Only after the last tree has been cut down.  Only after the last river has been poisoned.  Only after the last fish has been caught.  Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof." - Wingspread Statement of the Precautionary Principle.

Foam Lake

Council Approves Funding for Health Foundation (Excerpts)
Foam Lake Review
December 16, 2002

Council spent the better part of two hours discussing issues surrounding the proposed $32 million project being proposed for the Foam Lake area by Foam Lake Hog Developments and big Sky Farms.

Issues surrounding funding, environmental concerns and local support and opposition to the project were all rehashed by council and the delegates.  They indicated they would be holding a public meeting to discuss the project in February to determine if the project would go ahead or not.  Council agreed in a vote of five to one to support the project financially.

A commitment of $35,000 was made to the project should is proceed past the public meeting stage.  All members of council agreed that the project was worth supporting financially, however the proportion of town funding to R.M. funding was the main stumbling block raised.  The town committed $7500 before the end of 2002 and the balance to be budgeted should the project proceed as the committee expects.

Solie Drilling has been working in the area south of Foam Lake over the past two weeks and have found several promising sites for well development.  Piezometers will be installed to determine flow rates and test for water quality will be done to determine if further development is warranted.  Drilling will continue on a number of additional sites to determine the size and location of the aquifer.

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Information Meeting January 9
Foam Lake Review
January 6, 2003

There will be a public information meeting of concerned citizens held on Thursday, January 9 to discuss the impact of the proposed hog barns on Foam Lake and area.  The meeting will be held in the upper hall of the Foam Lake Community Hall beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Everyone wishing to obtain more information on this project is invited to attend.

Coffee will be served, all are welcome.

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It's Only My Opinion, But.....
Foam Lake Review
January 6, 2003

It has always been a challenge, to say the least, to face the deadlines and headaches of producing a weekly newspaper in a small rural Saskatchewan town.

Combine that challenge with the stress of trying to work toward bettering the town by serving as an alderman for more than a decade and you can only imagine how interesting some days become.

It has become abundantly clear though that the two no longer mix.

It isn't because I am unable to handle both, it is rather, the fact that I am not willing to see my business suffer because of decisions that I make as a member of council, even though I believe they are the right decisions.  I make this statement after a rather irate ratepayer of the Rural Municipality of Foam Lake came into my office and threatened that he and his neighbours would quit supporting y business and the Town because council approved funding for Foam Lake Hog Developments, reasoning I still can't quite figure out.

That threat was, of course, made right after he had accused me of trying to run he and his wife and their neighbours off of their farms by building hog barns right next to the farm yards.  Something that just is not true.  I was also accused of not doing any research into hog mega barns before we (council, I guess) approved them.  Something else we as council didn't do.

Truth is, what we did as a council was approve some funding to possibly develop the hog industry in this area.  Truth is this same person, while accusing me of not doing my own research and relying on someone else for information is doing exactly the same thing; not doing his own research and relying on someone else for his information.  Most disappointing though is the fact that some of the information he used while accusing me of a lack of research was obtained via coffee row.

The fact of the matter is that town council, while supporting the project, is not spearheading this project and is not in charge of fundraising or any other part of the project.

The fact of the matter is that the proposed locations of the barns are just that - proposed locations.

The fact of the matter is that if he would have taken the time to ask a few questions it would have saved everyone a lot of stress.

The fact of the matter is that there will be a public meeting held early in the new year to discuss this project.  Please feel free to attend and voice your opinion.

Just don't blame me.

It seems to me that the more you work toward helping your community, the more trouble you find yourself in.

It really doesn't seem to matter what you do.  If you don't try to bring economic diversity to the community and area, you are ridiculed for doing nothing for your community.

If you do something in an effort to bring economic diversity and maybe, just maybe, some growth and opportunity to the area, you are ridiculed for it because it is the wrong type of project or someone doesn't agree with it or they view it as a personal attack on themselves.

The problem, it seems to me, is that we are over-stocked with experts.

It's not wonder we can't seem to get things growing.

Bob Johnson

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Information Meeting Draws Capacity Crowd
Foam Lake Review
January 13, 2003

About 300 people packed the mezzanine of the Community Hall Thursday evening for an information meeting regarding proposed hog barns in the R.M. of Foam Lake.  The meeting was organized by Concerned Ratepayers, a loosely knit group who felt the need for an open meeting presenting both the pro and con sides of large-scale hog operations.

The three-hour meeting, which was opened with a prayer from John Rea, was chaired by Tom Leader who earned a round of applause for his ability to keep the lid on a topic that could have become very volatile.  "We will conduct the meeting in an orderly manner.  All presenters should be accorded respect.  There is no need for name calling.  We can respect each other's points of view," Leader said.  Despite some personal derogatory remarks make toward council and board members by several opposing speakers, this respect was mostly adhered to.  An initial decision to reserve the right to ask questions to Foam Lake R.M. ratepayers and residents of Foam Lake was reversed when ratepayers from the R.M. of Emerald asked to speak.

The format allowed for an hour's presentation from Foam Lake Hog Development and an hour from individuals who wished to speak against large hog operations.  There was a ten minute stretch break before question period.  Leader was effective in holding questions and responses to two minutes each, insisting each speaker be heard out without interruption, and in stopping any exchange that became a back-and-forth confrontation between two people.

Terry Makusson, Chairman of Foam Lake Hog Development, made the presentation for the hog development board.  Board members Harry Kerr, Elmer Brown, Chris Gislason, Kris Springer and Gerald Holowaty responded to questions.

Markusson explained that Foam Lake Hog Development Ltd. was formed following a presentation made by Purelean Hogs at the March 2002 annual ratepayers meeting.  He outlined the steps that were involved in the decision to attract a Big Sky production unit to Foam Lake.  The proposed $30 million project includes a 5000 sow to finish operation consisting of five barns, a feed mill and a truck wash.

"In my opinion, this is the biggest opportunity the Town of Foam Lake has seen since the railway came in 1907 and this town was established," said Markusson.  "At that time, probably concerned citizens were voicing their concerns that the railway would set prairie fires, scare the horses and be a menace to the community.  But the fact remains it was progress then and we feel this is the same type of progress.  So why try to prevent a good thing?"

F.L.H.D. was formed to stimulate economic activity, create employment opportunities with 40 or 50 permanent jobs and develop an additional market for feed grain, he said.

Mayor Ray King spoke briefly on behalf of the Town and Reeve Gerlad Holowaty spoke on behalf of the R.M. of Foam Lake.  "The Council looks on this as economic development," said King.  "We have to look at all ideas for economic development and for jobs in general."  He explained that $35,000 from the Town is a commitment if the project is approved following the public meeting on February 20.  If the barns go ahead, all the money will eventually be refunded.

"The R.M. Council has not made a decision for or against the barns," said Reeve Holowaty.  "It is up to you people."

Most speakers from the con side emphasized the need for the public to become educated before they launch into the debate.  Danny Hoover, who spoke on the collaborative approach to problem solving, insisted "There is no Us-Them, only Us.  Please weigh the opinions on both sides of this debate.  Then gather as much information as you require to form your own educated assessment of all the benefits, costs and potential side effects.  We ask you to get educated, then get involved."

Carla Dwernichuk addressed the potential problems of vertical integration and also asked the crown to "Take an interest.  Be informed, pro and against.  Make an informed decision."  Mel Johnson said the Town of Foam Lake could be in danger of air pollution because the proposed barn sites have higher elevation than the Town.  Merv Springer brought up concerns about the potential for pollution of the Foam Lake Heritage Marsh.

Marilyn Wunder discussed antibiotics and volume of manure.  "Both sides have not been educated enough to make an educated decision," she said.  Karen Cruickshank, who received a standing ovation for her brief presentation, asked why "Saskatchewan is pushing to increase their hog production when Manitoba has a moratorium on any new barns being built until he spreading of manure can be investigated further.  Robbie Wunder, who is graduating this year and wants to live in Foam Lake, asked whether other communities have really grown in population.  He suggested a referendum before the final decision is made.  B.J. Wunder encouraged "each of you to take time to consider the issues.  Each of us is responsible for the future," she said. 

The size of the crowd surprised everyone, including the organizers.  Orest Monych said, " We though hopefully we'd get 12 people out to the organizing meeting," he said.  The group me tin Tuffnell on New Year's Day and organized the meeting in a week.  "We wondered what feelings were out there, and the only thing we though was that we should provide a way to inform the public," said Marilyn Wunder.  "It didn't seem like any one knew anything until they saw the circles drawn on a map when they went into the R.M. office.  But what we wanted was for people to share their ideas."

The size of the crowd and the energy in the room inspired some wider-ranging ideas.  "I challenge you - no, I charge you - if you don't want the hog operation to proceed, to come out the next time I call a meeting of the Economic Development Committee," said Alderman Harry Kerr, who is on the Hog Development Board.  Kerr explained that he invited a large group of people to an economic development meeting and had two people turn out.

Harnessing the energy was also on Danny Hoover's mind.  Hoover mused that if 300 people could come out on very short notice because they were concerned about potential development, then there should be some way to bring those same people into a meeting that would spark the introduction of economic development they wanted.  We need some king of imaginative hook, he said.

Big Sky is hosting a public meeting on February 20.  Although the rules asked for equations to be submitted in writing in advance of the meeting, Terry Markusson promised that questions from the floor would be accepted and addressed.

Next week's Review will present more specific quotations from each of the presentations.

- Joan Eyolfson Cadham

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Robert Beckett BSc.
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 13, 2003

Big sky, clear water
Big sky and clear water are two things that Saskatchewan has in abundance.  But some residents are worried that a new neighbour will change all this.

Big Sky Farms, based in Humboldt, plans to build a factory hog farm in Foam Lake.

For years, we have taken for granted that there is clean air to breathe, and fresh groundwater for wells, providing drinking water in town and on family farms.  Big Sky's hog factory could potentially change this way of life.

