Alberta Pork chairman steps down

Tees-area hog producer Herman Simons has left his post as chairman of Alberta Pork.

Herman Simons

Herman Simons

Tees-area hog producer Herman Simons has left his post as chairman of Alberta Pork.

Simons quit the board on Feb. 22 with the public announcement made later in the week, says his replacement, Jim Haggins.

Simons was part way through his third one-year term at the helm when he quit, citing personal reasons, Haggins said on Wednesday.

“None of us expected it. Certainly, we appreciate what Herman and his family have been going through and the reasons for his decision,” said Haggins.

In the official announcement issued last week, Simons said leaving the board came after a difficult decision that he felt was right for his health and his family.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Alberta Pork and learned a lot in the four years that I have served the industry,” says his statement.

“I believe Alberta Pork has a long road ahead, and a difficult one, but change and progress has never been easy,” it says.

Simons had taken the wheel at the start of what has been the grimmest period in Alberta Pork’s 40-year history, said Haggins, who lives in Calgary and operates a hog farm near Linden.

Swine producers across the country have felt the sting of low prices, high feed costs, labour shortages and various trade barriers, including a strong Canadian dollar.

Many have been forced to leave the industry. Some quit. Some went bankrupt. Some are participating in a federally-funded program that pays them to empty their barns and keep them that way for at least three years.

What had already been termed a perfect storm became a nightmare late in April of 2009 after federal officials confirmed that H1N1 virus had been found on an Alberta farm.

Managing the crisis that followed was probably the toughest task Simons faced in his years as chair, said Haggins.

While Simons has left the board, work continues on a revitalization plan in which he played a major role. A revitalization committee has been struck to fine-tune the plan, narrow its focus and create a new business plan for the industry in Alberta, he said.

“Right now, there is some encouragement. There was some good movement upward (in prices) in January and it has now stabilized in February. The futures are looking a little better. (But) we’re still fighting the exchange rate, and that will continue,” he said.

Producers in Alberta Pork Region 2, which covers the central regions of the province, have been asked to meet in Red Deer on Tuesday, March 16, to elect a new director.

Director Rocky Morrill of Dawson Creek, B.C., has stepped up to become vice-chair and director Andy Vanessen of Picture Butte takes the third executive position on the board.