Letters to the editor – October 29, 2020

Ontario farmers cannot be ignored

Kevin Hursh’s analysis on page 11 of the Oct. 15 Western Producer of the situation facing Ontario’s grain farmers blindsided by U.S. subsidies for its farmers amply demonstrates the dismissive attitude of too many people in Western Canada who know nothing about what it’s like to farm in the shadow of the U.S. corn belt, yet who insist on proving they have nothing to say.

We get infuriated when western Canadian farm journalists opine about there being limited evidence that U.S. grain subsidies are hurting Canadian grain farmers. For example, the only “subsidy” I received on my southwestern Ontario grain farm in 2019 was about $7 per acre from AgriInvest while farmers in many counties in Illinois, with the same heat units as many areas of southwestern Ontario, received over US$80 per acre from just one farm assistance program alone.

What’s worse is that Hursh tries to white-wash the situation by pointing out that “for most farmers in Western Canada, 2020 is going to be a good year.”

Hursh either doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that we in southwestern Ontario don’t give a rat’s patooie about Western Canada, nor should we. We care about what our counterparts in Michigan, sometimes only 15 minutes away from us, get in subsidies for open-border products. 

However, the bottom line is that western Canadians, especially farm journalists, need to stop pontificating about how southwestern Ontario grain farmers should be conducting their affairs.

Stephen Thompson,

Clinton, Ont.

Hog marketing board would be welcome

Re: “Desperate hog farmers explore all options” on page 1 of Oct.15 Western Producer.

According to news articles and George Matheson, chair of Manitoba Pork, many hog producers are still a long way from profitability. Now, Alberta is also contemplating change.

In 1972, under Premier Ed Schreyer, the Manitoba NDP provincial government created the Manitoba Hog Producers Marketing Board with single-desk selling powers.

Any packer who wanted to purchase hogs had to buy from the single-desk seller.

This collective bargaining power had been a long-standing demand of hog producers and enabled them to get better prices for their hogs.

The Filmon Progressive Conservative government removed this farmer-controlled market power in 1996 in order to lure Maple Leaf to set up a slaughter plant in Brandon.

Independent hog producers saw their profits disappear and almost all small, independent producers have stopped raising pigs.

Michael McCain’s meat packing plant and now Claude Vielfaures’s HyLife Foods Ltd. (now sold to offshore holdings) control what they pay to producers and heavily influence Manitoba Pork Council policy as both corporations each occupy a seat on the board of directors.

For obvious environmental and reasons of the “right of an individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property,” I am not a willing supporter of the factory type method of raising hogs.

A phosphorus regulation never existed in Manitoba until this industry came into being and was designed to accommodate the current polluting practices of industrial-style pig production, not protect surface water quality. It’s a troubling situation for our water resources and Lake Winnipeg.

Yet the taxpayers of Manitoba and Canada are continually being forced to subsidize the hog industry with money, environmental degradation and a reduced quality of life for rural Manitobans.

It seems to me that the three chairs of the Manitoba Pork Council — Marcel Hacault, Karl Kynock and George Matheson — have succumbed to the packing plants’ price control and willingly take from the public purse to keep the hog industry afloat.

Is there no incentive to bring back the once popular single-desk seller to relieve the taxpayers from this burden?

Pork prices at the grocery stores remain high and not faltering. Someone is making money, and it’s not hog producers.

John Fefchak,

Virden, Man.

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