Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pig Farmers Need Help Now

Owen Roberts had an excellent piece in the Guelph Mercury Monday. It's worth reading the whole article, but it starts off especially strong:

Canada's economy has traditionally relied on manufacturing and natural resources, particularly forestry and agriculture. So when the global recession hit, Ottawa started coming through with support. The auto sector teetered on the brink of collapse; Canadians shelled out $10 billion. Then last week, forestry received $1 billion.

And as for agriculture -- especially the export-dependent pork industry, which has been ravaged through no fault of its own by the economic crisis, a strong Canadian dollar, trade restrictions, and the ill-named swine flu (H1N1) -- well, it's still waiting.

That's baffling. Canada's pork producers are struggling, and it seems as if they're encountering more brick walls than support.

The Canadian pork industry generally, and the Ontario pork industry specifically, are efficient, modern and productive providing safe and healthy food for Canada and the world. The industry is constantly reinventing itself with a recent emphasis on traceability and animal welfare. Producers are also responsive to market signals with Ontario's breeding herd decreasing by nearly 20% since it's recent peak in 2004 as producers responded to low returns that were driven first by a strengthening Canadian dollar and then by high feed costs driven by US ethanol policy and high oil prices.

The most recent shock to the industry has come on the trade front through American Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) legislation and now loss of access to key export markets because of the H1N1 impact. Hog prices are close to $50 per head less than would have been predicted by futures markets before H1N1 hit the news at the end of April, so hog farmers are losing everything during a time when the industry was predicting a return to profitability.

Now it's not just pig farmers at risk, suppliers such as feed mills, trucking companies, and genetics suppliers have already had to downsize with more losses possible. Hog processing facilities, and other food production businesses like bacon and ready made sandwiches will soon be threatened by a lack of supply. Prices to consumers could shoot up dramatically and we may become dependant on US pork imports, which have less stringent health regulations.

An immediate cash hog payment will help the industry right size and emerge from this current crisis even stronger. Unfortunately the Federal Agriculture Minister doesn't seem willing to help. As Mr Roberts said, "That's baffling."


mark said...

I try to help by buying as many pork products as possible.

Patrick O'Neil said...

Mark your a good man. Probably quite healthy too.

JoAnne Caughill said...

Thanks Patrick for supporting the Cdn Pork Producers with your blog and info.

We need all the support we can get.

It is important for everyone to know that we are at risk of losing an whole industry. These past few weeks of poor markets are likely the straw on the camel's back for alot of producers after having come through PRRS, circ-virus, high Cdn. Dollar, high input costs, low markets and NOW the misnamed H1N1 virus.

I believe Cdn. want their food produced locally including their pork products - but they are at risk of losing it, if the Gov't continues to ignore the real situation out here.

Government Officials will lead everyone to believe they have programs in place - but these programs are not working (not getting the money out to producers)

We need every person to contact their Federal and Provincial Government Representatives on behalf of this food industry - the Cdn. Pork Producers - and tell the Government that they want these Producers supported with immediate Gov't money to sustain them through these troubling times.

If anyone reading this wishes to do so, needs more information or contact numbers, they may contact me at
or (I'm sure) Ontario Pork Office in Guelph.

Thanks again Patrick,
JoAnne Caughill
Palm Creek Pork Inc.