Hog numbers continue to slide…maybe it’s time to look at a market board again

Ahead of the Heard

Much has been written about the downward trend in the livestock business and there appears to be no end in sight. Last week saw Alberta Pork, the hog producers organization, declare an industry crisis with predictions of imminent collapse. They even decided to return some of the hog checkoff money they had already collected back to producers. That’s pretty serious being it doesn’t amount to much per producer but it could wipe out their organizations’ reserves. I suspect this move was designed more to get the Alberta government’s attention than to save any producer from financial ruin.

During the last hog industry crisis the Alberta government coughed up a temporary support program which helped producers stay afloat, although its levels were diluted when (much to the annoyance of hog producers) cattle producers were blackmailed into getting a piece of the handout. The provincial government at the time stated that support program would be the last ad hoc support program for livestock producers. It would seem that hog producers didn’t believe the government with their recent declaration of another hog industry crisis.

Part of the deal with that support program was that the hog industry would go through a rigorous self-examination process with the idea that it would reinvent itself. That was always a dubious proposition being nothing unique seemed possible. That didn’t stop Alberta Pork from going through the motions; consultants were hired, studies commissioned, international market access missions were mounted, marketing magicians were engaged and of course industry roundtable discussions were held across the province. If I recall the conclusion was that pork from Alberta was the best in the world, should be marketed as such and receive the appropriate premium.

As hopeful as that was, that marketing concept is remarkably similar to pork being sold by the USA, Denmark and a number of other pork exporting countries. It seems everyone’s pork is the best and deserves a premium. Pork buyers love that approach by sellers being they just play one off against the other driving the price down. Apparently the Alberta pork premium concept has not quite materialized as hoped for, being the industry is once again in a crisis mode.

Some in the industry blame the crisis on hog buyers, citing that Alberta is traditionally the lowest price market for slaughter hogs in North America. They add that at times Alberta is also one of the highest hog production cost areas on the continent. There would seem to be a message in that reality, especially if it means that producers are forever losing money on every market hog they produce. It would seem clear to those of us observing the hog industry that there is only one solution to stopping the losses and ending the crisis. Well actually there may be two – the obvious first one is to buy out the remaining producers and formally announce that hog production will no longer be supported in anyway by the taxpayers of Alberta -and no more crisis fearmongering. Those that want to stay in the hog business would be doing so completely at their own peril.

Another consideration for the industry to contemplate once and for all is to revisit the marketing board concept. Being some industry stakeholders maintain that low price marketing is the underlying problem, then perhaps the industry needs to look at alternative ways to sell their hogs – and yes that should involve going back to the future. I recall when single-desk marketing was abandoned there was much anticipation that hog production and profitability would thrive in the freedom of the open market. If the recurring hog marketing crisis is any indication maybe the glories of the free market are not quite what proponents had promised. Noting the ongoing loss of producers and hog operations perhaps the market is telling us all what the future of the hog business will really be in Alberta and soon.

I would suggest that Alberta Pork request a substantial grant from the Alberta Meat and Livestock Agency (remember them, they are supposed to save the livestock business in Alberta) to investigate ways and means to reinstate single desk hog marketing in Alberta. Heck they should go all the way and investigate the feasibility of establishing a supply-management hog quota board like the milk and poultry boards. It works very very well for those producers – so why not for hog producers – I would suggest that hog producers have nothing more to lose so why not look at what works – we know from crisis after crisis what doesn’t work.

Just Posted

Athletes’ medals unveiled at the official kick-off of 2019 Canada Winter Games

Medals depict Central Alberta landscape and pay tribute to First Nations

WATCH: Canada Winter Games are finally here

Final leg of torch relay kicked off at Fort Normandeau

Furever Ours dance coming to Botha

Tickets still left for “Furever Ours” dine and dance

Stettler Lightning prepare to battle Wranglers in playoffs this week

Stettler Lightning finish their regular season with a 14W-14L-7OTL

Fashion Fridays: Up your beauty game

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

LOCATED: Innisfail RCMP looking for missing woman

Amanda Kucher was last seen at the Innisfail 7-Eleven on Feb. 15

Red Deer RCMP arrest man after vehicle theft from dealership

Police were able to disable the SUV with assistance from the built-in vehicle assistance system

Red Deer College transforms into Athletes’ Village

Red Deer College’s campus will be home for the athletes during the 2019 Canada Winter Games

Alberta minor hockey team, slammed for Indigenous dance video, forfeits season

Parents say season was too dangerous to finish because the team has been threatened

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Alix resident captures beams of light near Lacombe

Lacombe, Blackfalds, Red Deer photos have since gone viral around the world

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Red Deer man loses car after being caught twice driving with suspended licence

The Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit ticketed the man in December and on Valentine’s Day

Most Read