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Province Accused Of Stonewalling Hog Farmers

– KARL KYNOCH

“I would assume that these requests are not being looked at seriously.”

The Manitoba government appears to be turning a deaf ear to hog producers’ appeals for emergency aid to help them through their worst economic crisis in memory, the chairman of the Manitoba Pork Council says.

The province is stonewalling producers’ requests for ad hoc payments, delayed loan repayments and tax relief, Karl Kynoch said as the council’s annual round of fall district meetings kicked off last week.

MPC officials have met several times with the province over the last eight months but their requests have gone unanswered, producers were told.

The most recent request is for a two-year waiver on municipal and education taxes on hog barns.

The council had hoped to inform the meetings if the province was at least considering the tax waiver. But its demand to know by Nov. 1 produced no response, Kynoch said.

“We made it very clear that producers need to know either way if they were going to help or if they weren’t going to help,” Kynoch said. “Producers need to know that when they’re making their business decisions.”

RESTRUCTURING LOANS

MPC also asked the government during an October 13 meeting to restructure outstanding provincial industry loans provided two years ago. The council wants repayments delayed for three years and interest rates lowered. Again, there was no response, Kynoch said.

The province did get Ottawa to announce $70 million in targeted advance payments for Manitoba hog producers last month, based on 75 per cent of estimated 2009 AgriStability payments. But that’s money producers would eventually have received anyway, said Kynoch.

Producers also have access to a $75-million federal hog transition program, plus soon-to-be-available government-guaranteed bank loans to help them through their current financial crisis.

But Manitoba is the only province not to give its pork producers a special homegrown aid program, Kynoch said.

And it looks now as if that’s not going to happen, he said.

“I would assume that these requests are not being looked at seriously, so I would assume that they’re probably off the table.”

LEERY OF TRADE ACTION

Andrew Dickson, the pork council’s general manager, said the province appears leery about ad hoc payments for fear triggering of a trade action from the United States.

But Manitoba exports very few finished hogs to the U. S. right now, so the threat of an action is moot, Dickson said.

The province is also hesitant to waive taxes on hog barns because it could produce demands for similar treatment from other industries in financial trouble, he said.

But Dickson said a building’s value is ultimately reflected in business income over time, and property assessments take that into account.

Kynoch said the pork council hopes to meet soon with Stan Struthers, Manitoba’s newly appointed agriculture minister, to press for action.

The council also wants to meet with Bill Blaikie, the new conservation minister, to request an implementation delay for new manure management regulations.

The regulations include a complete ban on winter spreading of manure on Manitoba farms by 2013, a requirement that all new pig producers register manure

management plans with the province and a minimum capacity for manure storage.

Kynoch said producers right now can’t afford the cost of meeting these regulations.

“We have to get (Blaikie) to realize that this is not a good time to be adding costs to the producers because there is no money to meet these demands.”[email protected]

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