Letters, April 12, 2012

Government should help fund transition

Regarding the article, “Time to start thinking about group housing” (March 22, 2012), Bernie Peet is right to alert pork producers to the reality that gestation crates are on the way out.

While transitioning to new housing systems, this is an opportune time for producers to improve housing conditions for sows beyond just providing them with an open, slatted-floor pen. Producers should be encouraged by government and industry bodies to renovate barns to accommodate, at minimum, straw-based group housing.

Cost for barn renovation and construction has been cited by producers as an issue. The government has a key opportunity here to support more animal and environmentally friendly sow housing systems by providing funding for this.

In fact, a report just out from the U.K. Farm Animal Welfare Committee says government should provide funds to help improve farm animal welfare. Moreover, to encourage straw-based systems, preferential funding could be given to producers adopting straw-based systems.

Spending millions to upgrade liquid manure storage systems as is being done in Manitoba is a short-term solution. The public wants and expects animals to have, at minimum, a decent life. It’s time the industry, our policy-makers and government acknowledge this and move to a group-housing, straw-based housing system for sows.

Lynn Kavanagh

Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals

Toronto, Ontario

Don’t trade away homegrown sectors

The article “Moving beyond supply management” in the April 5 issue is thought provoking.

As the federal government moves to shift agriculture into a finance-dominated, dog-eat-dog production state with the decomposition of the Canadian Wheat Board, it is understandable that the University of Guelph should so artfully recommend that supply management should also be euthanized, regardless of how well it has served the country.

The Doha Round foundered, but not because of a concern over the minimal agricultural production of a country whose population is as few as ours. As for CETA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, do we really want the products of badly regulated financial giants appearing on our table at breakfast (or any other meal)? We like our food fresh, our canned goods safe, our dairy products inspected and regulated, and preferably homegrown.

It is not the distribution of agricultural products that disturb the CETAs of the world (and our own federal government), rather it is the ideology of co-operation and the distribution of profit to the producer that supply management implies.

Without supply management in Canada, the U.S. would swamp our markets with cheaper products, destroying our producers. Canadian production cannot compete with the U.S. treasury. Sure we have lots of land and space to put more and more pig barns and dairy herds but our climate does not allow for three crops a season, open housing for dairy cattle and hillside piggeries.

Any agenda that Canadian producers should be advocating is one that rejects the Doha, CETA, and Pacific rounds. Manitoba carrots, Saskatchewan pork, Quebec maple syrup, B.C. apples, Ontario turkeys, P.E.I. potatoes, etc., can and should be on the grocery shelves of Canadians and will be if the agricultural producers are allowed to make the necessary decisions under Canadian regulation and Canadian standards.

The future of the Canadian food supply should not be at the whim of the federal cabinet and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy or the money managers of the world.

Joan Peters

Cartier, Man.

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