Pork Producers Call for Amendments to Bill 17

CANADA - Manitoba’s pork producers are hoping the provincial government will agree to and pass amendments to Bill 17, the Environment Amendment Act, that will ease the anticipated impact the bill will have on their industry.
calendar icon 20 September 2008
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Bill 17 Moves to Third Reading

Bill 17 proposes permanent moratoriums on hog barn construction or expansion in three regions of the province; southeastern Manitoba; the Red River Valley Special Management Zone, including the Capital Region; and the Interlake. The bill was introduced during the spring sitting of the legislature and legislative committee hearings in June, following second reading, attracted a record number of public submissions. The bill moved to third reading earlier this week and debate is expected to conclude next week.

In March Manitoba Conservation minister Stan Struthers announced that a province wide temporary pause on hog industry development, which had been in place since December 2006, would be replaced by the three permanent regional moratoriums. The decision came on the heels of the release of a detailed report, compiled by the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission (CEC), which had examined the environmental sustainability of Manitoba’s hog industry at the request of the provincial government.

Proposed Bill Expected to Drive Producers Out of Business

“The concern with Bill 17 is the fact that it blankets about two thirds of the production area and it’s going to shut down a lot of farmers, especially small family farms,“ states Manitoba Pork Council chairman and Baldur area pork producer Karl Kynoch.

Another concern is that, while pork producers in the designated areas are being told they can no longer expand, the same restrictions do not apply to other livestock enterprises.

Stonewall area producer George Matheson reports an application for a building permit to expand his operation was rejected by the Southern Lake Planning Board because of the moratorium but his brother, who raises cattle on the same section, is planning a major expansion of his operation.

Pork Council Suggests “Zero Percent Solution“

On Monday ( September 15) Pork Council made public a proposed amendment to the bill.

“The Zero Percent Solution“ would replace the proposed moratoriums with new restrictions on new or expanding operations in the designated area. The proposed additional restrictions include limiting manure nutrient applications to what the crop can use, an immediate ban on winter spreading and requirements for incorporation of spread manure within 48 hours of application.

“What the Zero Percent Solution will do,“ Kynoch suggests, “is achieve government’s goals in restricting phosphorus applications where there is a lot of livestock and, at the same time, allow producers that do have adequate land base to continue to make the changes necessary to meet today’s demands and continue to grow or change.“

He points out pork producers are contending with a lot of new environmental regulations as well as other demands from other segments of the industry and, if Bill 17 goes through in its present form, it will rob producers of their ability to restructure to meet those changing environmental demands.

Manitoba Chambers of Commerce Oppose Moratorium

Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president Graham Starmer agrees.

“We have suggested as a Manitoba Chamber that putting a total moratorium on this type of industry prevents innovation.“

He suggests some areas of ecological advancements require size so restricting expansion also limits the opportunity to adopt that technology.

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce has gone as far as suggesting the director of the department be given the authority to grant exemptions to the ban to accommodate the application of technical advances.

KAP Supports Changes to Bill 17

“We certainly support the (Manitoba Pork Council) amendment,“ says Keystone Agricultural Producers President (KAP) Ian Wishart.

“It’s a scientific approach to managing nutrients. It’s consistent with other legislation the province has introduced and it does provide hog producers in particular with the opportunities to expand in a reasonable basis based on their farm size.“

Proposal Rejected by Conservation Minister

“Their Zero Percent Solution contributes zero percent to solving the problem and clearly it’s simply a way to gut Bill 17,“ observes Struthers.

“The Manitoba Tories and Manitoba Pork have both put this so-called solution, so-called compromise together. The fact of the matter is though, in terms of banning winter spreading and limiting manure application and requirements for incorporation into the ground, those are things we’ve been working on well ahead of this proposal.“

Struthers insists the moratorium outlined in Bill 17 is necessary to provide the level of water protection that Manitoba needs. He says there may be amendments that come forward that will need to be dealt with but, within a month, we should have in place a higher level of protection for Manitoba’s water.

Kynoch acknowledges recommendations that make up the Zero Percent Solution come straight out of the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission report. He stresses, while the CEC report contains a total of 48 recommendations for ensuring the ongoing environmental sustainability of Manitoba’s pork industry, nowhere in the report is there any recommendation for a moratorium.

As for concerns that the hog industry is being unfairly targeted by the blanket ban, Struthers stresses, “We have in the past said no to subdivisions the city of Winnipeg has put forward based on water protection. We’ve gone into cottage country and put forward regulations saying no to certain developments that can’t pass the sniff test in terms of water protection. We’ve been saying no to other developments as well and that kind of approach will continue.“

Several Proposals to be Considered During Third Reading

Wishart points out the Pork Council suggestion is just one of several proposed amendments put forward by several organizations. “They are all surprisingly very similar in their approach, all based in science, site specific nutrient management approach.“

He stresses, “We’ve always said we’re prepared to go considerable distances dealing with the nutrient loading issue and Lake Winnipeg’s issue but on a scientific basis, not on a politics basis, and so we clearly support this shift which would move the bill much more towards a science based approach.“

Sustainability Dependent on Proper Nutrient Management

Dr. Don Flaten, an associate professor with the University of Manitoba’s Department of plant Science observes there are just four well recognized components necessary to make sure any nutrient management is sustainable, using the right source at the right rate with the right placement at the right time.

“It doesn’t matter what nutrient source you’re talking about, synthetic fertilizer, liquid manure, solid manure. All those forms of nutrients you’ve got to be careful with so you get the right agronomic performance out of them and minimize the environmental impact.“

“If you put it on at the right rate and at the right time and in the right place, you can make good agronomic efficient use of it but you can also protect the environment at the same time.“

Commercial Fertilizer Cost Boost Interest in Manure Fertilizer

Dr. Flaten observes Manitoba’s livestock producers have made great progress in the sorts of techniques and technologies they’re using to apply manure resulting in more environmental sustainability and improved agronomic efficiency. He adds the cost of most synthetic fertilizers have gone up about three fold over the past couple of years which certainly improves the attractiveness to be using livestock manure as efficiently as possible.

Wishart agrees, given the high cost of phosphorus fertilizer these days, this is environmentally very positive and economically very positive.

Rally Planned for Winnipeg

Discussion on Bill 17 is scheduled to resume in the legislature next week. Meanwhile Manitoba Pork Council has organized a rally for Wednesday (September 24) afternoon at the legislature to protest Bill 17 and generate public awareness for the agency’s proposed Zero Percent Solution.

Wishart suggests public awareness and support is absolutely key. “We clearly have the agriculture industry’s support behind this proposed change but we have to convince the non-farm public that this is the right way to do this,“ he says.

“We need changes in Bill 17 to accommodate an environmentally sensitive approach but one that is still sustainable for the industry.“

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