Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Food and Agriculture Policy platform of federal parties with a BC perspective-CBC.ca | B.C. Almanac -

CBC.ca | B.C. Almanac

click here for podcast then scroll 1/3 of the way into the broadcast (past the obligatory hockey banter)

Candidates in BC talk about agriculture on CBC BC Almanac, April 26th 1 pm.
Ed Fast (Conservative from Abbotsford), Renee Hetherington (Liberal from Saanich-Gulf Islands), Alex Atamanenko (NDP- Southern Interior) and Brennan Wauters (Green from West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky) answer questions from farmers around BC who called in.
Garnet Etsell, Chair of BC Ag Council, started the ball rolling by speaking for all farmers and their need for an agriculture that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.
Dayna Chapman, co chair of BC Food Systems network, spoke on the health and environmental issues related to agriculture, as well as the income issues for farmers.
Main platforms:
NDP - Alex Atamanenko - ag critic for NDP - main task is for farmers to make a living and produce good clean food.  Canadian Food Strategy in line with Liberals, Canadian Federation of Agriculture - need people to put heads together. NDP are concerned about the decline in prices with increased trade. NDP recognize that young farmers can't justify farming as a career when their parents are unable to make a viable living farming.
Green Party - Brennan Wauters - basic stance is all economic activity is predicated on a healthy environment.
Climate change, encouraging young people, local agriculture, organic and urban agriculture are to be encouraged to secure food production in Canada and impact our health care system. Greens want to see a way to get young farmers on the land.
Conservatives - Ed Fast - Abbotsford has largest farm gate income in Canada - need to find markets for our food products and ensure it is sustainable economically, socially and ecologically. The government has supported loans to young farmers and cooperatives, and have a suite of farm programs to assist farmers.
Liberals - Renee Hetherington - a former rancher and director of BC Cattlemen Assn, she recognizes problems in maintaining a viable farm income. Liberals also recognize that the declining farm income is the main reason young people find it difficult to get into farming.  The Liberal platform wants to support farmers by listening to them and taking a bottom-up approach. Liberals believe it is important to listen to farmers so programs are tailored to the farmer's needs. Liberals were the first to bring in a National Food Strategy. Renee is also a research scientist, who is willing to work at the policy level to address climate change issues. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is it Organic? - Cornucopia threatens legal action - Mischa Popoff

Is it Organic? - Cornucopia threatens legal action
Click to read the post - I have also pasted it below. It presents an intuitive, and I believe correct, view of what is happening in the organic world. Food security money from the government is funneled through organizations that haven't a clue about the realities of farming. These organizations are urban based and always speak of our broken food system - which, warts and all, is pretty successful at supplying healthy food to all.
Yes, it needs tweaking. But more than a few of these food activists need to spend some time on the real farms that feed real people.

Mischa Popoff, IOIA Advanced Organic Farm and Process Inspector, Author of "Is it Organic?" The inside story of the organic industry
gives his perspective below and I have linked to the posting on his site above:

"No one epitomizes the huge difference between rural organic-farming and urban organic-activism better than George Soros.

With the openly stated goal of undermining the American economy, Soros supports organizations that are devoted to undermining the North-American food economy, the most efficient food delivery system the world has ever known.

Sure, the North-American food economy is far from perfect. But as I traveled across North America inspecting family-run organic farms, I learned pretty quickly what most honest organic farmers seem to know intuitively: there’s no way we’re going to ever replace conventional farming. Improve upon it? You betcha’! But replace it? Never.

The very idea that we could, as Michael Pollan suggests, easily choose between different food systems is an example of what happens when people who’ve never worked a day on a farm receive more money than they know what to do with in the form of tax-exempt donations from rich benefactors who want to change the way you and your family live our lives.*

Chapter 2 of my book, Is It Organic? outlines the many organizations funded by Soros which claim to stand up for small, family organic farmers but which all stand idly by while over 80% of the certified organic food sold in the United States and Canada is imported from places like China, Mexico and Brazil.

The worst scam is when farmers are subsidized for converting to organic production, but every last cent they receive from your tax dollars passes through their hands and goes right into the coffers of urban organic activists whose only goal is to destroy the existing system, not foster the gradual growth of a healthy, domestic alternative system.

A few weeks ago I called out Mark Kastel and his Cornucopia Institute, along with George Siemon and his Organic Valley Family of Farms Brand, for pretending to stand up for family organic farmers. They both attack large players in the organic food chain for no other reason than that they’re large, but they do nothing to actually help organic farmers.

