Hog Producers Pay to Wait

by 5m Editor
5 May 2008, at 1:06pm

MANITOBA - The Winnipeg Free Press says: Manitoba's weanling pig producers are playing an expensive waiting game (it costs some of them thousands of dollars a week) while U.S. legislators put the finishing touches on this year's long-delayed American Farm Bill.

The province's hog industry has made plans for a mass euthanization of baby pigs, if that becomes necessary, but for now pig producers are managing to find a home for the animals, albeit at a tremendous cost.

Albert Bourrier, a partner in a hog farm south of Steinbach, said he's never sustained such high losses since he got into the business in 1984.

A few weeks ago, he was getting as little as $7 for a three-week-old weanling pig that costs anywhere from $36 to $42 to produce. Now, he's getting closer to $15 an animal.

"When you sell 800 a week, it's a big difference," Bourrier said Friday of the modest bump in price.

He and other hog farmers are hanging on every news report out of Washington tracking the progress of country of origin labelling legislation (COOL) expected to be part of the U.S. Farm Bill.

Uncertainty over the final wording of that legislation -- and how U.S. meat packers and retailers react to it -- has wreaked havoc with an export-dependent Manitoba hog industry that's already beset by high feed grain prices, a strong loonie and a general surplus of North American pigs.

The U.S. Congress has approved an extension until May 16 to ready the Farm Bill for President George Bush to sign. It would set out U.S. agricultural policy for the next five years.

Producers struggling to stay in business for the long haul see some optimism in distant hog futures markets that could see them recover most of their weanling production costs three or four months from now.

Others, have gone to great lengths to deal with the crisis.

View the Winnipeg Free Press story by clicking here.

5m Editor