Government's refusal to help will kill the industry
WARREN - Cumberland County's hog industry will soon be a memory with the province's refusal to provide additional funding to struggling farmers, says one of the area's largest pig farmers.
"There are four or five of us left and it's my understand that most will be shutting their doors," Joe Van Vulpen said. "The government's been alluding to not giving farmers more help, now they're being quite blunt about it. They're basically saying 'go away, we're done helping you, survive on your own."
There has been very little help for the hog industry since 1998 other than direct payments to farmers and loans that only serve to put recipients into debt. Most farmers have been farming at a loss for several years.
"There's no money in the pork industry and the Maritime farms, having been hit for so long, are shutting down one after the other," he said. "It's the death of our industry. There's a mass exodus right now. I'd be hard-pressed to name 20 producers in the province. Six months from now there'll only be a dozen and they'll all be shipping to the United States."
Van Vulpen has downsized his operations over the years and has been sending his hogs to the United States for finishing.
"We've been doing that hoping to keep going," Van Vulpen said, adding the provincial government has been unwilling to help. "We're going to try to keep doing that and if it helps we'll keep going. If it doesn't we'll be gone too."
Van Vulpen, whose farm has about 1,200 sows, said it's going to take an effort by consumers to save his industry as well as the beef sector. People have to be willing to pay a little more for locally-produced meat. But, he can't blame consumers for buying cheaper products.
"I can't say that I blame them. If you go buy a digital camera, the one's that cheaper is the one you're going to buy," he said. "That's what it's coming down to in the food industry, but we have a safer product, a local product, a fresh product and we are good for the communities in the amount of money we put back into the community."
With the industry collapsing, Van Vulpen said most hog operations will be on a much smaller, farmer's market type scale. He fears it's going to result in the disappearance of farming communities and a big chunk of Nova Scotia's rural economy.