Do they support the replacement of all the useless paperwork with a single annual field test? Nope.

Do they support the reduction of certification fees and onerous Royalty fees that organic farmers are forced to pay year after year to their urban masters? Nope.

People like Kastel, Siemon and Soros won’t ever support such commonsense notions because, at the end of the day, keeping such inequities built into the system are what keep them in business. And it doesn’t bother activists like Kastel, Siemon and Soros that domestic organic farm revenues have basically flat-lined over the last decade while organic retail sales have soared by an average of 20-%-per-annum.

Lastly, and most important of all, it’s quite telling that instead of responding to any of the points I made (which are posted on this website), Kastel and some of Siemon’s supporters chose instead to threaten a lawsuit.

Nice work Kastel, Siemon and Soros. You have managed to take something that is good, honest and wholesome and build your own personal empires upon it. And, at the end of the day, you don’t even care if the food consumers pay a premium for is really organic or not, do you? All you care about is that your political messages sell. And that hurts domestic farmers."

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Day at the Farm - Little Qualicum Cheeseworks & Morningstar Creek Winery

Thoughts on Elizabeth May and the Saanich-Gulf Islands race

I wrote my column for our local paper this week on the agriculture issues and policy platforms of the major political parties running in our current federal election.  I watched the online debate by the agriculture representatives of each party and attended our local candidates debate, which included Elizabeth May, the party leader for the Greens who hopes to become elected in our riding.  I thought it would be straightforward, but found myself wading in the muddy waters of political posturing and subtle smokescreens.

Surprisingly, it was not the Conservatives, the Liberals or the NDP that deviated from their stated platforms.  At the Pender Island federal candidate debate, Elizabeth May made a comment about  eggs and food safety which didn't ring true.  As the candidate that hopes to change things in Ottawa, resorting to comments that are misleading and perhaps even calculating is unsettling to me.  As candidate for my riding, Saanich-Gulf Islands, Elizabeth May has worked hard to gain friends and supporters since her arrival to our region in 2009.  
Could I have heard her comment wrong "that there are grocery stores in Canada that import eggs from China on a regular basis"?  Perhaps she didn't mean eggs from China, since she quickly followed with garlic from China.  But I heard that on Mayne Island she made the same comment about eggs from China.
As an agrologist, farmer and writer of food issues I am concerned about misinformation about our food system. It may not be a perfect system, but there are many dedicated people producing food in Canada and our egg farmers produce a product that is consistently safe.  The supply managed component that is a unique strength of our farming system ensures that most of the eggs that we do consume are produced here.  At various levels of government and within the various farm organizations, there is a lot of effort that goes into ensuring that Canadians have a safe, affordable food system.
The only country that we currently import any fresh eggs from is the US, for trade reasons. The overwhelming majority of eggs that we consume are produced in Canada.   CFIA has a policy to only allow imports based on equivalency in disease status and food safety, so China is prohibited from exporting fresh shell eggs to Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Services and Border Services have confirmed this.
The only eggs from China that come into Canada are the highly salted and preserved "hundred year eggs" which are imported by the Chinese community in Canada for cultural reasons.  The CFIA regulates this carefully.
I have requested an explanation from the Green Party on this, and the person that got back to me said they would look into it.  They weren't sure about the details.
Recently the Pender Island debate was put on youtube, and I carefully listened to the debate again to verify that I heard it right -  and I did hear it right.
I am disappointed that a leader who has made the assertion that they are different, they will bring back true democracy etc. etc. are really no different from most other politicians. In the course of looking for any video on the debate I saw several videos of Elizabeth May that show an articulate, passionate woman who is dedicated to becoming elected, not only to elevate the environment as a major issue, but she also seems to be intent on  furthering her career and getting on the political map.  
One positive thing I did learn from researching the parties for my Farmers Stand column, is that there is a great interest in mainstreaming greener policies in our traditional parties which many think would make the Green Party redundant in many ways, and in an effort to be "different" they might appear more on the fringe. It has been suggested that the Greens join one of the other parties, or perhaps operate as an NGO and anoint Green-Liberal, Green-NDP and maybe even Green-Conservative candidates.

Update: I received an email response from Gerry Ritz, MP and Federal Minister of Agriculture.  I had written to both Ms. May and Minister Ritz about the claim made by Ms. May. Although I have not heard from Ms. May, now MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands,  I did receive a reply from Minister Ritz.  It is as follows:

                                                                                                Quote: 161101

Barbara Johnstone Grimmer, PAg
2310 Grimmer Road
Pender Island, British Columbia  V0N 2M1

Dear Ms. Johnstone Grimmer:

Thank you for your email regarding a claim that Canadian grocery stores import eggs from China. I appreciate being made aware of your views, as well as your confidence in the Canadian system.

