Ritz planning reply soon to hog farmers’ requests

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says he aims to have answers within days for Canada’s hog producers on their requests for further industry support.

The Canadian Pork Council on Monday rolled out a proposal for a five-year “Strategic Transition Plan” calling for transition payments, adjusted advance payments and new loans to recover from international bad press due to the so-called “swine flu,” as the H1N1 influenza virus has been dubbed in major media.

“The Canadian pork industry is making a difficult transition to new market realities,” Ritz was quoted as saying Monday on the hog industry-sponsored radio program Farmscape, “and all of the ministers gathered here in the last few days are working hard to make that transition as smooth as possible.”

Ritz was quoted following the federal and provincial agriculture ministers’ meeting last week at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

“We all know there are no easy solutions,” Ritz said on the program. “We also know that it’s vitally important to make sure that efforts to help don’t provoke devastating trade challenges. We have to make sure the cure isn’t worse than the disease.”

Ritz was quoted as saying officials from the federal agriculture ministry and the Canadian Pork Council have been working to see how the council’s proposed transition plan can be prompted forward and what it could cost governments to implement.

Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister Bob Bjornerud said in an interview Monday that the ministers had a “good discussion” about the challenges facing both the cattle and hog industries.

Ritz had committed to make an announcement for the hog industry in “the next number of days,” Bjornerud noted.

Bjornerud said he would presume that to mean sometime in the next week to 10 days.

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