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TOP 10 of '12: Single desk out, beef packer down, tractor in deep

If you'd put down bets in late 2011 to predict the most-viewed Daily News stories of 2012 on AGCanada.com, you likely wouldn't have lost money on what turned out to be the No. 1 story.

But let's be honest: in the second spot, who here expected to see quite so much No. 2?

One of the top stories was a foregone conclusion. The 2011 election of a federal Conservative majority all but sealed the fate of the Canadian Wheat Board's single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley. While the Tories' Bill C-18 spawned a long line of court challenges, the bill's overhaul of the CWB into a new Prairie grain marketer, rebranded as "CWB," began as planned in August 2012.

That's not to say all the news about sweeping changes in Prairie grain handling would make the Top 10. Glencore's friendly takeover of Viterra, for example, meandered through much of 2012 awaiting federal and foreign approvals. Of course, it would have taken up several spots if we'd had the time to write up a Top 25 list.

Out of all that's happened in 2012, what do you make of your fellow readers' choices below? Out of all the stories you've read on our sites, were there any that should have made bigger waves? Should the stories below have made smaller waves? Discuss in the comment box below.

1. Man. court rejects ex-CWB directors' bid to halt C-18,
Feb. 24, 2012

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's Bill C-18, which deregulated the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk, withstood a legal challenge at Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench, where eight former CWB directors sought an injunction in December 2011 to stop the bill from taking effect. Justice Shane Perlmutter's ruling deflated the ex-directors' case, describing it as "weak" with little that would favour granting an injunction on the basis of either "irreparable harm" or the "balance of convenience." On the matter of "irreparable harm," he wrote, it was "far from clear that producers' incomes will be adversely affected" if the single desk were deregulated. Nor, he said, was it shown that Prairie farmers would be harmed if "deprived of CWB elected directors."

2. Man. manure pile heated up by hot tractor,
June 5, 2012

Cases of missing crops, livestock and equipment pop up on local and regional news sites year-round, but the recovery of these missing goods was a story made for the internet. A 2009-model Case IH Steiger 485 tractor, which vanished in 2010 from a business northwest of Winnipeg, wound up "buried underneath a 12- to 15-foot manure pile" on a rural property in Manitoba's Interlake, RCMP reported. Two people were to appear in court in July to answer to related charges, and the case hasn't yet been resolved so far as we know. But when confronted with such a headline in the Daily News feed, really, how could any farmer resist clicking on it? The Mounties even provided pictures of the recovery, such as it was, in progress.

3. Longshot MP named NDP's deputy ag critic,
April 20, 2012

An assistant manager at an Ottawa pub, and a "parachute" candidate for the NDP in a Quebec riding in the 2011 federal election, Ruth Ellen Brosseau was such a longshot that it probably shouldn't have mattered when she kept to a pre-scheduled vacation trip to Las Vegas during the campaign. That is, until the NDP caught a wave of sudden popularity in Quebec and rode it into official Opposition status. Brosseau found herself in an NDP caucus widely mocked for youth and inexperience. Her Vegas trip and limited French made post-election national headlines. But with the luxury of a bigger shadow cabinet, the NDP gave Brosseau the chance to build up experience behind Malcolm Allen in the ag portfolio, where she remains today.

4. Massive beef recall seen unlikely to rattle buyers,
Oct. 2, 2012

When one of Canada's biggest beef plants has to shut down temporarily to deal with issues stemming from a massive E. coli-related meat recall, there's no doubt that the loss of a major buyer will weigh on cattle prices. However, market observers didn't expect the recall and shutdown to have a lingering impact on beef demand. It's well known that E. coli on meat can be killed with thorough cooking, and besides, "knowledgeable people realize this is something that can plague the industry," Kevin Grier told Reuters reporter Rod Nickel.

5. Pork sector reeling as hidden-camera footage goes national,
Dec. 10, 2012

Typically a spycam is good for a few embarrassing seconds of grainy video to support a day or two of news stories -- but in this case there was enough footage from an Interlake hog barn to sustain a segment on CTV's W5. Manitoba's hog producer group granted that some of the goings-on in the hidden-camera video, compiled by the Canadian arm of U.S. group Mercy for Animals, don't conform to industry code and should be investigated. However, Manitoba Pork Council president Karl Kynoch told the Manitoba Co-operator's Shannon VanRaes, "you have to remember that video was taken over a three-month period and heavily edited."

 6. Ritz previews three new 'Agri-' programs,
Dec. 7, 2012

The federal Conservatives' sequel to the five-year Growing Forward ag policy funding framework will introduce three new characters: AgriInnovation, AgriMarketing and AgriCompetitiveness, all of whom will be seen mainly on the outside of the farm gate. Commodity groups that provide support for R+D and market development lined up to hail the advance notice on the new programs, which Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz previewed in early December.

7. Canadian cattle, sheep, goats cleared for Philippines,
Jan. 24, 2012

Closed to live Canadian ruminants since BSE was confirmed in an Alberta cow in 2003, the Philippines reopened in January for imports of live Canadian cattle, sheep and goats. The total market for such imports is relatively small, at less than $10 million per year, but Canada's exporters "now have the ability to compete for sales" there, the government said.

8. Wheat disease: Is it aster yellows or fusarium?,
Aug. 13, 2012

Known and loathed for its impact on Canada's canola crop in 2012, aster yellows can also be a wheat disease, easy to confuse with fusarium head blight, according to Saskatchewan soil scientist and long-time Grainews columnist Les Henry. Late in the season though it may have been, there was still time to scout crops for disease, he wrote.

9. Agrium refuses investor demand to spin off retail,
Aug. 15, 2012

After buying UAP in 2008 and Australia's AWB in 2010, Calgary-based fertilizer giant Agrium became the world's top player in ag retail -- a segment which now makes up about 30 per cent of its total earnings. In 2012, the company announced plans to build its ag retail muscle in Western Canada and Australia by buying grain handler Viterra's chain of outlets, pending approval from federal competition watchdogs. Shareholder Jana Partners, however, says Agrium would do better to spin off its retail wing now. The activist investor alleges Agrium's current board lacks the chops to run the retail business effectively.

10. AgReader Mobile now available for Android phones,
March 3, 2012

We'll take this unexpected opportunity for some shameless self-promotion. AgReader Mobile is the series of smartphone apps for the Farm Business Communications family of publications. It's available not only through the Android Market but also at Apple's App Store and BlackBerry App World, as well as online at AgReader.ca.


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