Canadians have heard all about the economy, and they’ve listened to announcements on terrorism and childcare — although not necessarily at the same time — but those on the campaign trail have said little about agriculture in the leadup to the federal election.
Now, the Canadian Pork Council and its provincial counterpart are urging pork producers to put the issues they want addressed on candidates’ agendas.
“We always encourage our producers to contact their members of Parliament with the issues of the day, and let them know how they affect the farm and how they affect the community. It’s the old saying, the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” said Manitoba Pork Council chairman George Matheson. “And these individuals, these politicians or candidates, they can’t be everywhere, so it’s very important that producers bring the issues to them so that they are made aware of them.”
And when it comes to issues affecting Manitoba’s pork industry, risk management is top of mind for producers who said volatility in both production and pricing is a serious hurdle.
“We’ve got a few priorities in terms of the election, a big one is AgriStability. That program hasn’t been working for us because we’ve had so many poor years in the past,” he said, noting the program’s formula of removing the best and worst year from a producer’s five-year average has negated the impact of recent high pork prices.
“We’d like, if anything, a change to this, perhaps one where we could use the previous three-year average instead,” said Matheson.
The pork council would also like to see the introduction of a livestock production insurance, possibly structured similar to crop insurance. “Because we do have some major viruses we have to contend with, the most recent of course is PED,” said Matheson.
Currently, livestock price insurance is offered to pig farmers in the western provinces, but the organization has said that program doesn’t meet the needs of producers. That sentiment is echoed by the Canadian Pork Council which has released an industry platform for this fall’s federal election.
“The CPC calls on the federal political candidates to develop a range of risk management tools and strategies to help producers deal with instability in the marketplace, including currency fluctuations, and to modernize the Canadian Agricultural Loans Act to accurately reflect Canadian agriculture’s growing farm sizes, increased farm costs, more complex farming structures and revenue and profit volatility,” said Rick Bergmann, chairman of the Canadian council.
Matheson added that producers are also looking for capital investments to deal with a backlog of much-needed barn and infrastructure renewal.
Other issues addressed in the industry platform include market access, with a call for whoever forms the next federal government to continue Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and find a resolution to the ongoing country-of-origin labelling dispute with the United States, even if that means implementing retaliatory tariffs.
An adequate labour supply is another concern both councils want to put on candidates’ agendas, as producers and processors sometimes struggle to find enough qualified staff.
But Matheson is cognizant of that fact that a great many interests compete for attention during election campaigns, especially one as long as this one.
“Agriculture plays a significant role in terms of the country’s gross domestic product,” he said. “And as always, it’s an industry that the government looks very closely at. Although it doesn’t mention it specifically a lot during the campaign, I believe our federal government fully realizes that agriculture is very important to this country and overall, when we need issues dealt with it responds to us.”