LETTER FROM ONTARIO
Worth watching in 2005
While not necessarily the top headlines of 2004, these stories are likely to keep us guessing well into the New Year

Farm & Countryside Commentary by Elbert van Donkersgoed

Editor's NOTE

Elbert van Donkersgoed is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Canada. CFFO is supported by 4,500 family farmers across the province of Ontario.

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January 11, 2005: The Asian Tsunami will force new thinking into global disaster readiness and response. The discovery of mad cow disease in North America 19 months ago created an elaborate rule-making process in the US that has the potential of taking down some of the barriers to Canadian beef by March 7. Big events. Headline news. Drivers of change.

As the 2004 calendars head for the recycling bin, there will be scores of small events, back-page stories--one blip on a radar screen--never to be thought of again. With some exceptions... Here are a few I’ll be watching in 2005.

  • Ocean freight rates spike in 2004 to more than double their previous high during the energy crisis of the early 70s. Soaring fuel prices are only part of the explanation. China is sucking in large quantities of raw materials, steel, coal, scrap iron, wood, half the world’s cement. Older single-hulled ships are being pressured out of service by insurance surcharges. There aren’t enough ships to go round. Can high freight rates be passed on to the customers of low cost food?
  • Fighting obesity in schools makes headline news in 2004. Soda pop or “liquid candy” and other so-called “bad foods” are getting the boot from schools and other spots frequented by children and teenagers. Little noticed were the stories about food and beverage manufacturers who would like to help improve nutrition but are stymied by labeling rules. They have become eager to fortify pop with calcium and other good things. But health claims on foods and drinks that have little nutritional value are a no-no. The manufacturers want the rules changed. Their argument goes like this: Kids and teenagers drink pop and eat candy. We know how to fortify and enrich foods and drinks. Why not allow us to add a few nutrients to what kids and teens are already consuming – and allow us to label this and open up a whole new market?
  • Iowa cattle toast to their health. The cattle on a dozen farms in Cedar Rapids, Iowa liked their feed a lot better in 2004. Their feed had an additive chock full of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and amino acids. More accurately--their feed was spiked. A local beer distributor ran into trouble with a large quantity of beer. The shelf life had expired. A local feed dealer accepted the offer of free beer and in turn offered the beer as an additive to the feed delivered to his customers. According to the news bite, one of the ranchers buying beer-spiked feed noted that the cattle like the beer so much that they hesitate to eat when offered feed lacking it.

 

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