Monday, February 23, 2009

Not Quite My Point

I don't often write about my work, I don't want anyone to mistake my personal opinions for my company's position. So to be clear there is nothing official about this post.

I respect politicians and the media. It can be difficult for media to try to capture a story when they may not have a lot of background and when time is a precious commodity there may not be a chance to double check every fact. When a politician says, "that's not what I said," I'd say they're usually being honest. More than once I've read a newspaper column and said, "Umm . . . that's not quite what I meant."

I recently gave a presentation with an expert colleague at Ridgetown College about Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) requirements in the US. COOL is a source of endless frustration and seems to be functioning like a non-tariff trade barrier, but I'll spare you the details. Anyway, I just read a couple news articles and I thought I should clarify some points in case anyone cares. The first article captured the story pretty well:

O’Neil said the impact of the American legislation has meant fewer Canadian hogs being shipped to the U.S. In the fourth quarter of 2008, for example, 22,000 fewer Canadian hogs were being shipped every week.

“It’s the same impact as if one of the packing plants closed.”

He said the impact is greatest in Western Canada, but is still being felt by Ontario producers.

The only thing wrong with this bit is the numbers. I could have said 22,000, which would actually be low - but that number only referred to little pigs that are sent to be fed to market weight in the US. There were also about 50,000 fewer market hogs each week over the same period, with the majority of the reductions coming from Western Canada, that's what I meant when I referred to that being the same impact as a packing plant closing.

The second article got most of my quotes right, but sort of missed my point.

O’Neil touched on the issue of the exchange rate, and said it can make or break your balance sheet when shipping to the U.S. Despite that volatility, however, he said producers owe it to themselves to consider marketing their hogs to the U.S.

No, I didn't say that part about farmers owing it to themselves to consider selling pigs to the US - at least I didn't intend to. We had been invited to provide an update on the COOL rules and to talk about selling pigs into the US. In the presentation I was just trying to answer the question that was asked. If I could summarize my message it was high freight costs means it usually means it's better to keep your pigs local and that the new rules are making it even harder to export pigs, but some opportunities still exist. To me the article sounded like I was selling those opportunities and that certainly wasn't my intent.


Emily said...

Hello Patrick.
My name is Emily Jeffrey, and I am a relative of yours on the O'Neil side. My boyfriend (Matthew) and I are currently attending Ridgetown college, and we have a project in the Marketing and Policy course, and our topic is Ontario Pork. Part of the paper is supposed to be an interview with someone from the marketing board. I was just wondering if you could answer a couple questions via e-mail for us. It would be greatly appreciated.

We were at the Pork Conference this past Wednesday, but you left before we had a chance to talk to you.

I hope to talk to you soon,


If you get this, can you please contact me at

Patrick O'Neil said...


Of Course - I'll email you. Sorry about missing you. We were nervous about the weather so we left just before dinner. Good thing to there was a lot of snow beyond Woodstock and the roads were very slippery.