Monday, September 25, 2017

Dairy war of words escalates

The war of words over milk supply management has escalated on the eve of the next round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations in Ottawa this week.

Jaime Castaneda, senior vice-president with the National Milk Producers Federation in the United States, said American dairy producers had tolerated the existence of supply management, but Canada went too far when it a created a new class of milk.

Until now, most of the talk has been about getting rid of this new low-priced class for Canadian milk sales.

Now the U.S. industry has formed an alliance with Mexico and their goal is elimination of Canadian supply management.

The issue of low-priced milk arose after importers learned they could escape protective tariffs by importing a new product not listed in the tariff schedule – diafiltered milk.

Canadian processors began importing a trickle of the diafiltered milk, then it became dozens of tanker truckloads that the milk marketing boards say was taking a $200 million-a-year bite out of their market.

When they persuaded the processors to stop importing in return for the offer or lower prices for Canadian-produced milk, it angered U.S dairy farmers who caught the attention of President Donald Trump when he was in Wisconsin.

He promised to help them.

While news media attention if focused on the NAFTA negotiations in Ottawa, there is another serious threat to the new milk pricing system if and when the World Trade Organization agrees to delve into a complaint from the United States.

The World Trade Organization has already ruled that Canada can’t export dairy products made from lower-priced milk because it amounts to cross-subsidization, and export subsidies are not allowed.

Joint food safety system proposed

Canada and the United States should set up a joint food safety system, recommends the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute.

It has issued a report saying it is time “in our collective history to jointly move to protect our shared food supply.”

The report says both countries have relatively sound food safety systems, but “there is still too much fragmentation in our approach to food safety risk assessment.

“Taking advantage of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) renegotiation, there is an opportunity to re-examine cross-border structures to ensure the science of food safety risk assessment is done jointly, not just collaboratively, such that independent regulatory decisions achieve the best possible outcome for consumers and for business.”

The report notes that there is an International Joint Commission that has operated that way since 1912.

A joint program “could strengthen food safety and business competitiveness while being an example to the world,” the report said.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Van Bommel appointed chair of veggie board

Suzanne Van Bommel is the choice of Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal to chair the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers Marketing Board for the next two years.

She is a former chief of staff for a previous Ontario agriculture minister, she is part owner of HAR MAR farms, manages a 560-acre cash crop business producing corn, soybeans and peas, a hog finishing business and is president of GPS Group, a public relations and issues management company serving agriculture companies and the provincial government.

The government took control of the marketing board earlier this year, dismissing the directors farmers elected and installing former agriculture minister Jeff Buchanan to chair the board and negotiate contracts for this growing season.

Buchanan is also vice-chairman of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Council which supervises marketing boards.

There are farmers who are not happy about what has happened and they continue to lobby for changes.

Van Bommel will have a board of directors that includes four appointed by the government and four that will be elected. The eight directors will eventually all be elected by farmers to two-year terms with half of the directors elected each year.

Friday, September 22, 2017

U.S. produces record meat volume

The United States produced a monthly record volume of meat this August - a total of 4.63 billion pounds.

That’s four per cent more than last August. Production for the first eight months of this year is also up by four per cent from last year.

Beef production, at 2.4 billion pounds, was up by six per cent in August, cattle slaughter at 2.94 million head was up by seven per cent and average carcass weight declined by seven pounds from a record set the year before at 1,345 pounds.

Veal production totalled 6.4 million pounds, five per cent more than last August, and calf slaughter increased by 13 per cent to 46,200 head. The average live weight declined by 17 pounds from last year to 238 pounds.

Pork production totalled 2.21 billion pounds, up by three percent from last August, and matched the increase in the number of hogs slaughtered – up by three per cent to 10.7 million head. The average live weight increased by two pounds to 278 pounds.

Lamb and mutton production, at 12.8 million pounds, was up by two per cent from the slaughter of 194,100 head, which is about the same as a year earlier. Average live weight was 132 pounds, up by two pounds from last August.

Tim’s hostilities escalate

 Daniel Schwartz, chief executive officer of Restaurant Brands International Inc., told an internal Tim Hortons all-franchisee conference call this week it has taken legal action against a group of restaurant owners over confidential information it says was leaked, and "negative" comments about Tim Hortons, reports the Globe and Mail.

Restaurant Brands has issued default notices to nine directors of Great White North Franchisee Association, which was formed in March by disgruntled restaurant owners to fight RBI's hyperfocus on improving efficiencies and the harm they say it inflicts on the business.

The notices, based on alleged breaches of the franchisee contract and confidentiality requirements, could eventually result in the company pushing out those franchisees, franchise experts say.

The association has filed a lawsuit against Restaurant Brands International Inc., complaining that the executives it hired to replace the entire team it fired when it gained control of the company, are ruining their business.

Last week the Globe and Mail reported that the company is considering price hikes and that might be what triggered Schwartz’s accusations of a breach of confidentiality.