One thing is for certain.  People in Foam Lake are connected to the land, and their health and well being depend on it.

Intensive Livestock Operations (ILOs) or factory farms are being heralded by big business as the saviors of the struggling rural community.  There are a few points to consider before taking this formula for success at face value.

A factory farm's profits are built on low feed prices, low wages for employees, cheap land to build their farrowing and finishing facilities, and environmental standards that allow waste storage and disposal.  In communities across the U.S. and Canada people are beginning to see the price they have paid for a few jobs.

In fact, the results of several recent studies clearly show that a factory farm can lead to surface and groundwater contamination, unacceptable health problems for surrounding landowners and ILO employees, reduction of the number of local producers and reduced property values.  In addition, the operations require the local municipality to improve infrastructure and maintain the roads.  And the one thing that no one needs to be reminded of: the unbearable stench of thousands of closely confined hogs.

Lost jobs
There was a time when a farm family could raise a couple of hundred hogs for market each year and make a living.  ILOs typically raise 100,000 hogs per year and walk away with the profits for their corporate shareholders.  If we assume a small producer raises 400 hogs on average, a single ILO will replace the market share of 250 small farmers, not to mention the reduction in price due to mass production.

The jobs created by this project are low wage shift work positions, and research has clearly demonstrated that hog manure is corrosive and can cause respiratory problems in as much of 70% of ILO employees.  I would think twice before encouraging a family member to apply there for work.

Precious water
Foam Lake is surrounded by lakes and streams.  There is also a supply of groundwater flowing through the ground under Foam Lake's water table that is fed by rainwater.  Groundwater is constantly in motion, flowing along the contours of the land and feeding our streams, rivers and lakes.  If this finite, vulnerable resource is contaminated it is impossible to reverse the damage during a person's lifetime.

We tap into groundwater by drilling a well in a location where groundwater moves easily thought he ground, quickly replacing water that is pumped out.

If an ILO is constructed, they will build a massive lagoon to store liquid manure.  A clay liner is all that separates this waste from the area's well water.  In addition, they apply liquid manure to the soil to dispose of it.  These practices definately put the area's surface and groundwater supply at risk.  In fact, it is hard to imagine clay or soil providing an effective barrier against these harmful pollutants.  Imagine Milligan Creek, the town's drinking water reservoir and Fishing Lake contaminated with bacteria and waste.

Another potential stress on Foam Lake's groundwater is that an ILO will require large amounts of water to support their extensive day0-to-day operations.  When you consider that hogs will consume roughly three times the amount of water as a human, the local aquifer would have to support the equivalent of 300,000 people, People who share groundwater aquifers with large extraction projects such as this should expect changes in their supply.  Like a thin sponge lying over the surface of the earth, the groundwater can be seriously depleted of extractable water if put under enough stress.  This will, no doubt, reduce the value of the surrounding land for people relying on it.

Threatened air quality and health
As well as the potential harm to the water supply, the decrease in air quality should be considered.  Studies have shown several adverse health effects related to living close to an ILO due to the corrosive nature of hog manure.  According to Sierra Club, symptoms can include headaches, nausea, and irritation of the eyes, respiratory tract and skin.  In fact, doctors are so concerned that in the summer of 2001, the Canadian Medical Association passed a resolution asking governments to put a moratorium on hog farms, at least until the health risks are studied.  In a country where we take good health for granted, this is very alarming.

Devalued land
Along with the threat to water, air and health, studies have shown that property values decrease within smelling distance of an ILO.  For farmers whose financial equity is the value of the land, this is a cause for great economic concern. 

It is important to stop the factory farm Big Sky Farms wants to build in Foam Lake.

Use your vice.  Make your concerns known to the members of the municipal council.  Talk to your neighbours.  There are public meetings in Foam Lake to discuss this proposed project.  It will not proceed if people speak out against it.  The town of Hardisty, Alberta didn't want ILOs, and put their good values to work to stop the proposed development.

A similar victory was achieved in the county of Forty Mile, Alberta where the Taiwan Sugar Co attempted to build an ILO.  Information on the subject is abundant, including articles by CTV, CBC, Sierra Club, Macleans's, and several others.  This is your town, your land, your water.  Have your say and make sure that Foam Lake continues to be "The best place in the world to live."

Robert Beckett BSc.
Geophysical Engineering

Robert is a former Foam Lake resident who lives in Calgary and works for Kalman Technolgies, an Oil Service Company.

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Re: It's Only My Opinion, But.....
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 13, 2003

I have a number of thoughts after reading bob Johnson's January 6th column about the mega hog development issue in the Foam Lake area.

First, I agree with Mr. Johnson that it is unfortunate that discussion on the issue has become acrimonious.  However, perhaps Mr. Johnson should understand the people who will have their lives negatively effected by these mega farms, have by the very nature of the process, been excluded from any meaningful input.  If the pattern in Foam Lake follows the pattern elsewhere in rural Saskatchewan, they will neither be consulted nor asked for their opinion in the form of a vote or plebiscite.  So naturally, they are left feeling quite powerless.

Meanwhile, how much time and money has already been spent behind the scenes by Foam Lake town council, the hog development committee and Big Sky Farms, to get this project to its current stage?  For heavens sake, according to a story in your December 2nd paper, some test holes have already been dug!  Don't you think local people should have been asked if this is the type of 'economic development' they want to attract to the area, before going this far?

Once this process starts rolling, it's pretty hard to stop.

Because Big Sky also wants to build a 5,000 sow operation in the RM of Lakeside, in the Big Quill Lake area, I have been closely studying this industry for the past year or more.  I travelled to Foam Lake on December 105h to pick up the information being handed out by the proponents.  That day, at least, it appeared there was no great enthusiasm for the project - as only three people, besides myself, had down up by the end of the day.  However, for this project to go ahead, there really doesn't have to be a great deal of support from the public - just apathy, and a lack of opposition.

I hope the good people in Foam Lake area aren't under the impression they're going to be getting something special, if you do attract a mega hog complex.  These developments are dividing neighbours and splitting communities wherever they go.  Strictly on an economic basis, given the low price of pork and the high price of feed, these multi-million dollar developments just don't add up.  This winter, provincial government loan programs are the only thing keeping them going.

As for an upcoming public meeting on the issue, let's hope some speakers are invited who can give an alternative point of view to Sask Pork, Sask. Food and Agriculture and Big Sky Farms.  Otherwise, going from past experience, I can already tell you what you will hear:

1) You'll be told that having open cesspools and hug barns holding tens of thousands of hogs, scattered around your rural municipality, is an opportunity you just can't pass up.

2) You'll be told that repeated and prolonged application of liquid hog manure is cheap fertilizer, and good for the soil

3) You'll be told that jobs in hog barns are the future for your young people.

You WON'T be told that the tax benefits of these projects are almost nil; how much money the town and RM will have to spend for soil and water studies and road construction; or that residents in other rural areas have forced these hog mega farms to look elsewhere.

And I'm sure you won't be told that at their annual meeting last August, the Canadian Medical Association expressed their concerns about the risk to public health in rural areas from industrial hog farms, and asked the various levels of government for a moratorium on the expansion of the industry.

But that's just my opinion.

- Jack Maluga

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Cons and Pro View of Mega Barns Presented at Meeting
Foam Lake Review
January 20, 2003

During the Jan. 8th information meeting regarding the proposed mega-hog barn development in the R.M. of Foam Lake, Terry Markusson, Chairman of Foam Lake Hog Developments Ltd., spoke for the pro side.  Although there is no official organized group, to avoid confusion, the speakers for the con side were identified as the Concerned Ratepayers Group.  FLHD provided information brochures and the Concerned Ratepayers provided posters and pamphlets.  Following the formal presentations, there were questions and answers.

Last week's Review provided an overview of the meeting.  As promised, this article will provide direct quotations from the formal presentations.  In the interests of accuracy, the local reporter has copies of those presentations.  For the pro side, there will be quotations from Markusson and from the information brochure.  For the con side, there will be quotations from five of the eight formal presentations, chosen by the local reporter, as representative of the questions and concerns raised, given that an article containing material from all nine would be repetitious and much too wordy.  There is also a quotation from Foam Lake's mayor, Ray King.

From the Information Brochure, page 4/5:

"The project... produces in excess of 116,000 market hogs per year.  Big Sky's Production Units operate on a three site format.  The Breeder/Farrow barn, the Nursery barn and the Feeder/Finisher barns are physically segregated from one another.  Under this format each production unit consists of:

"A Breeder/Farrow barn with the capacity for approximately 5,000 sows, plus boars and gilts, in which all aspects of housing, feeding, breeding, gestation and farrowing of the sows are managed.  The Breeder/Farrow barn produces approximately 2,400 piglets per week which are housed and fed in this barn until the age of 14 - 19 days when they are weaned and transported to the Nursery barn.

"One nursery barn with eh capacity to house, feed and manage 19,200 weanling pigs.  Weanlings are fed for seven to eight weeks reaching an average weight of 27 kilograms;

"Three Finisher barns on three separate sites, 2 barns with the capacity to house 14, 400 animals and one barn with the capacity to house 12,000 animals.

"A feed mill similar to Big Sky's mills at Ogema and Rama plus a large scale at a centralized location.  This feed mill will supply the feed for the production unit.  The feed mill manager will also be responsible for purchasing locally grown grains."

From the presentation by Dan Hoover, local farmer, member of Concerned Ratepayers:

"The dilemma as I and a great many others see it is not this project which has aroused so much attention but, more importantly, the process which was used to conceive and implement a development of this magnitude with so little input from those most directly affected.

"This is not surprising, and Foam Lake is not by any means a unique case.  Communities are always struggling to promote a creative, effective, efficient decision-making forum.  We usually get to where we are right now because some group has conceived a solution to a perceived problem and fails, for whatever reason, to garner enough public participation during the infancy stage.

