‘Stay tuned’ for major hog barn changes

Manitoba’s government will soon introduce “major changes” in hog barn development, the province’s agriculture minister says.

However, it won’t reveal details until it has finalized its lengthy policy development process.

“Stay tuned,” Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler told reporters at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon Jan.17.

“Very soon you’ll see some major changes happening on that front.”

A number of issues are hamstringing the industry, which are preventing new feeder and sow barns from being built in the aftermath of the hog barn moratorium imposed by the previous NDP provincial government. 

The moratorium still exists for many producers, although its regulatory elements have been reduced.

The extreme requirements on hog manure treatment, which had been an effective ban on construction of new barns, have been eased, but they need to be clarified within regulations to make farmers and investors feel confident.

The building code can also make prospective farmers and hog barn investors balk because barns have to be built to a “light commercial” standard rather than a farm building standard, which increases costs and complicates barn design. The government might be able to amend the farm building standard and have hog barns be governed with less onerous rules.

In his speech and in comments afterward, Eichler mentioned the government’s commitment to the “protein growth strategy,” which includes boosting both plant and animal-based sources of protein. The next day, a $400 million pea processing plant was announced for Portage la Prairie.

Many expect a soybean crushing plant to also be announced soon.

However, Eichler is a big fan of the cattle and hog industries, so many are expecting to see specific policies introduced or amended to return those two declining sectors to growth.

The economic damage from the hog barn moratorium extended well beyond hog farmers. Maple Leaf’s Brandon slaughter plant and the HyLife plant in Neepawa are running well under capacity, restricting their ability to expand and develop overseas markets.

The plants’ home communities are also suffering because lower production means hundreds fewer workers are employed.

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