrong.

Maple Leaf poultry plant Is ready

 Construction has been completed on the $600-million poultry processing plant Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has built in London, Ont.

It has begun to hire 600 workers so the plant can begin operations before the end of the year.

The facility combines processing that has been done in a number of much smaller plants Maple Leaf owns.

Construction of the  660,000-square-foot plant took three years.

"I am incredibly proud of our team for achieving this important milestone ahead of schedule in a very challenging environment," said chief executive officer Michael McCain.

When the plant is at full capacity by the end of next year  it will employ 1,600 workers. Current employees have an offer of jobs at the new facility.

Investors were informed recently that it will take another $100 million to get the plant up to speed.

I recall challenging McCain to either sell his poultry division or invest enough to make it efficiency-competitive with processors in the United States. It took a long time, but he has finally made the investment.

It's too bad it doesn't involve a combination of Maple Lodge and Maple Leaf.

When the day comes - and it will - that the Canadian chicken industry faces greater competition from imports, farmers and everyone else involved in the Canadian chicken industry will need a highly-efficient, high-volume chicken processing facility.

There will still be plenty of room for small, specialty-product processors and producers. The Ontario chicken board deserves credit for paving the way for them to set up business.

One major reform remains: an end to plant supply management.


U.S. accuses Corteva and Syngenta

The United States Federal Trade Commission has sued Syngenta and Corteva for pressuring retailers to refrain from offering generic pesticides.

The government said they set up exclusive contracts with distributors that kept pesticide costs for farmers about 20 per cent higher.

I guess it's what the companies call customer service.

Chinese-owned Syngenta and U.S.-based Corteva Inc. paid distributors not to offer farmers generic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides after the companies' patents on six chemical ingredients expired, the Federal Trade Commission said in the lawsuit.

"By paying off distributors to block generic producers from the market, these giants have deprived farmers of cheaper and more innovative options," said FTC chair Lina Khan in a press release.

Corteva spokesperson Kris Allen told Reuters news agency in an email that the company believes the complaint has no basis.

"We will vigorously defend our position that Corteva’s customer marketing programs are fully compliant with the antitrust laws," Allen said.

Reuters said Syngenta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Syngenta using satellites to spot soybean nematodes

Syngenta is working with a Swiss company to develop analysis of satellite imagery that will detect nematode damage to soybean crops.


The digital tool will become part of Syngenta’s Cropwise platform.

“Harmful nematodes that devastate crops are a major threat to farmers and food security, and Syngenta is using cutting-edge digital solutions to help combat these pests,” said Jeff Rowe, president for Global Crop Protection.

 “We are excited to be launching this product in Brazil, and there is great potential to scale this solution to other countries and crops and transform the decision-making capabilities for growers,” he said.

The goal is to use the tool to help farmers not only identify where nematodes are in the field but also dial in field management practices to avoid yield losses and optimize input use. 

Syngenta is also launching its next-generation nematicide/fungicide Tymirium. It can applied to the seed and to the soil.


“At Syngenta, we will continue to invest in machine learning and data science, to develop further breakthrough offers for farmers,” said Feroz Sheikh, Chief Information and Digital Officer of Syngenta Group. 

“The technology is a great addition to our Cropwise platform, which already digitally connects almost 200 million acres of land and underlines our commitment to invest in and partner with providers in the AgTech space,” Rowe said.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Gag law struck down for third time

For the third time the judicial system in Iowa has struck down laws that farmers wanted to keep animal activists off their properties.

A federal judge ruled this week that a new Iowa law seeking to criminalize the use of cameras in agricultural facilities is unconstitutional.

The judge said the law fails because it adds penalties to existing laws and said it therefore violates free speech protections provided by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Justice Stephanie Rose did rule that the court has observed that states can determine that certain facilities warrant legal protections, but she noted that Iowa’s law provides protections with respect to the exercise of a First Amendment right.

“The decision to single out this conduct is most plainly shown by Defendants’ (an animal rights organization) description of the Act as ‘enhancing the penalty for conduct that is already prohibited by law,’ Rose wrote. 

