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Manitoba Livestock Producers Unite to Derail Bill 17

by 5m Editor
7 June 2008, at 7:32am

CANADA - Manitoba’s livestock producers are hoping a strong show of support for the withdrawal of Bill 17 will convince the provincial government to abandon plans to impose permanent moratoriums on hog industry expansion in much of Manitoba.

In early March, following the release of the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission (CEC) report on the environmental sustainability of Manitoba’s hog industry, the province announced it would replace a province wide temporary pause on hog industry development with permanent moratoriums in three regions. Areas affected include Southeastern Manitoba which has been identified as an area that does not have sufficient land base to allow for further spreading of livestock manure; the Red River Valley Special Management Zone, including the Capital Region of the province, identified by the Phosphorus Expert Committee as a vulnerable region because it is prone to flooding; and the Interlake which has been identified as ecologically unsuitable for further hog expansion.

Bill 17 Moves on to Legislative Committee Review

Bill 17 proposes amendments to the environment act that would entrench a ban on the construction of new or expanded hog barns or manure storage structures in those areas. The bill has passed first and second reading in the legislature and is now being reviewed by the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Agriculture and Food prior to third reading and passage.

Hearings Underway in Winnipeg

The legislative committee kicked off hearings yesterday (June 6) to gather public input on the bill and hearings are scheduled to continue until Tuesday.

Those intending to comment may register by phoning the clerk at the Legislative Assembly at 945-3636. So far over 430 groups or individuals have registered to provide input.

Egg and Chicken Producers Oppose Bill 17

“We certainly will be speaking against the bill and hoping for its defeat,” says Penny Kelly the general manager of Manitoba Egg Producers (MEP). “We have a real concern that the extensive ban that is being proposed by the bill is not part of the recommendations contained in the Clean Environment Commission report.”

Manitoba Chicken Producers (MCP) general manager Wayne Hiltz agrees, “Bill 17 has no connection to the Clean Environment Commission report, which said that the hog industry was sustainable.”

He acknowledges, technically, the bill will not affect chicken producers today but it does raise the question, “Who’s next?” and “Why is policy not based on science?”

Existing Environmental Regulations Considered Adequate

Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) vice president Robert McLean believes the tools are already in place to protect the environment without imposing moratoriums on one segment of the industry.

“We’ve been working with government over the last several years. There’s the nutrient management regulations that have come down. There’s manure management regulations. There’s rules in place through your municipal act. These tools are in place to ensure that hog production, or any livestock production for that matter, is sustainable in Manitoba and there was no need for a total moratorium or a total ban to be put in place.”

McLean believes the government of the day is pursuing the action for political reasons and not scientific reasons.

“In the last 10 maybe 15 years all of agriculture has been working hard to be able to come into line on environmental issues,” observes Manitoba Cattle Producers Association (MCPA) president Martin Unrau.

MCPA Opposes Moratoriums

Unrau stresses the MCPA is opposed to imposing moratoriums on an agricultural industry and has trouble accepting moratoriums in situations like this where science has not been consulted. He believes all of agriculture needs to stick together on the issue.

“We all use nutrients for crop production in our separate businesses and the hog industry is no different than the grain or the cattle industry. I don’t have hogs personally and usually the cattle industry doesn’t get into the hog industry’s business. But when it comes down to environmental issues such as this, we felt that we had to stand beside the hog producers and try to push this forward and get Bill 17 at least moved down for a while until we can get the scientific facts we need to move forward on environmental issues.”

Sister Commodity Groups Rally Behind Hog Producers

Manitoba Chicken Producers is also anxious to show support for the hog producers in Manitoba.

“They are taking many different opportunities to improve science and to properly handle the issues with regards to their industry and this doesn’t seem to be recognized with this bill,” says Hiltz.

He recognizes several similarities between his industry and the hog industry. “Both industries are livestock production industries, ours obviously being on the poultry side of it, and both industries do produce manure which is dealt with and managed in an appropriate fashion. At this point Bill 17 is targeting hog producers but again it also begs the question, who’s next?”

He suggests, if producers are applying manure to the land and there’s no further expansion, they’ll simply replace potential organic manure application with inorganic manufactured chemicals.

Kelly fears the situation will become overly confusing. “We would certainly have a concern that many of our producers might also be hog producers. It creates all kinds of very confusing messages in terms of who might be able to expand livestock production in those areas where the ban takes effect for hogs only.”

MCPA Favours Addressing Situations Individually

Cattle producers would like to see the moratorium on the hog industry put on hold, says Unrau. “We don’t need a moratorium on the industry. We feel that every producer should be treated as an individual. There are excellent producers out there and, at the end of the day, we feel that when you put money into programs to look after your nutrients in a proper manner and all the proper steps are taken, there is no necessity for a moratorium on an industry.”

Kelly agrees, “We really hope that the bill will be defeated but that the government will step back and look at the many good solid recommendations that were contained in the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission report.”

She believes, “Environmental concerns are important to all of us and really addressing the issue of water quality is something that every Manitoban should be concerned about, not just agriculture and not just hog producers.”

Government Urged to Give Newly Introduced Environmental Safeguards a Chance

McLean suggests allowing the new regulations already in place to move forward, see how they work and then, over time, tweak them one way or another if necessary.

“There was a lot of good solid work that was done in the Clean Environment Commission Report,” says Kelly. We'd really prefer to go back and revisit those recommendations. I think it's an issue that is very important to all of agriculture and Manitoba Egg Producers, in particular, have supported many regulatory changes that address manure and mortality management.”

Unrau stresses, “Agriculture doesn’t have a habit of messing up the environment or else we wouldn’t be around. When you look at livestock production, it’s extremely important to have clean water, to have the proper environment for animals. Overall, the livestock industries of Manitoba, and in Canada, have been very responsible in moving forward in an environmental fashion.”

5m Editor