You are correct that at this time it would be illegal to import table eggs from the domestic hen (species Gallus domesticus) into Canada from China. A country must meet the requirements of the Canadian Egg Regulations prior to being approved to export table eggs to Canada. Approval is based on the foreign country having grade requirements, conditions of preparation of the food, and an inspection system that are substantially equivalent to those prescribed by the Canadian regulations. China has never been approved, nor has it ever requested a review for approval.

If a country obtains approval, the Canadian importer would still require an import permit from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. As well, all imports of table eggs require inspection by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Official government records do not show any imports of Gallus domesticus table eggs from China; however, data from Statistics Canada reports legal imports from China of 1.4 million dozen preserved or cooked eggs from other bird species, such as ducks.
I trust that this information is of assistance. Again, thank you for writing.


Gerry Ritz, PC, MP

Gourmet Kayaking Adventure - Gulf Islands - Day 1

Gourmet Kayaking Adventure - Gulf Islands - Day 3

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Farmers invited to the Royal Wedding!!

Herefordshire NFU members Royal wedding invite shock (from National Farmers Union, UK)

19 Apr 2011
A Herefordshire farming couple have spoken of their complete shock after receiving an invite out of the blue to attend the Royal wedding.

NFU members Phil and Heather Gorringe who live and work at Lower Blakemere Farm, which is part of the Duchy of Cornwall, will be at Westminster Abbey on April 29 for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.

The official engagement photographs of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Copyright 2010 Mario TestinoOther guests include the King of Jordan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the Sultan of Oman, the King of Bahrain, the Emperor of Japan, the Sultan of Brunei and the King of Saudi Arabia.

Around 1,900 people will attend the Westminster Abbey ceremony which will be broadcast worldwide.

Mrs Gorringe, managing director of the natural gardening company Wiggly Wigglers which is based at the farm, said she initially thought the invitation was a wind up and could not believe they had been asked.

She said: “When I opened the post it was a complete shocker, a real bolt out of the blue.

“I had to have a sit down and just take a real look at it again and again.

“When I phoned Phil I was just whooping and hollering because it was such brilliant news.

“The Royals never seem to forget where their food comes from and how important farming is.

“The industry is something very close to Prince Charles’ heart so our invite must be connected to that, because we are his tenants.

“To think we are going is just unbelievable.”

Mr and Mrs Gorringe will travel to London next week and stay in the Farmers’ Club, in Whitehall Court, ahead of the ceremony.

The couple have met Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry before and last year Heather also met the Queen.

Heather has already bought a black and white designer dress from an independent business, in Hereford, and said she hoped it would be fit for the grand occasion.

Mr Gorringe said it was a great honour and privilege to be invited although it was still “a bit surreal”.

He added that a tenant farmer from west Herefordshire being invited to the future King of England’s wedding was quite a lot to take in.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Election time and the platforms get wobbly - Let’s Talk Farm Animals

Election time and the platforms get wobbly - Let’s Talk Farm Animals

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

"I am not committed to any particular political party and, like many Canadians, tend to cast my ballot based on election platforms.  Not that I necessarily expect them to be honoured, but sometimes party platforms devolve into nonsense.

Take the Green Party for example. The candidate in my riding is a pretty capable gal. But to anyone who knows agriculture, some of the planks of her party’s agricultural platform are misguiding at best. It seems to me that the Green Party is trying to cater somewhat more to the non-farm vote than the farm vote.
Leader Elizabeth May released the party’s platform last week at  a press conference in Toronto. Featuring a long list of farming-related platform planks, the goal is for “regional food self-sufficiency across Canada” with a “shift to organic agriculture as the dominant model of production.”  On the list, is a ban on federal research into genetically engineered crops, eventual 100 per cent testing of slaughter cattle for BSE and reducing allowable pesticide residues in crops. The goal of this latter policy, the party said, would be “an orderly reduction in detectable residues of these substances until they reach undetectable limits.”
The Green Party wants to legalize marijuana, yet wants to ban government funded research into potentially meaningful food production technologies.  And we wonder why Canada has a “brain drain”?
The party said it would also tighten Canada’s testing net for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in slaughter cattle by implementing “100 per cent” testing of all slaughtered animals, but only “as soon as the process of detecting BSE in blood samples is perfected.”  The proposal is laudable yet out of step with current internationally approved testing for a low risk disease that is diminishing world-wide.  Who will conduct, pay for and supervise the testing of 3.5 million head of cattle per year is left unanswered.
Reducing “detectable” pesticide residues seems more about politics than science and is likely unachievable what with our ongoing ability to detect things at ever-smaller levels. Simply because something is detectible does not make it a risk. In my opinion. money would be better spent testing for more serious risks such as harmful microbial levels and pollutants.
“Our food security and safety are threatened directly by agribusiness as factory farms crowd chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs into inhumane and unhygienic conditions, creating the risk of serious health threats from toxic spinach to mad cow disease and swine flu,” said the Green Vision document released with the election platform.
But what can you expect from a party who’s leader once served on the board of animal rights radicals, only resigning after CBC coverage shamed her into it. And a party who appoints a famous used-up hockey player turned animal rights and vegan promoter as deputy leader. Green party deputy leader Jacques Rivard has said “Georges Laraque is an ideal candidate to represent the party and boost its profile."
I admire Elizabeth May’s goal to strengthen farming and food production, but I see some of her agricultural platform as being counter-productive"  Leslie Ballentine.

