National pork organization offers sector needed boost

It took years to get government on board with a national pork agency, but last week the long-standing request from producers came true.

The Canadian Pork Promotion and Research Agency is a welcome entity that will allow Canadian pork producers to better leverage producer checkoffs, charge a levy on pork coming into Canada and fund research to promote and protect the industry into the future.

The levy is a matter of fair play, as well. As it stands, when Canadian product exports to the United States, the American industry collects a checkoff. On the flip side, Canadian producers did not have the legal ability to do the same on American imports.

Canadian producers were, in effect, helping American farmers with their marketing and research costs.

With establishment of the agency, levies can be applied in Canada and funds can be used for vital industry efforts including prevention and/or handling of African swine fever, should it ever reach North America.

We can continue to hope ASF is held at bay but researchers have indicated it’s likely just a matter of time until the disease arrives. While it is not a risk to people, ASF can devastate markets, production and farm profitability. Communications between grower groups and the public will be essential to maintain faith in Canadian pork and the industry, and that will cost money.

So will market promotion, now and in the event of an outbreak. In that case, every dollar will be needed to support information campaigns to protect the nearly $5 billion in farmgate pork receipts that will be at risk.

The Farm Products Agencies Act, a federal agriculture statute, has been around in some form since 1972. It is the legislative basis for supply management agencies such as Dairy Farmers of Canada, many poultry industry groups and more recently, Canada’s beef check-off agency.

The latter group now assembles more than $7 million annually from farmer and import checkoffs.

Provincial checkoffs, which fall under provincial legislation, have also been around for decades and are typically used to fund research, marketing and lobby efforts for the commodity involved.

Government advisers and the Farm Products Council of Canada recommended establishment of this new federal pork agency back in 2015. With continued encouragement from the Pork Value Chain Round Table, the federal government has finally heard and listened to the proposal.

Creating another body to provide promotion and research might sound like additional bureaucracy, but there is at least one good example that belies that inclination.

The Canadian Beef Cattle Checkoff Agency provides funding for the Beef Cattle Research Council and Canada Beef. Those organizations use their allocations to leverage money from industry and government, multiplying these investments.

This successful cluster approach is now in its third iteration, the Sustainable Beef and Forage Science Cluster, and is focused on marketing Canadian beef industry sustainability worldwide, with scientific research to support it.

While the cluster is just one project for the beef checkoff, its five-year, $21 million budget is made up from $5 million in producer funding, $14 million from the Canadian treasury via Agriculture Canada and $1.5 million in industry in-kind materials and animals.

The Canadian hog industry can look to the beef model for inspiration and to the federal and provincial governments for funds and co-operation in the rapid creation of the new agency. And to American hog producers to help pay the bills.

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen and Mike Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

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