Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is mug-wumping (sitting on
the fence) on the ethanol issue.
Livestock and poultry producers know that drought has driven
feed costs higher. Hog producers are in particular peril, already losing money
on market hogs because feed prices have risen so high.
The livestock producers point to ethanol production as a key
reason why prices have risen so high.
The main issue is ethanol requirements in the United States
where nine per cent of gasoline needs to be ethanol this year. That will take
at least 40 per cent of the corn harvest.
Canadian feed prices will track U.S. prices, pretty much
regardless of whether we suspend our federal requirement for five per cent
ethanol in gasoline.
But there’s another reason for Ritz to dither. The Canadian
Renewable Fuels Association, which has strong backing from Ontario corn
producers, claims ethanol is not responsible for rising food prices and claims
that livestock producers get plenty of feed value from what’s left after
Last week Rick Bergman, chairman of both the Canadian and
Manitoba pork councils, said a task force would soon be announced to tackle the
drought stress on hog producers.
But then he went on to point to high feed costs as the
single reason why hog farmers are facing doom.
So if Ritz appoints a task force for the hog industry, he
can fully expect it to highlight high feed costs as the main issue.
And we’re close to the time when all those hog barns that
were emptied for three years to collect a federal subsidy will be eligible to
come back into production. Nothing’s been said about that. Nothing at all.
So far Ritz hasn’t even persuaded his cabinet colleagues to
enter the meat market to try to bolster pork prices. The United States is
spending $170 million to buy meat and another $100 worth is being purchased in
advance for the defense forces.
Surely Ritz could at least announce the purchase of some
Canadian pork to feed all those extra prisoners the Harper government is
holding in jails across the nation.