"Sooner or later, a project of importance will pit forces at odds.  Where some see a solution to local economic development, others view the same idea with grave concern and reservation.  Fear is always the first reaction to change and anger always the first reaction to fear.  Without communication, major problems will erupt... We may never all agree on everything, but through a collaborative approach to problem solving, surely we can extract the maximum benefit at the least cost to our community from this or any other project."

Terry Markusson, Chairman, FLHD:

"In March of 2002, at the annual ratepayers meeting of the R.M. of Foam Lake, the idea of hog barns was discussed.  A presentation was made by Purelean Hogs.  They offered their technology and management skills with a new concept for handling the waste material.  This community would have to raise the money to finance and build the whole operation.

"At this time we decided to form the Foam Lake Hog Developments Ltd.  After speaking with community leaders from Ogema and Porcupine Plain we were impressed by their positive attitudes... We felt if we could attract a Big Sky Production unit to Foam Lake it would give us the greatest economic impact of any of the hog operations we investigated.  The proposed 30 million dollar project includes a 5000 sow to finish operation consisting of five barns, a feed mill and a truck wash.

"The agreement offered to us by Big Sky was they would finance the construction of the whole operation if we would be responsible for finding and funding suitable sites, testing for water supply, obtaining the right to inject manure in a three mile radius of a barn and checking that the soil formation was suitable for manure storage.  Our committee studied the RM maps and picked 11 possible sites in the Foam Lake RM... Big Sky favours five sites south of Foam Lake but the studies have yet to be completed."

Mervyn Springer, local farmer, member of Concerned Ratepayers.

"A traditional hog farm requires 10 people to produce a thousand finished hogs.  A factory hog barn employs 1.7 to 3.2 workers to produce a thousand finished hogs.  We all agree that we have to do something in this regard to keep our community alive.  It is my proposal that we keep the present jobs and expand on them.

"The Milligan Bio Diesel venture is one such area where expansion would be a definite possibility; that committee has worked hard and long in their efforts to foster a bio-diesel industry.  With financial support and incentives by the Town of Foam Lake Development Board, I am sure that would result in more job opportunities.  There is also a proposal to develop a pellitizing plant at Kelliher to fusing grain screenings for cattle feed.

"One of the fastest growing industries in Saskatchewan is tourism and, in particular, bird watching.  We are very fortunate that the Foam Lake Heritage marsh is in our back yard.  This site has been described as the Jewel in the Crown of the migration route for ducks, geese and migrating waterfowl.  The near proximity of the Marsh to Canada's second Trans-Canada Highway along with readily accessible shoreline offers enthusiastic birders from all parts of the world an experience which we all take for granted.  Plans are afoot to spend $270,000 to improve the tourism industry in the Foam Lake, Wynyard and Wadena marshland areas.  This is an industry that definitely thrives on clean air and clean water, two of our biggest natural resources."

Terry Markusson, Chairman of FLHD:

"One major benefit to farmers in the Foam Lake area is a market for feed grain.  A 5000 Sow to Finish hog operation will use the grain from about 35,000 acres.  At today's prices, comparing the Foam Lake Pool elevator price and the price at Big Sky Feed Mill located in Rama there is about a $36 per acre gain by selling to the feed mill.  This amounts to about a one million dollar gain to farmers in the Foam Lake RM each year.  Big Sky Farms has agreed in writing to FLHD that they will give the local farmers first opportunity to sell to their feed mill providing the grain meets their feed specs."

Marlyn Wunder, farmers, 100 cow/calf operation, member of Concerned Ratepayers:

"In doing the calculations set out by our governing bodies, it is said that unit equals one cow and one cow is equal to 3 sows or 6 feeders or 20 weanlings.  The proposed three finishing barns will hold... a total of 40,800 head of pigs... There are approximately 2725 head of cattle located in a radius of 7½ miles from the centre of Foam Lake.  This means the manure is being spread on 116,480 acres.  Is there room for expansion in this area?

"The risks are out there and, to date, I feel that both sides have not been examined carefully enough to make an educated decision.  A recent study by Dr. Rustam I. Aminov and colleagues of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used a method to detect antibiotic resistance genes in bacterial DNA extracted from water lagoons near two swine farms.  The investigators found that the bacteria carrying the resistance genes had seeped into the underlying ground water and could be detected as far as 820 feet downstream of the lagoons."

Terry Markusson, Chairman of FLHD:

"We have spoken to Big Sky and to Milligan Bio-Tech and promoted the idea of sharing a location and working together in a mutually beneficial arrangement.  Oil and meal from Milligan Bio-Tech could be used in Big Sky's feed ration, making it more feasible for the Milligan Bio-Tech project to go ahead.

"If this project goes ahead as planned, FLHD is also promoting the idea of building a small abattoir and packing plant to process a small amount of the hogs.  If this proves successful it could be expanded to handle the whole production.  Big Sky  has committed that they will supply the hogs to be processed."

Karen Cruickshank, local farmer, Concerned Ratepayer:

"Our home is located 1½ miles from the proposed site of the weanling barn.  Roughly 130 acres of the surrounding land to this pig barn where we assume the manure will be applied drains directly into our water supply...  How and why were the locations of the sites chosen?

"Why is Saskatchewan pushing to increase their hog production when Manitoba has a moratorium on any new barns being built until the spreading of manure can be investigated further?  Will the concentration of manure within a two mile radius of barns cause a salt and heavy metal build up in soils?  Will the antibiotics in the daily feed rations get into our water supply or kill the soil organisms?

"Generally, gases and odors produced in close confinement hog facilities are the result of bacterial action on biodegradable parts of hog waste.  The gasses produced are methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.  Oil field workers are required to have hydrogen sulfide safety certifications.  Since barn workers could potentially be exposed to this gas, are they required to have a valid safety certificate?  Is it true these pollutants collect in and follow low lying areas?  If this is the case, does this mean that these odors/gasses will collect in the Town of Foam Lake, being that it is substantially lower than all of the proposed barn sites?  As the barns get older, does the stench get worse?

Terry Markusson, Chairman, FLHD:

"We know the reason this meeting has been called is because of the concern of both air and water pollution.  Liquid manure from the holding pits will be used for fertilizer in a three mile radius of each barn site.  The surrounding land will be soil tested annually.  There should be no concern regarding leaching into surface water as it gets absorbed into the soil.

"Concerning air pollution there are definately  problems in this area.  Our group studied the RM map.  We tried to pick possible sties that had the greatest distance from occupied farm yards.  We also tried to keep in mind that the prevailing winds in this area are from the north west... The only reason we picked the 11 possible sites is we felt if barns were located in any of these areas fewer families would be subjected to odour.

"We know the question will be asked why there were no sites picked north of Foam Lake.  Big Sky Farms preferred having the barns south of Foam Lake and we honoured their choice."

Robbie Wunder, local student, 4-H member, Volunteer, National Science Fair winner:

"I plan to live here and raise a family here.  Have other communities really grown in population as a result of large hog operations?  This is my opinion.  I am 18.  I am an adult.  I think we should have a referendum on the question of large hog operations."

Speaking on behalf of the Town, Mayor Ray King said that the Town has committed $7500 to FLHD.  "Following the public meeting on Feb. 20, Council will decide if the balance of the requested $35,000 will be approved," he said.  "We support all economic development in our area but are concerned that the R.M. has not 'committed' their $35,000, which we were advised was a 'given' by FLHD.  The agreement states that the Town of Foam Lake will be reimbursed, regardless of the R.M.'s actions."

-Joan Eyolfson Cadham

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Glenn Helgason, P.Ag.
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 20, 2003

I have seen the hog debate get more and more divided in the past few weeks.  I think that Foam Lake and it's surrounding area residents should start looking at where we want our community to be 20 years from now.  If you have already given up or don't care, please don't stand in the way of those that do.  We can either keep the current trend of our population decreasing, business sector declining, health care and education systems being downsized, or we can try to maintain and increase our population and keep the services at what we have.  How do we keep our population the same - jobs for our citizens.  The assumption that we can sit on our hands and hope that the perfect industry falls into our laps is completely unrealistic and will never happen.  I hope the hog development project will be a start to eh economic development that is needed.  Milligan Bio-Tech (Canola crushing plant, bio-diesel plant) is an industry that has been on the drawing board for years, will there also be a group of concerned citizens that will oppose it as well?  It was not very long ago that the opposition to the community hall was significant with petitions and plebiscites, and ironically some of the same individuals are opposed again.

What are the advantages of this project?

1) Jobs - whether there are 50 or 30 jobs created, it is still a payroll into your area.  Will this make your sons and daughters move back to Foam Lake to repopulate the area, likely not.  Will it help families that are presently here stay here, quite possibly, and will it bring some new families into the area, yes.  These jobs are good paying jobs with benefit packages of health, dental and bonus incentives.

2) A source for our grain and some economic activity for our business sector - this is the greatest advantage of the barn project.  The savings from freight on what we produce in the area on 1.5 million bushels of grain is huge.  Even if everyone does not supply grain to the barn, it creates another market for what this area produces.  Opponents will say that the grain is all US corn, but do they know there was more corn grown in Canada in 2002 than barley.  This is a unique year where corn has been brought in to supplement the poorer quality crops grown in western Canada (ie light weight grains) and on an average year, the freight costs would take corn out of the rations.  Let's look at this as an opportunity, if corn is the most economical feed, let's grow it here - the technology is there, but without a local market it is not economical.  There will be some spin-offs from not only the construction, but also the day to day operations of the barns that will help our local businesses.  I realize that everything will not be solely purchased locally, but a good portion will.  Take a close look at your own purchasing habits locally before passing judgment.