“That is the issue with the law— it is enhancing a criminal penalty based on the exercise of speech (or a predicate component of speech). The law does not limit its reach to specific instances of using a camera, such as a peeping tom situation.

 Rather, the Act only punishes a trespasser exercising a constitutional right. 

Iowa’s first such law, which animal activists  dubbed “ag gag,” was struck down in 2019. The second law was stymied in March 2022.

Ontario enacted legislation this year to curb animal activists from entering farms with the intent of disparaging the way farmers are treating their livestock and poultry.  There has not yet been a judicial decision on this new law.

Tractor thief caught in the act

A 19-year old has been charged with theft of a tractor in Mapleton Township, Wellington County.

People caught him in the act and called police to Sideroad 21.

The youth from Arthur is also charged with possession of an alcoholic beverage and marijuana.

Bibeau finally fills dairy commission vacancy

Shikha Jain has been appointed a director of the Canadian Dairy Commission for a four-year term.

Jain is the chief executive officer of Green Energy Trading Corporation (GET Corp.), a green tech organization that supports climate farming and sustainability in the dairy industry, said federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in announcing the appointment.

She is the first woman to serve on the CDC board of directors. The board has had vacancies for a long time, including during two controversial price hikes for milk, and support prices for butter and skim milk powder.

Through her work with numerous cross-jurisdictional stakeholders within the sector, Ms. Jain brings extensive experience in strategic and operational planning and is recognized as a trusted and collaborative leader, Bibeau said in a news release.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Canada ill-prepared for food disaster

While Canada is generally well prepared for disasters, the food sector is not, according to a report prepared by the Economist magazine in England with assistance from Corteva.

One of Canada’s weaknesses is a lack of research, according to the Global Food Security Index.

The lack of preparation also weakens the country’s ability to recover when disasters happen, the report said.

“On measures of sustainability and adaptation there’s a lot of room for improvement,” said Sardar Karim, one of the researchers who developed the report.

While countries such as Canada have strong rules protecting food quality and programs that limit malnutrition, they fall down in areas such as research, extension services and sustainability, the report said.

The report did not address government preparation for specific disasters, such as the heat dome, that affected British Columbia last year, wildfires and floods or responses to avian influenza and African Swine Fever.

Meat industry addresses hunger

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) has stepped up to help address hunger and malnutrition in the United States, pledging its support during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.

The Meat Institute reminded the conference that it made a commitment through the Protein PACT for the People, Animals and Climate of Tomorrow, to help measure and fill this “protein gap” by 2025.  

The Meat Institute has also formally designated food security as a non-competitive issue, which will make it less risky to share information among meat-packing companies about best practices contributing to ending hunger. This comes in the context of lawsuits alleging price fixing.

“According to Feeding America, meat is one of the top three most needed foods for food charities, yet meat represents only one per cent of food distributed by food charities, in part due to limited infrastructure for cold storage, packing, and distribution.

The resulting “protein gap” worsens hunger and particularly impacts women, children, and older adults who have greater need for the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals best and sometimes only found naturally in animal-source foods, NAMI said.

As examples, it said Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has donated $2 million to food banks, Cargill announced in August a new $4.9 million donation to Feeding America, including to build and expand protein pack rooms. JBS has donated more than $2 million for improvements in cold storage and distribution, along with contributing to food safety training and safe meal preparation. This month, Tyson Foods donated $2.5 million to Feeding America, allocating $1 million to Equitable Food Access grants, and 2.5 million pounds of protein.

Diane Sullivan, co-founder of Equitable Spaces, said “the 50 million Americans who have faced hunger are experts in navigating the inequities and lack of political will driving hunger. Their voices, experiences, and dignity must be at the center of solutions that put safe, affordable, culturally appropriate food on tables and finally end hunger in America.” 

Bob Steckle has died

Bob Steckle, a farmer who won Canadian and United States wrestling championships and represented Canada at three Olympic games, has died.

He was born and raised on a farm now inside Kitchener and now is the J. Steckle Heritage Homestead. He graduated from the University of Guelph where he played football and wrestled, then took up dairy farming south of New Hamburg.