Canadian Federal Election 2011 - Agriculture Debate with a Gulf Islands perspective

Elizabeth May might have been left out from the boys club, but the Greens were welcomed by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture who hosted the National Agriculture Leader's Debate on April 11 and held it live on their website (it can be seen at http://www.cfa-fca.ca/national-agriculture-leaders-debate-live) Conservative Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz, long time Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter, Pat Martin from the NDP (stepping in for Alex Atamanenko from BC who is the NDP agriculture critic), Andre Bellavance for the Bloc Quebecois, and Kate Storey for the Green Party presented their party platforms for agriculture and debated the issues.
The CFA was pleased to see food and agriculture part of each party platform. The CFA was especially pleased to hear several of the speakers agree on the importance for a National Food Strategy, which would be a long term plan for food and agriculture in Canada and something the CFA has been working on. The long term nature of the strategy is important to farmers and consumers, who have been demanding change in the food system.
The debate was a lot like a pot luck, as were all the debates. Something for everyone, with often the same ingredients in each dish, but a slightly different recipe. Some ideas were a little hard to swallow, or hard to digest. Others had great appeal to farmers. Questions were asked by farmers across Canada, via pre-recorded video. The questions were on topics drawn from the CFA membership, which represents farm organizations across Canada.
Gerry Ritz presented the Conservative “farmer first principles” which is primarily a trade-based, standard business approach to agriculture, which views Canada's strength in agriculture as an exporter of high quality commodity products, along with the stability of domestic supply management. The Conservative government have proposed $50 million in an Agricultural Innovation Initiative and $100 million to food safety. The Conservatives were criticized for their attempts at dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board. The other leaders did not see how supply management could stand at the WTO negotiations if the CWB single desk mandate was removed. Now, the Conservatives have stepped back on that issue and are only talking about having choice in marketing options for barley farmers. The Liberals also support trade initiatives, innovation and food safety but propose a ground-up approach involving farmers needs first, instead of trade obligations first. The Liberals and NDP both had well thought out long range food strategies, which acknowledge the role of food in both health and environmental policies, and recognize the importance of going beyond the five year plans proposed by the Conservatives. The Liberal strategy was adopted from a food and agriculture policy in this riding, and the NDP strategy was from BC's Alex Atamanenko's two year, 28 community trek across Canada interviewing 1000 farmers and citizens. The Green food platform is based on decentralized local, organic food with food exports only in emergency aid or fair trade situations and a goal of 85% food production to be domestic, instead of the current 80% for export. The Green strategy was revealed April 18, emphasizing that there would be no funding for biotechnology and no genetically modified organisms.
Of the farmers who asked questions across Canada, the one from BC would be of particular interest to farmers in the Gulf Islands. Gurinder Cheema is a teacher and farmer in the Fraser Valley. Her family has field crops and also grow greenhouse vegetables for BC Hothouse. Her farm has a creek with a species of fish that is part of a recovery strategy by DFO under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). According to Cheema, the riparian habitat was destroyed by the surrounding housing developments, not by the farms. The irony is that the farmers are doing a good job of protecting the habitat and are being asked to do more at their own cost. It is in society's interest for species and their habitat to be protected, so it was asked if the various parties propose to stand up for farmers and compensate them on any on-farm changes necessary to protect species at risk and their habitat, and do the parties propose to maintain and enhance the Environmental Farm Plans with financial incentives for ecological goods and services. All of the candidates agreed that farmers should not be asked to bear the costs of habitat protection and should be compensated. All were in support of the Environmental Farm Plan program.
It is tough to condense the complexities of farming into simple policy statements. So much of our agriculture is export oriented, such as our grain. This is on the opposite end of the spectrum from supply-managed milk, eggs and poultry, and direct-marketed local food, and complicates things at the federal level.
But what about the local level? So much of our agriculture in the Gulf Islands is local, and what federal policy changes could support local food? Support for Protected Geographical Indicators is one way – for unique local foods. There is work being done in this area across Canada, and there is one PGI for lamb in Quebec already.
But one little municipality in the US no bigger than most Gulf Islands has taken a stand for food sovereignty, at the local level, and has used federal and state statutes to support this initiative. The town of Sedgwick, Maine, population 1,012 said that how they produce food , process food, and distribute food locally is up to them and they have passed a Food Sovereignty ordinance. The ordinance allows buyer and seller to enter their own agreement which overrides state and federal regulations when dealing with transactions involving local foods Our local federal candidates, Gary Lunn (Conservative), Renee Hetherington (Liberal), Edith Loring-Kuhanga (NDP) and Elizabeth May (Green) all gave their support for local food at a  recent all candidates meeting.. Perhaps one of the changes we need at the federal level, is greater autonomy at the local level.

