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News Roundup – for Apr. 11, 2011

TRADE

CANADA, KOREA HINT AT DEAL ON BEEF

With a World Trade Organization ruling pending, Canada and South Korea may have an agreement in place this month to reopen Korean ports to Canadian beef, Korean news agency Yonhap reported as this issue went to press.

Citing a government source the news agency said Seoul and Ottawa have been in talks on the matter since October and have “almost ironed out outstanding differences in key issues.”

“If there are no unexpected developments, a formal agreement that would permit Canadian beef to reach local markets could be settled by April at the latest,” Yonhap said, citing the government source.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz added credence to the report in a post-budget news conference in late March. Responding to reporters, Ritz said Ottawa was “very, very close” to concluding an import protocol for Canadian beef with South Korea.

“We’re hoping we can do something diplomatically,” he said. “I know Korea is anxious to resolve this before there’s actually a penalty attached and they lose face losing at a WTO level.”

South Korea’s ban on Canadian beef dates back to the discovery of Canada’s first domestic case of BSE in 2003 and is the subject of a complaint Canada filed with the WTO in 2009.

The WTO composed a formal dispute settlement panel in November 2009 to hear the case. Ottawa noted at the time that it normally takes up to nine months from the establishment of a panel for its final report to be released to WTO members.

But according to the WTO, the panel’s chairman informed the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in June last year that it “would not be possible for the panel to complete its work within six months from the date of the panel’s composition.”

The WTO said its panel expects it will be in a position to issue its final report to the parties “most likely by April 2011.”

The delay, the WTO said, was “due to the request by one party for a preliminary ruling and the fact that expert consultation procedures are involved.”

DISEASE

SECOND VCJD CASE NOT INFECTED HERE

The person believed to be Canada’s second-ever case of the type of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease said to be transmitted by BSE-infected beef is unlikely to have been infected in this country.

In a March report, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said the evi dence in the latest probable case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) “strongly indicates” the victim’s risk exposure happened outside Canada.

Thus, PHAC said in its weekly communicable disease report, the evidence suggests “no negative implications for the safety of the Canadian food supply.”

While Canada has confirmed 18 domestic cases of BSE in cattle since 2003, regulations have long been in place to prevent BSE transmission to people and to other animals.

Health Canada now also requires deferral of blood donors with a history of residence and/or travel in the U.K., France and Western Europe between 1980 and 1996, as well as those who got transfusions in the U.K.

With those measures in mind, plus the fact that the person in this case showed onset of vCJD symptoms starting just before immigrating to Canada early last year, “the possibility of BSE exposure in this country can essentially be ruled out as the cause of illness,” PHAC said.

The patient had no history of travel to the U.K. or Europe apart from a few visits totalling less than three months in duration, PHAC said. The victim was born in the Middle East, and also lived in several other countries before arriving in Canada, the agency added.

Furthermore, PHAC said, “based on extensive interviews with family members there is no indication that the current patient was ever a blood donor, received a blood transfusion, or underwent a surgical procedure that was not managed to prevent prion transmission.”

This finding still has to be confirmed as a case of vCJD and not regular CJD which kills one to two people per million population worldwide each year.

To October 2010, a total of 222 definite and probable variant CJD cases had been reported worldwide in residents of 12 countries. By comparison PHAC reports 510 deaths in Canada due to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease since 1999. Most of those are “sporadic infections” which appear for no known reason, although they could be influenced by genetics.

STATISTICS

IT’S CENSUS TIME AGAIN

Here’s a little reminder to set aside some time on May 10 to complete your Census of Agriculture questionnaire.

The census is used to verify the changes that have occurred within the agriculture industry since 2006. Seeing it is the largest and most accurate survey taken of the nation, census data is also used to correct annual industry surveys such as cattle inventory numbers.

By law, Statistics Canada is required to protect the information provided on Census of Agriculture forms. That will be something most farmers will want to keep in mind when faced with a new question on the 2011 form asking for their Canada Revenue Agency Business Number. This information will be used as part of a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility of replacing the financial information sought in the Census with CRA tax data, to “significantly reduce the response burden for farmers in future surveys.”

Another new question will ask you for the number of employees working full or part time to provide another measure of the number of people working on farms. That will be in addition to the questions they already ask on the number of hours or weeks of paid work on farms.

The 2011 Census is also interested in the area of land that you bale in straw and other crop residues. This is considered an environmentally relevant question, as crop residue management affects erosion rates, contamination of surface and groundwater, greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon sequestration.

