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Biofuel Ethusiasm Problematic for Hog famers

by 5m Editor
5 May 2008, at 9:17am

CANADA - According to industry figures, when a hog farmer takes his hog to market, he suffers a loss of between $50 to $60 a hog, which, in a year's time, averages $300,000 to $360,000 in total net losses per farm.

"Our whole industry is in a crisis," says Jerry Gelderman, a Fraser Valley hog farmer and vice-chair of the B.C. Hog Marketing Commission.

He explains that in addition to normal price swings in pork markets, which currently are at a cyclical bottom, the strong Canadian dollar is also placing hardship on producers.

But the worst culprit, by far, according to the Province, is the use of wheat and corn to produce ethanol as an alternative to fossil fuels in motor vehicles. Gelderman says the cost to feed a hog over the five-month period from birth to market has increased by $38 over last year. That's a hike of about 50 per cent.

Costs for fuel, equipment, etc., are also increasing, but the price hog farmers now receive for their animals has fallen due to regular market forces. "We can usually adjust to the normal market cycles in our industry and to the higher Canadian dollar," Gelderman says.

"But the feed issue is now causing some farmers to get out of the business, and the only way we'll be able to adjust will be to pass these higher costs on to the consumer," he warns. "And it's government policies on ethanol that causes the most frustration," he adds.

It's not surprising, then, that many hog producers and others wonder why the federal and provincial governments actively push the use of food grains to produce ethanol when many non-food fibres such as wood waste (B.C.'s beetle-killed pine trees, for example) or even municipal garbage could be used.

View the Province story by clicking here.

5m Editor