Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New humane rules for U.S. organic farmers

The Obama administration enacted new humane-handling rules for organic livestock and poultry producers on its last day in office, Jan 19.

The rules have been in the works since summer, and the last-minute enactment drew criticism from the National Pork Producers Council which also said some of the rules have no basis in science.

On the other hand, animal welfare groups are pleased.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) “commends” the move, calling it an “historic move” and “the first comprehensive set of regulations governing the on-farm treatment of animals ever issued by the federal government.”

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) called the rule a “game-changer for the $40-billion organic market whose consumers often believe that organic farm animals are raised with strong animal welfare standards.”

The National Pork Producers Council, however, called it “another ‘midnight’ regulation” and a “poke in the eye to agriculture.”

Some of the requirements, such as outdoor access, could even put some livestock at risk for contracting certain diseases, the pork council said, also without citing any scientific reports.

USDA is accepting public comments on the rule until Feb. 21, but it went into effect as soon as it was published.

                           

Cucumber deal reached

Cucumber growers for Hartung Brothers Inc. have reached agreement on terms for this year’s hand-harvested crop.

Negotiations continue for machine-harvested cucumbers.

The Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers Marketing Board is facing tough negotiations this year following interventions by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission followed by a response from Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal.

Former commission chairman Geri Kamenz called for negotiations about the commission's proposal to take price-bargaining power away from the marketing board.

He cited the persistent decline in the Ontario fruit and vegetable processing sector.

Then Leal intervened to put Kamenz’s proposal on hold and called for further consultations.

That’s where matters still stand with the association representing processors insisting that it wants an end to the marketing board’s involvement in pricing and the board and a broader group of marketing boards and general farm organizations insisting that those powers must remain with the board.

The key crop is tomatoes and there the politics are particularly interesting because Heinz pulled out of Leamington and now a group of former Heinz managers have set up Highbury Canco to continue processing tomatoes at the plant.

Last year Highbury Canco formed a joint venture with a tomato grower and the marketing board objected. That issue ended up before the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Tribunal which ruled that the joint venture can operate in the industry.

The board argued that forming a joint venture undermines minimum pricing and might, therefore, become the industry standard for tomato production for processing.

Stronger opposition to wind farms


Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is facing a new organization of municipalities opposed to wind farms.

Wynne’s predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, rammed green energy down the throats of municipalities, denying them the right to place planning-act restrictions on wind farms and solar-energy.

As a result, they have been placed wherever companies want them, regardless of municipal official plans.

“The implementation and expansion of renewable energy (industrial-scale wind turbines and large solar power projects) has developed to the point that it has caused hydro costs to increase, caused a division between rural and urban municipalities, and caused the citizens of Ontario to lose faith in democracy,” says Ron Higgins, Mayor of North Frontenac.

The Ontario Multi-Municipal Group organization was formed at the last meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) after 115 municipalities, or 25 percent of all municipalities in Ontario, passed resolutions demanding that municipalities get final say in the siting of renewable power projects.


“We are now speaking out on behalf of all those communities,” Higgins says.

4-H to launch Poultry Sen$e conference

Building on the success of its Dairy Sen$e conferences, 4-H Canada says it will organize one for the poultry industry this year.

So far no details about when and where it will be held have been announced.

But what 4-H Canada has announced is the results of a survey conducted by C. Lang Consulting that indicates participants have been pleased.

The conference is for farmers between 18 and 25 years old and is aimed at improving their management skills.

4-H Canada notes that the research found that 97 per cent of participants indicated that they either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “The conference opened up other beneficial networking opportunities.”

The same
 97 per cent agreed, or “agreed strongly” that “The Dairy Sen$e conference allowed me to network with industry leaders relevant to my interests” and 94 per cent said they networked with peers.

The top three industry-specific professional skills identified were farm management, financial planning and dairy nutrition.

The top personal skills identified were making presentations, public speaking, teamwork and strategic thinking.



Feb. 16 is Ag Day

Plans are well underway to celebrate Feb. 16 as Canada Agriculture Day.

The event is organized by “Agriculture More Than Ever” which has issued an invitation to organizations to join the celebration around the theme “Let’s Celebrate the Food We Love”.

“No constraints exist for what can be done to participate in the day. The one request is to maintain the spirit of the Agriculture More Than Ever cause by presenting a positive image of agriculture through the day,” the organizers say.

There’s more information and resources available at AgDay.ca and its “events page” and “event material” sites. It’s also on Twitter at #CdnAgDay .