Food Safety
August 15, 2017 - The Council of Canadians is pressing the provincial government to keep genetically modified potatoes out of P.E.I. soil.

Council chair Leo Broderick questions the science behind Innate generation 2 potatoes, and added P.E.I. would be better off staying away from the controversy surrounding genetically modified food. He noted P.E.I. is already attracting attention as a producer of genetically modified salmon. READ MORE
February 8, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Effective April 1, 2017 CanadaGAP will introduce an unannounced audit program in response to new GFSI benchmarking requirements.

What is an unannounced audit?
  • Unannounced audits will not be scheduled in advance with the producer.
  • The certification body will provide two to five business days' notice that the auditor is coming.
  • An unannounced audit will take place instead of a scheduled audit (NOT additional to a scheduled audit).
  • The producer will pay the regular audit fee for the unannounced audit.
Only if needed, the certification body or auditor may contact you ahead of time (e.g., early in the season)
  • To confirm the scope of your operation's certification
  • To confirm in general when certain activities are occurring (e.g., harvesting, packing, shipping, etc.)
  • NOT to identify a specific time for the audit.
When will unannounced audits occur?
  • Like all CanadaGAP audits, unannounced audits must occur while activities relevant to the scope of your operation's certification are occurring.
  • You cannot block off "busy periods" like harvesting or shipping.
  • Unannounced audits can occur during periods of high activity.
Be audit-ready
  • You can refuse the first notification, for valid reasons as determined by the certification body.
  • You cannot refuse the second notification.
  • Not responding to the notification (phone or email) from the certification body or auditor will be considered an ACCEPTED notification. 
  • If you are not prepared to proceed with the audit when the auditor arrives, you will still be charged for the cost of the auditor's time and travel.
  • If possible, the auditor will return for another unannounced audit during the current season. Note that it may be impossible for the auditor to return during the current season due to scheduling demands.
  • In other words, not being prepared for the unannounced audit could put your operation's certification in jeopardy.
Who will be chosen for an unannounced audit?
  • The new unannounced audit program will be for those enrolled in CanadaGAP certification Options A1, A2, C and D. 
  • The certification body will choose five per cent of its clients each year.
  • Over time, all individually certified companies will have an unannounced audit.
  • Those enrolled in group certification Option B already have an unannounced component to their option. Option A3 will also see the introduction of an unannounced component in 2017. 
What about random audits?
  • If you are enrolled in CanadaGAP certification Option A1 or A2 (four-year audit cycle) 1) there is no change to your four-year audit cycle, and 2) there is no change to the way that random audits work.
  • You would still be informed in advance if you've been randomly selected for an audit. However, you may not be told the exact date of your audit. It could be an unannounced audit.
  • Likewise, if you already expect to be audited this year (because you are due for an audit in your four-year cycle), this audit could be unannounced.
  • "Unannounced" means you won't know more than two to five business days in advance of the date of your audit. You will still know in advance that you are having an audit sometime this year.
"Although certification options A1, A2 and A3 are not GFSI-recognized, the CanAgPlus board has chosen to include all certification options in the unannounced audit programme to improve the overall rigour of CanadaGAP certification," explained Heather Gale, executive director for CanadaGAP.

Why are unannounced audits being introduced?
  • To meet new GFSI requirements
  • To respond to market signals
  • To ensure that producers are maintaining their program on a continuing basis
"We need to be ready to demonstrate to our customers that CanadaGAP-certified companies can meet program requirements at any time," commented Jack Bates, chair of the CanAgPlus board.

A presentation outlining the new unannounced audit program is available on the CanadaGAP website at: http://www.canadagap.ca/publications/canadagap-presentations/.

“Vineland is scouting the world for new fresh grape varieties suited to the Canadian climate with consumer appeal.”

November 1, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – The Canadian government recently announced it has secured market access for Alberta seed potatoes to Thailand.

Effective immediately, Alberta becomes the third province to have an export agreement with Thailand, joining Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, both of which secured export agreements in 2009. Combined, these three provinces form about 76 per cent of Canada’s seed potato exports. Alberta’s seed potato exports to Thailand could be worth up to $2 million annually, according to industry experts, adding to the $5 million on average exported annually to that country. The increased access will advance the competitiveness of, and create new opportunities for, the seed potato sector.

“The Potato Growers of Alberta are pleased to have worked with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry to profile our seed industry to Thailand officials and to receive approval to export seed to their country,” said Deb Hart, seed potato coordinator with the Potato Growers of Alberta. “Alberta has a very innovative and progressive seed potato industry and is looking forward to the opportunity to grow low virus, high quality seed varieties requested by the Thai potato industry.”

