Sunday, January 31, 2016

Not talking

The food safety operations of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were moved last year from the agriculture to the health minister.

One would think that would improve communications with the Public Health Agency of Canada which also reports to the health minister.

Think again.

On Jan. 22 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency posted information on its website that bagged salads prepared at the Dole company facilities in Springfield, Ohio, were being recalled after officials were able to trace 11 listeria victims in the United States and seven in Canada, and one death in each country, to products prepared there.

It took five days for the Public Health Agency of Canada to post on its website a warning to consumers to not eat bagged salads prepared there.

That included Dole brand and President's Choice brand salads marketed by Loblaws.

Maybe they have no e-mail connections with each other. 

And maybe the health minister keeps the two agencies compartmentalized.

Or maybe it's simply normal bureaucratic lethargy.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

PED in Bruce County

Another case of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus has shown up in a finisher barn, this time in Bruce County.

It comes six days after a finishing barn in Huron County was hit by the highly contagious virus.

There was another case Jan. 15 at a farrow-to-finish barn in Bruce County.

The virus survives longer in cold weather, so it's not surprising that cases are popping up now. Earlier this month the Ontario Pork Industry Council cautioned hog farmers to be particularly vigilant about transportation vehicles and personnel because the virus has shown up at packing plants and assembly yards in Ontario.

The Bruce County case is the 88th in Ontario since the first one little more than a year ago. 

It was far more widespread and devastating in the United States last year where it;s estimated that eight per cent of piglets died.

Saxe wants end to diesel subsidy, but likes farmers

Ontario's new Environment Commissioner said when she was in Paris for climate change negotiations that she agrees that all fuel subsidies should be eliminated, but now says she's not targeting Ontario farmers.

Don McCabe, président of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, said he's pleased to hear that and said farmers share her concern for the environment.

But what does it all mean? Who knows?

At stake is exemption from a diesel fuel tax of 14.5 cents per litre.

"Perhaps we could, for the same money, treat farmers more fairly, get cleaner air and do less climate damage," Saxe said in an interview. 

"It sounded as if I was against money for farmers, which couldn't be farther from the truth."

Saxe insisted she's not saying the diesel tax exemption is a bad thing, or trying to dictate what the policy should be, but said it's something that should be looked at.

"The whole world is looking at fossil fuel subsidies," she said. "I'm just asking: why do we have this? Could we do it better? And I think it's possible we could."

About $190 million a year is not collected in diesel tax in Ontario, and Saxe said she's not convinced most of that fuel is being used by farmers. It's also available to the mining, forestry and unlicensed construction industry.

"Most of it, as far as I can tell, goes to other industries," she said. "I'm still trying to get those numbers from the ministry of finance."

Saxe said she knows farmers don't like the tax exemption to be called a subsidy and said what she wants is to open a discussion.

"I applaud the environmental commissioner for trying to find opportunities to work with farmers," McCabe is quoted by Canadian Press.


French farmers stage protests

Farmers in France have used tractors to block highways and have lit fires, trying to draw public attention to their plight.

It comes soon after similar protests by Greek farmers.

Livestock and dairy farmers have been hit hard by declining prices and losses.

They blocked access to the port city of La Rochelle and more than 100 closed a highways near the city of Lorient in the west, said Thierry Coue, head of the regional chapter of farm union FNSEA.

In La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast, about 100 livestock farmers and grain producers blocked entry to the city from the east, said local FNSEA chairman Francois Avrard.

Bankruptcies last year rose to the highest since at least 1998, led by beef cattle and dairy producers, according to data analysis firm Altares. French raw-milk prices dropped 17 percent in the past two years, while beef prices that farmers say don’t cover costs have fallen 3.5 percent in the period, European Union data show. 

The declines came as rising milk output in Europe and New Zealand coincided with a slowdown in Chinese dairy demand, while growth in beef production has outpaced usage.

“Incomes are catastrophic, particularly in red meat and milk,” Coue said. “Today it’s no longer a crisis, this is social distress. People are at the end of their wits.”

JBS executives face charges

Brazilian prosecutors have charged the head of JBS beef-packing company controller J&F Investimentos and eight others from the JBS group and bank Banco Rural with crimes against the financial system.

In a statement on Tuesday, prosecutors said companies within Grupo JBS had passed on loans to each other in 2011, which is illegal in Brazil. 

