Friday, April 28, 2023

Windsor Salt strike gets violent

If you need salt, you're in for a hunt because it looks like the strike at Windsor Salt might go on indefinitely.

The company that owns Windsor Salt said contract talks are suspended after an employee was beaten late Wednesday night.

According to a statement from Windsor Salt Ltd., three masked individuals entered the Ojibway property shortly before midnight. Armed with baseball bats, they ambushed and repeatedly struck an employee.

“Fortunately, the victim’s injuries are not life-threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery,” read the statement. 

“In light of this despicable and unprovoked criminal action, the company is suspending further negotiations with the union.”

The employee’s identity or job description has not been disclosed.

Unifor Local 240, one of the two locals representing striking employees, has confirmed on its Facebook page that an alleged incident is being investigated. The other is Unifor Local 1959.

Windsor Salt and Morton Salt were sold in 2020 to Stone Canyon Holdings and Mark Demetree. 

The new owners have certainly taken a stubborn approach to negotiating with the unions at the two mines in Ontario.

A Batista to head JBS USA


Wesley Batista Filho will become the chief executive officer of JBS USA on Monday, May 1.

He is the son of Wesley Batista, one of the family members who pleaded guilty to paying bribes to scores of politicians to gain approval for government loans that helped vault the company to the largest meat-packing business in the world.

One of the companies it bought was XL Packers of Alberta.

Tim Schellpeper, the current CEO, will retire. Batista Filho  takes over from Tim Schellpeper who is retiring.

Schellpeper joined JBS USA in 2017, first serving as 

Batista Filho began his career at JBS in 2011, and has held a number of strategic roles, including serving as president of JBS Canada, president of the JBS USA Fed Beef Division, CEO of Seara, and CEO of JBS Brazil. In July 2022, he become JBS SA’s global president of operations.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

CFIA criticized over traceability at fairs

Showmen and fair boards across Canada are telling the Canadian Food Inspection Agency they don’t like its proposals for livestock traceability at fairs and exhibitions.

The CFIA is proposing that fair officials be held responsible for ensuring livestock are properly tagged and that lost tags are promptly and properly replaced.

But exhibitors say they should be the ones held responsible.

And Christina Franc, executive director of the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, said many of the volunteers and staff at fairs don’t have the experience, knowledge or skills to be handling livestock.

She is asking exhibitors and fair officials to file comments with the CFIA on its proposals before the June 15 deadline.

The CFIA says it has held many rounds of consultations about traceability since 2013, including with the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions.

Its proposals emphasize the importance of controlling diseases and quickly and accurately tracking down infected livestock. Fairs and exhibitions are only a minor piece in the overall proposals.

It lists 17 national organizations involved in the consultations and long list of provincial associations, industry-government groups and third party service providers such as Lactanet and the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency.



Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Pork’s a bargain, but sales slumping

Even though pork is a bargain compared to beef, sales have been slumping and it’s likely to stay that way for the rest of the year.

Last year demand for pork increased, meaning that even though prices rose, consumers bought more.

So far this year the reverse has been true as demand is decreasing, meaning even lower prices for pork is not increasing sales.

“We see persistently high retail prices limiting consumption of all proteins. Consumers continue to conserve capital by shifting everyday purchases to lower-value protein options, switching channels, and moving to smaller pack sizes,” said Christine McCracken, senior analyst for animal protein at Rabobank. 

African Swine Fever has reduced pork production in China, South Korea and the Philippines so export demand remains firm.

However, if China’s pork production results in a “sizeable shortfall” it would “disrupt the global industry and drive a sharp upward correction in pork prices,” she said.

On the other hand, herd health and productivity are improving in the Unite States and Mexico and “could potentially burden the market . . . and could result in excess supply and require further industry adjustment,” she said.

Sounds like a typical economist - on the one hand, but on the other. Know any one-handed economists? If you do, are they reliably accurate?”

Sweetener wins innovation award

Biofect Innovations has won the $10,000 prize at the Ontario Agri-Tech Pitch Competition held at the University of Guelph.

Biofect uses fermentation to process oubli berry from West Africa into a powder that is a powerful sweetener likely to be used first by the beverage industry and later by candy makers and other food processors.

The product, called Brazzein, is a protein 2,000 times sweeter than sugar,

Chief executive officer Ralph Christian Delos Santos said the team has completed proof of concept and is now working to scale up production and to refine Brazzein so it can be used in a wide range of products,

“Beverages are our main approach now. To get to confectionary, candy or cakes, you need texturizing abilities, so that’s a later market,” said Santos. 

“The underlying intellectual property is our platform, which we are developing too. Brazzein is a proof point for the platform; we can also produce other proteins like casein, for example.”

There were five competitors for the prize. 

Food Security Structures Canada won the People’s Choice Award with its moveable, modular Agrotunnel concept to support year-round food production. 

