Sunday, July 19, 2009

Farmers aren’t living high on the hog

Pork producers protest in a bid to get financial help from province, feds

Niagara This Week - Friday, July 17, 2009


In amongst the tourists, about 50 beginning hog farmers and their families found themselves marching around Simcoe Park in Niagara-on-the-Lake, urging the federal and provincial governments to help them save their farms.

“We’ve been hit by a ‘perfect storm,’” said rally organizer Teresa De Wetering, a hog producer from Stratford. “There was circo-virus in 2006, high feed costs, low prices, U.S. country of origin labelling, the recession and now H1N1, which has nothing to do with the pork we eat.”

Because of these factors, many hog farmers in Ontario are so far in debt, they are on the brink of losing their farms, said De Wetering.

De Wetering said beginning farmers – those who either started a farm or switched from contract to full-ownership production after 2004 – are some of the hardest hit.

The federal and provincial governments have created programs, like the Ontario Cattle Hog and Horticulture Payment and Cost of Production, aimed at aiding hog farmers, but De Wetering said these programs are based on a producer’s historical production data, which beginning farmers like her don’t have.

The rally was held in Niagara-on-the-Lake to coincide with the July 8 Federal, Provincial and Territorial Agricultural Ministers Meeting attended by Ontario Agricultural Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

In a statement, Dombrowsky’s office said, “The government provided $150 million in assistance to Ontario hog, cattle and horticulture producers last spring.” The money was given as a one-time payment to producers “most affected by low prices and high costs.”

Dombrowsky’s office said the money was given to producers based on Cost of Production and the Ontario Cost Recognition Top-up payment data.

The statement also said the ministers “discussed the situation of the pork industry and how programming is responding.” They also heard proposals from the Canadian Pork Council.

According to the Ontario Pork Producers’ Marketing Board, there are 36 hog producers in the Niagara region, who were responsible for 83,630 hogs marketed in 2008.

Smithville producer John Sikkens, Jr. said he and his father don’t qualify for government assistance payments.

“We switched from dairy 10 years ago,” he said. Although he had previously been farming with his father, he got married three years ago and started his own hog farm. Together, he and his father, John Sr., have 4,200 finishing hogs.

“The pig income isn’t covering our mortgage,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my parents, we would have been broke already.”

John Sr. is considered an established farmer, but also attended the rally. He has been farming full-time since 1963 and said he’s never seen the industry fall so low.

“No year has ever been this bad,” he said. “Times are tough. Last year we lost $70,000 on hogs.”

Blogger's Note:

While I usually feel sorry for anyone who is hard hit during these times of economic "uncertainty", I find it hard to sympathize with the "producers" of domestic animals destined for slaughter.

Aside from the fact that a number of these hog farmers are newcomers to the business - raising hogs for as short a time as 3 years - yet expect the government to bail them out as if they are due some special treatment, what really browns me off (to use my mother's expression) is that my tax dollars are going to subside animal killers.

Why should I have to support an industry that I am ethically and morally opposed to with every fiber of my being; an industry that commits atrocious acts of violence against other living creatures each and every day and reduces them to commodities, inanimate objects, production units while butchering and disassembling their bodies to become bacon, ham and pork chops?

I chose to live a vegan lifestyle because I am against such needless exploitation and destruction. Why should I be forced to assist the exploiters and destroyers?

If business is so bad, get out of it. Find a profession that doesn't cause so much suffering and torment. Invest in something that celebrates and promotes life, instead of peddling in misery and death.

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