Friday, July 31, 2015

Hollow threat

Dairy Farmers of Canada is threatening Harper with election defeat if he caves in to demands to open the Canadian market to more imports during the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

The way DFC calculates it, there are a lot of close ridings in which there is an average of 45 dairy farmers each.

Get real!

Forty-five votes is what three Tory-party volunteer drivers can deliver to polls on election day.

And what are the choices? Liberal?  I doubt they will turn down any deal that emerges from the TPP negotiations, even if it's deemed disastrous by dairy farmers.

And how many dairy farmers will vote NDP, even in a rage of protest? Not all 45 per riding!

Having made a hollow threat, Dairy Farmers of Canada can expect retaliation from Harper. He's been well known to be somewhat hard-nosed and lacking in compassion.

New Zealand sets stage for Canadian dairy concessions

New Zealand has set the stage for Canada to make significant concessions on access to the dairy market during the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

The New Zealand spokesman at the talks told reporters that what Canada has offered so far is so miniscule it threatens to derail the talks.

That sets the stage for Canada to make significant offers and to tell the dairy farmers it had no choice.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made it clear he wants a deal.

The talks continue today and, if necessary, might stretch into Saturday.

Japan is also trying to hold on to protection for its dairy farmers.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Maple Leaf sales down as losses continue

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. reports sales of $820.8 million for the second quarter; after accounting for currency exchange; that was a decline of 2.6 per cent from the same time last year.

Volume was up, but prices were down.

Losses totaled $7.5 million, a big improvement from last year when losses were $39.5 million. The company booked $7.3 million worth of restructuring costs.

It has now closed all of its old plants and has moved most meat processing operations to its new plant at Hamilton.

President and chief executive officer Michael McCain said he’s pleased with the second-quarter results.

Buy investors must be getting frustrated after years of steady losses.

NAFTA wrinkle in TPP trade talks

Canada’s benefits from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could be undermined if Canada fails to participate in a new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.

That new wrinkle emerged from reporting at the trade negotiations now underway in Hawaii.

Reporters were briefed that the TPP is likely to contain terms that will be even better than NAFTA for gaining entry to the United States market.

And if Canada isn’t part of the deal, it will lose out to others, including Mexico.

The reporters also said Canadians and Americans met privately during the TPP negotiations with a view to maintaining better terms for trade between the two countries – i.e. better than a TPP deal.

The automotive industry is offered as an example. Canada and Mexico are able to freely trade parts with the United States, but all three maintain tariffs, albeit relatively low ones, against other countries.

The TPP could wipe out that advantage so there would be more intense competition in the car-parts market.

The Globe and Mail also indicated that in the dairy negotiations, Canada is being pressured to keep open its low-tariff and no-tariff category for certain ingredients extracted from milk.

There has been a widespread assumption that the United States and New Zealand in particular were pushing for a reduction in tariffs on cheese, butter and other processed dairy products.

Imports into the less-protected ingredients market have been mounting rapidly in recent years and months, reducing demand for Canadian milk unless the supply-management marketing boards cut prices to remain competitive with the imports.

There has been no detailed reporting about pressure on Canada to reduce barriers to imports of poultry products, also under supply management and protected by high tariffs.

There has been similar pressure in the poultry market, especially a huge increase in imports of “spent fowl”, meaning egg-laying birds at the end of their careers. There is no tariff on them.

In recent years, the Chicken Farmers of Canada marketing agency claims the U.S. has sold more spent fowl to Canadian processing plants than it has available from egg farms.

Canada makes inadequate dairy concessions at trade talks

Canada made dairy-industry trade concessions at the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in Hawaii this week, but the 12 nations involved in the talks say it isn’t enough.

Anonymous sources quoted by reporters indicate that both New Zealand and the United States said Canada needs to offer more.

New Zealand has also called on the United States to open more of its dairy market to imports.

Apparently the dairy industry is the main remaining stumbling block in the negotiations.

There is no mention in the media reports of Canada’s supply-,management protection for its turkey, egg, chicken and hatching egg markets.

The negotiations continue today and Friday. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Trade Minister Ed Fast has been granted enough flexibility on the dairy-industry issue to strike a deal.

