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A primer on the province’s hog industry

Cam Dahl, General Manager of Manitoba Pork, and Manager of Planning and Sustainable Development Grant Melnychuk reached out virtually to R.M.

Cam Dahl, General Manager of Manitoba Pork, and Manager of Planning and Sustainable Development Grant Melnychuk reached out virtually to R.M. of Wallace-Woodworth Councillors to share information regarding the current state of the province’s hog production and processing industries. Their organization represents the more than 600 commercial hog producers in Manitoba.    

“Really, what we’re here to do is start a dialogue,” Dahl said. “We want to talk about some of the benefits of and concerns about the industry. This isn't related to any specific projects. We're not aware of any specific projects that might be in the works.”

Appearing as a delegation at the May 27 meeting, Dahl and Melnychuk provided Council with a variety of facts and figures supporting the hog industry’s strong contribution to the provincial economy.  It involves about 14,000 direct and indirect jobs, and approximately $1.7 billion annually.  With over 600 barns, Manitoba stands behind Quebec as the second largest producer in the country.  Product is currently exported to over 24 countries.   

Since the lifting of a provincial moratorium on hog industry expansion in 2017, over $100 million in private investment has been approved across the province.  Both executives see opportunity for significant growth in the post-pandemic economy, which could have major spinoff benefits in rural Manitoba.   

“There's opportunities, for growth, there's benefits to growth, but we appreciate that when new barn proposals are made that municipalities have questions and the general public will often raise concerns,” Melnychuk said.  They include odour control, manure management and the impact of a barn operation on ground water and the values of neighbouring properties.  Melnychuk told councillors that efforts are made to mitigate each of these issues and indicated that Manitoba Pork encourages proponents of new hog barns to have informed discussions with their respective municipal councils prior to the application process taking place.

Dahl told Council that the province has some of the strictest environmental standards for hog operations on the continent, and operators must be part of a universal code of practice in order to ship their animals to federally inspected processing plants. 

“There are regulations in place and significant industry standards enforced through auditing.  If you’re not participating in the program, you cannot deliver your pigs,” he said. He added that operators also need to be able to demonstrate their ability to sustainably take care of manure.

During the discussion, Coun. Barb Stambuski questioned whether planting of a three-row shelterbelt on each site was being enforced.  “We have been hearing about it for 20 plus years,” she said.  “We haven't seen a good shelterbelt in our area – yet.”  She also pointed to lacklustre maintenance of what was already in place.  “There have been huge holes, and nothing has been done.”

“That's one of the things we will take back to our members,” Dahl responded.  “It's not just the development plan but the ongoing maintenance of that development plan as well.”

On the subject of water, Coun. Stambuski explained that as the municipal system is nearing capacity, any new barns are not likely to be allowed to hook up.  Melnychuk stressed that the presence of adequate water, either from a nearby ground or municipal treated source, is a critical part of the application and review process which proponents need to address. 

“Where there is treated water and capacity, barns do access it,” he said. “In others, they will utilize ground water if there is a suitable source that can be found. If it (the municipal system) is nearing capacity and there is no potential for expansion, that would certainly be a limiting factor of new barns siting in your location. If there is potential for expansion, and a new hog facility could contribute in that manner, then that could be considered as well.”  

Coun. Stambuski asked about compensation for those experiencing an estimated -5% reduction in their property value due to the proximity of a barn operation.

“That would be part of the siting process,” Dahl said. “We would hope that when they're doing their site selection, they're not going to choose an area where there's neighbours within that 2 km area. If they do, I'd be surprised if you approve it, quite frankly.”

“Separation distance is key, and it’s one of the first things I flag,” Melnychuk said. He said that it is imperative that proponents satisfy the requirements of the municipal zoning by-law in considering where to develop.  “If they're not meeting the setbacks of your municipal zoning by-law, I would caution them from even pursuing it,” he said. 

Dahl and Melnychuk plan to meet with other municipal councils to apprise them of the latest happenings in their industry. 

“Our goal is to reach out across the province and have these conversations where there might be potential for development,” he concluded.