Desperate measures

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Manitoba hog producers say they have to kill animals due to no U.S. market

Desperate hog producers are preparing to euthanize hundreds of thousands of animals over the next several months because of "dirty dealing" by American farmers, says the manager of the Manitoba Pork Producers.

Andrew Dickson said Thursday the farmers have "no choice" as U.S. farmers are breaking contracts to buy the three-week-old pigs due to worries over the impact of looming country of origin labelling legislation in the United States, which is set to take effect in September.

Winnipeg - Desperate hog producers are preparing to euthanize hundreds of thousands of animals over the next several months because of "dirty dealing" by American farmers, says the manager of the Manitoba Pork Producers.

Andrew Dickson said Thursday the farmers have "no choice" as U.S. farmers are breaking contracts to buy the three-week-old pigs due to worries over the impact of looming country of origin labelling legislation in the United States, which is set to take effect in September.

Dickson said the animals will be brought to a central point, where they'll be gassed with carbon dioxide in a special chamber, then taken in special containers to a rendering plant.

He added details are still being worked out with federal and provincial officials.

"This idea of having to kill them because their markets have suddenly disappeared is terrible," Dickson said.

Up to 25,000 pigs a week will be disposed of in this way, likely beginning late next week, he added.

"It's not the farmers' fault; they've bred and raised the animals in good faith because they had a contract (with U.S. buyers)," he said.

Some farmers have tried to give the piglets away to other Manitoba farmers, but without success. That's because producers who feed pigs to market weight - more than 200 pounds - are losing between $40 and $50 an animal because of rock-bottom market prices and sky-high feed costs.

As little as two weeks ago, producers were selling weanlings to the U.S. for up to $40 a piece. But lately, the price has dropped to almost nothing - when there are buyers at all. And truckers won't haul them across the border without a confirmed buyer on the other end, Dickson said.

"This is dirty dealing by these American farmers (who are backing out of contracts to take the Manitoba piglets)," Dickson said.

Country-of-labelling legislation will require food products such as pork to carry labelling indicating its country of origin. That has spooked U.S. retailers and meat packers, who are shying away from Canadian hogs at least until the rules are finalized.

Premier Gary Doer visited Washington in February to lobby U.S. officials to exempt Canada from the new rule, since hog industries in the two countries are so integrated. He argued that Canadian-born pigs that spend most of their lives in the U.S. should be considered American product.

Manitoba is the biggest shipper of weanling pigs to the United States among Canadian provinces, exporting 3.5 million to four million animals annually.

Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk and Dr. Wayne Lees, Manitoba's chief veterinarian, could not be reached for comment.

Organizations: Manitoba Pork Producers

Geographic location: United States, Manitoba, Winnipeg Washington Canada

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