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Don't help hog farmers

The province should not help the hog farmers. On a personal level, I have much sympathy for any business that runs into financial difficulties, but to compare the hog business to crop farming is a big stretch.

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Hog producers were making large profits in Manitoba and embarked on an epic path of expansion, investing in massive new production capacity. Now, there is a surplus of hogs and downward pressure on pricing, simply brought on by too much capacity.

This is very different than crop farming where Mother Nature plays havoc with crops and can easily wipe out a farmer with an early frost, flood or the like.

If we bail out hog farmers, what about the new and booming oil industry in southwest Manitoba? Should we help them out if oil prices plummet and their costs rise?

The hog farmers' plight is one of building too much capacity, causing falling prices. This government must stay out of free markets that are affected by man-made supply and demand in contrast with crop destruction that occurs with crop farmers.

This issue will resolve itself only with the elimination of capacity. It is OK for businesses to fail.

I have faith in the ingenuity of Manitobans to find other businesses and markets to go into.

David Gurvey

Winnipeg

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Re: Hog industry needs to root out its own fix (Sept. 18). The article by Sylvain Charlebois should have outlined three major factors contributing most to the travails of the livestock industry here (hogs, poultry, cattle and sheep).

First, the U.S. ethanol program introduced a few years ago by the U.S. Congress now consumes about 40 per cent of the total corn crop (annual production between 10 and 12 billion bushels) to help make the U.S. self-sufficient in energy. The U.S. uses about 40 per cent of the total corn production for livestock production as well.

Second, the very serious drought that hit the corn belt in the U.S. this year reduced the supply of corn by perhaps 20 per cent. This pushed up corn prices to a high of about $8 per bushel, about double last year's. The cost of corn pushed up the cost of wheat, barley, oats, soybeans and canola accordingly as substitutability is a major factor in livestock feeding.

Third, the so-called COOL program introduced by the U.S. Congress a few years ago meant that all imported meat or meat products must be labelled as such. This has been fought tooth and nail by all of Canada's pork associations, and has been ruled as a serious impediment to free trade by the World Trade Organization. It will take some time to get rid of this program especially in an election year. In the meantime, hog producers in Canada have to take lower prices. This was not of their doing. The beef industry faces the same problem.

The fundamental issue is not efficiency of production because Manitoba's hog industry is probably the most efficient in North America. The answer to pig problems is not at home; it lies with the U.S. Congress. The difficulties here are enormous. Ask Canadian lumber producers.

Cam Brown

Winnipeg

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Where is it written or promised that when a business venture expands to a state of collapse, taxpayers are on the hook to bail them out? Kicking in more money to help the hog producers now might be the easiest solution for now, but should the public keep donating into this huge basket with a very large hole? Has the public purse now become the public trough?

The question needs an answer: Is this a sustainable industry?

For the past 13 or more years, amid the anger, frustrations and anxiety of rural residents, the Manitoba hog industry, with the blessings of provincial and municipal governments, has built huge hog-producing factories nearly anywhere that suited them. They were warned that this uncontrolled growth would eventually burst and the truth is that is exactly what happened. They themselves have been victimized by their gluttony.

About four years ago the Manitoba Pork Council (MPC) was busy spending producers' money on advertising that complained about restrictions and threatening court action to sue the Manitoba government. Today it's a much different picture.

The hog industry is important and has a future in Manitoba, but to succeed it must change its attitude. It must adhere to environmental considerations and a recognition of dealing with the realities of economics. There needs to be an acceptance of responsibility.

And most importantly, changes to the factory style of raising hogs are foremost. Even Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn has assured us that "morally the province doesn't agree with sow stalls."

John Fefchak

Virden

Hugh John defended

My talented colleagues at Dalnavert (Theatrical romp, Sept. 13) have given a faulty impression of Hugh John Macdonald: "But they want to show some of the unsavoury aspects of Macdonald, such as his heavy drinking (despite his pro-prohibition stance)."

In fact, during the electoral campaign of 1900 and the subsequent passage of the Macdonald Act limiting the liquor trade, Macdonald "took the pledge". He was not, as implied, a hypocrite. No sauce for the goose? No sauce for the gander.

Mary Steinhoff

Tour guide

Dalnavert Museum

 

Job cuts will hurt

Nearly 1,500 people at Human Resources Canada have been notified that their jobs may be cut -- this after more than 18,000 have already received similar notices, and deeper cuts are being studied. The government has insisted that the general public won't notice the results of the cuts.

There is at present a five-month backlog in processing applications for the old-age supplement. I can't imagine how staff cuts there will not make things worse.

Peter Lacey

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 A16

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