**Here is a link to a CBC podcast with four BC federal candidates (Ed Fast, Alex Atamanenko, Renee Hetherington and Brennan Wauters) discussing agricultural issues that concern farmers in BC  click on link and scroll 1/3 of the way into the podcast

Monday, April 11, 2011

Former President Clinton: Ag Has Solution to Worldwide Problems

Former President Clinton: Ag Has Solution to Worldwide Problems

http://www.usda.gov/oce/forum/2011_Speeches/clinton.html CLICK TO HEAR THE SPEECH

FROM FARMS.COM - USDA PRESS. Former President Bill Clinton makes remarks at the World Agricultural Outlook Board Forum in Arlington, VA on Thursday, February 24, 2011.

Three major problems plague the world today and what happens in agriculture will help shape the resolution of these issues, according to former President Bill Clinton.

The president — speaking before a crowd of 2,000 attendees at the 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum held last week in Arlington, Va. — said that agriculture will play a major role in aiding the world during troubled times, but serious decisions need to be made, not just “happy talk.”

“We are living in a highly complicated environment,” said Clinton, who recognized inequality, an unstable environment and unsustainable environment as worldwide issues that need a solution. “These problems are quite significant. They affect rural America, they affect farmers and they affect the ability of people who are family farmers to keep farming.”

Clinton said there is too much inequality in the world. One problem in the U.S., he noted is that prior to the new health care law being passed, 17.2 percent of the national income was spent on health care that only covered 84 percent of the population.

“No other wealthy country of any size spent any more than 10 and a half percent,” said Clinton. “If we had any other country’s health system we would spend a trillion dollars less on health care, which could be put into the incomes of ordinary people.”

He added that inequality the threat of terrorism and political upheavals in the Middle East makes predictability hard and creates an unstable atmosphere. These issues are large factors on the farm along with an unsustainable environment caused by climate change and resource depletion.

With the world population expected to grow from six to nine billion by 2040, American farmers will need to be able to feed the population and still provide enough food for exports and make money, according to Clinton. But there needs to be a balance and the ability to help other countries support themselves and the world population through agriculture.

“Somehow we had this idea that we could help developing countries move into the industrial age without agriculture,” said Clinton. Through his foundation, Clinton said he has helped countries in Africa and Latin America start agricultural projects that have provided income to impoverished areas. “We try hard to help people find ways to help themselves when the economy is not good,” he said.

Yet, the rapidly growing population around the world has got to find a way to feed itself today and in the future. The solution, according to Clinton, is to educate more girls and give them access to more work, which will help slow the birth rate.

“We want to live in a world that we can share with other people and be rewarded by it,” said Clinton. “This is an exciting time to be alive. Go make the most of it.”

Drovers CattleNetwork - Huge scientific discoveries start with tiny technology - Latest News - Editorial, Grain & Cattle Markets, Current Stories

Drovers CattleNetwork - Huge scientific discoveries start with tiny technology - Latest News - Editorial, Grain & Cattle Markets, Current Stories

Island Grains 2010 Harvest Day

Where Does Agriculture Fit Into the 2011 Federal Election - Richard Phil...

