The upcoming federal hog aid program, which allows producers to mothball their barns for three years, raises some interesting questions, such as:
If producers in Manitoba’s hog moratorium area decide to mothball their barns for the required three years, can they reopen them?
Do barns still have to contain a few pigs to qualify for insurance?
Can farmers who close their barns have municipal assessments on them lowered?
The answers: yes, probably not and it depends.
Andrew Dickson, Manitoba Pork Council general manager, says the moratorium applies only to new and expanded operations. His understanding is that a barn, once emptied, can be refilled later on, provided it’s not added on to during the downtime.
Insuring a barn depends on maintaining it, not what’s in it. To qualify for insurance, producers would be expected to exercise proper maintenance. That might include heating the barn, leaving some water in the lagoon, exercising rodent and pest control and inspecting the facility regularly. Just because a barn is empty doesn’t mean it’s not insurable.
“Just by virtue of the barn being vacant doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not going to be able to buy insurance any more,” said one insurance company underwriter.
He cautioned, though, that different companies have different rules. Producers should check before assuming their insurance will carry on as usual.
As for assessment, that’s based on property value. Initially, therefore, nothing would change, said an Association of Manitoba Municipalities spokesperson.
“However, if a barn is empty for over a year, they can apply for a reduction in the assessment,” the spokesperson said.
Whether or not they get it is another matter.