Note: Newsletter Publication will resume Monday July 6. Happy Canada Day – July 1.
"Although largely absent from the headlines, the number of human deaths attributable to infection with avian influenza around the world continues to rise.
Egypt has this week reported the death of a 40-year-old woman and, between January 1 this year and May 1, 40 people died worldwide – almost double the number reported for the whole of 2014, reports the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO reports that, between 2003 and May 1, 2015, there were 447 deaths and 840 cases of humans infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus. It should be remembered that the majority of these infections and deaths have occurred in rural areas of developing countries. It could well be argued that, given a lack a resources for diagnosis and reporting, an accurate figure would be somewhat higher.
That these deaths occurred in developing countries does not take away from the tragedy for the individuals concerned, their families and communities, but perhaps it makes the human impact of bird flu easier for those in the wider world to ignore.
Poor biosecurity and the migratory flight paths of wild birds are usually the two key points in any discussion of howavian influenza spreads and how it should be controlled. But it should also be remembered that poverty and lack of resources – as well as ignorance – can also play their part.
To return to Egypt, whose population has been hardest hit by the disease since the start of the decade, the country has gone through political turmoil and this has had consequences for the local economy. Many rural inhabitants have turned to keeping poultry in an effort to put food on the table.
These small-scale backyard farmers can have little notion of what constitutes good biosecurity and its implementation; for them it is a question of making ends meet and having enough to eat.
This has created an ideal situation for the spread of disease, and a highly difficult situation to monitor or control – even where resources are available. If Egypt’s poultry production were restricted to indoor, modern facilities then implementing good biosecurity protocols would be much easier, and the disease less likely to spread.
More human fatalities
When news of human fatalities first started to emerge in Asia in the late 1990s, human deaths made the headlines, but this is no longer the case. Yet WHO warns that whenever avian influenza viruses are circulating in poultry, sporadic infections and small clusters of human cases are possible in people exposed to infected poultry or contaminated environments.
Egypt is testament to this. More human cases can only be expected, particularly where biosecurity controls are weak and there is a failure to properly respond to risk. Vigilance in the public health sector needs to be stepped up wherever the disease is spreading, as do on-farm controls.
WHO reports that, although an increased number of animal-to-human infections have been reported by Egypt over the past few months, the viruses circulating there do not appear to transmit easily among people. Consequently, the risk of community-level spread of these viruses remains low. However, don’t forget, bird flu viruses frequently mutate and recombine.
The average number of human fatalities from avian influenza each year since the start of the decade has been 25. With 40 deaths from the disease having already been reported so far this year, the disease’s impact on the human population perhaps needs a little more attention."
"Harold Albrecht, member of Parliament for Kitchener–Conestoga, on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, announced an investment of $358,175, to Soy Canada to help identify new and emerging international markets and demand for Canadian soybean products.
This investment will enable Soy Canada to implement a market development strategy, attend international trade shows and lead missions to raise awareness of Canadian soybeans, concentrating efforts on expanding key markets in China, the United States, Korea, Japan and Europe.
Canadian soybeans, a nutritious source of protein, are a growing favourite on the world stage, especially in Asia. Canada is the world’s 5th largest exporter of soybeans, exporting to over 55 countries in 2014. Since 2000, soybean production in Canada has increased 123.7 percent. Soybeans are now the 4th largest crop by acreage in Canada with a production of 6.04 million metric tonnes in 2014.
In terms of farm cash receipts, soybeans rank 3rd in value, behind only canola and wheat, reaching $2.4 billion in 2014. This investment is being made under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriMarketing Program, a five-year, up to $341-million initiative under Growing Forward 2."
The election gravy train has definitely left the station. If your farm group needs investment help, get your hand out.
"Anyone can tell you (in fact, they probably already have, more than once) that the Internet is too powerful a tool to ignore for marketing your value-added products. But exactly how can you harness its potential to reach your own goals?
When creating an online presence, Nigel Gordijk, owner of Common Sense Design in New Hamburg, Ont., aims to develop a website using a content management system which allows his clients to update it themselves.
This way, the client can keep it relevant without the added expense of going back to the website designer for changes every time, explains Gordijk, who specializes in marketing for small and medium businesses, many of them agricultural.
Gordijk also recommends you develop a conversational tone in your writing that is more friendly and engaging than corporate-speak. “Just imagine you are speaking to the person in front of you,” he advises.
People do business with people, Gordijk emphasizes, so he recommends farmers profile the people involved in making the product. “It gives a genuine sense of the unique character and personality,” he says. People buy at supermarkets for the convenience, but they buy direct from the producer for the farm connection, so include information on the care and attention to detail that goes into the product. Many consumers appreciate the labour of love involved in farming, says Gordijk.
Testimonials by satisfied customers are very effective too, Gordijk adds. “Third-party feedback always has more credibility than a sales pitch. After all, these are people who have given you their money.”
If you are actively involved in your community, celebrate this on your farm website, says Gordijk. “This creates a sense of goodwill and encourages others to participate as well,” he says.
Don’t forget to let people know how to reach you, especially including a good map. Gordijk says you can add a vicinity search engine to a website so people on the go can find you.