He switched to beef, held elected positions with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the Waterloo County Co-op. He was inducted into the Waterloo County Hall of Fame.

He carried the flag for the Canadian team at the opening of the Olympics in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia, where he met his wife, Allison, who survives him. He competed in the Olympics at Helsinki and Rome and joked about setting a record for the shortest match in which he was defeated within seconds by a Japanese wrestler.

I remember Bob coming to our farm with his father, John, to buy a purebred Yorkshire boar. Having selected one, Bob hopped into the pen, picked up the 200-pounder, threw him over his shoulder, carried him to their pickup and put him in.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

NDP calls for supermarket probe

The federal New Democatic Party is calling for a probe into the three dominant supermarket chains to determine if they are profiteering from inflation.

While their profits have increased, market analysts such as University of Toronto professor Partha Mohanram say there is little evidence to support that allegation.

Statistics Canada recently reported food prices are 10.8 per cent higher than a year ago, the steepest increase in 40 years.

NDP agriculture critic Alistair MacGregor said he plans to table a motion Wednesday at the agriculture committee calling for a probe.

"I think Canadians deserve answers and … in this time where they see the prices of everything going up, unfortunately they have a Liberal government which has not paid much attention to the role that corporate greed plays in the increasing prices they're seeing," MacGregor told CBC radio.

Canada's three dominant supermarket companies all had increased profits announced in their most recent quarterly financial reports.

Loblaw’s was $387 million which is $12 million more than a year ago which was, in turn, much higher than normal.

Metro’s was $275 million, up from $252.4 million in the same quarter last year and Empire (Sobey’s) was $178.5 million, up from $6.6 million.

Profit margins for Canadian supermarkets have traditionally been less than two per cent.

A person in a suit pointing

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

NDP MP Alistair MacGregor 




Monday, September 26, 2022

Leafs will sport dairy logo

Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team members will sport a milk logo this season.

Dairy Farmers of Ontario has signed an agreement with the hockey club so its logo will be on display, white on blue jerseys or blue on white jerseys.

The marketing board has not said how much this will cost.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Cheryl Smith, chief executive of Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

“We’ve had a longstanding partnership with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment across many of the properties and working in the community.”

That includes the Toronto Raptors basketball team.

The marketing board said this program helps reach young Canadians.

“We’re targeting the right people at the right place at the right time,” Smith said. “We really see this as important to the sustained and long-term success of the dairy industry. There are more eyes on the Toronto Maple Leafs than almost any other sports organization.”

Hunger in the U.S. in the spotlight

 United States President Joe Biden will speak Wednesday at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, the first one since 1969.

Then the late Richard Nixon hosted the event that led to expansions of the food stamp program, the school lunch program and creation of a special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children. It also led to nutrition labeling on processed food products.

“Too many families don’t know where they’re going to get their next meal,” Biden said in a video announcing the conference.

“Too many empty chairs around the kitchen table because a loved one was taken by heart disease, diabetes or other diet-oriented diseases, which are some of the leading causes of death in our country,” he said.

Representative. James McGovern , a Democrat from Massachusetts and chairman of the House Rules Committee, led an effort to get the White House to host the conference and pushed for $2.5 million to be allocated in a government funding package to host the event.

Conference speakers include President Joe Biden, White House Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Chef Jose Andres.

Swiss electorate supports farmers


Swiss electors voted 63 per cent against proposals to ban factory farming.

The referendum was held Sunday and the Swiss government had recommended voting against the proposal.

Switzerland already has some of the world’s tightest restrictions for animal welfare.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Avian flu in Grimsby

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports an outbreak of highly-pathogenic avian influenza in Grimsby.

It said it was in a small non-poultry flock.

That notice came hours after a similar one in Brant County and less than a week after an outbreak in a commercial flock near Tavistock in Oxford County.

The disease is likely being carried by migrating birds, just as was the case during the spring migration.

Three Stratford swans dead

Avian influenza is suspected in the death of three swans in the Avon River in Stratord.

Tests are underway at the lab at the University of Guelph.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency also reported an outbreak in a small, no-poultry location in Brant County.

