After more than a decade, there is a new face at the helm of the Manitoba Pork Council.
George Matheson was chosen as the council’s new chairperson by the organization’s board of directors following its annual general meeting in Winnipeg last week.
“We have a great group this year, with three new members… and that’s exciting,” said Matheson, who farms near Stonewall and has been on the board of directors for almost a decade.
He replaces outgoing chairperson Karl Kynoch, who’d held the position for 11 years.
“The previous chair, the number of challenges he had to deal with is really staggering, and I would like to think that everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong and there will be smooth sailing for me in the future. But I know that’s not going to be the case,” said Matheson, adding it was an honour to be chosen for the position.
For his part, Kynoch said he’ll miss the job, but felt it was time to move on. He announced his intention not to seek re-election a number of months ago, noting he has witnessed many changes during his 15 years with the council.
“One of the biggest changes has been the loss of producers. When I first started, we used to use a number of about 1,700 levy paying producers and today that number is down to 200. We’ve lost a lot of independent producers due to economic hardships, due to regulatory changes that came out, the moratorium, all different things,” he said. “But I am going to miss it — it’s been a tremendous group of people I’ve worked with, both the board of directors and the staff. Having the privilege to represent the hog producers of the province… it’s been an honour.”
The incoming head of council said that building Manitoba’s hog industry and replacing aging infrastructure will continue to be a priority for the council.
“Sooner or later we’ve got to hit bottom and start building up, with more new producers and more production,” Matheson said, adding that the ability to build new hog barns will be integral to that process.
With lower feed prices and better returns, the newly elected chairperson said he believes now is the time to bring production in line with the province’s processing capacity. He also noted that Maple Leaf’s Brandon plant is still short 20,000 hogs each week.
“We’re opposite of Ontario. We have not enough hogs for our processing plants, and Ontario has got too many. It’s too bad we weren’t side by side, we could trade situations… the Brandon plant is getting 70,000 a week when its capacity is 90,000, so we are hoping to change that,” said Matheson.
In addition to building production capacity, changes to animal welfare and the move to open housing for gestating sows will also continue to be important issues. Increasing access to foreign markets, trade relations and limited human resources are also on the board’s radar, said Matheson.
“Those are all things we’ll keep an eye on as needed,” he said.