3) Attract other new development - there is a beneficial link that can be made between a hog barn project and the Milligan Bio-Tech project.  Why can't we put our efforts into developing an alliance with such companies as Drake Meat Processors to process hogs locally?  Will this help develop a trucking and feed mill industry that can compliment a beef feedlot?  We can not raise the millions of dollars to set up these barns, but we sure can try to raise the smaller capital to build the industries that can spin off as a result of the barns.  These are true opportunities that the community can invest in, and reap all the benefits.

4) Land Values - I am quite suspect of the opinion that land values will decline with the introduction of hog barns into the RM.  My experience has seen land values increase in any area where off farm employment has been available as a result of industry, even hog barns.  There will obviously be the value of the hog manure as a local source of fertilizer,  just like cow manure has an inherent value.

I realize that there will be some smells from the barns.  These barns will have to adhere to all environmental regulations and we can rely on technology on barn design to continue to reduce the odour from the barns compared to those constructed in the past.  We have to realize that we live in rural Saskatchewan and have farming as our main livelihood.  Do we not have smell from cattle farms in the area?  We learn to live with the odd smell, just like the one from the lagoon adjacent to the Town of Foam Lake to the NW.  The Sierra Club is against ILOs but wouldn't they be against how we all presently grow crops and raise any livestock, other than a complete organic method of agriculture.

In closing, I can only ask that the people of our community identify the facts from the fiction and fear, and make an informed decision.  I challenge the committee opposed to the barns to lead with alternatives to the hog barns that will stimulate significant economic activity and jobs.  This project hopefully will bring these new ideas to reality, with these new individuals leading them.  I for one would like to see Foam Lake's population 20 years from now at 2000 and not 200 - remember - we as a community have turned down a lot of industries in the past.

Glen Helgason, P.Ag.

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Laurie Kitzul
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 20, 2003

My name is Laurie Kitzul married to Dale Kitzul.  We have 4 children, farm agriculture land and recently diversified into raising Bison for meat and breeding stock.  I am currently working at the Foam Lake Jubilee nursing home.  I have been very involved with the community on volunteer committees.  Foam Lake is my home.

I attended the Hog Development Information meeting on Jan. 9th.  The meeting was well attended and Tom Leader did a good job chairing the evening.  This is a large undertaking of investigating the possibilities for economic development in our community.  Many hours of volunteer time has been dedicated by the Foam Lake Hog Development Committee.  These are a group of LOCAL citizens with wives, children, grandchildren and other family members living in this area.  I know all the committee members.  I know they are not out to poison my 4 children, husband, family and friends... doing so would be poisoning their own families.

Strong emotions brought to this meeting by some members of the opposing group were not taken well.  Yelling at the committee and making mention of intimidating with a shot gun... no comparison... ideas, information and suggestions have never hurt anyone.

I agree with Danny Hoover - collaborative problem solving... working together to a workable solution.

One disappointment for the evening I have goes to the Mayor of Foam Lake... Ray King.  His comment, "I didn't know I would be asked to speak" come on!!!  An issue of such importance as this... the Mayor should have made sure he was on the agenda to speak on behalf of the Town Council regarding their involvement.  Rumors don't get stopped until there are answers.

This is a very important decision - with time, questions and answers hopefully we can come to a solution.  Something like Big Sky Farms is needed.

Nevin Halyk touched on a business opportunity missed: the Wynyard Chicken Plant.  Leon's Manufacturing is another business I have heard could have been in Foam Lake.  Nevis said he has no real answers to the truth of this... maybe now is the time to answer these questions regarding missed opportunities.

Let's work together and keep our community alive.

- Laurie Kitzul

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Terry Markusson
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 20, 2003

The Foam Lake Hog Development Committee would like to bring it to your attention that there is a premature petition being circulated within the RM of Foam Lake against the proposed hog development project.

Please DO NOT sign this petition until after the Feb. 20 information meeting being held at 7:00 PM at the Foam Lake Community Hall.

There will be experts in attendance from Big Sky Farms, Sask Ag & Food, Sask Water, Sask Health and other agencies willing to answer questions.  The meeting will be run as follows:  speakers will express positive views then there will be an opportunity to have your questions answered.  There are many positive developments from this project to consider which could be a great benefit to this community.  Don't be swayed by negativity, listen to both sides, weight the information and then make an informed decision.

- Terry Markusson, Chairman of Foam Lake Hog Developments Ltd.

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Helgi Helgason
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 20, 2003

Anytime I hear that a possibility to draw a new industry to our area is possible I get very excited and interested.  The very existence of our community will depend on some industry locating here in the near future.  Should we lose any of our present infrastructure, whether it be our doctor, health care or recreation facility, school, elevator or business, the job of growing our community will become much more difficult to achieve.

I am told that the meeting on Jan. 9th was attended by a large number of people, which is great.  We need to be vigilant about our environment and the effects we expose our neighbours and friends to.  However, if these concerns can be satisfied with a reasonable degree of certainty, then I would say let's not kill the goose that may lay the golden egg for our area.

The environmental water quality is the greatest concern I would have in the proposed hog industry that is being contemplated here.  When I heart that situation or some terrible problem has arisen in some intensive livestock operation somewhere, it is a concern.  However if you heard about it you can be assured that the environmental people have heard about it also.  When environmentalists hear about these problems, the problem becomes a positive, because they can now factor that incident into their safety calculations.

There are a number of livestock operations in our area and I have three questions to ask of them.

1.  Have you had an environmental assessment done on your operation?  If the answer is "yes", that's great.  If the answer is "no", why haven't' you?

2.  If you have had an assessment done, are you adhering to the regulations?  If you area, I commend you for that.  If you're not, then probably you are a cause for concern.

3.  Do you feel that the regulations to livestock operations are adequate for the safety of the environment and society?  If you do, then why is the environmental regulations for the hog industry not adequate?  If you do not, then why are you not taking your case to the environmental regulators?

If any of us figure our feces do not smell we should think again.  Whenever a septic tank is emptied, odor is emitted, we tolerate it and carry on with our lives.  When a feedlot is cleaned out the smell lingers for some time, we tolerate it.  When a hog facility lagoon is emptied and injected into the fields there will be a bit of an odor for a shot time, but can tolerate that.

In conclusion I think it is time we all put on our common sense hats, and use logical reasoning as a guide for our arguments, on both sides of the issue.  When our concerns for water safety and reasonable odor control are met, by environmental controls and regulations, then I am certain that this industry will bring good benefits to our community.

If we oppose any decision then we should bring an alternative solution to be considered.  Let us not get all steamed up so we huff and puff and try to blow down the little pigs house, without real good reason.

- Helgi Helgason

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Please Make an Informed Decision
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 20, 2003

We want to congratulate the Foam Lake Hog Development Committee for attending the meeting of concerned citizens of this community held on Thurs. Jan. 9th at the Community Hall.  We can appreciate the time spent by the committee studying and analyzing the new technology of the hog "barns".

We can relate to hog barns as we had approximately 150 - 200 hog in a barn on our farm.  We used the "old fashioned shovel" to clean the pens and the manure spreader to fertilize our fields and in turn saving money on fertilizer.  Being is this situation for approximately 20 years we or our children haven't suffered any related health problems.

After reading the pamphlet the "Hog  committee" presented to us we can appreciate the new technology for this type of project.  Government regulations protect us from "contaminated wells" and "unbearable odours".

We can relate to our first community hall information meeting.  There were a lot of concerned individuals.  Many though there was no need for a community hall.  Many were afraid of higher taxes.  As a result of those concerns the project was delayed.  After several information meetings the committee and the community worked together and as a result with fund raising projects, individual donations, and many volunteers who spent many hours of their time using hammers and plaster knowledge, we now have a beautiful facility that we can be proud of which is used daily and weekly.  There were no increases of taxation.  Shortly we will be celebrating "the burning of the mortgage".

We can also relate to the "pyrogy makers".  This project was started in our house.  At that time there was a lot of criticism from the public.  Remarks like "Do you think you can build a hall with pyrogies".  That was not our intent but the women of this community wanted to contribute in a small way towards the Hall project.  If you study the chart in the dining room on the wall of the Community Hall you will be amazed at the contributions we made to this facility.  At this time we want to thank the strong will and hard work of the present committee that pursued the project to this day.  We are still making and selling pyrogies to families near and far.

Then came the idea of the "Combine Lotto".  Congratulations to the committee that pursued this idea.  The tickets are "sold out" yearly and the profit from this project has upgraded our Recreation Centre, contributed to the hall project and the golf course.  We are fortunate to have determined committees that work towards the good of our community.

Another example of long term determination of individuals is Milligan Bio-Tech.  After many years of planning and study they are starting to realize their goals.  One of the co-products of Milligan Operation will e Canola Meal which can be suitable feed stock for the "Hog Plant Operation".

If communities don't take control of their own destiny though managing new local initiatives they will be left with only memories of what could have been in our community.

We need committees to study and pursue projects for the good of our young generation.  To create employment for them in our own province.  We need to keep our teachers and nurses here.  Our graduated accountants, veterinarians feed analysts and secretaries will find jobs in our community.

An agriculture student might which to take over the family farm and also work as an accountant etc. in our newest idea "the hog barn" and in Milligan Bio Tech.

Our town will benefit.  They empty  homes will be occupied.  Our motels, restaurants and stores will be used to capacity.

The Foam Lake Hog Development Committee arranged for a public meeting on Feb. 20th at the Community Hall.  Please read and study the pamphlet provided for us by the committee.  In attendance will also be the "Big Sky Management committee" team that will deal with our concerns.  Attend the meeting and present your concerns in a mannerly fashion.

The development board is open for suggestions of projects for the betterment of our town and community which was rated as "the best place to live".

Let's support our committee on the "Foam Lake Hog Development" to our fullest.  Let us not let another opportunity slip by for the growth of our town.