September 27, 2016, Charlottetown, PEI – Greg Donald is upbeat discussing the upcoming harvest, until talk turns to potato tampering.

Donald, the general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board, would rather the topic get buried like, well, a needle in a haystack. READ MORE

August 22, 2016, Alliston, Ont – The 2016 Ontario Potato Field Day, hosted on August 18 by HJV Equipment in Alliston, was a very successful event.

Approximately 250 growers, crop consultants and potato-industry personnel gathered in a friendly atmosphere to see the latest potato equipment, new potato varieties and the trade show. Potato growers from Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Quebec also attended the event.

More than 100 new potato varieties were on display, including for the fresh, processing and specialty markets. For the fresh market, the variety Actrice (Real Potatoes) caught the attention of many growers because of its attractive tubers with smooth, shiny skin. Actrice is an early, yellow-fleshed variety that is very tasty. Primabelle and Panamera (HZPC Americas) are two yellow-fleshed varieties that got good reviews from potato growers.

Among the russet potatoes for the French fry market, Alta Strong (Real Potatoes) and Pomerelle Russet (Pommes de Terre Laurentiennes) were well rated by growers. There was interest in Kalmia (La Patate Lac Saint-Jean) a white-fleshed, fresh-market variety that could also be used as a French fryer.

Double Fun (HZPC Americas) had the nicest skin among the purple-fleshed varieties. It also has very good culinary traits.

Among the trade show exhibitors, the Quebec company Lab’eau-Air-Sol demonstrated the use of spore traps for foliar diseases of vegetables. Douglas Ag Services provided the latest information on chloropicrin application to control soil-borne diseases. Displays by Gorman Controls (PEI) and GRB Ag Technologies (Ontario) focused on storage management.

Potato growers attend this important annual event to obtain practical, up-to-date information on varieties and the latest potato production technology. It is also a chance for growers to meet in a friendly, informal setting to discuss problems.

July 22, 2016, Smithville, Ont – There is a delicate balance in nature between predator and prey. There are many natural pests, for example, that can threaten an orchard of fruit crops, but also many predators that can help keep those pests at bay. But what if the species helping to manage pest populations themselves become at risk?

That’s where on-farm protection of species at risk by farmers and landowners and the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program (SARFIP) come in.

SARFIP, delivered by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) provides cost-share funding for farmers to implement best management practices that help protect essential habitats of species at risk located on-farm. The range of possible activities under the program applies to orchards, croplands, grasslands, stream banks, shorelines, wetlands, and woodlands.

Peter and Mary Bosman of Lincoln Line Orchards, a family-run fruit farm in the Niagara Peninsula, try to work with nature as much as possible to keep their trees healthy.

They grow 15 apple and five pear varieties on their 65-acre orchard, as well as some peaches and plums, with about 80 per cent of their fruit being retailed through their on-farm store outside of Smithville. A partnership with FoodShare gets their small pears into approximately 250 Toronto schools through a snack program.

Last year, the Bosmans accessed cost-share funding through SARFIP to install bat boxes throughout their orchards as a way of providing habitats for the little brown bat, an endangered bat species in Ontario.

Bats are essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems as they eat a lot of insects, including farm pests, and little brown bats are one of only two bat species in Ontario that are known to use human structures, such as barns, attics and abandoned buildings, as summer maternity colony habitats.

Bat populations are declining around the world, including Ontario, often because of disappearing habitat. In Ontario, bats also face challenges from a disease called White Nose Syndrome (a fungus that thrives in cold, humid environments) which disrupts bats’ hibernation cycles, burning up essential body fat supplies before the spring when they can begin foraging again.

“We’re not sure how many there are in the area currently, but we hope we can attract them by giving them habitats in our orchards,” explains Peter. “Bats hunt insects and moths and if we can increase the bat population, they’ll help us with natural insect control in the orchard.”

Four bat boxes have been installed atop long poles throughout the orchard. Each box can hold up to 600 bats, and all are close to water sources – either the farm’s ponds or Twenty Creek, which flows through the property.

To be eligible for SARFIP cost-share opportunities, Ontario farm businesses have to complete a third or fourth edition Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) workshop and have a verified complete Action Plan, as well as implement at least one SARFIP-eligible best management practice directly related to an action identified in their EFP Action Plan.

The Bosmans have previously completed projects through cost share programs delivered by OSCIA, as well as with Niagara Conservation, and are appreciative of funding programs like SARFIP to support on-farm improvements.

“We have six children on our family farm and our grandson is the fifth generation, so we try to do what we can to be natural and support nature,” says Bosman.

