The Sprout: Bibeau tests positive for COVID-19

Good day and welcome to the Sprout, where we hope you all had a restful holiday season full of laughter and good cheer. If your real tree is still lounging around and you’re not sure what to do with it, turns out the fir could make a tasty snack for goats. CBC News has more.

Here’s today’s agriculture news.

The Lead 

We start with a COVID-19 update. Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she has tested positive for COVID-19. In a tweet posted on Monday, Bibeau said she tested positive for the virus “despite spending the holiday season quietly at home” and plans to work virtually while she remains in isolation.

The federal agriculture minister said she is following all public health guidelines.

“My symptoms are mild,” Bibeau tweeted before urging people to get their COVID-19 vaccine. “I want to emphasize how important it is to get vaccinated and thank the health workers working hard to get us through this wave.”

In other COVID-19 related news, indoor dining is set to close in Ontario after the province announced new restrictions amid high COVID-19 case counts. As the Ottawa Citizen reports, restaurants in Ottawa say they are resigned to the fact they will likely lose more income because of the closures, with restauranteurs worried about the financial hit the latest round of restrictions could have on their staff.

Around Town 

Kenneth Knox, an Ontario farmer and former agriculture deputy minister for the province, has been named a member of the Order of Canada. Farms.com has more.

Knox was not the only Order of Canada inductee with an agricultural background. Canadian Federation of Agriculture President Mary Robinson’s parents John and Hazel Robinson were also named to the Order of Canada for their leadership within the Prince Edward Island farm community. You can read a profile of the Robinsons, courtesy of CBC News, here.

Bibeau offered her congratulations to Knox and the Robinsons on Twitter.

In data-related releases: Statistics Canada published data for food services and drinking places for October 2021 on Tuesday morning. You can find the release here.

In Canada 

Potato farmers in Prince Edward Island are heading into 2022 with a continued trade ban on exports of their spuds to the United States because of ongoing concerns from Americans about the potato wart fungus. As CBC News reports, three MPs from P.E.I. have written a letter to Bibeau asking the federal government to  “convey immediately” the results of a recent survey by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to her American counterparts.

You can read the full letter to Bibeau from the MPs here.

The CFIA released results of a national survey in late December that found no evidence of potato wart in 1,000 tested fields across Canada, including nearly 200 on P.E.I. CBC News has that story, too.

You can find the full press release from the CFIA on the national survey for potato wart here.

Moving to the west coast, residents of British Columbia’s Sumas Prairie region (a major agricultural hub), have filed a class action lawsuit alleging the province failed to adequately warn people about the impending flood disaster, which limited resident’s ability to save their belongings. Global News has more.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Press looks at how farmers in British Columbia have been coping with the extreme weather — from heat domes to floods to frigid temperatures — that affected their operations in 2021.

Manitoba Ag Days has been postponed after the province brought in new capacity restrictions in response to rising COVID-19 case counts. As Real Agriculture reports, the farm show was supposed to take place from Jan. 18 to Jan. 20 after being cancelled last year.

And CBC News looks at how dairy prices in Ontario are set to rise in 2022.


The Biden Administration has unveiled its plan to tackle the market power of giant conglomerates within the country’s poultry and meat processing sector. As Bloomberg reports, U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to “fight for fairer prices” for consumers and producers, with the administration noting four large meat-packing companies currently control about 85 per cent of the beef market.

“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism, it’s exploitation,” Biden said on Monday. “That’s what we’re seeing in meat and poultry.” As CNN reports, the plan includes an $1 billion investment to boost competition within the sector.

You can read a backgrounder document on the Biden administration’s plan published by the White House here.

Also from Bloomberg: how the Port of Oakland plans to open a new container yard to help ease a shipping space-crunch currently affecting agricultural exporters.

And, Modern Farmer shares the stories of LGBTQ+ farmers who are helping to reimagine American agriculture.


The Kicker

We end today with a tale that warmed our hearts on this chilly winter day. A pair of Abbotsford dairy farmers are collecting gift cards in order to help flood-affected families purchase warm clothing, groceries and other needed supplies. CBC News has that story.

Until tomorrow.

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