Please ignore the petitions floating around until you have attended the Feb. 20th meeting.  Many of your concerns will be answered and we will learn more about the project.

- David and Mary Faye

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Garth Anderson
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 20, 2003

I chose to attend the hog barn forum hosted at the Community Hall last week.  There was a gentleman who spoke and challenged everyone in attendance to get the facts and make an informed decision regarding these Intensive Livestock Operations.  At the risk of making my parent-teacher interviews an even more exciting day, I am going to give some statistics and ask some questions that may provoke some discussion.

In 1981, Foam Lake Composite and Foam Lake Elementary schools housed six hundred and twenty two students.  Twenty years later, our population is now three hundred and fifty three.  The enrolment projection in just five years is one hundred and thirty three at Foam Lake Elementary and one hundred and twenty five at Foam Lake Composite - a decrease of forty percent.  Therefore, it is both practical and conceivable that one school will be adequate to facilitate all the student needs in Foam Lake and surrounding area.

Coupled with declining student population is the inherent loss of teacher jobs and lost wages and spending in our community.  Superannuation of some teachers will expedite the transfer of current teachers, but instead of attracting youthful teachers with young families, the positions will simply be cropped.  Verifiably, five teaching positions in the next six years will be forfeited at Foam Lake Composite.  Associated with declining enrolments will be the amalgamation of bus routes and custodial duties.  Additionally, more jobs lost compounding the privation of income and spending in Foam Lake and business area.

The other concern correlated with dropping enrolments and reduced staff is the loss of educational and extra curricular programs at Foam Lake Composite School.  Satellite classes are an option for special academic programs such as Calculus and  French but are unquestionably inferior alternatives.  Practical and applied arts such as Industrial Arts and Home Economics would certainly be scrutinized and administering the senior sciences and maths would be altered from their current form.  Extra curricular programs such as nine-man football, band and drama that require significant student numbers will be in jeopardy, imperiled due to a loss of both students and staff.  Never has Foam Lake Composite had such an austere horizon regarding percentage of staff and student decline.

Does the Intensive Livestock Operation have the potential to stabilize and stimulate student populations?  I telephoned Leroy School and informally discussed the hog barn situation with an employee at that school.  I asked her if the hog barns had increased school enrolment and she said this fall a family with four children had moved into the community, and, more importantly, she said it has allowed young families to remain in the Leroy attendance area who would have had to relocate.  When I discussed this situation with an official from the Lanigan School  Division he was of the opinion that enrolments continue to decline in spite of the economic development but not at the rate had there not been the effort.  I asked about the odour from the barns and she that, on occasion, if the wind is right the hog barns could be detected.

This is a particularly sensitive subject to discuss, especially since many of my days as a high school Principal are controversial enough.  However, the educational welfare, opportunity and future of prospective students are a variable to be considered during this debate.  I applaud our two local governments for trying to stimulate business and growth; it is their mandate.

Am I for hog barns?  I don't know yet.

Am I an advocate for Foam Lake and it's future?  YES.

- Garth Anderson, Principal

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Editor's Response re: Jack Maluga
Foam Lake Review
January 20, 2003

Dear Mr. Maluga,

In response to your letter to the editor in the January 13, 2003 issue of the Review.  I would first like to thank you for your concern toward our economic and environmental well being.

I too share those concerns although perhaps I should be spending less time at work and more time researching the issues such as mega hog barns and other intensive livestock operations already operating in my area.

I do, however, base the decisions I make as a member of town council on information gleaned from both sides of a proposed project such as the proposed hog barns.

In answer to your question regarding the amount of money spent by the Town of Foam Lake on the hog development committee project to date, that answer is simple.  Not one cent.  I would also like to clear up any misconception readers may have been left with from reading your letter regarding a report in the December 2nd issue of the Review.  These test holes you referred to were soil test holes dug with a backhoe to determine soil type on potential sites for the proposed project.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the water well test drilling recently completed by the Town.  The December 2nd report also goes on to say that much work needs to be done and that plans are preliminary.

The public meeting held on January 9th did, I believe, as per the hope expressed in your letter, feature several public speakers not from Sask Pork, Sask Food and Agriculture and Big Sky Farms who all presented views opposing the project as well as a presentation from Foam Lake Hog Development Ltd.

A number of questions remain to be answered and I look forward to the February 20th meeting ot have them answered.

I can, however, assure you that there is no great conspiracy, real or implied, to withhold information from the public.

As afar as what impression 'the good people in Foam Lake are' get regarding the project is really a decision we can make for ourselves.

- Bob Johnson

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Editorial.... Making a Considered Difference
Foam Lake Review
January 20, 2003

There are two messages from the Jan. 8th hog development meeting that we should all retain:

The first is: "I challenge you - no, I charge you - if you don't want the hog operation to proceed, to come out the next time I call a meeting of the Economic Development committee," from Alderman Harry Kerr.  Kerr explained that he invited a large group of people to an economic development meeting and had two people turn out.

The other is from Dan Hoover, local farmer.  "A community's most important strength is its ability to work together.  The most productive approach is one of collaboration.  We may never all agree on everything but through a collaborative approach to problem solving, surely we can extract the maximum benefit at the least cost to our community from this or any other project.  There is no Us and Them, only Us."

There is controversy around the proposed development of hog barns in conjunction with Big Sky.  The trick for our community is to discuss the issue without tearing apart our community.

This doesn't mean we need to shut down discussion.  We need, in fact, to encourage more discussion, not less.  Silence leads to rumour and irrational reactions.  Open discussion leads to considered opinions based on fact and not on conjecture.

We need to argue without getting personal.  We need to discuss the current issue without muddying the waters with side issues.  We can think of this discussion in terms of family argument.  "You promised you'd finish the painting before spring."  "Yeah, but three months ago, you blew $50 on lottery tickets."

We need to listen more and talk less.  We need to listen completely, without looking for just enough information to start formulating our next arguments.  We need to listen to all opinions, and to respect those opinions as coming from people who care as much as we do about the present and future of our community.

"I think", "I heard", "They told me", doesn't count.  Facts do.  But the facts need to come from a reliable source.  How do we determine the reliability of a source?  What do we need to know in order to form an educated opinion?

Here are some potential questions which can be answered with facts.

How much money came into other Saskatchewan towns during the construction phase of a mega hog production?  How much material was available locally?  How much was purchased locally?

How much grain has been purchased locally in other towns with a history of big barns?  What is the dollar value of that grain?

What are the salaries paid for each level of barn employee?  In other towns of Foam Lake's size, how many employees live in the local town?  Are these workers who have moved inot the town to take advantage of the new jobs, or are these second jobs that go to families who are already residents?

How many new businesses have opened up in towns after a hog barn has been in the area for several years?  (No one should expect immediate results in the first year or so).  How many new houses have been built?  How much has the population increased in the Town or in the R.M.?  Has school enrolment increased?

Are people shopping the local town? (This is a question we can ask of ourselves all year long - do we support our own businesses and services and, if we don't, can we expect new people in town to shop locally, or will they, too, explain that they have to go to WalMart for the deals?)

If the local hog project does not go ahead, is there any reason why Foam Lake could not pursue the idea of a small abattoir and packing plant?  Has anyone continued discussions with Kelly Ediger of Drake Meats bout a branch plant here?  Has anyone researched the availability of local animals for such a plant?  Would a local plant also process bison or emu or ostrich?  Could we find the guaranteed markets?  Could researching this project become part of Harry Kerr's challenge to the people who attended the Jan. 8 meeting?

It's easier to speculate, guess, assume, talk over coffee than to make the phone calls and do the research.  Doing research in Saskatchewan will probably mean digging for information that hasn't been tapped - doing original research.  However, comparing Saskatchewan to Saskatchewan is probably the best way to understand most fully the positive and negative implications of hog barn development in Saskatchewan.

And, all the while, the most important though has got to be: There is no Us and Them.  There is only Us.

- Joan Eyolfson Cadham

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Marlene Wunder
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 27, 2003

I would like to begin by saying that comparing a community hall to 116,000 hogs is not realistic.  For one... does the community hall release Hydrogen Sulfide gas?  Does it produce ammonia gas?  by the way ammonia gas when volatilized may be redeposited onto land and water as far away as 300 miles in for the form of acid rain.

Can the community hall cause water contamination if it rains 8 - 15 inches in a 10 hour period?  For example on July 3, 2000 at Vanguard, Saskatchewan it rained 15 inches in 10 hours!  Can you or I predict what the weather will do?

We all know that the weather people on TV or radio have a hard time predicting what tomorrow will bring, what makes us so special that we would not encounter such a catastrophe!!!

One last word on the community hall.  Does it emit odors that interfere with your quality of life?  Maybe some of you have all the answers to these questions!

Speaking of smell, are you sure you know what is exactly being proposed?  Let me give you some information on the magnitude of this project.  First of all this is 5000 sows year round, not 200 cute little pigs that you can shovel the straw and manure out - there is no straw.  We are talking millions of gallons of liquid untreated raw sewage to be dispersed on land all around the barn sites.  How many millions?  A 2500 sow farrow-to-finish operations generates 26, 202,500 lagoon liquid per year.  We would have to multiply this by 2 so 26,202,500 x 2 equals 52,405,000 gallons of liquid sewage per year.  Millions of gallons of raw untreated sewage to spread in our neighborhood.  Does this sound like scooping a little poop away by a shovel?  I don't think so!!!!

Over a three year period this project will need a land base of 240 or more quarters to disperse all this untreated liquid manure.

Now taking all this into consideration if we translated this into cattle number's we would need a total of 20,999 head in a confined area, not roaming around on thousands of acres of land.  Now I have done the calculations for the whole project not just the three finishing barns with the first batch of feeder pigs.

Do you in town think the smell would get a little over bearing if there was that many animals located in a confined area in close proximity to you?