July 11, 2016, Toronto, Ont – Farmers are facing smaller crops and higher costs as parts of southern and eastern Ontario suffer through severe drought that is having an impact on fruit and vegetable production.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) says the regions northeast of Toronto and south of Ottawa have reached levels of drought only expected at this time of year once every two decades. READ MORE

June 23, 2016, Regina, SK – Vegetable farmers Dan and Chelsea Erlandson of Outlook, Sask., were named the 2016 Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) for the Saskatchewan Region at the annual awards event held in conjunction with Canada’s Farm Progress Show on June 17.

Dan and Chelsea are third-generation majority owners of Spring Creek Garden Ltd., growing more than 50 varieties of vegetables and attending eight farmers’ markets weekly in Regina and Saskatoon. They also grow, pack and market 150 acres of vegetables for the wholesale market.

“[The Saskatchewan OYF region] had two outstanding nominations this year,” said Carla Kaeding, program manager for Canada’s OYF. “The judges had a difficult decision but Dan and Chelsea are an exceptional choice for Saskatchewan’s Outstanding Young Farmers and will represent Saskatchewan well at the national event this December.”

Dan took over the farm at the age of 16 and married Chelsea in 2010. She became an integral member of the operation. Today, they live on the farm with their two children. In 2015, Dan’s brother Travis and his wife, Jackie, joined the company as shareholder partners.

The farmers’ markets are where Dan originally began the business, starting with a few markets a week and quickly adding as many as he could to maximize profits in the short season. They can be found at farmers’ markets six days a week in Saskatoon and two days a week in Regina. Chelsea helped the farm expand to the Regina markets in 2010. Dan and Chelsea both understand and realize that the market season, mid-June until mid-October, is short in length, but the possibilities are endless.

The main vegetable crops grown are romaine, celery, broccoli, leaf lettuce, Brussels sprouts and sweet corn. These vegetables are sold through Federated CO-OP in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba. Spring Creek markets to CO-OP through The Prairie Fresh Food Corporation (PFFC). PFFC is made up of 17 Saskatchewan vegetable growers working together to provide a wide array of products.

In 2014, Chelsea was elected secretary/treasurer of the Saskatchewan Vegetables Growers’ Association. Both Chelsea and Dan are passionate about providing a wide variety and consistent supply of fresh vegetables to local markets.

Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2016 will be chosen at the National Event in Niagara Falls, Ontario from November 29 – December 4, 2016.

May 16, 2016, Simcoe, Ont – Southern Ontario's cool spring is expected to slow asparagus production throughout the region.

Farmers had their first scare after a stretch of warm weather in March led to an early growth. That type of early start is often threatened by cold snaps, which then ruin any growth, explained Bernie Solymar, executive director of Asparagus Farmers of Ontario. READ MORE

 

As I write this editorial, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a recall for a blend of frozen berries and cherries sold exclusively through Costco stores in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia plus Newfoundland and Labrador. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 13 people have contracted Hepatitis A, some becoming sick after eating the frozen fruit.

In light of the recall, Costco Canada is offering free Hepatitis A vaccinations for anyone affected by the product recall.

Why am I sharing this?

Well, also as I write this editorial, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is gearing up promotion of its Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), described as “the most sweeping reform” made to the country’s food safety laws in the past 70 years. And, according to David Gombas – the United Fresh Produce Association’s senior vice-president of food safety – Canadian growers, packers and processors who export produce to the U.S. will be facing the new rules as early as Fall 2016 (see article on page 16).

What does this mean for Canadian growers?

It means that if you’re shipping produce over the U.S. border for resale, you may need to become verified under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), a program that insures “that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards.”

When you visit the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act information website – fda.gov/FSMA – be prepared for page after page of legal gobbledygook containing fuzzy bureaucratic words like “stakeholder,” “reasonably foreseeable” and “potential hazard.” The FSVP section of the website is particularly dense with them, the sort of reading only a legal-type or someone really keen on filling in forms and jumping through regulatory hoops would enjoy – not that there’s anything wrong with that. But this editor knows when she’s reached the limit of her legalese translation skills and bows to the much wiser experts available out there.

One thing that is possible to glean from the reams of information available is not every Canadian grower exporting to the U.S. will be required to become verified under the FSVP. According to the FDA, very small importers and importers of food from certain small suppliers – defined as a sales ceiling of $1 million (US) annually – will only be required to meet “modified” FSVP requirements. Farms that average $25,000 (US) or less in annual produce sales will also only be required to meet “modified” FSVP requirements. It’s not clear what those “modified” requirements might be but one example cited is: “certain importers would not have to conduct hazard analyses and would be able to verify their foreign suppliers by obtaining written assurances.”

Clear as mud, right?

Visit fda.gov/FSMA for more information.

Stay informed and have a safe, prosperous 2016 growing season.

