Thursday, October 20, 2016

Foodgrains Bank is 40

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is celebrating its 40th birthday this month of helping hungry people around the world.

It was started by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Winnipeg and has expanded to become the most ecumenical Christian organization in North America, spanning denominations from Mennonite and Baptist to Roman Catholic and Salvation Army.

The first call put out by the MCC brought in 1,442 tonnes of grain from farmers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the grain went to India.

Today the 15 partner organizations attract donations from farmers, urbanites, churches, businesses, the Canadian government, and others from coast-to-coast. More than one million people in 40 countries were helped in fiscal 2015-16.

Corny Petkau, 72, was involved in that first collection of grain. He remembers driving from farm to farm in southern Manitoba, sticking his augur into grain bins and auguring out bushels of grain.

“I was glad to be a small part of that beginning,” he says. “We knew it was going where it was needed.”

Donating grain was also personal for Petkau, whose father emigrated from Russia in 1926.

“He was helped to get started in his new country, Canada, and he passed along to his children the message that we also needed to whatever we could to help others,” Petkau says.

Once collected, the grain was taken to Rosenort Seeds, owned by brothers Ben and Jake Friesen, where it was cleaned, processed and bagged before being loaded into a boxcar.

“When were asked, we were glad to offer our services,” says Ben of how he and Jake, now deceased, provided the services of their company to the first grain gathering effort.

“We were happy to be part of it, never realizing how big it would grow. We just wanted to do something to help.”

Ben, 78, is now retired but still involved with the Foodgrains Bank through the Scratching River Growing Project.  So is Petkau, who is part of the Living Grains Growing Project.

The projects are an idea that became popular, especially in Ontario where rural and urban congregations joined to plant mainly corn or soybeans, usually on donated land. Supply companies often conated fertilizers, seeds and pesticides.

Harvest time is often a co-ordinated effort of farmers, grain companies and the urban and rural congregations who come together to celebrate what they will be giving to feed needy people.

Donors can give to any one of the 15 partner organizations who put the grain or money into their “account” at the bank. Donors can also give to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank itself.

When disaster strikes, such as drought in East Africa, a partner organization working in a country in that area can draw from its account. Others can choose to lend support from their accounts.

Volunteers are drawn from the member churches to provide project supervision and liaison for relief efforts.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank works better than many global agencies which work with governments, too often resulting in frustrating bureaucracy and corruption.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank bypasses those bureaucratic structures to put resources directly into the stricken communities.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hydro promises to fix stray voltage

After years of denials, Hydro One is now promising to fix stray voltage issues that impact livestock performance.

Earlier this year it announced that it has a rapid response team.

Now it is telling farmers that if they have livestock issues, and have ruled out other causes, their rapid response team will investigate for stray voltage.

The team says if you feel you may have an issue, you can call the Farm Rapid Response Team, Monday to Friday between 8:30 and 4, at 1-888-405-3778.

Emails can also be sent to

Wallonia’s blocking Canada-EU trade deal

Wallonia province in Belgium continues to block the trade deal negotiated between Canada and the European Union.

Trade ministers from across Europe were unable to persuade Wallonia’s politicians to change their mind, so now it’s up to the European leaders.

They will be meeting this week, preparing for a visit from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who will be flying to Europe, hoping to sign the deal.

The Europeans say there is still time to achieve the unanimous approval required for the European Union to sign the deal.

Belgium’s constitution requires approval from its three provincial governments.

Wallonia is a French-speaking area. Is there a coincidence that Canada's French-speaking province's dairy farmers have been the most outspoken critics of free trade deals?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Meat council praises temp-worker proposals

Ron Davidson, spokesman for the Canadian Meat Council, is praising a number of proposals from a Parliamentary committee that has studied the temporary foreign workers program.

The meat industry has long said it can’t get enough Canadian workers, so relies on foreigners it has been allowed to import on a temporary basis.

The news media discovered a number of employers, none in the meat industry, abusing the program and so the government clamped down while it undertook a review.

Davidson said he likes the proposals to:

-       - tailor the program to regional and employer-category differences.

-      -  favour “trusted employers” who have had a good track record under the program.
-       allow employers to offer raises.

-      -  expand the definition of agriculture to include primary processing.

Some farmers, such as members of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, have also called for changes to the program for temporary foreign workers to help with crops.

One suggested change is that those who come for a number of years in a row be allowed to apply for immigration.

Another is to allow the workers to change employers.

Gay Lea’s buying Stirling Creamery

Gay Lea Foods says it has struck a deal to buy Stirling Creamery of Stirling, Ont.

Its focus is specialty butters, so is a good fit with Gay Lea whose traditional strength has been butters and milk powders.

Gay Lea said the deal will give it added flexibility to further production capacity and meet customer needs in the current high-demand market for butter.

Gay Lea said it intends to maintain full operations at the Stirling plant and preserve all relationships with existing Stirling Creamery customers, suppliers and its 25 employees.
Financial terms related to the deal have not been disclosed.

Gay Lea is a farmer-owned co-operative. William West founded Stirling Creamery in 1925.
Chet Blair has been the company’s Master Butter Maker for 30 years.

The company website says he has “continued the Stirling tradition of b
arrel churning some of Canada’s finest butter in Stirling, Ontario using local, fresh sweet cream. No colourants or preservatives here; ours is all natural and artisanally crafted.’