The news sent JBS share prices tumbling by eight per cent.

JBS is the largest beef-packing company in the world. In Canada, it owns XL Foods Inc. of Alberta.

Beef recalled over purity issue

Remember the TV ad "Where's the beef?"

Customers of Berks Packing Co. of Reading, Pa., could well wonder about their beef.

The company is recalling about 1,320 pounds of product that's supposed to be beef but contains some pork.

Company employees discovered the discrepancy and reported to government inspectors, prompting the recall.

But the products in question were made Nov. 12, meaning most has likely been eaten.

Canadian chicken production up three per cent

Canadian chicken production last year was three per cent more than the previous year.

Ontario production was up by 4.7 per cent, Quebec by 2.2 per cent and Alberta by 7.4 per cent.

British Columbia, the other major chicken producer, was down by one per cent.

Imports increased by 10.8 per cent boost total chicken supplies on the Canadian market to 1.314 billion kilograms, 3.6 per cent more than in 2014.

Exports were up by 1.8 per cent to 172.3 million kilograms.

Storage stocks stood at 42.6 million kilograms at the end of the year, 13 per cent more than the previous year. But in the U.S. storage stocks were up by 27 per cent.

Potash Corp. takes a hit

Profits plunged by 50 per cent for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, prompting it to cut dividends his week.

The quarterly report came days after the company announced it's closing a mine in New Brunswick because it's among its more expensive ones. The closure throws 430 people out of work.

The company says prices for all of its products - potash, nitrogen and phosphorous - have declined.

Chinese man makes deal on seed theft

A Chinese man has reached an agreement with federal prosecutors over patented seeds stolen from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.

Ho Hailong is a naturalized citizen who was living in Florida at the time of his arrest.

A Chinese woman whose husband is a genetic researcher and plant breeder is also facing charges, but there's nothing new being reported about her case.

Hailong has admitted he participated in a conspiracy to steal seed corn.

Hailong traveled to corn fields in Iowa with some employees of a seed corn subsidiary of Beijing-based DBN Group; they gathered seeds with the intent of reproducing their genetic traits.

The plea agreement says Mo admits he conspired to steal trade secrets from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.

Mo will be sentenced later in Des Moines. Prosecutors have agreed not to seek a prison sentence exceeding five years.

The investigation began two years ago when Pioneer security staff discovered Chinese men crawling around in cornfields.

Pesticides under new attack

Canada's environment commissioner has issued a highly-critical audit that is likely to make farmers anxious.

Commissioner Julie Gelfand says it's taking far too long for the Pest Management Review Agency to remove dangerous products from the market.

These are products farmers want kept until there are alternatives available to control the pests in question.

She is also critical of conditional registrations which allow new pesticides on the market while awaiting further information. Eight of nine neonicitinoid seed-treatment pesticides fall into that category.

Last week, already knowing what Canadians are now learning about the audit, the Liberal government announced it's ending conditional registrations. Crop Life Canada, which speaks for manufacturers and distributors, agreed with the move.

The commissioner's report was tabled in Parliament Tuesday, soon after the first session under the Liberals began.

"We've recommended to the agency that once they've decided that a pesticide has unacceptable risks for all uses, that it should remove them from the market as soon as possible," the commissioner told a news conference.

"And that if they can't remove it right away, they should give more information to the public."
Gelfand's audit found the pest agency took an average of five years, and up to 11 years, to get dangerous pesticides off store shelves — and that the stalling mechanisms are built right into the law.

The act governing pesticides allows the minister to keep a harmful product in circulation if it's deemed there are no readily available alternative products. It also allows manufacturers to sell their existing stock of pesticides that are found to be harmful before the product is de-registered.

"If Canadians feel there should be a change, that's up to Parliament to make that change in the law," said Gelfand.

The commissioner also found that the agency did not assess the cumulative effects of products on human health, even when required to do so by legislation.

As for those conditionally registered products, the audit found that eight of the nine pesticides that had been conditionally registered for more than a decade were neonicotinoids.

"These products are now used extensively in Canada and are widely suspected of being a threat to bees, other pollinators, and broader ecosystems," says the audit.

There are about 7,000 pesticides available to Canadian consumers, containing some 600 active ingredients.

All products are supposed to be re-evaluated every 15 years and the commissioner says 95 per cent of re-evaluations result in additional precautions to protect health or the environment.