 

 

 

March 28, 2016, Mississauga, Ont – As farmers across the province get ready for spring and the upcoming growing season, Ontario’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) is marking a major milestone.

The internationally acclaimed program is celebrating its 50th anniversary supplying Ontario farmers experiencing domestic labour shortages with seasonal workers from Mexico and the Caribbean.

Approximately 17,000 seasonal workers from Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad/Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean States are expected to be placed at Ontario fruit and vegetable farms this growing season as a supplement to local labour through SAWP. Approximately 1,450 farms will benefit from the program this year.

“We’re extremely proud that we’ve been able to help our horticultural industry thrive and grow over the past half century,” says Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS), which administers the program. “Ontario produces some of the highest quality fruits and vegetables in the world. Without the supplemental labour they hire through SAWP, many of our growers just wouldn’t be able stay viable.”

The program got its start in 1966 when 263 seasonal workers from Jamaica were brought to Ontario to fill a shortage of available Canadian workers. Over the past 50 years the program has grown steadily and has consistently exceeded expectations, providing Ontario farmers a steady source of reliable, skilled and professional labour.

At the same time, the program has given seasonal agricultural workers employment, benefits and educational opportunities not available to them at home.

Because SAWP is a “Canadians first” program, supplementary seasonal farm labour is hired from partner countries only if agricultural operators cannot find domestic workers to fill vacancies.

“Half a century after it was created, this program continues to serve the same vital function on an even larger scale,” says Forth.

A recent report by Agri-food Economic Systems found that chronic labour shortages continue to challenge the agricultural sector due to aging demographics, competition with other sectors and fewer numbers of young people pursuing careers in farming. As a result, demand for workers under SAWP is projected to remain steady.

The report cited the program as a key reason Ontario’s horticulture industry is able to generate $5.4 billion in economic activity and approximately 34,280 jobs.

It’s estimated that two jobs for Canadians are created in the agri-food industry for every seasonal agricultural worker employed through SAWP at Ontario farms.

January 25, 2016, Huron, OH – There's a small corner of the restaurant world where food is art and the plate is just as exquisite as the mouthful.

In this world, chefs are constantly looking for new creative materials for the next stunning presentation.

The tiny community of farmers who grow vegetables for the elite chefs prize creativity, too, not just in what they grow but in how they grow it. They're seeking perfection, in vegetable form and flavour. READ MORE

December 21, 2015, Vancouver, BC – After the earliest start to a blueberry season in recent memory, the British Columbia Blueberry Council has confirmed the 2015 fresh blueberry season's crop topped out at 73.5 million kilograms (162 million pounds), exceeding last year's crop of 68 million kilograms (152 million pounds).

Because British Columbia's 800 growers faced weather challenges this season, the 2015 fresh season was initially expected to be on par with 2014's harvest. However, the season has proven to be better than anticipated thanks to a solid crop of late variety berries.

"A stronger than anticipated season for British Columbia blueberry growers allowed their product to be enjoyed by consumers across Canada," said Debbie Etsell, executive director of the British Columbia Blueberry Council. "Our ongoing overseas marketing efforts are being reinforced."

As seen in recent years, an increase in available product has allowed the British Columbia Blueberry Council to continue to expand its marketing efforts overseas, creating new demand for exports from the province. In addition to visits from Chinese and Korean inspectors, trade agreements for fresh market access for B.C. blueberries with South Korea were signed this season. This comes at a time when the demand for fresh Canadian blueberries in both countries is very high due to the health benefits and quality of the product.

Nov. 2, 2015, Langley, B.C. - The Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA) is rebranding as AgSafe to better reflect the work they do and the community they serve.

For over 20 years, the association has been the expert on safety in the workplace for British Columbia's agriculture industry. Launched in 1993 as a joint initiative of WorkSafeBC (Workers' Compensation Board of British Columbia), the BC Agriculture Council and the Canadian Farmworkers' Union, AgSafe is committed to creating safer work environments for all individuals working in the agriculture industry.

AgSafe's mission is to reduce the number of agriculture-related workplace deaths and injuries. They are doing this by offering health and safety programs, training and evaluation, consultation and guidance.

Their head office in Langley, B.C. houses a reference library and other industry safety information materials. AgSafe's team of safety consultants with specialized agricultural knowledge are available throughout B.C. to conduct safety courses, provide safety materials and advice, and help owners, operators and workers implement specific health and safety programs.

AgSafe is also expanding their membership community to include landscape trades and professionals, garden centres, wholesale and retail nurseries, suppliers and tree services. Access to their health and safety services and resources, historically offered only to ranchers and farmers, is now available to this sector as well.

For more information visit www.agsafebc.ca, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

 

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