Strategy Session Planned to Fight Hog Ban

CANADA - Manitoba’s pork producers are demanding the provincial government accept the science and reverse its decision to impose permanent moratoriums on the development of new or expanded hog barns in three regions of the province.
calendar icon 7 April 2008
clock icon 6 minute read

Last month, following the release of the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission’s (CEC) report on the environmental sustainability of the province’s hog industry, Manitoba Conservation announced plans to ban further expansion in southeastern Manitoba, the Red River Valley Special Management Zone, including the Capital Region of the province, and the Interlake.

The CEC spent just over one year evaluating the performance of the province’s hog producers. The process began in January 2007 with a series of public meetings followed by a province-wide series of public hearings. The panel also gathered relevant scientific research and commissioned work by a number of different organizations including the George Morris Centre, the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and other consultants. The result was a detailed scientific report including 48 recommendations for ensuring the long-term the environmental sustainability of the industry.

Pork Producers Shocked by Moratorium Announcement

“What just blew us out of the water was the fact that the government went outside of the report and implemented a permanent moratorium on the eastern side of the province which wasn’t even a recommendation in the report,” recalls Manitoba Pork Council Chairman Karl Kynoch.

Pork Council general manager Andrew Dickson adds, “If you read the Clean Environment Commission report , it says very clearly ‘yes the hog industry is sustainable with some very small changes that need to be made in some of the regulations.’ ”

Rural Organizations Unite to Fight Ban

Manitoba Pork Council, Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) and the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce have since joined in an effort to get the decision reversed. Manitoba Pork Council is calling on farm and rural organizations to gather next week (April 10) for a summit to discuss concerns and outline a strategy.

The summit will take place at the Manitoba Pork Council Office in Winnipeg and will focus on what can be done to convince the provincal government to withdraw its proposed permanent ban.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support,” says Kynoch. “The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and Keystone Agricultural Producers have come on side and a number of other groups have asked how they can provide support. They’ve seen the hog industry singled out and made a scapegoat for Lake Winnipeg. They’re wondering who’s next.”

Kynoch observes, “We feel that the government has announced this moratorium, at the same time the report has come out, just trying to blame it on the commission.”

That is a concern shared by the University of Manitoba, one of the organizations that provided much of the research the commission used in developing its recommendations.

Ban Not Supported by Science

“I have read the whole report from cover to cover,” says Dr. Michael Trevan, the dean of the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences. “I can find no evidence that anybody can use to say that we need to cease expansion over the whole of central and southern Manitoba.”

Dr. Trevan acknowledges that the minister is perfectly entitled to take what ever action he sees fit but he fears the manner in which the province is using information provided by the university will undermine its credibility.

“What really troubles me is that the minister, pretending he’s working on the basis of the recommendations by the Clean Environment Commission implies that the science is supporting his case and it doesn’t. As soon as you get into that sort of situation where politicians pretend that they have evidence that supports what they’re doing you damage both the political machinery and the machinery, in this case the university, that’s been providing that evidence.”

At that point, he warns, you lose public trust in these civic institutions and that does nobody any good at all.

Better Alternatives Recommended

Dr. Trevan believes the science supports dealing with hog operations individually rather than through broad based moratoriums.

Dr. Don Flaten, a professor in the University of Manitoba’s department of soil science, agrees. “As far as I can tell there’s nothing in the report that calls for a moratorium.”

He observes the CEC report focuses on the core issues such as how hog manure is managed and science issues associated with manure management and nutrients. “It certainly does outline where there are further improvements or refinements that could be made to the manure management side of the equation.”

Hog Industry Moratorium’s Sole Target

One key point of contention among the pork producers is that the moratorium targets only hog industry.

Dickson notes the province has not targeted cattle, poultry, horses or even artificial fertilizers.

“Farmers can go ahead and do what they’ve been doing for many years.”

Dr. Flaten observes, “The risks are a little bit different for the different types of fertilizer, but it really boils down to what type of nutrient it is and how it’s matched to a proper form, rate, method and time of application.”

He says with liquid manures, whether the liquid manure is coming from dairy or from poultry or from pigs, it’s all fairly similar in terms of the way that it reacts with soil and the risk of it being lost.

Proper Management Necessary for all Fertilizers

Dr. Flaten stresses, “When we look at the risk across the different types of nutrients, they all need to be managed carefully. Synthetic fertilizer, livestock manure and even municipal biosolids, which are the by-product of feeding humans, all need to be managed carefully.”

However, he notes, “If we can recycle those locally generated nutrients that means that we don’t have to buy or import as much expensive synthetic fertilizer into the region and that’s good for farmers too.”

He suggests the challenges with any form of nutrient, including livestock manures, are fairly similar.

The summit will take place Thursday, April 10 at the Manitoba Pork Council Office in Winnipeg.

“We hope to outline our strategy in terms of how we’re going to approach this issue,” says Dickson.

He believes stakeholders need to take this issue directly to the general public and have them provide feedback to government.

Kynoch stresses pork producers are willing to do their part in reducing nutrient runoff. “We’ve always believed in being good stewards of the land and we want to do our part as we have in the past to continue to improve operations.”

However, he stresses, “We have to get rid of this moratorium and move forward with proper science.”

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