Friday, April 8, 2011

US Ag Secretary Tom Vilasack says Organic can help "rebuild rural America"

News in brief
Agriculture secretary says organic can help ‘rebuild rural America’: OTA


Related topics: Financial & Industry

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack told the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) 2011 Policy Conference that organic farming is an important part of the US agricultural landscape and a good strategy in rural America, the OTA reports.

“Organic producers are very entrepreneurial in nature. They’re in a position to create value-added products that provide a wealth of opportunities in rural America,” secretary Vilsack was quoted as saying.

The OTA also released data from its latest survey on the state of the organic market at the conference, claiming that 78 percent of organic farmers intend to maintain or increase organic production levels in the next five years. In addition, the OTA said that 46 percent of organic operations are planning to increase employment over this period – three times the average for businesses as a whole.

“The USDA is creating financial assistance for organic because we recognize organic as a part of the strategy to rebuild rural America,” Vilsack said. “A lot of folks in rural America need help. One very good strategy is organic.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Egg regulations and things to think about

“Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.”
Mark Twain, American Humourist 1835-1910

Now that spring is here, Easter is just around the corner and eggs are a hot item on the farm stands. For eating or colouring, with the surge in egg sales come the annual public service announcements about safe food handling with eggs. So a few years ago it came as a bit of a surprise to hear about two initiatives that make farm fresh eggs even easier to get in the morning. In Vancouver , the city council approved backyard hens for city dwellers. And on Vancouver Island, Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) announced a policy to allow ungraded eggs to be sold to retail outlets and restaurants. As a poultry scientist by training – a very rare profession these days – I was amused, dismayed and quite pleased – all at the same time. I was personally pleased to see so many people interested in keeping chickens and having access to local eggs.
I was amused because the Vancouver city council was told by their local food policy group that hens would not create noise or be a nuisance. Roosters are known to be noisy, so of course they are banned. But roosters aren’t the only noisy ones; anyone who owns even just a few chickens know how just down right noisy chickens can be, especially at the point when the egg comes out. They can completely denude a lawn in no time, dig up your favourite bulbs, and rearrange your tool shed as they look for a new spot to lay. And chickens are nibblers by nature. They eat constantly, and poop constantly as a result. Now, historically backyard chickens were common. They represented an easy to keep food source that would glean loose grain, forage and happily eat food scraps and bugs. At one point the country in the city thing was outlawed, and if it isn’t handled properly it could be outlawed again. It is popular by a variety of urbanites in both the US and Canada, and a humorous documentary, “Mad City Chickens”, is about folks who happily embrace backyard chicken rearing. It should be noted that both the SPCA and the Humane Society voiced their concerns about the backyard rearing of chickens on humane grounds, and since I occasionally see the abandonment of unwanted chickens (as was the group of bantam roosters dropped off at the Nu-To-You a couple of years ago) I have concerns as well. Those with romantic notions may soon change their minds, since chickens are a responsibility like any animal.
As for the VIHA policy change on ungraded eggs, I was surprised at the complete turnaround by VIHA. So was the BC Centre of Disease Control, who was not consulted before the news was announced. The BCCDC asked Health Canada to do a health risk assessment before any more decisions are made. A source at BCCDC said that proper labelling may be all that is necessary to ensure the source of the eggs. I don't know the result of the health assessment, or if one was done. I do know that Salmonella has been of concern since cases in consumers have been increasing significantly since 2004, and traced to the sale of ungraded eggs to restaurants primarily from broiler breeder operations. It is not known how many undiagnosed and untraced cases of Salmonella have occurred. The BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (BCMAL) enforces the legislation concerning the sale of ungraded eggs off the farm site. The legislation pertaining to the sale of ungraded eggs is the “BC Agricultural Produce Grading Act” with the associated regulations, including the “Shell Egg Grading Regulations”.
Currently, according to provincial legislation and regulations, eggs can be sold legally to the consumer directly on the farm premises or on a farm stand, but not off the farm premises (e.g., farmers markets, etc). The consumer is a person who buys these eggs for their own personal consumption, and not for resale to the public (e.g., retailers, restaurants, farmers markets). The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is also involved, and is concerned about the selling of ungraded eggs in cartons that still bear the “Canada A” maple leaf symbol as there are legal and labelling implications. A consumer may not realize that the eggs are ungraded, if they are in a recycled carton from graded eggs. All producers should put their own label on, clearly indicating the name and contact number for the farm.
If we go back to 2004, how many people remember the ruckus at Salt Spring Farmers’ Market when VIHA came to confiscate the eggs being sold by the farmers there? A complete about face was made by VIHA because of a vocal food group that demanded local eggs be available to the public. The reason the BC Shell Egg Grading Regulation allows farm gate sales is because the consumer is completely aware they are buying farm eggs at that point. As long as the consumer buys from the farmer, there is complete traceability in case of a problem.
To add to all of the confusion, the provincial poultry specialist retired this year and it is not known when, or if, there will be a replacement. This is very bad timing on the part of the provincial government, especially with the increased interest in keeping chickens by people with no prior experience, concerns for flock and human health, and a need for support and education for all poultry producers.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


