Rick Bergmann, V-C of the Canadian Pork Council and involved in the pig business in Manitoba says of the new and updated Pig Code that codes of practice are nothing new for Canada and for producers in Manitoba.
“Pig producers have had a code of practice for the last 30 years, as time goes on, we have to update those codes and establish new ground,” said Bergmann. “Producers in Manitoba/Canada played a part in the creation of this code with a public comment period allowing them to speak up as far as the original proposed code.”
He says there’s people in the hog industry in Manitoba who have had a strong involvement and influence on the committee itself to establish a code that is something producers can live with.
“People around the world know producers in Canada as being world leaders in what we do,” said Bergmann. “We also understand being leaders we’re kind of Olympians of the pork production world. That takes a lot of discipline, but it also takes discipline for exceeding and succeeding.”

He says the recently revamped Pig Code is doable for producers in the province.
“Producers are very willing to provide the change society wants,” said Bergmann. “We also understand change comes at a cost. With so much of our focus on the animal care component, there needs to be much collaboration because we are all in this together as consumers and producers alike.”
The V-C of CPC and from Manitoba agrees with the Alberta Pork executive director Darcy Fitzgerald who says the key is to manage that change in a way that’s fair to everyone involved while honouring the fact an agreed upon consensus process developed the code.
“Since the entire value chain drives the new code, I hope everyone will share the cost of implementing it,” said Fitzgerald. “Progress is important, but can also be pricey. It will require that all sectors of the industry participate, from processors to retailers to food service, as well as consumers and humane societies, to support the efforts of producers. We all need to do our part.”
Turning back to Manitoba and Bergmann, he says the industry looks at ban on hog barn expansion in Manitoba and the substantiality of the entire hog industry here in the province. “We hope that in the future we are able to continue on building at a sustainable rate to insure our processors have the right amount of hogs to go through the harvest time,” he said. “The new Pig Code, starting any new hog barns after July 1, 2014 affects all producers in every province.” In essence all new barns must use pens and group housing for sows.
In Manitoba, if the industry doesn’t build, it slowly dies and that is one thing they don’t want to see happen as facilities get older and need revamping, or rebuilding, and /or expanding.
“I grew up on a family farm and what worked for my father, re land base and animal base wouldn’t work for me now,” said Bergmann. “We must have the freedom to expand our businesses to make it sustainable.”
There are two factors that play into that ‘freedom to expand’ scenario, the lack of equity/financial wherewithal, and the awkward and silly pig expansion moratorium in the province. One affects the other and vice versa.
Andrew Dickson, general manager of Manitoba Pork Council says the current trends are the stock of buildings are getting older and if producers can’t or don’t replace them, the capacity for finished pigs drops.
“We have to turn that around. Not only to replace the barns to retain the capacity, but we actually need to increase the capacity of finishing pigs in the province to bring our processing plants to the same level of capacity that our U.S. competitors have already,” said Dickson. “We are suggesting to kick start this in some way and part of it is to get some help from government to try and kick start a financial package that would attract some new investment into the industry.”
He says by adding finishing capacity to what Manitoba already has would send a strong signal back to the regular financial institutions and investors in the industry that this is a successful business and has a prosperous future.
“This should make them think about refinancing and rebuilding the capacity we already have in terms of replacing our older barns as they become due,” Dickson said. “There are technical issues in lending. One is this issue of lending against a market value of an asset currently because we have an older stock of buildings, our finishing place values tend to be in the order of 200 to 250 dollars.”
The challenge, he adds, is if someone builds a new barn, it will cost him double that, about 500 a finisher place. From a financial institution they will lend him against, the fact if the following day you built the barn, they’d have to sell it to recover the loan, unfortunately they will get only $200 to $250 a finisher place because that is what a producer/investor could buy an older barn for.
“We’re suggesting the bank could lend against the difference through a government guarantee on an asset,” he said. “From the bank’s perspective the government guarantee would be like an additional value the producer would bring to the table. Secondly, if we do that and get some additional barn places, one or two of them may come on the market for various reasons. It is a new barn and that begins to set a price for a new barn because we don’t have any at the moment.”
In regards to the moratorium by the Manitoba NDP government killing hog expansion in the province, he is very confident the province is going to work with the industry in terms of addressing the concerns they have about the environmental regulations.
“We are not in a position to declare what those are but the province is working very closely with us to address those and we will avoid the problem having to deal with anaerobic digesters,” said Dickson. “If a producer talks to Manitoba Conservation, he may find a somewhat different approach the department will take this year. I think there is an accommodation about to happen on the moratorium; that is all I can say.” •
— By Harry Siemens