Tag Archives: business

Egg Farmers of Ontario Being a Bully

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A recently announced Health Canada document entitled, ‘Health Canada Guidance on Reducing the Risk of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs Produced in Canada’ is causing quite a stir in my neck of the woods.  I checked out the document – actually read it in its entirety – over 20 pages.  As a former egg producer and layer quota holder, the guidelines and recommendations included in the document weren’t new to me.  In fact, it seemed to me that all of these guidelines were already being implemented and enforced.  But then that was my perception.  So imagine my surprise when a friend from within the egg industry tells me that this ‘new’ document from Health Canada is set to shut down many of the small local egg producers that have 100 or 500 birds – those without quota.  I read the document again and couldn’t see why this document was being seen as a business-breaker for these small producers.  I also read Jim Romahn’s blog posting in October (http://agri007.blogspot.ca/2013/10/small-flocks-exempt-from-egg-guidelines.html) where he had reported on this Health Canada document and stated that small producers are exempt from these guidelines.  So I asked the million dollar question of my egg industry friend, “Who is telling you and these small egg producers that they are going to have to stop taking their eggs and having them washed and graded by a licensed, certified and regulated egg grading station?”  Imagine my surprise – or really my lack of surprise! – when I’m told that it’s Egg Farmers of Ontario that is the source of this business-breaking news. 

 I followed up my investigation into the matter with a telephone call to the Guelph office of Health Canada and spoke to a representative there.  I explained to him that this document was causing some concern for these small producers and a couple of the small local grading stations.  He assured me that the intent of this document was not to put any small producers out of business.  In fact he went on to give me a brief history of the document and stated that many, if not all of the suggestions for implementations were already addressed in current HAACP protocols.  When I asked if this document would stop or prevent these small producers from taking their eggs to a local grading station for washing, grading and marketing, he promptly said ‘no’.  He even suggested that EFO does not have the authority to stop any egg producer from taking their eggs to a licensed/regulated egg grading station.  He also agreed with me when I said that it appeared to me that having these small producers pay a licensed, certified, and CFIA regulated grading station to wash and grade their eggs is a far better and safer solution than allowing the same producers to sell unwashed, ungraded eggs from their farm gate.

After my discussion with my egg industry friend, a small egg producer or two and the Health Canada representative, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem comes with Egg Farmers of Ontario representatives interpreting these ‘guidelines’ (note that these are ‘guidelines’ – not regulations) in a manner different from their intended purpose.  Using this interpretation to ‘bully’ these small producers out of business is exactly what EFO wants.  Harry Pelissero and his ‘Egg Police’ are once again pushing producers around, taking authority that is not theirs and causing many hard-working, well-intentioned small non-quota holding egg producers a great deal of anxiety and fear.  I’m certainly not surprised – but shame on them.   And who governs Egg Farmers of Ontario again?  It doesn’t matter.  Nothing is likely to change.  

  

 

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Did Gray, Burnbrae or EFO ‘Inhale’ or Not?

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According to a blog post by Jim Romahn (http://agri007.blogspot.com/2013/06/court-documents-detail-egg-deficiencies.html), Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reports demonstrate that the statements made by Norman Bourdeau about cracks being packed into retail Grade A egg cartons, are true.  Attempts to keep this evidence hidden have been going on for years and now the ‘yolk’ is on L. H. Gray/Gray Egg Farms.  The consequences for this are yet to be determined, but let’s hope there are some consequences.  Especially since Gray, through his legal representative, has been protesting and denying this practice vehemently since this whole saga began. 

 

Gray isn’t the only party who said the equivalent of “but I didn’t inhale”.  Burnbrae Eggs and the Egg Farmers of Ontario also took that position.  So is Mr. Bourdeau correct about them too?  I had hoped that Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission would have at least checked into EFO as they are the supervising body for EFO.  Literally after years of repeated requests, Farm Products is finally (and probably reluctantly) ‘investigating’ EFO – but it’s just their transparency that is being questioned.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been hollering about EFO’s lack of transparency for years so I’m thankful that Farm Products is finally doing something – or at least appear to be doing something.  But this goes beyond transparency and that should be evident to all parties involved – egg producers, graders, Farm Products, CFIA and the Ministry of Agriculture.  If only the majority of consumers understood the egg industry and supply management, this would have been investigated long ago. 

 

It appears that Mr. Bourdeau is not Chicken Little stating that the sky is falling.  The question is how many foxes are there in this tale?  

 

 

 

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More Bitching About Banks – But RBC This TIme

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The current news story about the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), hiring temporary foreign employees and getting rid of existing employees sounds very familiar.  This is exactly what happened in the land of the free, home of the brave – U.S.A – but not just in the banking industry.  Corporate USA kept whining that there were no ‘qualified’ employees in the country so they wrangled a change in the immigration legislation to ‘import’ qualified employees – employees that would work for a lot less money.  And this whining of unqualified employees sounds very familiar as noted in some of Mr. Flaherty’s recent comments that Canada doesn’t have enough qualified employees. 

