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Development corporation to assist hog barn builders

With Bill 24 passed, hog barns expansion is once again a possibility, 
but Manitoba Pork Council says the approval process still frequently 
leaves producers looking for help navigating it

The Manitoba Pork Council hopes its new Swine Development Corporation will help farmers navigate the waters of building new barns.

Chair George Matheson says the service is about halfway ready for its launch. The pork council has allocated $60,000 for the new program, which Matheson says will be run primarily by the pork council’s general manager, Andrew Dickson, and sustainable development programs manager Michael Teillet.

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“The permitting that is necessary to build a hog barn is very confusing and I think for a lot of people who are considering building a barn, they find this to be a real obstacle,” Matheson said. “To have someone who specializes in that area and can walk them through it and lead them to experts who can help them with planning and construction and conditional use hearings and visits to their neighbours and public in the area will be greatly helpful.”

The development corporation will help producers navigate governmental red tape, the pork council says. Teillet estimates that getting a conditional use order currently takes between seven months to a year.

“That’s just unacceptable,” he said during a Nov. 9 membership meeting in Portage la Prairie. “And, of that year of approvals, probably seven to nine months of that is that conditional use and TRC (Technical Review Committee) process under the Planning Act, so the Planning Act is a big piece of this puzzle.”

Changes needed

The Manitoba Pork Council says it plans to tackle changes to the Planning Act next year. Those changes would be the “fourth step” and “the biggest nut to crack” in the pork council’s regulatory change to-do list, Teillet told producers Nov. 9.

“We’ve been working on this for quite a while,” he said. “We’ve made a number of very specific and concrete recommendations to the government. We’re very confident that the government is listening and is reviewing this very closely.”

The council has requested changes to streamline the approval system and lessen time needed to approve barns.

The hog industry has already seen changes to the building code, which were adjusted to align with the national farm code earlier this year. The previous building code was based on corporate and industrial codes that the hog industry argued did not fit with low-occupancy hog barns, although critics argued that changing the building code loosened fire safety.

The industry next set its sights on rules requiring barns to have anaerobic digesters to treat manure. The industry has long referred to the requirement as a “barn ban,” arguing that the cost of an anaerobic digester, which it has priced at over $1 million, makes new barns an economic impossibility. The issue has been a thorn in the side of the pork industry since the moratorium first cropped up in 2007 and went province-wide in 2011.

The province eased rules in 2015, launching a pilot program to allow new barns to be built, dependent on location and a list of requirements, including a two-cell lagoon system.

The pork industry just saw the requirement removed entirely Nov. 10. Bill 24, which amended parts of the Environment Act that required anaerobic digesters, as well as a ban on winter manure spreading (although that ban is still required under Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management Regulation), passed third reading and received royal assent after a marathon Legislature session.

The news was met with celebration from the hog industry.

Unwritten ban

Dave Hildebrandt, general manager for Morris Piglets near Lowe Farm, Man., said he was never denied a proposed barn, but that the regulations created a chilling effect where he, like many other farmers, never started the process of getting approval, scared off by the long wait times and bureaucratic red tape.

“We didn’t look at expanding and get stopped by that process, but I think a lot of people just never started the process because, for the animal sector, it was just unreasonable,” Hildebrandt said.

“I believe Bill 24 is a good move,” he added. “It’s based a little bit more on what I understand the science to be as far as environment and things of that nature and what’s more realistic to what our hog sector does in the agriculture industry.”

Teillet says the changes are also coming to the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management Regulation. The pork council expects those changes to be introduced by the end of the year and finalized in spring 2018. Teillet added that Bill 24 had to be passed to make way for LMMMR changes.

Planning Act changes are also anticipated in spring 2018, Teillet said.

The pork council has not announced additional staff to run the Swine Development Corporation.

“It will not take a lot of time from our staff,” Matheson said. “The staff will direct (producers) to other people and those people will be putting in a lot of time to get the development going.”

While the corporation is still in the works, Matheson said his organization is prepared for producers needing help more immediately.

“If someone came to us tomorrow and said, ‘We want to build a barn, where do we begin?’ we would be able to point them in the right direction and be of great assistance to them,” he said.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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