A new seven-person board for Alberta Pork is pushing producer communication to raise awareness of new programs and market improvement to bring fresh assurances for the future of a struggling industry.
Jim Haggins of Calgary, who runs a hog operation near Linden, said a province-wide producer survey on wants and needs that can help restore the industry is nearing completion. “It has very good information to use for industry,” he told a recent meeting of about 150 producers from the southern Alberta region.
Haggins said that was followed by an invitation from Alberta Agriculture Minister Jack Hayden, who asked producers and financial officials to attend a swine industry roundtable discussion. The group was divided into three to develop a list of key areas that producers feels the provincial government may be able to provide help. “The minister was really pleased to see each of the groups came up with the same top six items,” said Haggins.
The top three requests involved Alberta Financial Services Corp and they were:
Create a hog price insurance program.
Request from producers to have AFSC become a full-service bank. Now it only does capital loans and mortgages. All wanted it to make operating loans.
Review the provincial government role in the AgriStability program, and define AFSC’s role. With three years of financial losses it is almost impossible to qualify for AgrStability money. Haggins said the Canadian Pork Council is also working on attaining similar changes.
He also reviewed the status of the hog industry. At the end of March, total hog numbers on farms were down 2.1 per cent from the same quarter in 2009. Sow inventory was 1.3 million, down 5.7 per cent. But he said that will go down further because a number of sows on the transition program are still to leave the farm. Live hog exports were down 20.5 per cent, down 1.4 million animals.
Hog slaughter was 5.5 million for the past three quarters. What was lost in domestic production balanced off with fewer hogs going to U.S., maintaining capacity for Canadian packing plants. “It is important to maintain a decent volume of hogs to keep Canadian packers operating as efficiently as possible,” Haggins said. “We see more competition from B.C. for Alberta hogs because the transition program is taking more hogs out of production in that province.”