In Brief… – for Sep. 9, 2010

Contractor dies in fall at greenhouse:An electrical contractor has died of injuries in a fall at Vanderveens’ Greenhouses, a major bedding plant and potted plant operation west of Carman, RCMP reported. The contractor, a 58-year-old man, was on a ladder propped up against a pole where he was unhooking hydro lines on the morning of Aug. 24; the man and ladder fell when the pole supporting the ladder broke, RCMP said. Workplace Safety and Health is investigating the incident, they added. Manufacturer’s CEO faces cancer treatment:Rob Stenson, CEO of Winnipeg-based grain-handling equipment firm Ag Growth International, has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment, the company reported Sept. 1. Stenson said he plans to continue in his roles and responsibilities, but expects to be “somewhat limited” in the time he can devote to them. The company’s nine manufacturing divisions include grain auger maker Westfield Industries of Rosenort and, most recently, Finnish grain dryer maker Mepu Oy. Organic crop brain trust funded:The federal government on Sept. 1 pledged $6.5 million for a research “cluster” dedicated to organic farming, with focus placed on soil fertility, grain cropping, greenhouse production and food processing. The Organic Federation of Canada will manage the fund, meant to bring together scientific expertise from academia, industry and government. The Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada has raised an industry contribution of $2.2 million for the project. Single 30-foot food item seeks name:The Melita and Area Tourism Committee is spearheading a contest to find the perfect names: one for the town’s new landmark, a 30-foot, 6,200-pound banana, and the other for the blue jay perched in the banana’s hand. The contest is open to entries from everyone and anyone until Sept. 30, with entry forms available at or at various Melita businesses. The banana and blue jay were picked to represent Melita’s status as one of the warmest areas (the “banana belt”) in the province, and the area’s favoured status among avid birdwatchers.

CWB funds U of M fusarium work:Chami Amarasinghe of the University of Manitoba will get $58,000 over three years toward her study of new strains of fusarium that appear to produce higher levels of the DON mycotoxin, and whether fungicides can have an impact on DON production. She aims to uncover the “genetic basis” of the shift and how the new strains affect wheat plants. Her grant, announced Sept. 1, is funded by the Canadian Wheat Board’s postgraduate awards program. Stefanie Fryza, a U of M agricultural economics student, will get $25,000 from the CWB to study farmer marketing strategies. FCC backs farm safety work:Charitable or not-for-profit organizations providing safety training related to agriculture may qualify for funding from the new $100,000 FCC Ag Safety Fund, Farm Credit Canada said last week. Applications will be accepted from Sept. 13 until Oct. 27. The fund is meant to help groups deliver safety training to farmers in Canada or to help train those who’ll train others. Proposed projects with a local or provincial scope can get up to $10,000 in funding, while those with a national scope can get up to $25,000. Longer Russian ban spurs volatility:Russia’s plan to extend its grain export ban destabilizes markets but does not mean a repeat of the 2007-08 food crisis, a United Nations economist said Friday. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin puzzled analysts when he said Sept. 2 the export ban, expected to last to the end of this year, will be extended until late 2011. Abdolreza Abbassian of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization told Reuters he still hoped there was “something lost in translation,” and hoped Putin meant to say the ban could be extended if Russia’s drought situation worsened. China seeks help in PotashCorp play:Alberta’s public-sector fund management firm says it’s been approached by Chinese sovereign wealth funds and others about participating in a takeover bid for Saskatchewan’s PotashCorp, to rival a $39-billion hostile offer from major mining firm BHP Billiton. AIMCo CEO Leo de Bever said Sept. 2 a “variety of parties” have approached the fund manager, but participating in a deal at this point is unattractive to AIMCo. The cost of capital for Chinese sovereign wealth funds is a lot lower than for a Canadian pension fund or fund manager, he said.

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