Is it fair to compare the treated lagoon north of Foam Lake to that of 52 million gallons of untreated manure?  When this lagoon accommodates treated sewage from 12200 people.  The 52 million gallons of manure that the pigs will produce, is equivalent to sewage from 100 thousand people.

Here is a little information for you to absorb about water consumption.  A gestating sow uses 3.3 gallons of water per day.  So again we have 5000 sows x 3.3 equals 16,5000 gallons per day x 365 days equals 6.022,500 gallons per year.  This is not totally accurate because while a sow lactates they use 4.4 gallons of water per day.  This information was obtained through the Prairie Swine Centre Inc. in Saskatoon.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  The calculation above is just for the sows, there are 116,000 finished pigs consuming water daily.  I pose these questions to the citizens of Foam Lake and RM of Foam Lake.  What is the actual water usage of such a mega project?  Do we have sufficient water that will sustain this for a long period of time?  Will there be another drought next year or the year after?  Once again you nor I can predict the weather or the sustainability of this project.

On to population of communities.  The fact is communities throughout Saskatchewan are declining, the bigger cities along with the communities that have mega hog factories.  According to Statistics Canada communities such as Kelvington's population in 1996 was 1,046 - in 2001 it was 1,007.  Preeceville population in 1996 was 1,148 and in 2001 it was 1,074.  Lintlaw population 208 in 1996, 187 in 2001, and Watrous 1,860 in 1996, and 1,808 in 2001.  The reason I refer to 2001 is because the last census was done that year.  Two communities that did grow, I phoned them to see what they were doing so right!  One was Osler population in 1996, 618 - population in 2001 - 823.  Second was Warman 1996 population 2,839, population 2001 - 3,481.  The reason for expansion no new industries just the location from the city of Saskatchewan.  People wanting a quiet life style a friendly atmosphere, clean water and fresh clean air.

I did some phoning to the Town offices at Invermay, Rama, and Kelvington.  All of which told me they had no school enrollment increase, the population did not increase, there was no new business open up with the exception of 1 electrician business in Kelvington.  One RM office told me there was increase maintenance cost tot he RM, dust control was a big factor, gravel expense was up, road repairs would have to be made.  Did the building of the barns cause some influx of business, some yes during the building stage, to sustain a business for the next 15 to 20 years, not likely.  Will it make our school's grow?  What is happening to Theodore school this fall?  Will the mill rates be increased?

Who is Big Sky Inc.?  Big Sky Inc. is classed as a family farm and Mr. Florian Possberg CEO owns approximately 4.9% of the shares, his wife owns just over 1% of shares.  Saskatchewan government invested 15 million dollars through CIC, plus 8 million dollars through Saskatchewan growth fund.  Saskatchewan gov't is a major shareholder in Big Sky Farms Inc.  So why are they considered a family farm?  Why do they reclaim the PST on the building supplies which may total 1.5 million dollars on this project.  That should be monies spent on health care, or education.  Mitchell's Gourmet Foods of Saskatoon now controlled by Schneiders Corporation.  Schneiders Corporation is solely owned by Smithfield Foods of Virginia USA.  Mitchell's Foods invested 5 million dollars into Big Sky Farms Inc. for the Kelvington barn.  In return Big Sky now sells 85% of its market hogs to Mitchells.  Is there vertical coordination on the way for Saskatchewan?  Check of Smithfield Foods track record for contamination, pollution and abandoning open lagoons.

Is there more information out there?  Plenty, just phone, check out the web sites, or talk to some other provinces and universities.  You can also try the Canadian Medical Health Association.  A conference was held in Saskatoon about Factory Farm development in Canada, November 8, 2002.  There were guest speakers from the United States to share what had happened to their country, only to see the problem move north.  If you would like information on this conference contact Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - SK at 306-978-5308 - they helped organize the conference.

Remember what they said about the Titanic, it was "unsinkable" according to the paper plans, but... it too sank because of God's own creation, an unpredictable iceberg!

I do not want to see our community disappear!  Have we given up on our community, certainly not!  Is there room for improvement, of course!  Does it have to be mega big hog barns?  No!  Do you know that Drake Meats employs 80 people and they don't have a meg hog barn project of 5000 sow farrow to finish? They are expanding right in Drake.  Are there alternatives?  Definately!

Now our little community is alive, let's bottle this energy in a positive way and come up with a solution or alternative.  Let's please keep the unity in the community - without the unity you have no community.

- Marlene Wunder

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Tom Adreas
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 27, 2003

When the issue of hog barns in the Foam Lake area came up, I would have liked to have been one of those guys that sit on the fence and not get involved in the debate.  An issue like this there really isn't a fence - sooner or later you will have to make a decision, and I hope you do.  I will start by stating I am against the barns, and really if you don't want them near, you are also against them.

Water quality is the most important concern, and rightly so.  What are we without good clean and safe water supply.  With all the information out there I cannot be convinced that our wells will not be contaminated.  Why won't Big Sky build north of the town, closer to the Heritage marsh or Fishing Lake?  Also explain why in the brochure handed out by the Hog Development board will Big Sky protect the people that allow them to spread manure on their land with lawyers from lawsuits?

People try to pretend that air quality doesn't matter.  Well to my family and me it does matter!!!  We pasture cows beside the finishing barns north of Invermay and to put it politely, they reek!!  Sometimes 5 miles away and certainly almost always within 2 miles.  All day everyday the exhaust fans are pumping out that foul odor.  It isn't just when they are emptying the lagoons like some people believe.

Liability is something all ratepayers should be considering.  Let's assume the Saskatch3ewan government messes this up just like they did Spudco.  Who has to pay to clean up this mess?  What are the costs of cleaning up these giant earthen lagoons?  Is it the RM of Foam Lake?  Or does it really matter because even if it is Big Sky the Saskatchewan government owns them and we all pay provincial taxes.

Some people believe hog barns in the area may mean lots of new families moving in to Foam Lake and they will have kids and the school and the town will flourish.  So I did some research and found out that enrollment in two area schools with these hog barns actually had their enrollment drop.

Theodore School is about to possibly close and they have a hog barn that moved into their community and they didn't gain one student, in fact the enrollment dropped from 51 to 45 this year.  Invermay School even with 5 mega barns actually had their enrollment drop this year from 15 to 163.  Similar result sin Lintlaw and Kelvington.  I might also add that Sheho didn't have one new family move in because of the hog barn ns in either Theodore or Rama (two hog projects in close proximity).

Will it save the community?  With Sheho and their school closure, the community fought to save the school, but the difference is we fought together.  How can a mega barn project bring a community together?  It can't if a large number of people oppose it.  The community appears to be splitting and at what costs is a project that splits town against rural, friend against friend, families and neighbours against each other?

In conclusion we ask people to get educated about these hog factories, to go for drives and smell what we are talking about, to do research in towns that have them and see that very few new families move in.  No one will argue the fact that these towns are very busy during the construction phase, but after that everything goes back to the way it was before the construction, perhaps even quieter if the community was divided over the issue.

- Tom Andreas, Resident in the RM of Foam Lake

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Walter Fennuk
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
January 27, 2003

I am writing this at 4 am in the morning on one of the many nights I have not been able to sleep.  I have never previously written a letter to the editor, but then I have never felt so threatened as I do by the proposal for the mega hog barns.

Some members of the Concerned Citizens group took a petition against mega hog barn operations, signed by 311 ratepayers of the RM of Foam Lake #276 to the last council meeting.  The council's answer to this petition was to table it until their next council meeting on March 5, 2003.  I wonder how many more sleepless nights I and countless others must endure before we can stop this project.  Our reeve, in an open meeting on January 9, said the final decision was the people's.  If over 300 signatures in 3 days isn't enough are we going to have to endure the expense of a plebiscite or are we even being offered this?  (Remember, only 5000 signatures in the WHOLE province of Manitoba was enough to put a moratorium on mega hog barn expansions in that province.)

There are hundreds of pages of information available about the harmful effects of these factories on both the environment and the health of people working in or living near mega hog barns, but I also challenge the ratepayers of this RM to go and talk to people who have these factories in their locale.

We all have friends and relatives living near other barns.  Speak to these people and ask them about their air and water quality, about dust, about road deterioration.  Ask them if any new families have moved in, ask them if their school enrolments have increased.  Ask them if they see any new businesses.  Ask their councillors if they have not had to spend much more on road maintenance and rebuilding than they ever made from taxing these factories.  Members of the concerned citizens group have asked these questions and we have the answers.

In these day s of environmental awareness and the Kyoto Accord to reduce greenhouse emissions can we not look for a more environmentally friendly way to sustain rural Saskatchewan than to destroy two of the most unique things we have to offer, namely clean air and clean water.

Please don't stop telling the councillors that YOU elected what your feelings are.

- Walter Fennuk

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Jerrold Malinowski
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
February 3, 2003


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Henry & Lucy Kolodziejski
Letters to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
February 3, 2003


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Concerned Citizen's Coalition is a voluntary organization concerned about the environment, our quality of life and our community.




A: The Fraser Institute lists Big Sky as a Crown Corporation.


A: Currently RMs are responsible for cleaning up abandoned underground fuel storage tanks.  Will the RM be responsible for cleaning up these giant earthen lagoons in the future as well?  Check out your liability insurance and see if you are covered.

RM Council Plans Hog Barn Vote
Western Producer
February 27, 2003
By: Karen Morrison

Councillors in the Saskatchewan rural municipality of Foam Lake will vote March 5 on whether to go ahead with an intensive pig operation amid mounting opposition.

Petitions with 600 signatures opposing the construction of Big Sky barns at six sites near Foam Lake will be presented at the council's next meeting.

Reeve Gerald Holowaty is unsure how the vote will go but said the petitions represent two-thirds of local ratepayers.

"I believe we should be listening to our ratepayers," he said.

