by MARY BAXTER
“No applications have been OK'd yet,” explains Ontario Pork board member Teresa Van Raay, Zurich. She sits on a provincial committee that includes representatives from Ontario’s government, renderers, the Ontario Association of Food Banks and Great Lakes Specialty Meats Ltd., the Mitchell-based plant that will slaughter culled animals in Ontario.
The provincial group is involved only in the logistics of helping farmers to meet the terms of the federal cull program. The CPC is responsible for approving applications and distributing monies to producers who agree to take part in a federal cull program announced in February.
The $50 million program is intended to reduce the country’s sow herd by 10 per cent. It compensates producers up to $225 per animal and covers slaughter costs. There are catches, however: animals slaughtered after April 14 must not enter the commercial food chain and those who participate must empty at least one barn and agree not to stock it for at least three years.
Francois Bedard, a technical specialist with CPC, says at last count, applications from Ontario number around 40 and make up about 45 per cent of the total applications received. The number of applications received so far from across Canada represents only about a third of the program’s capacity.
Bedard anticipates the Council will probably receive more applications over the next couple of weeks but admits requiring producers to leave their barns empty for three years is having a negative impact on response. “Our (CPC’s) initial position was that we didn’t want three years for sure,” he says, pointing out that the federal government had the final say on the program’s terms.
While there has been some discussion of sending a portion of the meat from the cull to food banks, Bedard explains the program only covers the costs of slaughter. Because sows are older than market hogs, their meat would have to be processed into sausages or ground pork. But an alternative form of financing must be found to do that. The federal money won’t cover processing costs, food inspection or transportation to food banks, he says.
So far, three provinces are taking matters into their own hands, providing money to facilitate donations. On April 18, Saskatchewan announced it would donate $440,000 towards the processing of 2,000 animals. On Wednesday, Manitoba announced it would donate $500,000.
The federation des producteurs de porcs du Quebec plans to foot the bill there, says executive director Alain Thibeaudeau. The organization is using money from a fund established a few years ago to help facilitate food bank donations in his province.
“The amount (of program applicants) is not going to be as huge as out west or in Ontario,” he says, noting that hog producers can access the other support through the province’s income stabilization program Assurance - stabilization des revenues agricoles).
Meanwhile in Ontario, funds are yet forthcoming from the government but Van Raay remains optimistic, pointing out both the province and Ontario’s food banks are at the same table talking with producers.
Application forms for the cull program can be found on the CPC’s website.
A Statistics Canada study released Thursday shows the number of hog farmers in Canada dropped 19 per cent by April 1, 2008 compared to April 2007. Hog numbers are also down, with about 13 million on farms in April compared to 14.7 during the same month last year. That marks a drop of nearly 12 per cent in hog numbers and is the largest year-over-year drop in three decades, the study reports.
Of those hog farmers who remain the study reports many are shifting to farrowing operations from farrow-to-finish ones. This trend in turn has led to a 26 per cent increase in the export of hogs, mostly as weaners to the United States. The report shows that the number of sows dropped by 4.6 per cent over the past year. BF