Quin Malott, Stratford’s parks, forestry, and cemetery manager, said the first swan was

found dead in the Avon River on Saturday, but his team didn't connect the dots until two

other swans got sick on the following days. . 

Malott said the pond that the swans use is visited by a lot of wild ducks.

The poultry industry command centre has called for elevated biosecurity in the face of a recent outbreak

at a poultry farm.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Hutterites sued over pork

An Alberta judge has certified a class-action lawsuit against Pine Haven Hutterite Colony and The Meat Shop of Pine Haven over complaints about food poisoning in 2018.

About 45 people are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which is asking for compensation for physical injury, mental anguish, medical expenses and lost wages.

One person died.

Legal measures are also underway against a local restaurant that allegedly served the tainted meat to some of the plaintiffs. The restaurant has closed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Food price inflation still raging

Food prices rose by 10.8 per cent in August over the same time last year, reports Statistics Canada.

That’s the steepest increase in 40 years. Then the late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau appointed the late Beryl Plumtree to head a Food Prices Review Board. Then agriculture minister, the late Eugene Whelan, vigorously defended farmers’ prices and threatened to “chop down the plum tree.”

Gasoline prices dropped by 9.6 per cent, prompting a slight decline in the overall inflation rate from 7.3 per cent in July to seven per cent for August.

Avian influenza in Owen Sound

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is reporting a case of highly-pathogenic avian  influenza in Owen Sound.

It said it is a  “small flock; non poultry” and so far has not declared a quarantine zone.

It was in fact in birds in Harrison Park.

Sweda Farms applies for commission review

 Sweda Farms is asking the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission to review the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board programs for Eggs for Processing, Early Fowl Removal and Early Egg Removal.

It argues that the programs are needlessly too costly and benefit egg graders more than the intent behind the programs.

For example, eggs for processing garner grading, transportation and handling fees for processors when little or nothing is done to earn those fees, Sweda argues.

When COVID-19 first hit in early 2021, restaurants closed and their demand for eggs vanished. The egg board response was an Early Fowl Removal program that Sweda said proved too costly.

Moreover, when egg farmers placed new flocks, they included hens to produce for the eggs-for-processing program that was no longer needed. The new flocks ought to be limited to quota, Sweda argues; only when restaurant and related demand resumes ought the extra hens be brought into production.

Sweda notes that this program cost $1,248,550 according to the egg board financial report for 2021.

Sweda also argues that farmers only need to be paid for their feed and pullet costs to produce the extra eggs for processing, but in fact are paid the full cost-of-production price for eggs produced within quota.

This inflates costs by about 17 per cent, Sweda argues.

The industry dumped peewee and small eggs at the rate of six to seven loads per week “which represents (production from) between 348,000 and 400,000 birds per week,” Sweda said in its letter to the commission.


Based on provincial marketing board and national agency “published data it is calculated that seven loads a week of small & peewee is almost the total Ontario production for those grades for a week, which is approximately three per cent of total egg production,” Sweda said.

“It does not seem plausible there was not a table market for small eggs for the periods the early egg removal program was implemented and that substantial amounts of small eggs needed to be diverted to the inedible market,” it said.

“Based on the foregoing it is highly probable graders include other eggs like B’s, C’s, Cracks, Rejects and Hatchery Eggs in the EER (early egg removal) program, receiving at least the small price for eggs that have substantially less value or were inedible with zero value to begin with creating a large windfall for the graders.”

Burnbrae Farms and Gray Ridge Eggs are the dominant egg graders in Ontario and also the province’s largest egg producers and egg processors.

So far the commission has only acknowledged that it has received Sweda’s letter.

Monday, September 19, 2022

JBS settles pork lawsuit for $20 million

JBS USA Is paying $20 million to settle a class-action price-fixing lawsuit over pork prices charged consumers in the United States.

Judge John R. Tunheim also approved $6.6 million in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fee.

Originally filed in 2018, the case alleged price-fixing behavior by Clemens, Hormel, Indiana Packers, JBS USA, Seaboard Foods, Triumph Foods, and Tyson, along with the data analysis firm Agri Stats.



Avian flu near Tavistock


Avian influenza has broken out at a commercial poultry farm in Zorra Township.