Holowaty said the RM began exploring hog barn development last year as a way to create economic development for the region.

Ernie Patrick of Big Sky Pork in Humboldt said his company only goes where it is invited.

"We don't throw a dart at a map.  Everybody comes to us," he said, noting the community suggested the proposed barn sites.

Marilyn Wunder of the Concerned Citizens Coalition said she only learned of the proposed developments in December.

Her group immediately began holding meetings, circulating petitions and researching other communities' experiences with large hog barns.

"It's not just our community going through this, this is a major issue," Wunder said.

At meetings held Feb. 19 and 20 in the community, several hundred local residents listened to speakers from Big Sky and the provincial government and anti-ILO groups like HogWatch Manitoba.

Wunder said barn development might increase business in town during the construction phase, but doubted there would be long-term benefits.

The barns add costs to RMs in ongoing road maintenance, employ few local workers and use open pit waste lagoons, she said.

"To have economic gain at the expense of others is not economic gain at all," she said.

Patrick, a manure specialist with Big Sky, told one meeting that odour can be masked by blowing 150 bales of straw over the lagoons and by feeding pigs certain enzymes.  Injecting the manure into nearby farmland produces fewer odours than surface applications, he noted.  Patrick said nutrient levels are monitored and soils tested to ensure balanced levels.

Manure from the proposed sites could be spread over 5,000 acres within six kilometers, he said.

"We have more demand than we can supply."

Patrick also said Big Sky uses engineers to design manure systems, which must be approved by regulatory agencies before the project starts.

Wunder said the hog barn project has divided the community.  She hopes the proposal will be defeated and local residents will look to opportunities in tourism like the creation of a cultural centre and recording studio.

"We have to capture that positive energy to benefit the whole community, not just a few," she said.

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Rural Communities Need a Long Term Plan
Wadena News
March 5, 2003

“There is no pixie dust.  There are no magic answers.  You can’t turn a community around on a dime.  Any long-term plan requires a lot of effort from all of you.  The subject of intensive hog operations tends to split the community right down the centre.  You are too big for this to happen.  Continue to speak to people on both sides of the issue, at church, in the market place, said Dr. William Weida, speaking in Foam Lake on Feb. 19.

Weida was invited to Foam Lake by the Concerned Citizens Coalition following his presentation at Quill Lake on Tuesday.  A retired professor of Economics and Business with a doctorate in econometrics and a Bachelor of Science in engineering, his specialty is regional economics.  He provides advice to communities and regions on the impact of various forms of economic development.  The cost of his presentations is covered by the GRACE Family Factory Project, a non-profit organization with advisors in the USA and Canada.

“I am well aware of the pressures and problems of living in rural communities where your best export is your youth.  I am aware of the downward spiral that no one wants,” he said.  His advice to the people of Foam Lake was to do a study of local economic assets and liabilities before talking about specific economic activities.

Saskatchewan is in an unusual position, he said.  When the CROW was abolished, the government looked for a place to use cheap grain and settled on the hog industry. This plan has been building since 1995.

“You can’t talk about economic development until you talk about assets.  You have a bundle here.  This is an area that has a lot of options.  There’s the marsh.  There are the hunters.  There is the lake.  Do you know how much money people using it are putting into the economy?  What about retired people?  Do you know what effect on those two user groups with ILOs (intensive livestock operations)?  Talk about the benefits.  But you must look at the costs.  You have to sit down as a community and discuss your inventory of assets.  You have to get together as a group, with everybody, to discuss long run land use for this community.  You have to consider what makes an economy run.  You have to consider the amount of money spent locally.”

Weida said he had breakfast at a local café.  So did a local person.  His spending was more important, he said, because he was bringing in new money.  A community needs a constant infusion of money from outside.

Examples of activities that generate outside money, he said, are agricultural activities, cattle feed lots, postal service with salaries coming from outside, and pensioners whose pension cheques comes from outside of the community.  “You don’t get it from someone who works inside town,” he said.  “For example, with construction, a person in town pays someone in town.  All they do is recycle money.  You have to look for jobs that bring in money from outside.” 

“You have to create a situation where money is spent locally. Economists agree that you have to have a full service economy to attract activity.  This means assessing the community.  Can this community provide all the services required for an ILO or for any other operation that you might start here?” he asked.

One of his concerns with the potential hog operation is that, in Saskatchewan, the government has chosen to get involved in the pork industry.  Crown Investments has a tremendous involvement, he said.  Saskatchewan and Foam Lake have two different points of view.  If money is spent in Regina, that’s okay for Saskatchewan.  The government of Saskatchewan has no incentives to see that the money is spent in Foam Lake.  The more vertical the integration, he said, the more likelihood of bringing in supplies.

Competition for pork is not beef, he said.  Competition for beef is not pork.  In both cases, it is chicken.  Chicken converts feed to flesh five to seven times more efficiently.  The costs are much lower.  The protein producers of four-legged animals are trying to lower costs to compete with chicken.

“There are not many advantages to having people like me, but there is one,” he said.  “We see trends.  The trend is for REDAs to facilitate ILOs coming into areas.  I don’t know if it is a plan or desperation.  REDAs are supposed to advance the economy of the region in ways that agree with the plans of the citizens.  Can you do it without land use plans?  Probably not.  That’s another reason to get together as a community.”

If you are working with REDA, he said, insist that nothing happen until you have inventoried strengths and weaknesses and have decided which local assets you agree to preserve and which ones can be sacrificed.  Don’t allow REDA to pay to bring a company in.  Have claw-back agreements for any incentives.  Have long term plans in place and regulations to enforce them.  And, he said, “Devote most of your efforts to growing the companies inside your community rather than recruiting new ones.”

According to Weida, the two most critical problems with ILOs are odour and ammonia.  Statistically, he said, it takes 20 years for polluted water to move.  Odour is immediate, shifts quickly, and impacts people closest to the site.  It sets up automatic conflict in the community.

You must always protect your community, he said.  He offered six ways to ensure protection.  Write up requirements including lined and covered lagoons.  Insist waste be immediately incorporated into land.  It is difficult to incorporate waste when doing conservation tilling.  Waste has pathogens.  You should not have uncapped or unsealed wells.  Each old well with the clay not replaced is a pathway into the ground.  Insist on bonding and remediation for clean up.  Insist contractually on reimbursement for road damage.  Insist any claim of benefits be in writing, be guaranteed, and be signed by the president of the company.

Most importantly, he said, don’t get mad at each other.  Keep talking.  Get an inventory of resources.  This is a stunningly beautiful area, he said.  Don’t take it for granted.  Develop a long-term land use plan.  Avoid short-term fixes.  What can I do right now to fix the community?  Nothing.  Consider among yourselves what the economic status of the community is, then consider what you can afford to do.

“It does not make an economic difference to this area whether the hog operation comes in this year or next year.  Come to the meeting tomorrow night.  Get informed.  Read.  Use your computer.  Hear the other side of the issue.  Take a trip to a hog production area.  Look at the barns.  Become informed and make an informed decision.  Do not get into a panic.  This community was okay yesterday, is okay today, and will be okay tomorrow.  Don’t do anything in a rush,” he said.  “Always keep in the front of your mind what you have here.”

In economics, he said, we talk about the economics of making bargains.  When one party in a bargain doesn’t know very much, the party who knows the most will shift costs to the party who knows the least.  You stop that from happening through regulations to prevent the costs from being shifted.  This requires a lot of inspector monitoring and regulation.  The problem is that inspection is expensive.

“Every development project should be held up against your long-term plan.  The project should not affect your long-term plan or your residents.  Why should you care?  So you have a place for your kids to live, unless your long-term plan is to move them to Saskatoon.

In response to a question on how to keep young people home right now, Weida said that the two growth areas are not in agriculture.  They are in the service economy and in technology.  Prepare your community and your children to work in those areas, he said.

With technology, jobs can be done anywhere, he said.  People working in global mapping moved in because they liked the area.  They are in northern Idaho, searching for debris from the space shuttle.

Everyone has to find his own way, he said.  Your location is marvellous.  There’s a road right by.  There’s the railroad.  You are located close to a larger town.  It’s a wonderful place.  American statistics show that rural population has stabilized.  People are moving back to rural areas not for agriculture but for other jobs.  They have choices.  Your region has to be attractive.  Yours is attractive.

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Hog Barns Are Trouble
Wadena News
March 5, 2003

Dear Editor:

I do not live in the town of Foam Lake or the Rural Municipality of Foam Lake, but I have family who live in both.  I am shocked and disappointed at the lack of foresight being displayed by area residents who are lending support to the proposed construction of pig barns in the RM.  If any one is thinking that it is alright to contaminate the farm homes, land and water, of area farmers, because it won’t negatively affect them personally, they are wrong on all counts.

Firstly, it is immoral to condemn farmers who would be so affected by this proposal, to ruin.  Secondly, the reeking stench at intensive hog farms, will indeed be pervasive.  Please don’t take my word for it, ask the area residents around Rama and Theodore.  Land in the area, not just the immediate vicinity will be devalued, and who will be responsible to compensate the farmer for the difference in price for what his land was worth before pig barns devalued his property, and what he could get for it after this devaluation happens?  Do you think that Big Sky will cover this?  More likely it will be lawsuits that force those who supported the construction to compensate the landowner for the loss.  Water tables, once poisoned by effluence, will never recover.  There again, it will firstly be the farms and farm homes immediately adjacent who will lose their water, but it will get to the town as well.  How much do you suppose it will cost to try and treat the problem?  How long do you suppose a town will last with a poisoned water supply?

For anyone who believes there will be a personal economic spin-off, once more I fear you display naiveté as to the agendas of multi-national companies.  They are not interested in buying your grain, when under free trade, they can import corn from the USA cheaper than what your product is worth.  If you really are interested in your town prospering, you will avoid measures that will drive away the duck hunters and tourists that Foam Lake now enjoys.  People who visit your town and area and spend their dollars in your local establishments will cease to come if the air is thick with stink and the water is polluted.

