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Common sense prevails in Manitoba pork barn moratorium

Commonsense prevails in Manitoba


Christmas came early for pork producers in Manitoba, Canada, last month.

In November, the provincial government passed its Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act, finally bringing to an end confusing and restrictive legislation that, at one point, required all new swine barns built in the province to include an anaerobic digester or alternative manure treatment system.

“The initial goal [of requiring anaerobic digesters] was to reduce phosphorus levels,” explained George Matheson, chair of the Manitoba Pork Council during his deposition to the Manitoba government on the red tape act. “You cannot reduce phosphorus levels in manure. You can reduce the amount of manure but not the phosphorus in it. If you’re trying to keep less phosphorus in the soil, then an anaerobic digester isn’t your answer.”

For more than 10 years, Manitoba pork producers have done business under either a total or partial moratorium on new swine barn construction, a holdover from previous government mandates. According to Andrew Dickson, general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council, as a result, more than 90 percent of swine barns in the province are 20 years old and approaching the end of their life.

“The industry now faces the challenge of having to catch up with higher construction costs and lower asset values to borrow against,” he said in his deposition. “To maintain the stock of buildings, the industry needs to build 20 to 30 barns per year.”

In the past five years, Manitoba hog producers have only built four or five barns, all under old permits with no requirements for anaerobic digesters, he added.

“Over the next 10 years, the sector will need to invest almost $2 billion in new facilities to replace existing stock and about $400 million in new finisher barns.”

In light of this, the Manitoba Pork Council has created a Swine Development Corporation to assist producers interested in building new barns. Already since the passage of the new act, four new barns are in the planning stages and are to be constructed in 2018.

Hopefully, this interest in rebuilding and revitalizing the province’s hog industry will continue.

According to one pork producer who presented to the government’s Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs, being freed from under the shadow of previous rules will allow the industry to advance.

“In terms of environment … I think there’s a whole host of other areas where we can start applying innovation in the industry,” said William Gould, a one-time lawyer who returned to rural Manitoba to raise pigs with his family. “And by always being handcuffed to the previous rules and never allowed innovation, I think there’s actually going to be opportunities in spinoff industries related to technology. I think that’s going to be a huge growth industry.

“We have to shift our thinking from manure as a risk to manure as an opportunity.”

Preach, my friend, preach.