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Agriculture

Canada’s Feedlots Facing an Uncertain Future

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Canada’s Feedlots Facing an Uncertain Future

The coronavirus has taken a huge toll on the North American meat industry. As the virus continues to claim the lives of workers and workplace conditions become unsafe, many meat processing plants simply haven’t been able to adequately staff their facilities. Subsequently, many plants and feedlots — including leading brands in Alberta — have temporarily shut down operations.

Other big names that haven’t experienced outbreaks in their facilities have managed to remain open or at least reopen and function at a lower capacity. However, even these cattle feedlots and processing plants are facing an uncertain future as the pandemic drags on.

A Dip in Demand

In addition to facility outbreaks, a dip in demand for pork, poultry and beef has also resulted in major setbacks for feedlots and slaughterhouses. Since officials issued stay-at-home orders three months ago, restaurants and butchers haven’t been ordering as much meat from big-industry meat processors. Instead, with no guests to serve or customers to whom they might sell prime cuts, these businesses have dramatically cut their orders.

Of course, the meat industry wasn’t expecting this sudden decrease in demand. As cows continued to birth calves and inventory built up in feedlots, these companies were left with no other choice than to cull thousands of animals per day and discard the carcasses. Obviously, this represents a massive amount of waste as well as a huge loss of profit.

Selling Calves

Many small farmers and large industrial developments also worry they’ll lose money this fall when it comes time to sell calves. These cow-calf operations usually generate a decent amount of revenue when the economy is good. In light of recent events, however, market conditions aren’t exactly prime for selling calves.

Moreover, as feedlots reach and exceed maximum capacities, the animals will most likely become more anxious. This increase in stress levels will negatively impact their immune systems and, ultimately, the quality of meat that comes from them. Consequently, this fall’s herd may not be as healthy as the last, meaning they’ll sell for much less and leave feedlots and meat processors in the red.

Assistance and Adjustments

Early last month, the Canadian government announced it would provide $252 million in federal assistance to the agri-food sector. The vast majority of this federal aid will go to processing plants in hopes of better-protecting workers and helping facilities function at full capacity once again. Still, as long as demand is low, it’s unlikely the industry will bounce back quickly — even with financial assistance. At best, this money will help keep the industry afloat until restaurants and eateries fully reopen.

Additionally, meat processing plants that have remained open or resumed operations are beginning to consciously cut their inventory and production output to meet the decrease in demand. While this will help the meat industry, it may cause issues for fast-food chains and restaurants that may experience shortages as a result.

Is the Worst Yet to Come?

Over the past few weeks, some major meat processors and cattle feedlots have begun to reopen. Already, they’re back to processing 60,000 cattle per week. However, prices aren’t rising for consumers, thus showcasing the resiliency of the Canadian food system. In the coming months, bottlenecks should stop and business should be able to return to normal — as long as a second and third wave of coronavirus cases don’t sweep the nation.

In the future, the meat industry might invest more in expanding local and regional food supply chains. This way, if Cargill, National Beef, JBS and Tyson — which own more than 80% of the beef supply — shut down again, small ranchers could provide meat for their communities. Thus, the industry wouldn’t face such an uncertain future if another pandemic were to occur.

Canadian Federal Government Taking Measures to Reduce Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.

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Agriculture

The plan by governments to reduce the use of fertilizer while war and other factors create a global food shortage, explained

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Once we acknowledge that over 80% of Canadians live in cities (and even more of us don’t care much about poor people in other areas of the world) it’s much easier to understand why the average Canadian isn’t far more upset with the government’s initiative to coerce farmers into cutting back on fertilizer use. As complex as the formulas are for estimating pollution amounts, there’s also a very simple way to understand this government initiative. It might help to simplify this situation as much as possible. In order to help reduce Canada’s share (about 1%) of global emissions (which a ton of scientists swear is making the world hotter.. Sorry not hotter.. but more climate changy…which actually somehow means worse for everyone everywhere) the government is strongly urging farmers to use less fertilizer and thereby produce less food.