April 15, 2009
CHURCHVILLE, VA—My wife and I used to have free-range chickens. We didn’t get an abundance of eggs because the hens hid them in the barn hay—and then brought us batches of live chicks instead of breakfast makings. And, they stopped laying during the winter so we had to buy commercial eggs at the local grocery.
Then the local foxes and hawks discovered our chickens, and we learned first-hand why people invented chicken houses: the roosters and non-nesting hens usually survived by roosting in the barn rafters, but the nesting hens and those with chicks got taken, with the chicks as appetizers. That’s why Britain invented fox-hunting in the old days—to protect the village hens. People also kept the birds inside their homes at night, which meant more disease risk, poor husbandry, and poor hygiene.
Reluctantly, the Averys decided to put the new chickens into a coop with a fenced yard—and netting overhead to keep off the hawks.
Now our problem is that the chickens peck some of each others’ feathers off. We haven’t had any chickens pecked to death yet, but that’s the typical problem with birds that are confined, but not caged. The “pecking order” is real and natural. The only real solution is to de-beak the birds and my wife won’t allow it. We have thrown the roosters out of the “safe house” and the damaged hens are in a separate area re-feathering. But we have fewer than two dozen chickens to fuss over.
That’s why the egg producers of the modern world have invented wire cages for their hens. The birds are kept safe and comfortable, and they’re socially surrounded by other birds that can’t peck them to death. Higher feed efficiency with the cages is kinder to the planet, because millions of acres don’t have to be converted from wildlife habitat to grow extra feed and for chicken pastures.
Across the affluent world, bans on caged laying hens are being pushed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the U.S. HSUS is not your local Humane Society that accepts pets for adoption but a radical anti-pet group—that  wants to eliminate all domestic livestock and poultry, along with all pets and circus animals.
Activist pressure hit the European Union years ago, and the EU announced it would ban cages for laying hens pending a report from an advisory commission. In due course, the advisory commission reported that non-caged layers pecked each other to death more often, while spreading salmonella and other dangerous bacteria. Surprise!
Sweden refused to accept the EU commission’s good-sense report, and moved ahead with banning cages for laying hens. Now, Sweden is reporting “significant” increases in cannibalism, bird disease and bird deaths. How does this help the birds?  Meanwhile, the Swedes are importing eggs from neighboring countries that allow cages, in order to supply enough eggs for the kiddies.
California may go Sweden one better. California has already passed a layer-cage ban in a referendum vote that takes effect in 2015. Now Assembly Bill 1437 would ban any imported eggs from other states or other countries—except the powdered and liquid eggs used for institutional cooking. California not only won’t have electricity, they won’t be eating omelets! 
That’s why I have recited our recent real-world experience, which sums up the history of chicken-raising over recent centuries. Now, like the U.S. Congress, which over the past 15 years demanded that banks make more housing loans to people who wouldn’t make their payments, California and perhaps some other states are planning to make egg-production nearly impossible.
Do the activists pushing the cage bans really have the best interests of the birds and our children at heart?
DENNIS T. AVERY is an environmental economist, and a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.  He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to cgfi@hughes.net

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why not a BC agricultural land trust with a farmstead act? by Gordon Wilson

The struggle to preserve agricultural land in British Columbia can be traced back to a fundamental flaw in the BC Land Commission Act and the establishment of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

This should be clear when one observes that many of the people who are lobbying hardest to get their land out of the ALR are farmers who have invested their lives in working the land, have raised their families on the land, and have nothing appreciable to show for it in terms of cash savings. Their land is their retirement fund, and yet it is virtually worthless without a potential to change the permitted land use, because nobody, not even their own children, want the life of a modern Canadian farmer. This is both shocking and an issue that needs to be addressed if we are to protect farming as an option in Canada.

Certainly British Columbia is better served in agricultural land protection than other provinces. Ontario, in which roughly half of Canada’s prime farm land may be found, has lost roughly one million acres of agricultural land to urban sprawl and industrial development since 1991.