 

All of the U.S. statistics are laid out in the book, Who Stole the American Dream, by Hedrick Smith.  It states clearly that there were plenty of qualified U.S. candidates when corporate America complained of the shortage but the attraction to corporate America to bring in foreign candidates was all a matter of paying the foreigners less money.  So is Canada just following the example that has been demonstrated by the U.S.?  Let’s hope to hell not!  It’s that kind of strategic action that has gotten the U.S. in the financial mess they’re in now.  How much money is RBC saving by hiring these foreign employees?  RBC claims directly on their website, “RBC believes in the power of communities and the individuals who live in them”.  If that is true, then put your money where your mouth is and hire people from the community to work at your banks. 

 

It’s not a secret that I hate dealing with banks – and I’m merely one of millions who agree.  I hope RBC takes a lot of heat for this action.  They deserve it.    

 

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TD Canada Trust Going to the Dogs

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TD Canada Trust has sunk to a new low – if that’s possible.  In fact, they’re going to the dogs – literally.  TD Canada Trust is now spending my bank fee dollars on dog biscuits – at least in the Kemptville, Ontario branch.  In previous posts I have complained about having cookies, apples, coffee, etc. offered to me as a token of appreciation for my patronage.  Now they’re even trying to brainwash my dog into believing that they’re doing me a favour by giving us a treat.  What a joke!  Instead of providing me with this type of appreciation, just offer me a banking service with lower interest rates and stop dinging me with bank fees.  Now TD Canada Trust is treating dogs better than they’re treating me.  Instead of making banking ‘comfortable’, why not make it more affordable?  Wouldn’t that improve my economic status (as well as the economic status of the country in general?) instead of elevating my blood sugar with a cookie – not to mention what it does to my blood pressure every time I see this practice!   If TD Canada Trust wants to keep their customers, they don’t need dog biscuits, cookies, apples, Ipods, live music in the branches, etc.  Just give me better banking service for less fees.  It’s not rocket science!  Trade in the green chair for common sense.   

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It’s Your Own Damn Fault

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There’s a phrase in the English language that I often use.  When my colleagues have stated it to me, it often makes me feel appropriately guilty and sometimes it makes me feel appropriately foolish.  The phrase is “it’s your own damn fault”.  I use this phrase when business associates, friends and family complain about certain situations affecting life.  The complaints can be personal, political, social, or financial but from an objective perspective it’s very easy to look at these complaints and assign the accountability phrase of “well, it’s your own damn fault”.  I’ve often commented that I (or any other writer) could write a weekly column entitled “It’s your own damn fault”.  There’s a never-ending supply of actions that could have that headline attached to it. 

Now that Canada has received and accepted the invitation to the Trans Pacific Trade Talks, the likelihood of hearing that phrase (or some similar phrase) will increase.  I don’t pretend to know the dairy industry or the chicken industry, but I am very familiar with the egg industry and EFO (Egg Farmers of Ontario).  The Board and management of this organization have been taking actions that make supply management (and its secret operations) look like a very poor system for consumers.  The Board’s actions don’t try to make the system more efficient, more transparent or even better at all – except of course for those folks who benefit monetarily from the system.

The actions being taken by EFO are an attempt to keep the system in place and keep the lucrative revenue stream to the producers and management of the Board.  Those folks aren’t crazy – they’ve got a sweet thing going.  Right now, all’s quiet on the egg industry lawsuit front but confidential mediation and/or backdoor negotiation is likely underway to keep all the details quiet.  What happens if all that ‘protected’ data gets out to the media during these trade talks?  Will all that attention give the government yet another reason to ‘alter’ the supply management system?  At the end of the trade negotiations, if the tariffs are reduced or eliminated, if the supply management is changed in any way, it will be my voice, along with many, many others that can be heard saying to EFO, “It’s your own damn fault”.  And the sad part is that preparing for the changes or making the system better prior to these trade talks could have and should have been done but the revenues were just too good to want to change the system.  The system is just too comfortable and too protected.  Welcome to the trade talks – and reality.  Hope EFO is ready for the competition.      

 

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Farming – Half Full or Half Empty

ImageIn my June 6, 2012 blog posting (Spin Cycle for Agriculture Not Required), I provide comment on FCC’s surveys and specifically FCC’s President and CEO’s comments of changing the public’s perception of farming.  Shortly after that posting, Mr. Stewart commented on my blog posting.  Mr. Stewart’s comments can be found on the June 6 posting page.  I thank him for his comments and wish to comment further to his response. 

Mr. Stewart states “farmers joke about winning the lottery and farming until it’s all gone. That doesn’t convey a very positive – or accurate – outlook.”

I agree that outlook is not positive but have to disagree about the accuracy.  In many cases this is very accurate. 