Two new questions have been added to identify agricultural operations involved in winter grazing or feeding and nutrient management planning.

They will also be asking about your access to high-speed Internet to evaluate the accessibility of farmers to online services.

Two questions dealing with farm related injuries and uncertified organic production have been dropped from the 2011 form.

GOVERNMENT

BEEFING UP THE CATTLE SECTOR

In the weeks leading up to the government’s ill-fated budget Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz unveiled nearly $10 million in grants for on-going programs.

At the annual meeting of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) in mid March he announced:

$5.3 million to help farms, feedlots and packing plants update their computer systems to remain compatible with the CCA’s Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS). BIXS is a national data system designed to transfer animal and carcass data along the chain from producers to processors. $2.5 million for Phase II of the Beef Cluster research being done by a network by industry, academic and government scientists. The focus of this work is to reduce production costs, increase feed efficiency and decrease the impact of animal health issues. $364,000 to enhance the CCA’s “Quality Starts Here — Verified Beef Production” (QSH-VBP) on-farm food safety systems, as part of continuing efforts to improve the uptake of on-farm food safety systems.

A little earlier in the month he announced $1.6 million for the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) to pay for its Phase Two study looking at the feasibility of linking existing auction market computer systems to the CCIA. This would make it easier for auction marts to track livestock and sales data as cattle move through their facilities. Some of the money will be used to evaluate the accuracy of the data currently being tracked and identify ways to improve the process of distributing tags.

Still earlier in the month Minister Ritz had announced an injection of $90,000 to the Manitoba Forage Council to help defray administrative costs of running the new Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA). Themoney will be used by the new national group to promote Canadian forages at home and abroad, and sponsor some trade missions to increase the exports of forage particularly to China, Japan, the Middle East and the United States. Canada’s forage exports in 2008 were valued at $153 million.

These grants come from Canada’s $500 million Agriculture Flexibility to improve industry competitiveness, the $159 Agri-Innovations Program that supports industry-led science and technology, the Canadian Integrated Food Safety Initiative and the $88 million AgriMarketing Program under Growing Forward. The point is all of these programs have already been approved by Parliament and won’t be sidelined when the government closes down to hold another federal election.

INSURANCE

ALBERTA ADDS CALVES TO PRICE INSURANCE PLAN

Alberta’s provincial price insurance program now covers calves.

The voluntary Cattle Price Insurance Program-Calf (CPIP-Calf) comes on the heels of CPIP-Fed and CPIP-Feeder in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Unlike the fed and feeder cattle plans which are available year-round, CPIP-Calf will be offered from February to May each year with policies expiring for settlement in the fall calf run from September to December.

A CPIP policy from the Agriculture Financial Services Corp. (AFSC) gives cow-calf producers a known floor price for the calves without limiting their ability to sell them at a higher price.

CPIP-Calf is designed to insure calves intended for sale during the fall. While it’s to be based on calves weighing 550 to 650 pounds, the province said there will be no restrictions on insuring heavier or lighter calves.

If the cash market is below the coverage level when a claim is submitted the producer is paid the difference.

Coverage levels are based on 75 to 95 per cent of the expected forward price for a 550-650 pound calf for 16 to 36 weeks ahead sold in four-week blocks. The forecasted price is based on feeder cattle futures prices, the exchange rate on the dollar, the feeder basis and the price of barley.

The settlement price is based on prices from participating auction markets for 550-to 650-pound steers in lots of three or more head each week during the claim period.

Producers can make a claim without selling the calves in the four weeks before the contract expires.

Policies would be honoured even in the case of a major market disruption, such as a border closure.

Producers looking to sign up for CPIP-Calf can fill out a one-time application form either online or through an AFSC district office. Past and current premium tables and settlement indices will also be available online.

For details go to www.afsc.ca on the Internet or call 877-

899-2372 toll free within Alberta.

DISEASE

ALMA GRANT AIMS TO IMPROVE VACCINES FOR CATTLE

University of Calgary assistant professor Dr. Frank van der Meer has received $350,000 over three years from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) to study the stubborn persistence of bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) in cattle.

The research is aimed at identifying the “escape mutants” in vaccinated populations to better understand how they are generated.

“Vaccines that are used to combat this disease are not able to eliminate it,” says van der Meer. “Although about 70 to 80 per cent of all the cows in North America are vaccinated against BVDV, the disease is still high in prevalence.”

His research may lead to the development of more effective vaccines.

About 28 per cent of unvaccinated cattle have experienced a BVDV infection, and up to two per cent of calves in vaccinated herds are persistently infected with it.

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