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Winter Manure Spreading To End For Small Hog Farms

“They’re going out of their way to push the small guys out of business.”

– ANDREW DICKSON, MPC

A complete ban on spreading livestock manure on fields during the winter in Manitoba will take effect four years from now.

The Manitoba government has proposed a regulation to ban winter spreading on all farms by 2013, including small operations under 300 animal units.

The move is in line with a Clean Environment Commission recommendation last year.

But it isn’t sitting well with the Manitoba Pork Council, which says small operators cannot afford large overwinter manure storages.

“It’ll mean another wave of small producers that’ll be forced to shut down,” said council chair Karl Kynoch.

Currently, winter spreading is banned for existing livestock operations with 400 or more animal units. New and expanding operations are also banned. Operations between 300 and 400 animal units will be banned from winter spreading in 2010.

“The intent, in concert with the CEC recommendation, is to extend the winter manure-spreading ban to small operations of less than 300 animal units by 2013,” said Al Beck, Manitoba Conservation’s environmental services director.

Andrew Dickson, Manitoba Pork Council general manager, said the action is tantamount to eliminating small-scale hog production in the province.

“They’re going out of their way to push the small guys out of business,” Dickson said.

He estimated the ban will directly affect 60 hog operations in the Red River Valley and 20 to 30 elsewhere in the province.

Manitoba has already seen a number of hog barn closures in the past two years through a combination of low prices, high costs, a strong Canadian dollar and U. S. country-of-origin labelling (COOL).

Now the pork council says the small operations that remain will shut down rather than bear the cost of building overwinter storages by 2013.

“That’s their end date of raising hogs,” Kynoch said.

The province is also acting on a 2007 recommendation by the auditor general to enforce minimum manure storage capacities of 250 days for concrete and steel facilities and 400 days for earthen facilities, plus a maximum storage capacity of 500 days.

“Where are the grants to help the small guys build storage facilities?” asked Dickson.

The 2009 provincial budget, tabled March 25, promises more resources for inspecting livestock manure storages and on-site waste water facilities. But Dickson said he can’t find provisions in the budget to help farmers pay for them.

Cattle producers seem to be in the clear because they generally spread stored-up manure in spring or fall, not during the winter.

But some producers who winter graze cattle on pasture wonder if they can now continue to do so.

Martin Unrau, Manitoba Cattle Producers Association past president, said his group has raised the question several times with the province.

“They’ve always assured us this is about mechanical spreading of manure,” Unrau said.

“Our argument has always been this should be about mechanical spreading and they’ve always agreed with it.”

The province made its announcement last week as part of a “stepped-up assault on phosphorus to clean up Lake Winnipeg,” according to a government news release.

Other measures include tougher rules on septic fields for homeowners and cottagers and phosphorus fertilizer restrictions on lawns and golf courses. [email protected]

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