Image: A Vital Part of the Swine Industry

Brian Cotton, MAFRI Swine Specialist

At the recent Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium in Saskatoon, one of the speakers was Gary Maas, Agricareers, Massena, Iowa. Gary is president and co-owner of one of the largest agricultural recruiting and consulting firms in the USA.

Gary’s presentation included some of the following thoughts:

"The situation that is developing across the prairies to oppose large, intensive livestock operations is not new to the industry. Detractors challenge expansion because of concerns about livestock problems such as pollution and odours.

Many problems can be overcome by providing information to those concerned. Information on display at an open house or local town hall gives people a chance to ask questions and discuss concerns in a rational manner. Openness and information sharing between proponents and the local community helps. If local investors or shareholders are involved, let the community know that it is local people who are working together on the project."

These remarks left me wondering if we need to do a better job of promoting the industry and the way it helps the community, as did a recent letter to the editor of the Brandon Sun. In the letter, John Mackenzie, President of the Marquis Project, compared donations of grain and money to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to new large hog operations not supporting the poor.

"The new, large hog operations which may be set up in our part of the province will not benefit poor people in the Third World. The pork may be exported to Asian markets but will be sold to those who are better off financially. This is an economic reality. When Canada and other industrialized nations contribute to the relief of disaster situations, it is with grain, cooking oil, tents, blankets, and medical supplies.

We welcome this opportunity to provide some background information to this very important debate about rural Manitoba’s economic and environmental future, and its relevance to our responsibility to the poor of our world." Maybe there is a challenge in this statement. Having been at many Hog Day carcass or barrow sales, I know that many thousands of dollars have been generously donated to local charities by hog producers. Hog producers also helped with donations to the Flood of ‘97. Many hog producers are among those who have donated to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

The livestock industry will continue to grow and expand. Improving our image and developing in a sustainable way will help make the most of this process.