Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/4/2017 (1168 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba Pork’s George Matheson was heard on a recent video moaning about the fact that new hog barn proposals often get turned down at the municipal level as a result of the intervention of "a few, poorly informed rural residents." It’s the reason they have decided to create a swine development corporation to assist new barn applications through the bureaucracy. Heavy duty public relations, in other words.
New barns can bring economic development and jobs, so why turn them down? A rural municipality of course has a duty to safeguard the interests of its residents and ratepayers first and foremost. There is not a lot to love about modern factory hog farming. Some of the issues raised by concerned residents include:
• Risk to surface waters as result of storing and applying large volumes of liquid manure.
• Risk to groundwater as result of seepage from manure lagoons.
• Negative impact on quality of life and property values.
• Large water requirements potentially affecting the water supply of others.
• Wear and tear on municipal road network.
• Non-resident corporate ownership where the profits are siphoned out of the local area.
• Animal welfare issues around large numbers of pigs kept in confinement.
And yes, of course, there is the stink. Above all else, probably the biggest single reason rural residents get upset at the prospect of a hog barn for a neighbour. Hog producers are in denial that this is a problem and refuse to adopt lagoon covers, barn scrubbers and bio-filters that can dramatically reduce that problem.
The approval process at the municipal level happens at a conditional use hearing. The proponent and his consultant make their pitch and the relevant government agencies provide a technical review in support of the application. The process is heavily flawed in that issues like the manure lagoon and water supply have not been scrutinized at that point. This leaves council with very sketchy information on which to base their decision.
Council is, however, bound to follow the Planning Act, which states that they can only approve a conditional use if it "will not be detrimental to the health or general welfare of people living or working in the surrounding area, or negatively affect other properties or potential development in the surrounding area."
Anyone living within range of one of these factory-style hog barns knows they do not meet these conditions. That makes council’s decision a whole lot easier. They do still have that right to say no.
So, until the industry changes its ways, the prospects for expansion in the hog business are likely pretty dismal. And those "few, poorly informed rural residents" will continue to grow in number, and make their voices heard.
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