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Newsmakers – for Jan. 24, 2011

Gordon Stephenson,the current general manager of the Canadian Hereford Association, is one of five inductees selected to enter the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame in June. For over four decades Gordon has been a dedicated promoter of the Canadian livestock industry, particularly in the domestic and international marketing of livestock genetics. He has had ongoing involvement with Canadian Western Agribition serving as both its general manager and as president. Other inductees include the current Saskatchewan deputy minister of agriculture and former president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade AllianceAlanna Koch,animal scientistDave Christensen,farm safety promoter,Jim Dosmanand founding women’s president of the National Farmers Union,Evelyn Potter.

Tara Bierwirthis the new acting general manager of the Manitoba Beef Producers following the sudden departure ofShiela Mowat.Tara comes from a cattle operation at Prince Albert, Sask., and has business and accounting training from Vermilion College. MBP was planning to advertise the position in January.

The Saskatchewan government has passed the new get-tough Animal Protection Act, 2010 increasing maximum fines for animal neglect from $5,000 for a first offence and $10,000 for a second offence to $25,000 for each convicted offence. Maximum prison terms rise from six months to two years. The province also gave an additional $390,000 to the budget of the Saskatchewan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals over the next three years.

Kelly Pennerhas stepped down as CEO of the Winnipeg beef-packing firm Keystone Processors to make room for a new management company that has built and run beef plants in the U.S. and Uruguay. Penner headed up a producer group that began in 2003 to create a federal packing plant in Manitoba. He helped found the company in 2007 with investment from the Manitoba Cattle Enhancement Council (MCEC) and the province. The MCEC is funded by an additional checkoff on beef producers.

The new management supplied by Astana Group LLC and its chief Doug Cooper,had been working with Keystone and MCEC since the summer to fine tune the plant’s business plan which is to process beef from 250 head per day for niche markets. Private financing in addition to the $17.5 million put in by MCEC and the federal government is needed to complete the upgrade. Cooper headed up Global Protein Group, a processing and marketing operation in Uruguay, and PM Beef Group, an integrated U.S. beef company.

Dr. David Westawayfrom the Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases at the University of Alberta received the Dr. Don Rix Memorial Prion Mentorship Award in 2010. First appointed as an associate professor at the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (CRND) at the University of Toronto he moved to the University of Alberta in 2006. His recent work on prions includes defining a co-operative copper binding site in the prion protein and discovering the Doppel gene, a PrP-like protein that resolves a long-standing paradox concerning mice whose prion protein gene has been removed.

The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) has added producer Kevin Smithas afield representative in Saskatchewan to help implement voluntary traceability initiatives such as premises ID, use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag readers, management software and value-added programs such as age verification. CCIA now has four mobile reps in the province. Kevin operates a mixed crop and cow-calf operation near Regina.

The farmer-owned beef-packing plant, West Grey Premium Beef in Durham southwestern Ontario has received a $70,000 repayable loan from the federal AgriProcessing Initiative to help it upgrade from provincial to federal inspection standards. The plant is owned byDoug Calhoun,a past president of the Ontario Cattle Feeders Association, Chesley cattle producerGeorge Maxwelland grocer Peter Knipfel.It processes meat from cattle raised within a 50-mile radius to satisfy an increasing demand for local beef products.

St. John’s Centre MHAShawn Skinneris the new natural resources minister in Newfoundland. The ministry is responsible for the provincial Forestry and Agrifoods Agency. He worked in adult education and skills training before entering politics as a city councillor in St. John’s from 1993 to 1997 and to the legislature in 2003.

Keith Miller,a farmer-stockman from Great Bend, representing the Kansas Farm Bureau has been elected chairman of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the group that heads up U.S. meat export promotion. Other executive members are: producerDanita Rodibaughrepresenting the National Pork Board;Steve Isaf,president of Atlanta-based Interra International and farmerMark Jagelsrepresenting the Nebraska Corn Board.

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