Concerned about increasing regulation, several of the province’s commodity organizations have joined the Manitoba Pork Council’s public campaign to defend its nutrient management practices.
In a full-page ad in theWinnipeg Winnipeg Free Press,the council says hog producers are already subject to more environmental regulation than any other agricultural industry. It says a province-wide ban on new hog barns outlined in the Save Lake Winnipeg Act won’t prevent phosphorus from entering Lake Winnipeg.
In addition to being signed by Karl Kynoch, chairman of the Manitoba Pork Council, the letter is endorsed by the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, Keystone Potato Producers, Manitoba Chicken Producers, Manitoba Forage Seed Association and the National Sunflower Association of Canada.
“It shows that we are all on the same page, and that we are coming together because there is a lot of concern out there amongst all agriculture producers, not just among the hog people, that the government is out there making regulations without looking at the science behind it,” said Kynoch. “They see that the government is taking these groups one by one, putting a lot of small farmers out of business.”
Citing the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board’s December 2006 report,Reducing Nutrient Loading to Lake Winnipeg and its Watershed,Kynoch points out 53 per cent of phosphorus entering Lake Winnipeg comes from sources outside the province, including 32 per cent from the United States. An additional 17 per cent was cited as coming from natural and undefined sources, with six per cent labelled as atmospheric and nine per cent as coming from municipal waste water.
He noted the study only linked 15 per cent of Lake Winnipeg’s phosphorus to agricultural production, of which hog production is a small percentage.
Kynoch added the council has offered to do additional research on manure management, but that the offer has not been taken up by the province.
Jake Wiebe, chairman of the Manitoba Chicken Producers, agrees that agriculture is not the primary source of phosphorus, and shares concerns about the direction regulations are heading in Manitoba.
“The Manitoba Chicken Producers has always supported a science-based approach,” he said. “We know there is a problem, and that issues with the lake need to be looked at. Our concern is with the heavy focus on a small sector of producers.”
He said all agricultural industries are concerned they may be future targets of expanding regulations.
“Hog producers are an easy target because there was a rapid expansion a few years back, and they probably smell a little more noticeably than some other farms,” said Wiebe. But he stressed that hog producers don’t deserve the bad rap they’re getting.
“We don’t just treat it as a byproduct, we see this as valuable… it’s something we can use,” Wiebe said. “We need sustain-ability too, and we work towards that.”
Industries without direct ties to livestock production also lent support to the letter. “To my knowledge, the hog industry and sunflowers are not directly connected, but a healthy agricultural sector benefits everyone,” said Kelly Dobson, president of the National Sunflower Association of Canada.
Hank Enns, president of the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, said solidarity is important between all agricultural sectors.
“Our industry could grow twice as much as it has if we didn’t have these regulations,” he said, noting pork producers are major purchasers of corn.
HOG BARN BAN
Enns spoke against the hog barn ban introduced in 2008 covering the Interlake and Red River Valley, saying he doesn’t believe new barns pose the risk provincial government claims.
He added the provincial government has been accommodating on other issues, including excess moisture, but that discussions around hog barn expansion have not moved forward.
“They weren’t listening to us, they went into this with their minds already made up,” stated Enns.
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Stan Struthers says the province has started meeting with other producer groups and has asked them for their input on ways to make the industry more sustainable.
“Dialogue between our government and producer groups will continue as we move forward,” said Struthers. “We will be working with all producers to find ways to improve the health of our lakes and rivers.”
But Kynoch doubts meetings will lead to real dialogue on the issue, noting past meetings with producers failed to result in changes to hog barn policies.
He also believes statements made by the provincial government during its June 2 announcement of the Save Lake Winnipeg Act indicate the province plans to further restrict producers. He referred to a press release issued that day, stating phosphorus-cutting measures could include, “lowering application rates of manure on land, restricting fall application of manure to avoid run-off, requiring manure to be injected or incorporated into soil to prevent run-off and reviewing impacts of measures focused on eliminating run-off from commercial fertilizer applications.”
Kynoch also points out the manure management techniques proposed by the province are either already in effect, or are not viable.
“They want to restrict fall application of manure, restricting fall application is not acceptable in agriculture because in the spring with compaction and everything else, and the destruction of seed beds, you can’t apply it,” said Kynoch. He added the province’s assertion new barns may be built if farmers use anaerobic digesters is unreasonable, explaining Manitoba’s climate is too cold for the digesters to function.
Kynoch hopes the information laid out in the letter helps to inform those not involved in agriculture of the hurdles the hog industry is facing, and give them what Kynoch describes as a realistic snapshot of where phosphorus is coming from.
shannon. vanraes @ fbcpublishing.com
“Theyseethatthegovernmentistaking thesegroupsonebyone,puttingalot ofsmallfarmersoutofbusiness.”
– Karl Kynoch