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Empty Hog Barns Tumbling Down

“They’re definitely going to feel it on the tax base.”

– KARL KYNOCH, MPC

It isn’t just the loss of hog producers that troubles Manitoba Pork Council chairman Karl Kynoch. It’s the loss of actual hog barns.

Empty barns are being dismantled at an alarming rate across Manitoba, Kynoch said in his annual state-of-theindustry address to the MPC annual meeting recently.

Just recently, a 300-sow unit was knocked down in Kynoch’s own Rural Municipality of Argyle. Neighbouring municipalities have lost even more barns, as producers decide not to pay taxes or insurance on facilities they may never repopulate anyway.

A looming 2013 deadline for banning winter spreading of manure in Manitoba may further increase the loss of bui ldings among small producers unable to afford year-round manure storages.

The loss of facilities could affect municipal tax rolls this fall, suggested Kynoch.

“They’re definitely going to feel it on the tax base with these barns,” he said during a break in the April 13 meeting.

Despite the gloom stemming from the hog industry’s worst economic downturn in recent memory, Kynoch decided to accentuate the positive in his speech to pork council delegates.

Hog prices, after tanking for three years, finally show signs of recovery. Market analysts predict live hog prices will climb into profitable territory this summer, remaining near $144/ cwt from June to August.

Despi te fewer hogs on farms and an exodus of producers, Manitoba still produced more than eight million pigs in 2009, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Slaughter capacity continues to increase, with nearly 4.3 million Manitoba pigs processed at home last year.

Although live swine exports to the United States declined because of country-of-origin labelling, pork sales remain strong, Kynoch told delegates.

Total fresh pork sales in Manitoba and Saskatchewan as of October 24, 2009 were up 11 per cent over the previous year. Nationally, fresh pork sales were up four per cent.

Government programs, despite criticism from producers, have helped some stay in the business and others leave without going bankrupt, said Kynoch.

“For some, it’s too long to wait. But it would have been worse without government-backed financial programs.”

Manitoba Pork Credit Corporation, an arm of MPC, has negotiated a stay of default with Ottawa on over $60 million in advance payments. MPCC has also found a new creditor and established a $40-million line of credit to take effect this year, Kynoch said.

MPC is backing a new grassroots proposal for a top-up companion program to AgriStability to help livestock producers with negative financial margins.

But the industry still has a long way to go to recover from the financial devastation of the last four years, Andrew Dickson, MPC general manager, said in a presentation to the meeting.

Dickson noted hog farm receipts in Manitoba fell 27 per cent to $695 million between 2005 and 2008. Hog receipts, which represented 25 per cent of the province’s total farm receipts in 2005, made up less than 15 per cent in 2008.

The average net worth of a hog farm in Manitoba fell by more than six per cent over that time.

But the real damage occurred in net farm income. Dickson said the average Manitoba hog farm in 2004 had a net income of $185,663. In 2008, the average net income was minus $92,353. [email protected]

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