Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NDP not backing hog sector: producers

Jobs at risk at big plants, provincial group says

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BRANDON -- The chairman of the Manitoba Pork Council says jobs at Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon and HyLife Foods in Neepawa are threatened due to the Selinger government's lack of support for the hog industry.

"We have some very large hog plants in Manitoba who depend on a certain number of hogs, and if the number of hogs drops too much it puts a lot of jobs at risk," council chairman Karl Kynoch said Friday.

Kynoch is disappointed the government chose not to support the hog producer association's Stabilization Program -- a $75-million infusion into the industry to help producers who are incurring huge losses due to a sagging pork market.

Kynoch said that if, for example, a producer was losing $30 per hog, the program would loan the farmer $20 to lessen the effect of the loss. The loan would then be repaid by the producer every time he sold a hog in the future.

The pork council would collect a $5 levy moving forward on all hogs sold by the producer until the loan was repaid.

The council needed the province to co-sign the loan, something Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn refused to do earlier this week.

The decision will force some producers to leave the pork industry, Kynock said.

"The more farmers you lose, the more pigs you lose and the more pressure you put on the whole industry and jobs in the province. The spinoff from the plants is huge and it would have a big economic impact."

According to the pork council, pork producers contribute more than $750 million to the provincial economy annually and provide more than 13,000 jobs.

"We've had a lot of producers phone us trying to access capital so they can feed their pigs and pay their wages,"àKynoch said.

A spokeswoman for Kostyshyn acknowledged the industry has had a tough time recently due to a number of variables, but said there are already measures in place to protect producers from volatile marketplaces.

"While the province continues to work with the Manitoba Pork Council on possible solutions, their recent proposal is too much of a financial risk during these uncertain economic times,"àElizabeth Soto said. "With another flood on the way, any request for support above the programs already offered must be critically reviewed."

Progressive Conservative agriculture critic Ralph Eichler said the government's decision is a clear indication of its lack of support for the hog industry in the province.

"It really does show how much the NDP cares about helping producers in Manitoba when all pork processors needed was a signature and they get rejected," Eichler said. "This failure to sign a form could have far-reaching impacts on the whole industry and hurts Manitoba's ability to compete in business."

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 6, 2013 B3

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