Why would a farmer (who is a business operator) want to produce less food (which is the product farmers sell to feed the world)?  That would be a tough sell.  Until now, farmers have always taken pride in producing the best possible crops using the lowest possible inputs (all the expenses from gas to seed to fertilizer, etc).  Who wouldn’t?  It’s how they make their money.  Perhaps that’s why governments are coming out with programs that will pay farmers not to farm quite so much.  Right here in Alberta there’s a program that could pay an individual farmer up to $75,000.00 to cut back and be a better producer for people living 100 years from now.

Sure.  That may sound a little offside when you consider global food shortages (another term for starving people) are expected to increase drastically in the coming months.  You see the world is always somewhere between a little short of food and desperately short of food (depending on where you live you might feel more ‘desperate’ than inconvenienced). A simple minded person like myself might say “Why would we mess with this system that is feeding more people successfully than at any other time in world history?”  Silly me.  These guys are way beyond that simple thinking.  That’s why the government isn’t asking farmers to consider what’s happening in the world right now.  The government is asking farmers to consider what ‘might’ happen sometime in the future.

Apparently in order to create a world with a more predictable (and apparently safe) climate, we should be OK if we have to sacrifice a few million (or multiple hundred million) eaters (another word for people) in the coming months and years.

Relax Canada.  We’re almost surely not going to miss a meal.  Yah, we might have to double or triple down at the grocery store, but just think of that perfect summer day in the future.  You’ll be so happy when your child gleefully watches your grandchild in their paper swim suit splash away in the baby pool that’s in the driveway where the car used to be out front of the rental (we won’t be allowed to drive to the beach anymore but it won’t be a big deal because we won’t have cars anyway!)  Too bad you can’t be there in person because you can’t travel because you’re still getting that ESG score back up after that trip to see the kids a couple years back. Too bad you can’t use that cool social media app to see what it looked like because you accidentally typed Turdo instead of Trudeau six months ago (stupid spellcheck).

Just think. No more storms. No more pesky record high or low temperatures.  And water levels remain constant year in and year out.  It’s going to be awesome (for all the descendants of the people who get to eat in the next couple of years). Maybe we’ll build a statue to honour today’s fearless leaders who are so smart they have realized that it’s NOT THEIR JOB TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE WHO VOTE FOR THEM TODAY, but to CREATE A BETTER FUTURE FOR THOSE NOT ALIVE YET WHO CAN AFFORD TO SURVIVE 5o and 100 and 1000 years from now! We’ll certainly inscribe it with something like “These guys weren’t afraid to crack a few eggs to make this omelette. Hope you enjoy omelettes!”  I think the perfect location to put that statue will be Davos. I hear it’s beautiful.

I digress.  As a journalistic endeavour we should present both sides of thinking on this initiative to teach those simple farmers and their university educated consultants how to farm better with less fertilizer and more crop rotation, etc. (I’m still amazed farmers didn’t already figure this out for themselves, but I bow to those worldly thinkers who make these plans on our behalf. Again ‘our’ would be the lucky people who will be inconvenienced by less food / more expensive food, and not so much the millions who might starve to death.) Anyway, a few thoughts from Agriculture Canada, followed by an informative (and entertaining) video presentation from a very well known Saskatchewan farmer.

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These statement have been pulled from the “Discussion Document: Reducing emissions arising from the application of fertilizer in Canada’s agriculture sector” on the federal government’s website.  You can read it all here but I’ve pulled a couple of statements to help explain the brilliant future forward thinking that goes into plans like this.

” In December 2020, the Government of Canada announced its Strengthened Climate Plan, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy.” It includes a number of measures affecting the agriculture sector, with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and increase carbon sequestration. This discussion paper addresses one of these measures: a national target to reduce absolute levels of GHG emissions arising from fertilizer application by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.

Background

Agriculture was responsible for approximately 10% of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2019, or 73 Mt CO2, which come from three main sources: enteric fermentation (24Mt), crop production (24Mt) , and on-farm fuel use (14Mt) (National Inventory Report, 2021.) Based on current data for 2019, emissions from synthetic fertilizers accounted for 12.75 Mt. While many players in the agriculture sector are already working to improve nutrient management and reduce emissions associated with crop production, fertilizers are responsible for a growing share of overall agricultural emissions.