Seed theft charges against Chinese dropped

The federal government prosecutor said there’s little chance of gaining a conviction, so a judge has dismissed theft charges against a Chinese woman accused of stealing seed and secrets from Monsanto and Pioneer.

The prosecutor said the patents stolen with seed are worth $500 million.

But the prosecutor said his case has been built largely on electronic messages that the court has ruled are not admissible as evidence.

The order signed Tuesday instructs the government to return Mo Yun’s passport and immediately stop “all court-directed electronic monitoring,” meaning she can return to China.

Her husband is a billionaire.

Investigators allege that Mo helped her brother and five other Chinese nationals working for subsidiaries of Beijing-based DBN Group steal patented corn seed to reproduce its genetic traits. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Vilsack prefers poultry insurance

Tom Vilsack said it would be cheaper to set up a national insurance program for poultry farmers than paying for the flocks that have been ordered destroyed to prevent the spread of avian influenza.

Vilsack, who is the United States Secretary of Agriculture, said the government has already spent $191 million to compensate turkey and chicken farmers whose flocks have been ordered destroyed.

But that’s only part of the estimated $700 million the government has spent so far on the outbreaks.

Congress took out provisions for a national poultry insurance program when it was crafting the new five-year farm bill, but Vilsack is asking them to reconsider now.

The government has spent $400 million on cleaning up dead birds and disinfecting and is paying to research and stockpile a bird flu vaccine in case the virus returns. Vilsack said that makes it the most costly disease outbreak in U.S. farming history.

The bird flu killed 48 million birds, mostly turkeys and egg-laying chickens in 15 states as it swept through the Midwest. Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri lost the most birds.

Vilsack spoke Tuesday at a bird flu conference in Des Moines, Iowa, where the poultry industry and agriculture officials are talking about how to make farms more secure and how to better respond if the virus is again dropped on farms from waterfowl migrating south this fall.

The conference was closed to the public and the media except for opening speeches by Vilsack and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. Organizers said they wanted to ensure an open discussion of what went wrong and how to improve responses.

“I do think we’d be better off as a nation if we had for poultry producers a disaster program similar to what we have for livestock producers,” Vilsack said.

It would be less costly to the government than dealing with outbreaks as individual disasters, he said.

In Canada, two sets of outbreaks have been stopped. One set was in British Columbia around the Christmas season and the other involved three Oxford County farms in Ontario this spring.

Marketing boards were instrumental in using their communications systems to stop the virus from spreading farm to farm. The three farms were all finally cleared from quarantine this week.

It’s thought to come from migrating ducks and geese. That has the North American poultry industry on edge for when migration south begins this fall.

Union says CFIA short of inspectors

The head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s union for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says it is putting public health at risk with severe shortages of inspectors at Ontario slaughter plants.

In a press conference Tuesday in Toronto, the union said every federal meat slaughter inspection team in Ontario is understaffed thanks to CFIA’s refusal to fill vacant positions.

I've seen this before, usually during negotiations for a new union contract.

But I've also seen this canned CFIA response many times before. Sprouts online news service reports "The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in an e-mail response Tuesday that food safety remains a “top priority” for the agency, insisting “a comprehensive system of inspection tasks are carried out at all federally-inspected meat plants."

Land buys trouble activist

Danielle Nierenberg of the online Food Tank is troubled by the amount of farmland foreigners are buying, mainly to set up modern large-scale farms devoted to exporting.
She writes today that “ when governments and private firms invest in or purchase large tracts of land in other countries . . .  it can have serious environmental and social consequences.
“Investors claim that land grabs can help alleviate the world food crisis by tapping into a country’s ‘unused’ agricultural potential, but such investments often do more harm than good, disrupting traditional land use and leaving half a billion family farmers vulnerable to exploitation.”
According to the Land Matrix, approximately 130 million hectares of land  has been  bought or is involved in impending land deals over the last 15 years.
She writes that “in South Sudan, the country with the most transnational land acquisitions, land has been sold for as little as US$0.025 cents per hectare.”
The country is, however, been engaged in a civil war that comes and goes. 
Approximately 60 percent of the food grown on acquired lands is intended for export instead of feeding local communities, according to Oxfam America.
Nearly two-thirds of land grabs occur in countries with serious food security problems, she writes.
For example, in the Nacala Corridor of Mozambique, the Prosavana land grab will acquire 14 million hectares of land, displacing upwards of 500,000 people who already cultivate the area.
According to The World Food Programme, about one-third of Mozambique’s 24.5 million inhabitants are malnourished and 500,000 children ages six to 23 months are undernourished.
On her blog, Nierenberg lists organizations that are lobbying on this issue.