The BC Land Commission Act (BCLCA) was introduced in April of 1973 by the Barrett NDP government to protect British Columbia’s agricultural land base. As progressive as the Bill was, it was fundamentally flawed because the Act caused agricultural land to be preserved through a process of land zoning, rather than through the establishment of an agricultural land trust in which residual title on the land rests with the Crown at all times, and cannot be removed.

While I was elected to office, I pushed hard for the creation of an Agricultural Land Trust and the introduction of a Farmstead Act.

The model that I proposed, and that I still advocate today, is for the creation of an Agricultural Land Trust that is effectively a “land bank” into which farmers can sell their farmland at a value to reflect the potential of the land as a valued producer of agricultural product, and this value takes into account the quality of soil, availability of water, and history of production.

Farmers should not be expected to carry the cost of the ALR on their shoulders and not have a reasonable opportunity to retire with tangible financial benefits for all their years of hard work.

The establishment of an Agricultural Land Trust would put all agricultural land into a permanent land base to the benefit of all Canadians, underwritten by federal and provincial governments.

Those who currently own agricultural land will still hold fee simple title to it, but if they chose to sell and move on, the sale is made into the trust at a price that reflects the agricultural potential of the land as established through standard land appraisal processes.

Similarly, pre-retirement sale of land into the trust would be possible while the farmer continues to farm though a management contract.

This approach will achieve two valuable results:

First, farmers will have greater certainty with respect to their retirement from the land with sufficient incentive to continue to farm without the pressure brought to bear by land speculators and realtors who dangle the financial rewards available through sale of land to developers who will petition to have the land removed from the ALR.

Second, land held within the agricultural land trust can be made available to young Canadians who may be provided incentives and training that will cause them to want to farm.

Yesterday, I wrote that we need to put more emphasis on developing local markets for locally produced goods, and to do it in such a manner that we are able to compete with low-priced foreign food products that flood our markets year round. For the greatest success from production to market to consumption, we need to give farmers the opportunity to succeed.

The companion legislation that I advocated while elected and continue to advocate is the The Farmstead Act.

The primary goal of this legislation is to provide major incentives for new farmers, young and old, to take over farms that are held in the Trust, and make it financially viable to work on these farms, modify them, and update them.

Recognizing that farmers selling land into the Trust will require a solid financial return for their land, measures will be needed to make these available farms affordable for those Canadians who wish to take on farming, many of whom may have skills and passion for farming but lack the resources to gain access to farmland. The Farmstead Act is a mechanism that provides this access by making these farms available on conditions not unlike the now defunct Homestead Act that was responsible for building much of western Canada.

The Farmstead Act legislation I envision will make farms available from the Trust to new farmers on a lease-to-own basis without the requirement of a massive down payment and the challenge of trying to find a commercial bank that will provide farm mortgages without proof of off-farm income to support it.

Tied to educational programs within our community colleges, technical institutions and flourishing new universities, I believe that farming can become a very attractive life choice for many Canadians and an excellent economic generator for our country, not to mention the extra benefits of greater access to local food. The Farmstead Act, if linked to a stable Agricultural Land Trust, will provide the financial security that modern Canadians are looking for while promoting and expanding the farming options within the province and country as a whole.

Under this system, the existing provisions for farm preservation that are included in the Land Commission Act, and the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act, will be better secured. Local planners will have to take into account both current and future farm demand for water, and the pressures to sell or move that are brought upon farmers who live adjacent to suburban populations such as those in the Fraser Valley will be removed. Fruit growers in the Okanagan will grow fruit knowing that when they are ready to retire, they will get a fair return for their land from the Trust.

Last, but by no means the least contentious aspect of this proposal, is the fact that an established Agricultural Land Trust will be treated as fee simple land, alienated from the Aboriginal Treaty process so that large tracts of fine agricultural land cannot be removed from farming as a result of Treaty making with First Nations as we have seen in the Tsawwassen Treaty where 207 hectares of prime land was removed from the ALR, and 290 hectares of land formerly in the ALR remained excluded.

That does not mean that proper compensation in the Treaty process will not apply; it means in the determination of compensation, the federal and provincial governments and the First Nation involved will have to recognize that the real value of agricultural land is in its ability to grow food to feed the people, and not to be stripped of its soil to build shopping malls.

Best of all, British Columbians will know that the base of agricultural land will be preserved in perpetuity, cared for and valued for food production, and this inventory of land will grow. This program ensures that a whole new generation of people will find new and innovative ways to increase our food production, and by doing so, increase the economic and physical health of our province and country.

International Conference on Global Land Grabbing

International Conference on Global Land Grabbing