Since the release of Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan, the Government of Canada has moved swiftly to implement its key aspects in order to create jobs, grow the economy and protect the planet. In April 2021, in line with its obligations under the Paris Agreement, the Government of Canada announced a new GHG emissions reduction target of 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030. This target, along with other developments such as the passage of the Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which enshrines in legislation Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions across the Canadian economy by 2050, highlights the need to reduce absolute GHG emissions across all economic sectors, including agriculture.

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This part is really interesting because it shows how fertilizer use is far more intense in Quebec and the Maritime provinces, though the bulk of the reductions will have to take place in Western Canada anyway.  You know, because.. even though western farmers use less, there are more of them so they actually use more, plus they’re farther away from Ottawa and have less representation per capita.. what was I saying?

Regional Variations

Fertilizer induced emissions are not spatially or temporally uniform across Canadian agricultural landscapes. The seasonal pattern of N2O emissions reflects the interaction between soil temperature, soil water and nitrate availability. Drier regions of the Prairies have much lower N2O losses than the moister regions of Eastern Canada. N2O emissions per hectare are greater in Eastern Canada as a result of the wetter climate and greater N application rates. However, the much larger land area in the Prairies vs. Eastern Canada results in greater total N fertilizer application in the Prairies and thus the total emissions are much higher in this region.

It is important to note that the strategies required to achieve the 30% N2O emission reduction objective will vary across the country as the emissions reduction potential is impacted by biophysical factors (soil type, soil humidity, climate), crop types, and climate change impacts.Footnote3

Figure 3 illustrates the differences between the fertilizer induced emissions patterns across the country, showing N2O emissions per hectare in 2018. The intensity of fertilizer emissions (emissions per ha) is higher east of Saskatchewan, indicating that more fertilizer is applied per hectare, resulting in more direct emissions on a per-acre basis. In addition, wetter conditions in the East result in more direct and indirect emissions.

Figure 3: Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions per hectare (2018)
Description of above image

Figure 3: Nitrous oxide emissions per hectare

Map of Canada showing the differences between the fertilizer induced emissions patterns across the country, showing kilograms of N2O emissions per hectare in 2018. The intensity of fertilizer emissions (emissions per ha) is higher east of Saskatchewan, indicating that more fertilizer is applied per hectare, resulting in more direct emissions on a per-acre basis. In addition, wetter conditions in the East result in more direct and indirect emissions. Figures range from 0 to over 2.0 KG of N2O-N /hectare. The highest concentrations are located in pockets of Western Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

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This part clearly explains how regions that use less fertilizer may be asked to cut back even more than regions using a lot more per capita, because.. because. Also it encourages farmers to stop pouring fertilizer out into the ditch and then grab a pinch and throw it over their right shoulder.

Objectives of the National Target for Fertilizer Emissions

In order to achieve a concrete reduction in overall emissions, the target is established relative to absolute emissions rather than emissions intensity. The Government of Canada has been clear that the objective of the national target for fertilizers is to reduce emissions, and that the primary method to achieve this is not to establish a mandatory reduction in fertilizer use that isn’t linked to improved efficiency and maintaining or improving yields. Rather, the goal is to maximize efficiency, optimize fertilizer use, encourage innovation, and to work collaboratively with the agriculture sector, partners and stakeholders in identifying opportunities that will allow us to successfully reach this target.

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OK. I don’t expect you were able to understand most of that. But they did their best to explain to those of us who aren’t as good as planning future world scenarios as they are. Now that you see the way our fearless leaders think, in the interest of journalistic integrity we’ll show you what one simple farmer thinks of being urged to use less fertilizer.  If you haven’t seen QDM before, please note he sometimes uses very descriptive adjectives (sometimes he turns them into verbs and nouns too) which might be a tad harsh for the younger folk. Please enjoy with a grain of salt and a malted beverage.

 

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Agriculture

Why are farmer protests sparking up around the world?

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From Michael Shellenberger on Substack

Dutch Farmers Revolt Against Green Elites

Even Mick Jagger is sympathetic

Zijn er ook boeren?” shouted Mick Jagger, in Dutch, into the microphone at a Rolling Stones concert in the Netherlands last week. “Are there any farmers in the house?”