Chicken board announces small-flock plan

The Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board is following up on its earlier plans and is inviting applications from small-flock producers for “The Artisanal Chicken Program”.

It Is open to those willing to produce 600 to 3,000 birds per year.

It is also strictly limited because the national agency only allows Ontario to increase production by a percentage of growth in national demand.

Earlier the board allocated quota to producers to supply the market for dual-purpose and red-feathered birds. They need to buy their poults from Frey’s Hatchery in St. Jacobs and commit to marketing their birds to board-approved processors.

Although not many details have been revealed, this new plan appears to be open to any breed of bird and any processor.

The board says its program “provides opportunities for small, independent, locally based farmers to meet local demands for safe high quality chicken.

“The Artisanal Chicken Program will help farmers fill local food and seasonal markets and will give Ontario consumers more choice and options in how and where they buy locally grown chicken.

“CFO will strive to foster close productive relationships between Artisanal Chicken Farmers and their business partners based on strong artisanal values in the production and marketing of artisanal chicken.”

Production will begin next year and successful applicants must be in “compliance with the On-Farm Food safety Assurance Program and (OFFSAP) and the Animal Care Program (and) will be required to maintain biosecurity and industry standards which support the long term sustainability of the chicken industry in Ontario.

“The closing date for submissions for 2016 Applications is September 4, 2015.”

The permission to grow birds under this program will be for one year at a time.

Small-flock owners, led by Glenn Black of Providence Bay, Manitoulin Island, have been lobbying long and hard to gain permission for small-flock farmers to market up to 2,500 birds per year without quota.

I could hear Black cheering all the way from Providence Bay to Kitchener!

Under board regulations, it would cost more than $1 million for quota alone to become a member of the marketing board.

The board says it will launch two other new programs - a Local Niche Markets program, and a Business Development program – but has provided no details.

Black has long argued that there is a keen market among consumers who want special types of chicken from local farmers. He has argued that allowing small-flock owners to fill this demand without having to own quota would not hurt quota holders and would do much to enhance the reputation of supply management.

Organic Meadow has proposal for creditors

Organic Meadow says it will be ready by the July 31 deadline to file a plan with the court to emerge from bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

The farmer-owned business owes the Ontario milk marketing board and many others millions of dollars it was unable to repay.

The marketing board put the business on a cash-on-delivery basis which precipitated the move to seek protection from creditors under the Co-operative Creditors Arrangement Act.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dance of seed giants continues

The dance of the giant companies that dominate the global seeds industry continues.

First it was Monsanto making an unwelcome bid to take over Syngenta.

As part of that offer, Monsanto said it would be willing to spin off Syngenta’s seed business.

Now the chief executive of Dow says it might be interested in picking up Syngenta’s seed business if Monsanto succeeds in taking over Syngenta.

Too bad their clients don't get a say.

Argentinia wins beef access to U.S.

Argentina has won a trade dispute with the United States, re-opening its access to the beef market that was closed in 2001 when there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Argentina.

The ruling could take some of the steam out of record-high beef prices in Canada and the U.S.

The World Trade Organization has ruled that Argentina was right to insist that it could continue to export beef to the U.S. from areas of the country that were not affected by the outbreak.

On Aug. 30. 2012, Argentina complained to the World Trade Organization about:

(i) the import prohibition of fresh (chilled or frozen) beef from Argentina embodied in the interim and final rule of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture, which amend the regulations of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR);

(ii) the failure to recognize certain areas of Argentina’s territory as free of foot-and-mouth disease embodied in the APHIS Policy Regarding Importation of Animals and Animal Products; and

(iii) alleged undue delays in recognizing the animal health status of a region or in granting approval to export animals or animal products from that region with both types of delay occurring under procedures embodied in the US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR); and additional conditions on importation allegedly imposed by  Section 737 of the Omnibus Act 2009.