The Ontario poultry industry command centre issued an advisory to all poultry owners, including those with small backyard flocks, to be on heightened biosecurity because of the threat.

At the same time, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported outbreaks in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

They are among the first cases that coincide with the fall bird migration.

Friday, September 16, 2022

PED hits finisher farm in Huron


There has been an outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in a finisher operation in Huron County.

It is the first case in Ontario since July 11 and the seventh for PED this year.

There have also been seven outbreaks of Porcine Deltacoronavirus (PDCoV) this year.

Delhi couple chosen Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers

David and Jennifer VanDeVelde who transitioned the family farm from tobacco to horticulture crops and developed Wholesome Pickins Market and Bakery in Delhi have been chosen Ontario’s Outstanding Young Farmers this year.

After graduating from the University of Guelph they took over the family farm in 2006 and initially began growing strawberries.

Now they grow strawberries, asparagus, raspberries, pumpkins, rhubarb, some tobacco and a variety of grains and cover crops on 200 acres of sandy soil.

They continue to expand their farm market, recently adding a from-scratch bakery.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

National chicken agency optimistic

Chicken Farmers of Canada has set a production target calling for 6.5 per cent above base production quota and for Ontario 7.4 per cent above base for Dec. 18 to Feb. 11.

That is by far the greatest margin over base since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago.

Chicken Farmers of Ontario said “demand for chicken continues to be strong. 

“This is supported by competing meat prices and overall market conditions. 

“The demand is also boosted by the lifting of most pandemic-related restrictions which is reflected in the increasing food service sales.

U.S. again working on meat labeling

United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he is once again working on labeling foods as product of the United States.

Canada has twice challenged that meat labeling and won at the World Trade Organization, most recently in 2015 when the WTO granted Canada permission to punish the U.S. with $1 billion worth of tariffs.

Politicians backed down and scrapped the Country of Origin labeling legislation.

Now Vilsack told a meeting of the National Farmers Union that his department is making progress on introducing new labeling rules.

Farmers in the U.S. think the labels would prompt consumers to prefer their products, but processors say it requires expensive logistics and paperwork to keep U.S. products separate from imported, especially for meats.

The United States Department of Agriculture began to re-examine the issue a year ago. Vilsack said USDA’s efforts to better define the term include a recent survey of 4,000 consumers to determine whether they want the labeling and would be prepared to pay an extra nickel.


The secretary said the survey results will help determine how the USDA can strengthen the rule-making process behind such a claim on the label.

“Once we do that we are in a position to essentially utilize the power that we have at the USDA to avoid misrepresentation or false statements,” Vilsack said.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Wellington Poultry sold

Amir Quality Meats Inc. has acquired a processing facility and associated supply from Wellington Poultry Ltd., based in Arthur, Ontario.

Wellington Poultry Ltd. is a provincially licensed processing facility that has served the Ontario specialty breeds market and mainstream markets for over 18 years. 

Murray Opstein, chairman of Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board, welcomed the transaction.

Amir Quality Meats is an  independent family-owned Halal meat processors and distributors serving the Toronto area and markets across Canada. 

“We are excited about the future of this industry,” said Sherry Aziz, chief financial officer for Amir Quality Meats. “We see lots of opportunities to continue to build strong relationships with the growers and grow the marketplace - providing Ontarians with continued access to chicken choices.” 

The marketing board issued a statement thanking Wellington Poultry for its “longstanding commitment to the industry. “

One of the issues here is that the marketing board encourages the establishment of new processing companies to serve niche markets, but when the company finds greater markets, the company has to buy or rent plant supply quota from the larger and established processing companies in the industry.

The plant supply quota system was established to rein in the aggressive bidding by Ontario and Quebec processors for greater supplies from farmers. 

So either the processors are engaged in destructive aggression or the marketing boards are not willing or able to produce enough to satisfy demand.

Something similar exists in the dairy industry.

It's evidence that supply management is a flawed system.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Blendtek signs with Bunge

Blendtek Ingredients Inc. of Cambridge, Ont., has landed a contract to supply Bunge with ingredients for plant protein products.

