Group calls for provincial government not to ease hog rules
Dr. John Ikerd, professor emeritus of agricultural economics, University of Missouri, talked about the pork business, in Winnipeg, today. Thursday, September 21, 2017. Chris Procaylo/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network
A group that fears relaxed hog rules will heighten water pollution has united to fight against the proposed changes.
Members of the groups Hog Watch Manitoba, Organic Food Council of Manitoba, Save Lake Winnipeg Project and Wilderness Committee joined an agriculture professor Thursday to oppose portions of a “red tape reduction” bill introduced this spring.
The Manitoba Legislature has yet to pass the bill, which would remove a ban on spreading manure in the winter from the environment act (though the practice is still banned in other regulations) and scrap a requirement that hog manure be treated by anaerobic digesters before being spread on farm fields.
The legislation’s opponents argue the changes would raise the level of phosphorous from hog waste entering Manitoba waters, which would then fuel algae growth in Lake Winnipeg.
“That extra phosphorous is part of Lake Winnipeg’s problem ... Right now what the government is doing is contemplating increasing the amount of phosphorous getting into the lake. That’s essentially going to kill the lake if we let that happen,” said Vicki Burns, director of the Save Lake Winnipeg Project.
The group was slated to host a public forum on their call to oppose the hog-related elements of the bill Thursday evening at the University of Winnipeg. In addition to keeping current rules in place, Burns said the province could also allow fewer pigs per barn and let animals roam to better control their waste.
While pork operations are one of many sources of phosphorous entering Manitoba waters, they can’t be ignored, said John Ikerd, a professor emeritus of University of Missouri. Ikerd said Manitoba’s eight million hogs are capable of producing the same amount of waste as 25 million people and, unlike human sewage, he alleges their waste goes through minimal treatment.
“What we have now is rotting raw sewage that’s being spread out on the land,” said Ikerd.
By contrast, the pork industry has argued that forcing producers to treat manure with digesters that cost up to $1.5 million was so expensive it prevented expansion across the industry.
“There are other storage structures we can use,” said Andrew Dickson, general manager of Manitoba Pork, told the Winnipeg Sun in March. “The (digester) law was pointless.”
Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. Instead, her office re-issued a previous statement, in which she called digester treatment “unnecessary, elaborate and costly.”
Squires statement also confirms the changes are intended to “end Manitoba’s hog barn moratorium.”
“We want to stop singling out hog farmers from other livestock producers and saddling them with unfair barriers that limit growth and development here in Manitoba,” wrote Squires.
The province notes hog producers are still required to keep manure management plans, soil samples and get building code approvals.