Amos Martin fined for downer cow

Amos Martin of Mount Forest has been fined a total of $1,880 after pleading guilty in provincial court to trying to market a downer cull cow at the Ontario Livestock Exchange north of Waterloo.

A veterinary inspector at the stockyards in January found the cow had a twisted stomach, was down and could not get up and was in distress.

Stocco new pr head for Grand River Conservation Authority

Lisa Stocco has been hired as communications manager for the Grand River Conservation Authority, taking over from Dave Schultz who has held the post since 2008.

Stocco has 15 years experience in communications, most recently with the Halton Catholic District School Board.

Schultz has been one of the best communications managers I have dealt with over a 50-year career.

Monday, July 27, 2015

French farmers blockade borders

French farmers have blockaded borders with Germany and Spain because they believe imports are lowering their prices and profits.

And they have the backing of French President Francois Hollande who is calling for a high-level meeting with European nations.

“Between now and then, we will continue to pressure, so that the farmers are certain, protests or not, that we are at their side,” he said.

The farmers at the German border were looking for trucks carrying meat and were keeping them from crossing the border.

German Agriculture Ministry spokesman Jens Urban declined to comment on the protest but said he didn’t think it was leading to a total stoppage of German agricultural exports to France.

The farmers also blocked the Spanish and German border highways on Sunday as part of an ongoing protest against low prices caused by cheap imports and pressure from grocery chains that have put about 10 per cent of livestock farms on the verge of bankruptcy, according to the government.

“French agriculture is suffocating and no one realizes it and no one says anything,” Franck Sander, president of the main farmers’ federation in the Bas-Rhin region, told France-Info radio.

The French government last week offered a 600-million euro ($654 million) agricultural plan to back loans and delay tax payments for farmers, who say that is not enough. 

France cannot give direct financial aid under EU rules.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lobb chosen for Hall of Fame

Dr. David Allen Lobb of Winnipeg will be inducted into the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame in December.

He grew up on a family farm in Huron County, worked in Ontario, the Maritimes and Manitoba and spent his life researching the role of tillage in erosion.

At the University of Manitoba, he created the only lab in the world capable of measuring soil translocation by tillage and tillage erosion.

The Soil Conservation Council of Canada says Dr. Lobb has also raised the profile of soil for a new generation of students.

Zero hunger possible

The head of the Food and Agriculture Organization says this generation could eliminate hunger.
“We know what it takes,” says director-general José Graziano Da Silva.
“We know what it costs. We can be the Zero Hunger Generation, paving the way to a sustainable and inclusive future that leads no one behind.”
“The world has declared: ‘Our goal is to end poverty and hunger,’” he told world leaders and other attendees of the United Nations Third International Conference on Financing for Development.
About 70 per cent of poverty occurs outside of urban areas, which typically fall through the nets created by traditional social security systems. Because of that, rural development should be a pillar of any successful hunger initiative.
The UN says another $267 billion annually would need to be invested in both rural and urban efforts for poor people across the world to gain appropriate access to food and means to improve their livelihoods.
That’s the equivalent of about $160 for each person who lives in extreme poverty – a fraction of the burden that malnutrition places on economies all over the world, de Silva says.
In other words, investing to eliminate poverty would actually profit, rather than cost, the global economy.
According to a recent report by the FAO, the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, cash transfers would allow poor families access to more diverse and healthier diets.
Private investment alone cannot break entrenched cycles of rural poverty.
Also, agriculture in these areas could prove much more efficient and effective if public sector investments could bolster rural infrastructure, health and education in these areas.
The report also suggests the potential for a snowball effect.
In other words, investments to abolish extreme hunger will ramp up productivity and earnings, allowing people in poverty to set about breaking those cycles.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Feds grant $93 million for genome research