Blendtex uses peas, soybeans, faba beans, mung beans and lentils to make the ingredients.

It can supply GMO-free, allergen-free, gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free ingredients.

It can help Bunge tailor products to customers’ requirements for beverages and foods such as meat substitutes, dairy substitutes, pet foods and sports and nutrition snacks.

The company did not supply an estimate of likely sales volumes or value.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Potato crop coming up average

The North American potato market will be tight this year, reports United Potato Growers of Canada.

Stocks left over from last year are minimal and acreage is Idaho and other key places is down.

Yields are projected to be average at best.

“Overall, I think everybody is predicting a tight market,” said Victoria Stamper, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada based on Prince Edward Island.

Potato acreage in Canada is estimated at 385,000, almost identical to acres from 2021. Alberta saw a 5.6 percent increase in acres  but acres on Prince Edward Island declined by 6.4 percent.

In the U.S., total acreage dropped to 910,000 – down 3.5 percent from the previous year.

Idaho, which dominates potato production in America, saw acres sink by 7.9 percent.

My wish is that farmers would take more care harvesting the crop. I'm routinely disappointed by the high percentage of bruised and cut potatoes available in our supermarkets.

By contrast, spuds from Idaho are usually perfect.

Industry says fertilizer goals will hurt

Fertilizer Canada and the Canola Council of Canada issued a report saying the federal government’s goal of cutting fertilizer-related greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 is not achievable without causing a lot of harm.

The report said making a cut that large would “potentially damage the financial health of Canada’s crop production sector.”

It said a reduction of 14 per cent is more realistic.

The federal government announced the voluntary goal in 2020 and said then that fertilizer use had increased by 71 per cent in 15 years.

Thieves steal burgers

Thieves have taken a 16-metre-long trailer loaded with $55,000 worth of hamburger patties from Brock Road South in Puslinch Township.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has a large warehouse in that area, but police have not identified the owner or the brand of patties stolen.

Ontario Provincial Police said the theft occurred at about 3 a.m. Monday.

The trailer was recovered in Mississauga, but was empty.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Scott Dee fingers soy imports for Seneca virus

Veterinarian Scott Dee has confirmed that soybean meal can be responsible for spreading Seneca virus.

Seneca virus is relatively manageable, but its symptoms are similar to foot and mouth disease which triggers alarm bells for the livestock industry and results in trading bans.

Dee’s confirmation came after a feed company contacted him because it was concerned that soybean meal it imported was resulting in Seneca-virus outbreaks in customers’ herds.


Then the country’s watchdogs asked Dee to tell them about his findings and it resulted in a ban on soybean meal imports from the supplier in a country where Seneca virus is prevalent.

“This is one of the biggest pieces of news the pork industry has had in regard to disease control in many years,” said Dee who is director of research at Pipestone Applied Research.

Although a great amount of laboratory work has proven over and over again that viruses, including SVA, can survive well in feed, researchers have never had a real-world case where they could come to a strong conclusion that a new virus entered a country through feed imports, Dee said.

“This is a wake-up call big time,” Dee says. “It turned out to be SVA – which isn’t that hard to deal with – but it easily could have been foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) or African swine fever (ASF). This country got lucky it was ‘only’ SVA and not one of the real bad boys.”

Worrisome continuing avian flu outbreaks

Avian influenza continues to break out in poultry flocks long after the spring migration of birds believed responsible for spreading the highly-infectious disease.

There has been a recent outbreak in Alberta, reported the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

And Ohio has had two recent outbreaks, reports the United States Department of Agriculture.

One of the two struck an operation with three million laying hens in Defiance County. The other was a backyard flock of 640 birds.

California has recently had three outbreaks, one in a broiler-breeder flock, another in a turkey farm and a third in a backyard flock.

Haarlam to ban meat ads

The city of Haarlam in the Netherlands will ban advertising of meat in an effort to curb demand and greenhouse gas emissions.

City officials are delaying the ban until 2024 to give time for advertising contracts to expire.

Supporters of the ban cited research from a climate scientists at the University of Illinois that shows that the food production system – especially for beef products – have a detrimental effect on the environment in terms of water use and greenhouse gases from cattle.