About 14 products are re-checked each year — one sixth of the number that should be re-evaluated —and more pesticides come up for re-evaluation every year.

U.S. cattlemen protest pricing

Beef producers in the United States are frustrated by the sudden drop in futures-market prices, so are asking for inquiries.

R-CALF USA is asking for a Senate committee investigation.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) is asking for changes at the Chicago Mercantile Exchance, especially into flash trading.

Markets were volatile all year long, but the final straw came near the end of the year when cattle futures dropped 16 percent, a rate not seen in 34 years.

The NCBA has written to Terrence A. Duffy, executive chairman and president for CME Group, Inc., saying “for several months we have been hearing from our members across the country regarding market volatility and their concerns about high frequency trading’s contribution to that volatility.

“The effectiveness of cattle futures contracts as a viable risk management tool is being called into question due to the concerns over high frequency trading. In fact, we continue to hear our members question their use of the cattle contracts because the volatility has made them a tool which is more of a liability than a benefit.”
NCBA officials would like to see livestock contracts have the same limits on messaging as grain, currency and index contracts. Adding a one second delay would help reduce messaging.

“High frequency trading occurs at a rate faster than any human can analyze. Latency would therefore level the playing field so that everyone sees the market at the same speed,” the letter says of adding a delay.

The letter also voices regards with “spoofing” and asks CME Group to “release audit trail data for analysis.”

An investor and trader named Jeffery Carter shared the letter and his thoughts in a recent blog. Carter is a former member of the CME Board of Directors.

In his blog Carter writes, “If you talk to old cattle traders, they will tell you that their market is broken. 

"Hog traders have echoed their sentiments. 

"This isn’t sour grapes over losing the floor. It’s about customers like the members of the NCBA that cannot get into and out of large positions when they need to roll contracts without getting run over.”

Ag. minister advisory on barn fires

Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal is advising farmers to take precautions to prevent barn fires.

His warning comes after a spate of fires in the Waterloo-Wellington and Middlesex-Elgin areas.

Top on the list of recommendations is hiring a professional to check every building, plus a qualified electrician to conduct an annual inspection of all electrical systems.

Heat lamps should be surrounded by fireproof sheathing, outdoor litter should be cleaned away, gasoline and other similar inflammables should be stored outdoors and there should be a fire extinguisher handy.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Listeria source identified

Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. is recalling all of its packaged salads prepared at Springfield, Ohio, because they might be contaminated with listeria bacteria.

There have been seven cases of listeria food poisoning in provinces from Ontario east since September and officials were suspicious that packaged salads were responsible.

One person died, but not entirely because of listeria food poisoning. The others were all hospitalized.

The salads involved in the recall have the letter “A” in the right-hand corner of the package.

Loblaws’ President’s Choice pre-packaged salads are also involved in the recall.

A complete listing is available from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at its website at

In Ohio, officials said they have been searching since July for the source of listeria food poisonings that resulted in one death and 11 people hospitalized.

It’s not clear whether those totals include Canadians.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Finisher barn in Huron hit by PED

A finisher barn in Huron County has had an outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.

It’s the 87th case in Ontario and comes hard on the heels of a report that three farmers in the province have decided to live with the virus rather than eliminate it.

One is an organic farmer and another is a neighbour.

Their names and locations have not been revealed.

Others in the industry have made heroic attempts to eradicate the disease and to keep it from spreading.

Dr. Doug McDougald, who has spent countless hours trying to control and eradicate diseases from Ontario hog farms, has expressed disappointment and warns that the three herds will be a continuing risk to spread the highly-contagious disease to other herds.

Farmers complain about regulations

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says 76 per cent of the farmers it surveyed say government regulations and paper work are a serious concern for their businesses.

That’s seven per cent more than businesses in other sectors.

The CFIB says it’s also the fifth straight year that more farmers than other businessmen complained about red tape.

The Federation’s Marilyn Braun-Pollon said as an example that farmers complain that Statistics Canada’s surveys arrive in the middle of their busiest time of the year, spring seeding.

She is, however, pleased that the 2016 Census of Agriculture is moving online.

The CFIB said farmers are looking to expand their operations and implement innovative technologies and practices, so governments need to ensure they’re not being held back by out-dated, redundant and confusing regulations.