Mr. Stewart also states “a majority of Canadians have come to believe that agriculture is not progressive, forward-thinking or a great potential career opportunity”. 

I believe that a majority of Canadians believe that agriculture is very progressive, especially when tours of our farms showcase the massive equipment and advance technology involved in that equipment.  As far as a great potential career opportunity, farming is a great career but in order to support it, many farmers have to have a second career or secondary cash flow to support it.  Considering that fact, it’s up to the reader or farmer wanna-be to determine if farming has great potential or not.

FCC’s avenue to provide agriculture with a launching pad for their stories (www.agmorethanever.com) can definitely be an asset.  But when the general public views farmers as some of the most honest workers in the world, taking a chance to change that view is definitely a gamble.  At the same time, the general public’s view of bankers and/or pseudo-bankers like FCC isn’t quite as favourable.  In fact bankers rate right up there with politicians and lawyers – Yikes!  Common sense tells me to be careful of affiliations with bankers and their kind.  Along that same line, when Mr. Stewart states that “Our support of Agriculture More Than Ever is not about selling products or building our loan portfolio”, I say but it certainly won’t hurt FCC if it does sell more products or increase their loan portfolio as a result.  In other words, can anyone say ‘conflict of interest’?

Mr. Stewart professes that FCC offers farmers – even non-FCC customers – services for free.   As stated in a previous blog posting, that four-letter word, ‘free’ is very misleading.  The offer of something free, rarely is.  FCC’s objective is to make money – like any business.  So if they’re offering something free, that cost is being covered somewhere else in their business plan – like every other business. 

In the end, I truly believe that both Mr. Stewart and FCC believe that agriculture is a great industry.  I believe that too.  But it doesn’t mean that I would recommend agriculture as a potential career to any young person.  Agriculture is hard work, has long hours, is very risky and takes a great deal of capital to begin.  It’s also rewarding and it takes a special person to handle the pressures of farming.  Young people know this, which is why fewer folks are entering the farming fold.  Don’t start spinning the information to get them in it.  If it takes a pretty picture that has hidden challenges and dangers behind the barn door rendering, to get a young person into farming, the artist has done a disservice to the young person and to the agricultural industry.  But maybe this picture could have gotten another customer for FCC.  I don’t think it’s worth it.      

Being truthful about the agricultural industry provides better information to the general public about farming than having an approach of changing the perception of farming.  The truth is what the public deserves and wants – and it’s what farmers have given – at least up until now.  If Agriculture More Than Ever has honest, true, factual information, I’m all for it.  After all, a glass half-full is the same as half-empty.      

 

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Spin Cycle for Agriculture Not Required

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Farmers are deemed as one of the most trustworthy occupations in Canada.  That’s why Ontario Egg Farmers changed their name from Ontario Egg Producers back in 2006.  That’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned.  So why is it that Greg Stewart, CEO of Farm Credit Canada, thinks that farmers and agriculture need to change that perception. 

 In the June issue of FCC Express (www.fccfac.ca/newsletters/en/express/articles/20120601_e.asp) it was reported that the Canadian general public showed a prevailing assumption that agriculture was unlikely to have a bright future.  Mr. Stewart adds, “Image matters.  To attract the people, skills and investment needed to meet the growing demand for food, those of us involved in agriculture have a responsibility to promote the industry.”  Really?  Shouldn’t being the most trustworthy occupation be the best image one can achieve and the best way to promote the industry?  Is Mr. Stewart saying that the agriculture industry needs a ‘spin doctor’?  I can see why he might think this is necessary as he represents a pseudo-bank (with government ties) – and banks certainly need a spin doctor – a whole bushel basket of them, a whole grain truck full of them, a whole barn full of them, etc., etc.,!   

 Maybe the general public has believed farmers when they say that agriculture is a very demanding, challenging and capital-heavy, risky industry.  A very honest representation – no spinning required.  If the general public has listened to the farmers, they also know that agriculture can be very rewarding – not always financially rewarding but rewarding in other ways. 

 Anyone that follows the FCC Express Newsletter would have recently seen the following article headlines:

 –        “Family farm still strong”

–        “Survey shows ag is robust”

–        “Canadian agriculture is strong”

–        “Farm cash income rises in 2011”

 This is just a quick sample of their headlines.  If I am to believe these lines, then why is it that young people aren’t flocking to this industry, begging to sign up?  Having young people believe the FCC headlines would definitely benefit FCC but would it be equally beneficial to the young people entering this very challenging industry?  Statistics  Canada states the average farmer age 54 years.   Something doesn’t add up here.  Could it be that the FCC newsletters and surveys don’t reflect the reality of agriculture?    Or maybe FCC is simply a bank in sheep’s clothing and everything they report should be questioned. 

 Agriculture doesn’t need a spin doctor, but maybe FCC does.  I’ll continue to believe farmers, rather than survey interpretations FCC provides.  Hope consumers do too. 

 

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