 The researchers also said that cows, pigs and other animals raised for food are responsible for 57 per cent  of all food production emissions and 33 per cent of all planet-heating emissions.

The advertising ban in Haarlem, ­a city of 160,000 about 13 miles west of Amsterdam, also will include ads for holiday flights, fossil fuels and cars that run on fossil fuels. 

Meanwhile a research team at the University of Waterloo has won runner-up prize in a global Dyson competition for engineering-sector innovations.

Their innovation uses bacteria and aggregate to make bricks. It can be done on construction sites, also reducing transportation emissions.

Conventional brick-making involves high heat for two days, consuming large amounts of energy that releases greenhouse gasses.

The team believes it will be able to use the technology to make concrete. 

 Conventional production of cement also involves high heat.

About 23 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions arise from the construction sector, the team said.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Versatile tractors powered by hydrogen

 Buhler Industries Inc. of Winnipeg has signed a deal with Cummins Inc. of Columbus, Indiana, to develop hydrogen-powered engines for top-of-the-line Versatile tractors.

The companies said that will reduce or eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions.

The engines will be similar to existing diesels, Cummins said.

While diesel engines continue to be the flexible power of choice for the foreseeable future in agriculture, such a collaboration enables both companies to develop low and zero carbon solutions that are ideally suited to farming,” said Adam Reid, Versatile’s vice-president of sales and marketing.

“Cummins has recently announced its plan to leverage existing platforms and expertise in spark ignited technology to build hydrogen engines. The high commonality among engine components between diesel and hydrogen leverages scale advantages for OEMs, while delivering the reliability that farmers need,” said Ann Schmelzer, Buhler’s general manager.

The companies did not provide an estimate of when the hydrogen-powered tractors might hit the market.

Earlier this year the Canadian management team at Buhler took over the company after Russian owners left soon after Canada imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs in an effort to dissuade Russia from continuing its invasion of the Ukraine.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Gates funds “green” milk

Billionaire Bill Gates’ investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is leading a $12 million investment in Neutral Foods which tracks greenhouse gases from milk production.

Other investors in Neutral Foods include Mark Cuban, National Basketball Association stars LeBron James and Kevin Love, Tobias Harris, and musicians John Legend and Questlove.

Neutral Foods buys carbon credits to compensate for the milk-production emissions. 

Breakthrough Energy Ventures has segmented global emissions into five categories, and agriculture is the third worst offender, responsible for 19 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, behind manufacturing (31 per cent) and electricity (27 per cent), but ahead of transportation (16 per cent) and buildings (seven per cent).

Neutral Foods milk is in about 2,000 grocery stores and it’s planning to expand into butter, and eventually meat.

“It’s clear that consumers are hungry for sustainable, climate-forward options and they’re reflecting that in their purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to buying food and beverages,” Carmichael Roberts, one half of the investing committee at Bill Gates’ investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, told CNBC television.

Neutral Foods measures the carbon emissions of the entire lifecycle of its products and purchases carbon offsets for the measured emissions, Ann Radil, the Head of Carbon Reduction at Neutral Foods, told CNBC.

Carbon credits are permits that businesses buy to certify greenhouse gasses have been removed from the atmosphere. While not all carbon credits are reliably policed, Neutral Foods says it uses only offsets verified by Climate Action Reserve which it says are quite strict. Its offsets are “real, additional, permanent, verifiable, and enforceable,” said Lauren Brown, senior manager of carbon reduction data and analytics for Neutral Foods.

Long-term, the company’s plan is to work with farms to reduce their greenhouse emissions directly. Currently, Neutral Foods has eight distinct projects underway at farms it works with and 30 projects in some phase of development, Radil told CNBC.

Those projects include changing what cows eat and changing how cow manure is managed.

Separating and composting manure “alone can reduce manure-related GHG emissions such as methane and nitrous oxide by 19 to 50 percent,” Radil told CNBC. 

Also, Neutral Foods is working with farms to change the way they plant things on the farm to improve the amount of carbon that gets absorbed by the soil.