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Man. hog farmers propose alternative to ban

The hog farmers’ association in Manitoba now proposes an alternative to the all-out ban on industry expansion planned for several hog-producing regions of the province.

The Manitoba Pork Council on Monday announced it will propose that the province amend Bill 17, legislation that the council had dubbed the “Anti-Farm Bill” in a recent ad campaign.

The council said it has presented its proposed amendment to provincial Conservation Minister Stan Struthers, who had introduced Bill 17 in the Manitoba legislature in April.

MPC’s proposal calls for the province to set three specific requirements for applications of phosphorus on crop land. Rather than seep into the province’s lakes, waterways and water sources, all applied phosphorus would be taken up and used by crops, the council said — hence the MPC’s handle for the amendment, the “zero per cent solution.”

“The solution is not in banning buildings and economic development, but in managing nutrients,” MPC chairman Karl Kynoch said at a news conference in Winnipeg.

Citing the health of the Lake Winnipeg watershed as the province’s main concern, Bill 17 in its current form would prevent new hog operations or expansion of existing hog operations in three regions: the Red River Valley, the Interlake region between Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba, and the southeastern region east of the Red, known as the province’s “hog alley.”

“As good stewards of the land, we are more than willing to do our part in nutrient management to protect the province’s waterways,” said Kynoch, who farms at Baldur, Man., outside the affected regions.

MPC’s amendment would require that new and expanding operations:

  • limit manure application on crop land to a rate of “1x” phosphorus removal (a rate at which the crop will use all phosphorus in the manure applied to the ground over five years);
  • not apply manure in the winter, to reduce runoff; and
  • require that manure be incorporated into the ground, either through direct injection or through working it in within 48 hours.

MPC said its recommendation is taken directly from the December 2007
report by the province’s Clean Environment Commission on the environmental sustainability of the hog sector. Struthers, who had imposed a temporary “pause” on all hog barn development in the province while the CEC conducted its review, announced the regional bans on the same day as the CEC report’s release.

“Phosphorus comes from many sources, and only 1.5 per cent or less is estimated to come from land to which hog manure has been applied,” MPC said. Excessive phosphorus entering water systems can cause algal blooms, leading to the eutrophication of a body of water (that is, choking out animal life in the water due to oxygen deprivation).

MPC, which represents about 1,000 hog producers, warned in its release that Bill 17 in its current form bans all new barns or expansions on over 6.5 million acres of land in southern Manitoba, “effectively killing the hog industry.”

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