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TAP funds offered to Manitoba hog farmers

Some of Manitoba’s beleaguered hog producers, coming off a major rally earlier this week laying out their industry’s dire straits, are now eligible for AgriStability advance payments.

The provincial and federal governments on Thursday announced a Targeted Advance Payment (TAP) for Manitoba hog producers through the federal/provincial AgriStability income stabilization program.

About 277 eligible producers in the province would have access to over $37 million in TAPs, the two governments said. The average TAP per producer would be in the range of $136,000.

“Challenging circumstances throughout this year including high feed prices, a strong Canadian dollar, the (country-of-origin labelling) regulation in the U.S. and the false connection to the H1N1 flu have created tight market conditions and financial hardship for many hog producers,” Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said Thursday in a release.

“In response to industry requests, this federal-provincial program has been implemented to address urgent issues and this advance will provide immediate financial assistance now when producers need it the most.”

Producers eligible for TAPs can access 60 per cent of their AgriStability payment if their fiscal year end is on or before July 31, or 25 per cent of their AgriStability payment if their fiscal year end is after July 31.

The final balance would be issued with the final claim, the governments said.

Wowchuk and federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz noted consideration will be given to adjusting payment rates in the fall, depending on a producer’s need for further advances.

The move follows a rally Monday at Morris, Man., south of Winnipeg, at which pork producers reiterated calls for a provincial aid package, similar to the cattle and hog support program (CHSP) announced in February for Saskatchewan hog and cattle producers.

Saskatchewan’s CHSP pledged $20 per market hog sold and $10 per head for all isoweanlings, weanlings and feeder hogs produced between July 1, 2008, and Jan. 31, 2009.

On a national level, the Canadian Pork Council has recently called for support to the tune of $30 per pig, which works out to about $800 million.

According to CPC chairman Jurgen Preugschas, the council’s request for direct payments has recently been revised to include an H1N1 recovery program.

“There’s several things, certainly in the form of loans that we’re looking at, maybe doubling up on the advance payments program and then also an H1N1 loan to cover some of those losses and then thirdly to look at an enhanced sow cull program,” Preugschas said on the industry-sponsored radio program FarmScape Tuesday.

Choice of words

Ritz on Wednesday issued an op-ed piece to the media, criticizing some Canadian media outlets that continue to use “inaccurate and unclear terminology when reporting on the H1NI influenza virus.”

Canadians, Ritz wrote, “know and understand the term H1N1 influenza. International scientific authorities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), refer to this virus as H1N1 influenza and have clearly stated that properly cooked pork is safe. When Canadians are talking about it around the water cooler they refer to the virus as H1N1. This virus is called H1N1 influenza because that is its name.”

Canada’s hog farmers, he wrote, “already have enough problems on their plate with international market instability and volatile currency exchange rates. The last thing they need is completely unnecessary misconceptions created by unclear and inaccurate media reports.”

In Canada, the CBC has come under criticism from hog industry supporters for its use of the term “swine flu” on first reference to describe H1N1. Other major North American news organizations, including CNN, the New York Times and Fox News, have also used “swine flu” on first reference.

The Times reported Tuesday that U.S. agriculture officials have put forward an admittedly unprovable theory about the origin of the strain of H1N1 that’s now reached pandemic status.

In the “most likely scenario,” the disease, they suggest, originated in swine in Asia but was brought to North America by a person or people.

But the H1N1 strain in question, containing genetics from human, avian and swine flus, has yet to be found in any hogs anywhere other than in one herd in Alberta, all of which has since been culled. The earliest known human case of this strain of H1N1 was a child in rural Mexico, the Times noted.

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