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In Brief… – for May. 5, 2011

First quarter:Maple Leaf Foods Inc., passed on rising food costs to consumers in the first quarter and posted a higher profit April 28. Maple Leaf said its profit margins on prepared meats rose because of its price increases, although it also reported some volume declines. The company, which sells its products under such brands as Schneider and Dempster’s, said it plans to keep raising prices this year as food inflation will continue to be a factor. Maple Leaf’s first-quarter net earnings fell to $10.5 million from $19.9 million in the year-before quarter. Harder hit:Food price hikes are hitting Africa’s urban populations harder now than in 2008 and pose a serious challenge to some of the continent’s leaders facing elections this year, a World Bank official said. Food prices are currently 36 per cent higher than levels this time last year and near peaks from 2008, according to the World Bank.

“This time, because it is a more broadly based price increase, because it brings in fuel prices as well, the impact is more urban based,” Karen Brooks, the bank’s Africa agriculture sector manager, told Reuters. Derailed:CN Rail was busy mopping up after two train derailments April 29 and 30 affecting its main line near St. Lazare, Man. and near Mowat, Ont.

The Manitoba incident spilled 23 container cars off the tracks. None were loaded with hazardous materials. The line was reopened by late in the day April 30. Investigations into the derailments are continuing. – Staff On guard:The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association has complained to the Commissioner of Canada Elections about pre-election radio ads calling on voters to support MPs who support the Canadian Wheat Board. The association says the ad does not clearly identify who is behind it, as required under the Elections Act, although it cites a website that links it to the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance. The WCWGA also says the alliance is not registered as a third party, as is required by any group spending $500 or more in election advertising expenses.

– Staff Arson charges laid:Two

western Manitoba men have been charged with arson in connection with a fire in Feb. 2010 that destroyed the historical Lake-of-the-Woods Milling Co. elevator in Fleming, Sask. Joey Michael Yates, 20, of Oak Lake and Charles Victor Dron, 22, of Miniota were held in custody until their first appearance in Yorkton Provincial Court May 2.

An RCMP investigation is continuing. Officials say more arrests may be pending.

– Staff Law upheld:The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a provincial law in Ontario that prevents agricultural workers from engaging in collective bargaining. The ruling means that under the Agricultural Employee’s Protection Act (AEPA), farm workers can be part of an employees’ association, but one organization cannot engage in collective bargaining for all of a company’s workers.

Justice Rosalie Abella dissented, noting other provinces grant such rights to farm workers and that there was no evidence that the nature of farming justifies restricting workers’ rights. – Staff Latest PROs:Wheat markets’ upward shift on weather-related issues have carried wheat values with them in the Canadian Wheat Board’s latest new-crop pool return outlook (PRO). Wheat values in the April 2011-12 PRO range from unchanged to up $16 per tonne from March levels, while durum is up between $4 and $11 per tonne. Meanwhile, with supply-and-demand dynamics for the 2010-11 marketing year remaining largely unchanged, wheat and durum values have slipped in the latest PROs. Wheat values range from up $2 to down $3 per tonne; durum is mostly down $2 per tonne. – Staff Stabilized:Canada’s hog-breeding herd appears to have stabilized after a steady decline that began in the second quarter of 2007 and continued until the first quarter of 2010, Statistics Canada says. As of April 1, sow inventory remained virtually unchanged at 1.3 million head, down only 0.2 per cent from a year earlier, and down 5.1 per cent from the same date in 2009. Canadian farmers had an estimated 11.8 million hogs on their farms, up 1.4 per cent from the same date in 2010, despite a 3.5 per cent reduction in the number of hog operations. – Staff Flood fight:A U.S. court has given the Army Corps of Engineers permission to blow up a Mississippi River levee to prevent flooding in Cairo, Illinois as permitted by a 1928 law. Cairo, a historic town of 2,800 people, is at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Both rivers are rising and the town has been evacuated. The state of Missouri had sued to stop the Corps plan, arguing that blowing up the levee would flood 130,000 acres of farmland. The states of Illinois and Kentucky said their states could face flooding if the levee were not blown up.

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