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Proposed Pause on Development of New or Expanded Hog Operations in Manitoba Causes Concern

by 5m Editor
18 November 2006, at 2:43pm

CANADA - Farm-Scape: Episode 2239. Farm-Scape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork.

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Farm-Scape, Episode 2239

Manitoba's swine producers are expressing shock and dismay after the provincial government announced that it plans to freeze the development of new and expanding hog barns.

An amendment being proposed to the Manitoba Manure and Mortalities Management Regulation, under the Environment Act, is intended to temporarily restrict the further growth of hog operations in Manitoba while the Clean Environment Commission reviews the environmental sustainability of the industry.

No New Permits to Be Issued

“What's being proposed is that any new or expanding pig barn would not be issued a permit,” states Al Beck, Manitoba Conservation environmental programs director.

There's a temporary suspension on the issuance of permits for manure storage facilities for new and expanding pig barns. It also includes confined livestock areas such as hoop barns that are capable of housing 10 or more animal units of pigs, Beck explains. Public comments are being accepted until November 24.

At the same time, Manitoba Water Stewardship has released, for public comment, its proposed Nutrient Management Regulation under The Water Protection Act Public comments on that draft are being accepted until January 22, 2007.

Hog Producers Shocked by Proposed Moratorium

Although the proposed amendments to the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Regulation and a draft Water Quality Management Zone Regulation for Nutrients were discussed extensively during public consultations last spring, the “pause” on hog industry development came as surprise.

Kynoch says Manitoba Pork Council was expecting announcements regarding new regulations, but the ban is a complete surprise.

“We're gravely concerned that our industry is being unfairly targeted by the government,” he says. “We've just been through about a year and a half of consultation with the government and other groups on water quality issues. It was widely accepted that water quality is everyone's responsibility.”

Kynoch points out, “Agriculture as a whole is only responsible for approximate 14 per cent of the phosphorus run-off so, if you take just the hog industry, we're responsible for maybe one per cent.”

Keystone Agricultural Producers Concerned with Freeze

While KAP is pleased with some of the principles of the proposed regulations, it is also concerned with the freeze. “A nutrient is a nutrient whether it comes from a cow or a pig or a pig or whether it comes from synthetic fertilizer or comes from a municipal wastewater treatment,” says Ian Wishart, vice-president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

He suggests no matter what the source, all nutrients have to be managed. Yet only the hog industry is being called on. As shown in the Lake Manitoba Stewardship report, the phosphorus comes from a lot of different sources.

“Not all of them are in the province and we have no hope to control the ones out of the province effectively,” he says. “Even those inside the province are evenly split between the city of Winnipeg, agriculture, a number of municipal point sources scattered through the countryside and also from individual sites like cottages.”

Hog Operations only a Small Part of the Problem

The Lake Winnipeg watershed extends all the way to Alberta and down into the U.S. Over 50 per cent of the phosphorus comes in the river systems. The natural freezing and thawing of vegetation alone releases a lot of phosphorus.

“We're very willing to do our part in this and, as producers, we're always concerned about the water,” says Kynoch. “We drink the water below our farms that we live on so of course we're concerned about it.”.

Kynoch stresses that farmers are making excellent use of nutrients today and are spending a lot of money on new technology and research into better ways to use nutrients.

“As hog producers, we have some of the most stringent regulations out there today,” says Kynoch. “Allowing manure to leave our land is illegal. We're not even allowed to apply manure without doing soil testing and monitoring of the nutrient levels.”

At the price of the commercial fertilizers today, Kynoch says people have come to realize how valuable of a resource these fertilizers are and how good they are for the land. With the new technologies of injection and incorporation, he says the industry has come a long way.

Undefined Time Lines Another Reason for Concern

The fact that the Clean Environment Commission has not been given any deadline is another key concern.

While Kynoch says the industry is hoping that the issue can be dealt with quickly, he says it will nonetheless have an impact. He says Manitoba Pork Council will do everything it can to speed up the process.

“It's going to be up to us to prove that we are good stewards of the land and that we're committed to protecting the environment,” he says. “But at the end of the day we are very confident that the clean environment commission review will prove that the hog industry in Manitoba is responsible and environmentally sustainable.”

Consultations Result in Improved Water Quality Management Zone Regulation Proposal

Several changes have been made to the proposed Water Quality Management Zone Regulation for Nutrients under the Water Protection Act. This includes dividing the landscape in central and southern Manitoba into six zones.

For three of those zones, where agricultural production occurs, the government has identified nutrient residual limits for both nitrogen and phosphorus that should not be exceeded at the end of the growing season.

Dwight Williamson, director of Manitoba Water Stewardship’s Water Science and Management Branch says they have built in a mechanism for producers to come forward with voluntary nutrient management plans, which would replace the residual limits.

A nutrient management plan would be a site specific plan that would demonstrate the unique characteristics of the land, what will be grown, existing soil test levels for nutrients, reasonably achievable yields and a fertilization plan for those lands.

As well operators of golf courses, whether in rural or urban areas will be asked to come forward with nutrient management plans and further consultations will be conducted in urban areas on cosmetic applications of nutrients to private properties.

KAP Applauds Amended Draft Regulations

KAP president David Rolfe notes it appears that government has listened to the concerns expressed by agriculture, however he agrees referring the proposed regulations to the Clean Environment Commission and placing a temporary pause on hog industry development are unusual steps.

Despite some positive amendments to the proposed regulations, KAP remains very concerned that the provincial government has unfairly targeted agriculture, and the hog sector in particular, as the primary focus of water quality issues. Though discussions with the province were ongoing, the farming community was unaware of the freeze on development in the hog industry until it was put into place along with the recommendation to submit the proposed regulations to the Clean Environment Commission.

Rolfe suggests moving the regulations through the clean environment process adds a level of uncertainty as to whether further changes or recommendations for changes will be made.

“It could delay implementation of the new regulations and the lack of a time line adds another level of uncertainty,” he says.

Staff Farmscape.Ca

5m Editor