Gov’t takes steps to reduce Man. hog sector red tape

The Manitoba government’s Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act is a welcome action to allow hog farmers an opportunity to grow.

The previous government had imposed regulations regarding barn construction and manure management that amounted to a moratorium on new barn construction.

The Progressive Conservative government that was elected a year ago has already ended the onerous building code requirements, putting them now on par with agricultural building codes in other provinces.

The red tape cutting legislation that is expected to pass this fall will end costly requirements for anaerobic digester manure treatments that were another nearly insurmountable impediment to hog barn construction.

The restrictions were imposed when the hog industry was unfairly singled out in the early 2000s as a villain in the ecological endangerment of Lake Winnipeg. Excess nutrients in water flowing into the lake led to huge algae blooms that caused oxygen starved dead zones.

An abrupt increase in phosphorus flowing into the lake was identified as a particular problem.

Manitoba’s hog industry had greatly expanded in that same period, and for some the coincidence amounted to cause and effect.

There was scientific evidence in a report by Peter Leavitt of the University of Regina and David Schindler of the University of Alberta, which said hog manure and fertilizers from crop production were major contributors to the lake’s woes.

That report recommended cutting phosphorus flow into the lake by 50 percent and prompted the NDP government to pass the Save Lake Winnipeg Act in 2011, which compounded restrictions on hog barns in place since 2007.

It also required Winnipeg to upgrade its sewage treatment system and protected wetlands.

But other experts, such as Don Flaten, a soil scientist at the University of Manitoba, say the situation is complex and too much focus has been placed on hog manure.

Various studies have noted other contributing factors.

The current wet cycle in the eastern Prairies and much increased flows in the Red River appear linked with the increased nutrient levels in the lake. Fifty-three percent of total phosphorus entering Lake Winnipeg originated from outside the province.

The shift to zero tillage, which slashed soil erosion and reduced nitrogen runoff, unfortunately also increases phosphorus runoff from crop residue. The use of chemical fertilizers also increased, adding to the amount of phosphorus applied to soil.

With so many sources, it was unfair to come down so hard on pig producers.

Manitoba’s hog industry is committed to environmental stewardship. It still faces stringent oversight, and it agrees with a key regulation that will continue: the ban on winter manure spreading.

However, it faces an influential lobby that holds to a simplistic and unfair critique of the industry.

We hope the government is not swayed from its course.

Hog production and pork processing are a major part of Manitoba’s economy, valued at more than a billion dollars and employing more than 16,000 people.

That impact can grow if farmers are set free from unneeded regulation to pursue the opportunities arising from rising global meat demand.

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  • John Fefchak

    re:Red Tape Efficiency Act … Changes would Lower Standards ( Brandon Sun Letters, 13 June)

    In the Western Producer 15 June, I note that even U of Manitoba, Prof. Don Flaten seems to agree, that some manure,… 1 to 2 % from the hog industry is contributing to the pollution situation of Lake Wpg.

    No credits however were recognized, to Professors David Schindler, Eva Pip, Peter Leavitt, David Lobb, John Vallentyne and several others who have previously determined, in their studies, that phosphorus, and a majority from hog manure is responsible for the pollution of Lake Wpg. I find that unacceptable.

    The 2005 Interim Report of the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board was co-authored by Dr. Flaten.

    Could it be that Don Flaten is again glossing over the real problems with extreme build up of phosphorus laden manure in areas of concentrated hog production? He knows full well that when the NDP government of Manitoba placed a top regulation limit of over 800 lbs. of available phosphorus per acre, it was helping the hog industry by compensating for the lack of manure spread acres with a ‘license to pollute’, since most crops use only 20 lbs. of phosphate a year.

    Flaten was a main player in developing and recommending this regulation to the government. He knew then that industry was unwilling to incur the expense of treating manure or transporting it from areas overloaded with phosphorous to areas where is not. They still don’t.

    The hog industry does want to build new barns as cheaply as possible by shifting its waste disposal problem to other areas of the province where the same regulation limits apply.
    Flaten is posturing and once again cheerleading for the hog industry by proposing that polluting industries that want to operate as cheaply as possible can become environmentally sustainable simply by changing location.

    An excerpt from a Letter by Alan Baron, 2006, tells us…
    “It’s important to note that the nutrient crisis threatening Lake Winnipeg has been accompanied by a rise in phosphorus of just 10% over the past thirty years, according to Manitoba Water Stewardship. As with global warming, a little bit, it seems, goes a long way. It’s also important to note that the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board’s latest phosphorus estimate (2006) credits all of Manitoba’s towns, cities and industrial activities combined – everything we Manitobans do besides agriculture – for just 9% of the phosphorus entering Lake Winnipeg. Agriculture (fertilizer) contributes 15%. (Most phosphorus enters Lake Winnipeg from neighbouring provinces and states and from natural processes beyond our control.) The MPC arrives at its one percent illusion by multiplying an outdated estimate (14%) by 15% (manure applied in Manitoba) and finally 55% (hog manure). But, as we’ve seen, the synthetic fertilizer applied in Manitoba (85%) counts for little or nothing. The smaller percentage of fertilizer coming from the intensive hog industry is, as most Manitobans have long believed, the dominant phosphorus load on Lake Winnipeg.
    How dominant? If we deem synthetic fertilizer’s contribution to be minimal, say 2%, we get a figure of 12% for all manure. Using Dr.Flaten’s percentage for hog manure (55%), we then get 6.6% for the hog industry.

    This is more phosphorus than the City of Winnipeg contributes to Lake Winnipeg (6%)”. unquote.

  • John Fefchak

    “Hog production and pork processing are a major part of Manitoba’s economy, valued at more than a billion dollars and employing more than 16,000 people.
”

    THE JOBS…from 8500 to 13000, 15000 and now 16000!( impressive, but overstated
    propaganda)

    This is from a submission for the LMMMR consultation:
    “In support of this position, the consultation document states that “the estimated value of pigs produced in Manitoba is over $1billion annually,” and that hog production is responsible for employing “approximately 13,000 people through direct and indirect jobs.” These claims are overstated.

    In 2007, the George Morris Centre examined the then-current contribution to Manitoba’s economy of hog production. At the time, there were a little over twice the number of pig ILO barns in the province, whose output was valued at $0.85 billion, and the total impact of the pig industry — when processing and packing was included — was estimated to be $2 billion.

    The Centre found that only 1382 direct and 3394 indirect jobs were attributable to hog production, with another 3713 direct and indirect jobs created in the processing and packing component of the industry. The total amount of jobs attributed to the pig industry considered as a whole was 8488. At the time, the Manitoba Pork Council claimed that the industry as a whole created 15,000 jobs, clearly a substantial overstatement.
    Given that there are currently less than half the number of barns in operation in Manitoba, the 13,000 direct and indirect jobs attributed to hog production (exclusive of processing and packing) is simply invalid empirically. The empirical evidence clearly suggests that job creation from hog production is minimal, and hardly sufficient to inspire the re-invigoration of Manitoba’s rural economy. As such, it cannot serve as a valid reason for attempting to “facilitate growth” of pig production.”

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