Co-founder Kim Parker said a single Agrotunnel has the potential to produce the same yield of fruits, vegetables and herbs as six shipping container-based indoor farms.

One of the keys to its success is a proprietary grow light system.

U.S. gains tariff-free entry to Japan

Pork, poultry and egg products from the United States are all able to enter Japan without tariffs.

That happened this month which is the fifth year of a five-year trade agreement.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Farm tax hike proposal defeated

A proposal to increase the tax on farms from 22 to 23 per cent has failed in Chatham-Kent.

The vote was 10 to 7 against the motion brought by Councillor Lauren Anderson.

The Chatham-Kent Property Rights Association and the Kent Federation of Agriculture spoke against the motion. 

The farm tax ratio was lowered to 22 per cent during the early 2000s to give farmers some relief while the agricultural industry was struggling, with the intent to bring it back to the 25 per cent level over time.

New pricing deal for Quebec hogs

The Quebec pork board and packers have reached agreement on a new pricing formula.

The old deal had packers paying less than producers’ costs. The difference was covered by the provincial government’s income stabilization program.

Olymel, which buys 80 per cent of the province’s hogs, has been losing money, recently announced closure of its large packing plant at VallĂ©e-Jonction and called for another 20 per cent cut in hog production in June.

The deal reached among the pork board, the packers and the province includes a buy-out program. To participate, hog farmers must pledge to remain out of hog production for five years.

Ontario has been impacted by the Quebec situation, losing  sales to Olymel and forcing it to find other buyers as far away as Manitoba and deeper south into the United States.

RCMP blamed for bungled court case

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Saskatchewan are being blamed for the loss of a case against at Agriculture Canada researcher accused of secretly taking money from China.

The court dismissed the charges against Yanti Gai because it took too long too get to trial.

The RCMP said working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic is why it took too long to gather about 900 documents for the defence lawyers to review.

Justice Timothy Keene, of the Saskatchewan Court of King’s Bench, rejected the idea that working from home in 2020, when lockdowns were prevalent across the country, was an exceptional circumstance. 

He found that the RCMP’s failure to facilitate access to the documents contributed to six weeks of delay. 

This was fatal to the case, because even though the Crown had won grace periods for other pandemic-related delays, the disclosure issues stretched the prosecution timeline to two weeks past the 30-month limit.

“I appreciate this is close to the line,” Justice Keene said, but he added that he had no choice. 

Records filed in court show that the RCMP’s federal policing wing began pursuing Mr. Gan in 2018, after a financial intelligence agency in Ottawa flagged his bank accounts for suspicious transactions from China and the United States.

He was a long-standing federal employee, and the government had celebrated him for his work on minimizing the environmental impacts of pulse crops, such as lentils.

In 2019, the RCMP raided the Swift Current research centre as Mr. Gan was arrested. 

There was never any accusation that he had betrayed Canadian secrets; he was accused of violating his employer’s code of conduct by not disclosing payments from Gansu Agricultural University, in Lanzhou, China, among other entities. 

He stopped working at Agriculture Canada that November.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Poultry research gets $13.5 million

The province is giving $13.5 million towards a new poultry research centre at its property near Elora.

In making the announcement, it said there are 1,200 chicken and turkey producers an 432 egg producers who will benefit “from cutting-edge research and innovative technologies that will be housed onsite.”

I fail to understand why quota-holding quota producers need this government handout. They are all millionaires and some are billionaires, enriching themselves by garnering the highest prices in North America on the backs of some consumers who are desperately poor.

They have the same technology, equipment and genetics as producers in the United States and should be able to compete without supply management. Or, at the very least, at tariff protection rates about a quarter of the current tariffs.

Flower growers face increased fees

Flowers Canada is seeking approval to increase its licensing fees.

Growers have until May 15 to register comments with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and/or the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.

The fee increase would be rolled out over two years: 

• Year One, increase the producer fee from the current 2.5 cents to 3.5 cents per square foot. Producers with operations greater than 850,000 square feet would be obligated to pay no more than $29,750.

• Year Two and subsequent years, increase the producer fee from 3.5 cents to 4 cents per square foot. Producers with operations greater than 850,000 square feet would be obligated to pay no more than $34,000.

If made, the proposed amendments are anticipated to come into effect on July 1, 2023. The fees would provide FCO with revenues from licence fees of approximately $1,000,000 annually by the second year to support the activities desired by the members to enhance the profitability and competitiveness of the sector.

Ontario greenhouse floriculture producers of less than 20,000 square feet would continue to be exempt from mandatory participation and payment of licence fees.

Milk regulations up for change

The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission has opened a public comment period until May 8 to react to proposal to change regulations under the milk act.

It said ”the proposed amendments include:

• Milk being moved from farm to processing in Ontario is graded twice. First by a Bulk Tank Milk Grader (BTMG) before being transferred into a tank truck for transport to a processing plant and then by a Plant Milk Grader (PMG) before being received into the plant. 

