We the pork producers of Eastern Ontario, are survivors. Few would argue that the pork production sector has had easy times over the past 20 years, given the numbers that have exited the business. I’m proud to have survived for this long, but for the first time, I don’t see how we can get through this current price drop. A leader of our industry has aptly called this crisis “the perfect storm” for the livestock sector. It is the result of the convergence of several negative influences on our price.The dollar is far and away the big one, and this is completely out of our hands. Unless our Governments get us a speedily delivered bail-out, I’m done for. When we had our last price melt-down in 2003,2004, I had to use $250,000 of our equity to survive. The dollar began it’s long upward climb in 2005, and continues its climb to-day. While our American friends have had three consecutive years of profitability, our rising dollar has prevented Canadian Producers from enjoying such profits. While reports south of the border say that American producers have paid off much of their debt, we have added to ours. This is what makes me pessimistic that a price recovery will happen soon enough to help us recover. The Canadian industry has cut back production in the past two years, but the Americans have not. After three good years, it may take quite a lot of pain before they are forced to cut production. Their low dollar is helping them to export pork, and a small cut-back may be enough to restore them to profitability. For us, who are currently losing $40 to $45 per market hog shipped, a small correction in the market isn’t going to do it. I could go on at length about our Hydro rates going up, our major Packer closing its doors, and ethanol plants competing to buy our corn (a good thing for our cash crop neighbors), but I’m tired of complaining. It drains your energy. Thanks for the forum you provide and for your lobbying efforts on our behalf.
Good morning Farm Line
I am sure our story isn’t unique among Ontario Farmers, but I wanted to share our struggle to keep our farm operation alive since May 23, 2003 – the fateful day that changed the face of agriculture all across Canada.
We operate a beef cow-calf operation. At present, my husband works full time off the farm, our youngest son has a full time off-farm job, our oldest son has a part time job that is flexible enough to allow him to do much of the summer cropping work, and I work a full time job and two part time jobs. All repairs and preventative maintenance on the machinery, fences, buildings and even the house are only done when they have to be; there is no money for building improvements or new machinery to replace what is worn out; there is no money for a vacation or home renovations; there is no money for expansion or herd improvements.
You would think all this off-farm income in addition to the farm income would allow us to keep up with the costs of the operation, but it doesn’t. The increasing cost of electricity, fuel, repairs, insurance, fertilizer, seed and living continues to grow faster than the income. Thank goodness we have excellent working relationships with all of our suppliers!!!
When we married and started our operation, we dreamed of the day 20 years down the road, maybe sooner if all went as planned, when we could burn that mortgage document. Unfortunately 27 years later the debt for the farm is greater than ever, and in order for our farm to survive we will need to expand the operation which will require additional financing. This means a visit with our Account Manager at the bank, more paperwork and waiting to hear if our plans are ‘good enough’ to be approved by the bank. Expansion appears to be the road we must follow in order to assure the feasibility of the farm and the future of our sons. We are so fortunate their interests and skills are complimentary and will allow them to operate with fewer conflicts.
Farming is no longer just ‘a way of life’ – it is a business! We find it really frustrating that so many don’t understand that when we mortgage our farm, it’s not just the land, the animals, and the machinery we could lose; we risk our home as well as the operation. If we fail, we don’t just lose our business – we will lose our home! If we lose our farm and our home – there will be nothing for our sons!
It’s too much trouble to go to the beach.
Let’s wait for another day
When the floors are washed, the dishes done,
And everything put away.
And then one day, my work was done.
“Let’s go to the beach,” I said.
But the wind was cold,
And autumn leaves were red.
And I looked around for those golden heads,
But the children, too, had flown.
And now I know if I go at all,
I’ll go to the beach alone…