Dutch farmers make for an unlikely cause célèbre. For starters, most are conservative, not liberal. And they are fighting against stricter environmental regulations, not for them.

Yet they are winning over liberal-minded people like me who sympathize with the family farmers who provide us with our daily bread and yet receive so little respect from society’s ruling elites.

And now they’re inspiring protests by other farmers across Europe, including in Germany, Poland and Italy. Along with the protests that brought down the government of Sri Lanka, they constitute a growing global revolt against green elites.

I have praised the current Dutch government for being sensible on matters like climate change. Last year it embraced nuclear energy, one of the first Western nations to do so since the 2011 Fukushima accident spooked the world.

But the government’s poor treatment of its farmers has shocked me. The prime minister recently called the protesting farmers “a – – holes,” and sniffed, “It is not acceptable to create dangerous situations.” And yet it was a Dutch police officer, not a farmer, who inexplicably fired on a 16-year-old boy driving a tractor. Luckily, he wasn’t injured.

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While nitrogen pollution worsens climate change, the government says its main motivation for reducing it is about protecting its nature areas. Scientists say that in 118 of 162 of the Netherlands’ nature preserves nitrogen deposits are 50% higher than they should be.

Without a doubt the Dutch should do more to protect their nature areas. The country produces four times more nitrogen pollution than the European average, due to its intensive animal agriculture.

The Netherlands is the largest exporter of meat in Europe and the second largest exporter of food overall after the United States, a remarkable feat for a nation half the size of Indiana. Food exports generate more than $100 billion a year in revenue. Experts attribute the nation’s success to its farmers’ embrace of technological innovation.

But even many on the political left say the government demands are too extreme, based on radical green fantasies and dodgy science. “It seems to be very fast,” saidWim de Vries, a professor at Wageningen University and Research who 10 years ago made alarmist claims about “planetary boundaries.”

What, exactly, is going on?

Michael Shellenberger is the author of “Apocalypse Never” and a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment.”

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The situation in Sri Lanka is even more volatile where food shortages are already affecting 1 in 5 people and threatening the majority of the remaining population. The situation this week turned extremely dangerous as massive crowds forced the President to resign.  More on that below.

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This news article from The New Indian Express was published back on June 18.

Sri Lanka’s agriculture minister forced to flee premises after being jeered by farmers: Report

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera on Saturday was jeered by a group of farmers who protested his visit to an agriculture-related programme in Tissamaharama, a town situated in the country’s southern province in Hambantota district, forcing him to flee the premises.

Amaraweera visited the Tissamaharama Divisional Secretariat on Saturday to attend an agriculture-related programme.

Upon his arrival, a group of angry locals, consisting mostly of farmers, gathered opposite the local government body and staged a protest, according to web portal newsfirst.lk.

When the minister attempted to inquire, chaos broke out forcing the minister to flee the premises, the report added.

Sri Lanka’s economic meltdown has taken a severe toll on the agricultural sector.

A blanket ban on the use of chemical fertilisers imposed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in April 2021 has caused a crippling blow to rice production in the country.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has predicted that by September this year, around four to five million out of the country’s 22 million population could be directly affected by food shortage.

In such a grim scenario, farmers across the island nation have been forced to abandon their fields.

Earlier this week, the Cabinet also approved a move to grant government officials one leave per week for the next three months to engage in agriculture to mitigate the approaching food crisis.

The Sri Lanka Army will also take part in a farming drive aimed at cultivating over 1,500 acres of barren or abandoned state land to multiply food production and avert any shortage in the future, newsfirst.lk reported.

Sri Lanka which is facing its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.

The economic crisis has led to an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas, fuel and toilet paper, with Sri Lankans being forced to wait in lines for hours outside stores to buy fuel and cooking gas.

The nearly bankrupt country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026.

Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

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This report from Aljazeera dated March 30, 2022 shows how this hunger crisis has been brewing for months.

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This week massive crowds stormed the Presidential Secretariat and then the Presidential House resulting in the President leaving the country and stepping down.

Here’s a report on the fall of the government from Sky News

 

 

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