Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ottawa offers nothing new for distressed hog farmers

The federal government has announced its plans to help hog farmers weather their worst financial crisis in decades, and there’s no new money or programs.

After striking a hog industry task force and holding meetings for more than a month, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is simply pointing to existing programs and inviting hog farmers to tap into that money.

That includes AgriInvest accounts, where hog farmers have $31 million available, interim payments from AgriStability and cash advances of up to $400,000 per farm.

In addition to the crippling-high feed costs that impact all hog farmers across North America, Canadians face additional price-depressing pressure from the United States’ Country-of-Origin Labeling regulations and a Canadian dollar that’s above par with the United States.

Jean-Guy Vincent, chairman of the Canadian Pork Council, said “the work of the Hog Industry Task Team will continue as it explores ways to increase sector competitiveness in the mid to long term.”

The federal government and the Canadian Pork Council are wary of government subsidies that could trigger a severe reaction from U.S. producers who have, in the past, several times persuaded the U.S. government to impose crippling countervailing duties.

The damage to Canadian hog farmers was done before those countervailing duties were overturned.