 The federal government says it will give $93 million for 11 agriculture and aquaculture genomics research projects.
Genome Canada will get more than $30 million for its participation in the projects. The Western Grain Research Fund is putting in $5 million.
The balance comes from others, such as provincial governments, non-profit organizations and companies.
The 11 projects, which will each receive between $5 million and about $10 million, were selected for funding under Genome Canada’s 2014 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition “Genomics and Feeding the Future.”
The research will use genomics to address issues ranging from disease resilience in pigs to methane emissions in dairy to genetic selection in wheat.
“We are working to develop genomic tools and tests to improve our ability to select for desired characteristics such as yield, disease and pest resistance, and heat and drought stress resilience.
The end result will be more productive, profitable and environmentally-sustainable wheat varieties for farmers,” said Curtis Poziak, plant scientist at the University of Saskatchewan.
Pozniak is involved in a $8.5 million project focused on understanding the wheat genome and using genetic markers and predictive genetic tests to improve selection efficiency in Canadian wheat breeding programs.
Details about these 11 projects can be found on the Genome Canada website):
.                Canadian Triticum Applied Genomics (CTAG2 )
Project leaders: Curtis Pozniak, University of Saskatchewan; Andrew Sharpe, National Research Council Canada
Lead Genome Centre: Genome Prairie
Total funding: $8.5 million
.                Application of genomics to innovation in the lentil economy (AGILE)

Project leaders: Kirstin Bett and Albert Vandenberg, University of Saskatchewan
Lead Genome Centre: Genome Prairie
Total funding: $7.9 million (includes funding from Western Grains Research Foundation)
.                Sustaining and securing Canada’s honey bees using ‘omic tools

Project leaders: Leonard Foster, University of British Columbia; Amro Zayed, York University
Led Genome Centre: Genome British Columbia
Total funding: $7.2 million
.                Genomics of abiotic stress resistance in wild and cultivated sunflowers
Project leaders: Loren H. Rieseberg, University of British Columbia; John M. Burke, University of Georgia
Lead Genome Centre: Genome British Columbia
Total funding: $7.9 million
.                Application of genomics to improve disease resilience and sustainability in pork production
Project leaders: Michael Dyck, University of Alberta; John Harding, University of Saskatchewan; Bob Kemp, PigGen Canada Inc.
Lead Genome Centres: Genome Alberta, Genome Prairie
Total funding: $9.8 million
.                Increasing feed efficiency and reducing methane emissions through genomics: A new promising goal for the Canadian dairy industry
Project leaders: Filippo Miglior, University of Guelph; Paul Stothard, University of Alberta
Lead Genome Centres: Genome Alberta, Ontario Genomics Institute
Total funding: $10.3 million
.                SoyaGen: Improving yield and disease resistance in short-season soybean

Project leaders: François Belzile, Université Laval; Richard Bélanger, Université Laval
Lead Genome Centre: Genome Québec
Total funding: $8.3 million
.                Reverse vaccinology approach for the prevention of mycobacterial disease in cattle
Project leaders: Andrew Potter, VIDO-InterVac, University of Saskatchewan; Robert Hancock, University of British Columbia
Lead Genome Centres: Genome Prairie, Genome British Columbia
Total funding: $7.4 million
.                A Syst-OMICS approach to ensuring food safety and reducing the economic burden of salmonellosis

Project Leaders: Lawrence Goodridge, McGill University; Roger C. Levesque, Institute for Integrative Systems Biology (IBIS), Université Laval
Lead Genome Centre: Génome Québec
Total Funding: $9.8 million
.                Enhancing production in Coho: Culture, Community, Catch (EPIC4)

Project leaders: William S. Davidson, Simon Fraser University; Louis Bernatchez, Université Laval
Lead  Genome Centres: Genome British Columbia, Génome Québec
Total funding: $9.9 million
.                Towards a Sustainable Fishery for Nunavummiut

Project leaders: Virginia K. Walker, Queen’s University; Stephen C. Lougheed, Queen’s University; Peter Van Coeverden de Groot, Queen’s University; Stephan Schott, Carleton University
Lead Genome Centre: Ontario Genomics Institute
Total funding: $5.6 million