On the technical side, make sure your website works with different-size screens, including smartphones. If your customers are out driving around and decide they want to pick up some farm-fresh strawberries, make sure they can find you.
And remember that your website is never done, adds Gordijk. “Launch with the basic information and then build on it over time,” he says.
Cindy Wilhelm, owner of Dragonfly Garden Farm in Chatsworth, Ont. says her website includes their farm philosophy and business hours. “This saves me explaining to each customer why our farm is wonderful,” she says. Her website also has an online store which is important for generating sales. Wilhelm says her e-newsletter is one of her main sales tools.
But a website should rarely be your only e-tactic.Consider social media too, with their online platforms for sharing opinions, experiences and other content. Here, your goal will be to create content for others to respond to, explains Dr. Andreas Boecker, a professor in food, agriculture and resource economics at the University of Guelph. These platforms include but are not limited to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, blogs and Instagram and can be used in conjunction with your website. For example, you could use a YouTube video to demonstrate how you make your cheese.
Canadians are among the most active users of social media, and at present the two most important social media platforms are Facebook and Twitter. Your market will determine which one is most important to your business, says Gordijk. Twitter users tend to be younger and Facebook users tend to be older, explains Gordijk. Although things can shift rapidly in the online world, Facebook currently has 1.32 billion users worldwide and is most popular in the 35 to 54 age group. On the other hand, Twitter which has 271 million users is most commonly used by those aged 18 to 29.
When it comes to social media, Gordijk advises that you should avoid bombarding your followers with sales information. Think of it as cultivating a community instead, he says. “You can be a source of information on the industry,” says Gordijk who emphasizes the need for patience. “You won’t build an audience overnight.”
One of the advantages of social media is the opportunity to engage your customers and create a two-way conversation.
Consider encouraging participation by sponsoring contests. For example, Cambridge asparagus grower, Tim Barrie, hosts a “guess the first day of asparagus harvest” contest every spring.
Before creating a social media account, it’s important to understand what you are trying to accomplish. It should be part of a larger marketing strategy. Whichever social media channels you choose to use, designate someone who is passionate about your business to be in charge of it. It’s important to be adding fresh content on a regular basis.
Use photos as much as possible. It’s OK to use your smartphone to take pictures. “People know you are a small business and expect a certain amount of spontaneity,” says Gordijk."
Probably best to get help with Social Media campaigns, at least at the beginning for website setup and persistence. Read up on email drip marketing and search engine optimization, and count on spending at least an hour or two a day on your webpage. Consider an email newsletter (like me). The biggest hurdle is getting a core group audience of 50 or so to start a community and build from there.
GFO wants court’s view on whether rules are a ‘legal absurdity’
"Ontario’s corn and soybean grower group is taking the province’s planned regulations on the use and sale of pesticide-treated seed to court.
Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) said Monday it filed a request late last week with the provincial Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, seeking a legal “interpretation” of the province’s rules on neonicotinoid-treated seed, which are due to take effect Wednesday.
GFO said it will also ask the court to delay implementation of the proposed regulations until May 1 next year or “until such time as the requirements of the regulation can reasonably be met.”
If GFO can get a stay against the regulations, farmers will be able to plant treated corn and soy next year under the same rules they followed during the 2015 planting season, the group said.
Toronto lawyer Eric Gillespie, representing GFO, said on a conference call Monday the central issue will be “whether the regulation is, in fact, workable” for growers and the seed industry.
At issue, he said, is the requirement that farmers perform and submit soil inspection pest assessments — verifying whether pests are present above threshold levels — before they can legally use treated seed in 2016 on more than 50 per cent of the total area where they plan to plant corn or soybeans.
Seed must be ordered in fall for planting the following spring, he said, and there’s “simply no time” for farmers to conduct those assessments for review before they have to book their seed.
“From the perspective of people who know,” Gillespie said, the rule appears to be “unworkable” and a “legal absurdity” — that is, a situation where a law is brought into effect that can’t be followed in a practical way.
GFO said it hopes to get a court date in July, before the new neonic regulations require any specific action on the part of soybean and corn growers.
Taking a provincial regulation to court “was not easy and is unprecedented in the history of our organization, but it is necessary and the outcome of our multi-step legal strategy will be critical to the livelihood of grain farmers across the province,” GFO CEO Barry Senft said in a release.
In the meantime, he said, the group is asking farmers and industry stakeholders for “patience in allowing the first steps of this request for a stay — to delay implementation of the regulations — to be heard, before the agricultural community responds to the regulations.”
GFO said it will advise farmers to “continue to monitor the case, as it is hoped relief from the regulations will come in the month of July, prior to seed orders for 2016.”
Beyond the 2016 growing season, the neonic regulations call for growers to complete integrated pest management (IPM) training and complete pest assessment reports before they can buy neonic-treated seed for any percentage of their corn or soy acres at all.
Beyond 2017, a requirement that pest assessments be conducted by professional pest advisors, rather than by farmers themselves, will begin to be phased in across the province on a geographic basis." — AGCanada.com Network
“In this video interview, Michel Demaré, Chairman of Syngenta, the world’s largest maker of crop chemicals, sets criteria for serious takeover offer as he responds to Monsanto’s current proposal.”