Both BTMGs and PMGs are required to recertify at regular intervals. Some dairy farms in Ontario are also processing their milk in an on-farm processing plant. 

An amendment allowing an on-farm processor who only processes their own milk and holds a BTMG certificate to receive a PMG certificate without requiring them to complete the PMG examination will reduce costs related to the examination (e.g., costs of training course, mileage, accommodation, time away from their farm and processing plant) and will not impact milk safety and quality. 

• Replacing the current requirement for a prescriptive minimum frequency of cleaning and sanitizing plant equipment with a requirement for written sanitation programs that will determine the most appropriate cleaning frequency based on the food safety risk of the process and the products in the plant. 

Keeping records of the routine implementation of the written sanitation programs will also be required. Moving to requiring written sanitation programs that establish the frequency of cleaning based on the food safety risk of the product being manufactured will also align Ontario's regulatory approach with federal requirements that many processing plants in Ontario are required to meet as part of their federal licensing. 

• Allowing that BTMG and PMG certificates expire up to a maximum of five years after an effective date (instead of exactly five years from the date of issue) will provide the organizations that operate certificate renewal programs with the flexibility to align certificate expirations annually. This will simplify the administration of certificate renewal processes.

These amendments will help reduce burden for existing and future dairy processors while maintaining Ontario's high food safety and quality for milk and milk products,” the website posting said.

Grape regulations up for change

The regulations governing grapes for processing are up for change in a regulatory posting from the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.

The proposals are open for comment until May 1.

The posting says “These amendments, if made, would enable greater stability and better business planning for grape growers and the wine sector.

“Negotiating agencies would continue to be able to negotiate one-year agreements if multi-year agreements cannot be reached.”

CFIA suspends Mercanti licence

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has cancelled the licence for Mercanti Specialty Foods Inc. of Hamilton.

It said Mercanti failed to maintain preventive control measures for the traceability of food products and to maintain cooling requirements for critical control points.

The company is known for making Mama Yolanda’s Gourmet Lasagna.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Pork council irate about ear tag proposals

Jeff Clark who handles regulatory issues for the Canadian Pork Council is urging producers to become informed about ear tag regulations proposed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

He expects farmers will have lots of objections to the proposals. They can air their views during a comment period that’s still open until June 16.

The National Pork Council in the United States is objecting because producers there don’t want the Canadian ear tags in weaner pigs they buy to raise in their barns.

Clark told the annual meeting of the Manitoba pork board that piglets and other border-crossing pigs are now commonly stamped with an identity tattoo.

“Ear tattoos are an amazing way to identify pigs going south,”he  said.

Farmers and assembly yard operators are also being asked to pay attention to the regulations that could require all market hogs to be ear tagged.

“Their rationale for that is that it’s too hard for the inspectors to verify that they’re identified properly,” said Clark. “We will push back significantly on that. It’s a non-starter.”

Thursday, April 20, 2023

No surprises in meat plant welfare reports

Somebody asked to see Canadian Food Inspection Reports on hogs arriving at the Sofina plant at Burlington, Ont., and the Cargill beef plant at High River Alberta.

The reports released to Ontario Farmer indicate there were no issues.

But another Access-to-information request for line-speed infractions at CFIA-inspected meat-packing plants in Ontario and Quebec was entirely censored. No information was released, not even the list of packing plants.

If the requests were filed by an animal rights organization, why didn't they make them as public as infamous undercover videos?

But, after all, I don't know who filed the two requests.

Once the Access-to-Information offices finishes processing a request, the information is available to anyone who asks.

Guelph, Lakehead universities to jointly train vets

The province is investing $14.7 million to fund a collaboration between the University of Guelph and Lakehead University in Thunder Bay to train veterinarians for large animal practices in Northern Ontario.

The province is also putting up $900,000 to grant $50,000 to students who graduate and agree to provide large animal services in Northern Ontario and to indigenous communities.

“Farmers and large animal owners should be able to access veterinary care when and where they need it,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance.

He was joined by Agriculture Minister Lisa Thompson, Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ontario Veterinary College dean Jeffrey Wichtel, University of Guelph president Charlotte Yates and Michael den Haan, vice-president of external relations for Lakehead University.

Wichtel said hand-wringing about a shortage of large-animal veterinarians, particularly in remote rural areas, has been going on for decades.

It seemed there were no solutions, until now, he said.

Dunlop said she once thought she would like to be a veterinarian.

Thompson said she has two women in her riding who aspire to be veterinarians are finally they have hope that they can pursue their dreams.

“There is a demand for serving as a veterinarian in Ontario,”she said.

Rob Flack, MPP for the Lakehead, was praised for his persistent lobbying for funding to set up veterinary training for Northern Ontario.

The goal is to have 80 students studying veterinary medicine at Lakehead with 20 per year graduating.

The program will increase veterinary training by 20 per cent. it has not increased since the 1980s, said Styles.