Before any of you commits to supporting the construction of pig barns, I urge you to look at the reality of leaving the future with the consequences of poor decisions now.  It will take only a very short time to poison the air, the land and the water.  The results will be irreparable in not only your lifetime, but your children’s as well.

Yours truly,
Jessie Steinhauer,
Saskatoon, SK

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Foam Lake Dumps Hog Barn Idea
CBC News
March 7, 2003

One of the biggest hog producers in the province was planning to build six intensive pig barns in near Foam Lake, but the plan was shot down by local residents.

Big Sky Farms says a group of farmers wanted to build a $30 million intensive hog operation near Foam Lake. but controversy began after other area residents got wind of the idea.

Marilyn Wunder, who farms near the town, says manure from the barns could lower property values. Others say they can't open their windows and enjoy their yards in the summertime and fear they will become prisoners in their own home.

She says many of her neighbours got worried after they spoke to people in towns where hog barns are already operating nearby.

"Their schools are still closing. Their communities have not grown in population. Their businesses are not open," she says, "and to have economic growth or gain at the expense of others is not economic development."

Wunder says people are also worried about water contamination from the effluent produced by such a facility.

After a series of public meetings, more than 600 people signed a petition to reject Big Sky's offer and the rural municipality was forced decided to dump the idea.

Big Sky president Florian Possberg says that this kind of opposition wasn't totally unexpected.

"Initially it looked like most of the RM council was very much in favour of the project," he says, "(but) there was significant negative backlash from residents."

Possberg says the idea got a lot of opposition after environmental activists from Manitoba and North Carolina paid a visit to Foam Lake. He says that's when residents started asking his company about other places, where hog manure had spilled into waterways.

"You know people point to environmental disasters like that and say what's our protection here? Well quite frankly, we're not North Carolina, and we haven't had a hurricane with forty inches of rain for quite some time," Possberg argues.

Possberg doesn't think the project's backers will drop their plans that easily. In the meantime, he says Big Sky still plans to put hog barns in five other communities.

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RM Rejects Hog Barns
Western Producer
March 13, 2003
By: Karen Morrison

Councillors in the Saskatchewan rural municipality of Foam Lake voted March 5 against plans to build large pig barns.

The council had formed a hog development board last year to explore bringing Big Sky Farms to six sites in the community.

Opposition mounted against the development, resulting in petitions with 600 signatures presented to council this month.

Marilyn Wunder of the Concerned Citizens Coalition, which circulated the petition and held information meetings, was relieved by the council's decision.

"I'm happy the council is going along with the majority of people," she said.  "I'm hoping this is the end of it."

There will likely be one more meeting on the subject.

The hog development board has tentatively planned a public meeting.

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Letter to the Editor
Foam Lake Review
March 31, 2003

(The following letter was handed in for the March 17 paper but the Editor would not print it. So, in order to get it printed, had to put it in as a paid advertisement which cost $102.72. – Orest Monych)

First I would like to thank Mr. Alex Halyk for his very informative article.  His father was a very wise man and I remember him giving my father some pertinent advice back in the forties.  Mr. Halyk Sr. helped many people get established in the community.  Thanks to people like him this community was founded to be one of the best anywhere, and look at what has happened in just 2 short months.  What would the leaders of past say if they could see what’s happening here now?

In response to Kristen Hunter’s article, we are not just “so called” concerned citizens actually we are “very concerned citizens” who are working very hard, in spite of all odds to protect our community from the negative effects of Mega Hog Barns.  You write that water concerns is one of your favorite ones.  Thank You!  It also happens to be one of ours, and so is manure seepage and air quality.  You stated that human feces was the worst water contaminant, do we have to add hog manure to that.  Hog manure also contains growth hormones, antibiotic and other medication that’s supplied with the feed.  Also one swine produces 4 times more manure than a human.  You also wrote that you laugh at spray chemicals and how they seep into the soil, sure they do and I for one don’t find that funny at all.  This is a very serious concern, because if chemicals seep into the ground and contaminate the water then so will the hog manure.  I’m sorry but I can’t laugh at that.  Did we write about the pros and cons?  Certainly not but then again neither did Big Sky or yourself Kristen Hunter.  Some day when you are going to work stop at the Doroshenko’s or the Skoretz’s or Hrynchychen’s and maybe the Delowski families and tell them how lucky they are to be living in close proximity to your barns, last time I heard they weren’t very pleased.

I have never heard the phrase grunt labour before, did you invent it?  You said it not us. Scabs are generally workers who cross picket lines during unionized labour disputes, again you said it not us.  You have the right to gainful employment and we have the right to oppose Mega Hog Barns, however when we read your letter we have to remember that Big Sky pays you.

Now to address some issues from Charlene Kluz McCracken’s comments.  I agree with her that we do have a beautiful countryside, and are you trying to tell us that putting rows of Mega Hog barns would make it even more beautiful?  Do you suppose we might miss the smell of Mega Hog Barns on some very pleasant summer evening?  I’d rather see the country empty and peaceful, and beautiful, where neighbors help one another and where people can plan their future and eventually their retirement.  If Big Sky bought 80% of their supplies in Ogema then your town was very lucky because when they built in other towns they brought most of their supplies from other areas.  You lash out at one of our group and questioned her knowledge of the facts.  Believe me, Marlene is very knowledgeable as are most of our group; if you had addressed us as a group then I could have accepted your letter for what it was.  But to pick on one person was in poor judgement on your part.  She was speaking on behalf of all of us.

Obviously you really don’t have too many facts of your own because it is “yours truly” that organized the first meeting so I guess I lit the fire myself and not Marlene.  I thought we had that right, but I guess you don’t seem to agree.  There are some countries where people don’t have such choices.  Thankfully we still do.  We have 630 people plus 4 RM officials that have said no Mega Hog Barns, but I guess you know better than all of us.  If you like these barns so much then you can have them all.  We’re not greedy! Please take everyone.  But before you wish these Mega Hog Barns on Bankend (your home town) you should first consult with all the local residents and get their approval.  When you wrote your article did you consider that it might have some negative effect on some Businesses here?

In closing I’d like to mention that we have many very knowledgeable people working very hard for what we believe in.  Marlene is our spokesperson (not by choice) and she did an excellent job on our behalf.  We are very grateful for her participation and I for one am proud to work with her and all the rest of our group.  We have documented volumes of facts.  We really do know what the issues are.  On March 5 the RM council acted with integrity and character.  We thank them for that.

Orest Monych,
Foam Lake, SK

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Ask First
Western Producer
April 10, 2003

To the Editor:

In an interview in the Feb. 27 Western Producer, (Foam Lake) RM council plans hog barn vote, Ernie Patrick, field services manager of Big Sky Farms, claims the company only goes where it is invited.  He says the community suggested the proposed barn sites.  Big Sky chief executive officer Florian Possberg also frequently likes to point out they only locate where they’re wanted.

In fact, the five proposed barn sites for the 5,000 sow operation were not suggested by the community at all, but by a small group promoting the project, the Foam Lake Hog Development committee who worked closely with Big Sky Farms.

The location of the barns and the development itself, came as a surprise to many farmers living in the area.  It lead to a concerned ratepayers’ group calling a hurried public meeting Jan. 9, which was attended by 350 people.

Despite full-page ads in the local newspaper, taken out by the hog development committee urging people to take their names off a petition, only a handful did.

By the date of their regular meeting on March 5, RM of Foam Lake councillors had a petition signed by 628 (or two thirds) of their ratepayers opposing the mega hog project.

“We’ve been working at it for a whole year.  In less than 60 days they killed it,” hog development chair Terry Markusson lamented in the press.

Mr. Markusson should have been aware the project was not going to be popular.  As he was told by a visibly upset farmer at Big Sky’s promotional meeting Feb. 20 in Foam Lake:  “you broke the first rule of economic development.  You didn’t let people know what was going on.”

Unfortunately, this is all too typical of how mega hog developments have unfolded in all three prairie provinces.

In what was probably intended to be a shining testimonial for hog development, Porcupine Plain’s town administrator, Barry Warsylewicz said in a newspaper promotion describing a Big Sky project in his community:  “That is not to say there were not a few vocal residents that objected.

“But all t’s were crossed and all i’s dotted, and those in opposition were simply that – in opposition to a project that is well under way.”

Well, it certainly sounds like the democratic process is alive and well in Porcupine Plain.

During hearings in Hardisty, Alta., Taiwan Sugar Corp. official Danny Huang was apparently shocked at the negative reception his company got from area residents, who opposed a $41 million hog barn complex.

Huang said the Alberta government had invited his company to invest in the province.  And municipal officials had invited the company to locate in the County of Flagstaff, around Hardisty, after they had received the cold shoulder in another southern Alberta county.

Did anyone think to ask the local residents what they thought first?  Obviously not…

Haste.  Secrecy.  Lack of consultation.  You name it.  It’s no wonder that so many rural people have lost faith in the intensive livestock policies of their respective governments.

Jack Maluga,
Wynyard, Sask.

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Briefing to Ministers Serby and Belanger
Regina, SK
May 14, 2003

Good afternoon my name is Marlene Wunder, I am from Foam Lake.  This past winter we had a controversial situation in our community which has now left neighbour against neighbour, family member against family member, and friend against friend, and so on.

In December of 2002 we had learned of a major pig operation slated for our neighbourhood, unannounced to anyone other than a few privileged individuals, either connected to the Foam Lake Hog Development committee, or so called important people.  They had preliminary studies done on sites in September of 2002 and neglected to inform the neighbours of these proposed sites.  The sites became public knowledge in December and that is when trouble began.

What was said is that they carefully select their sites as to not affect to many people.  I would like to inform you here today that the three finisher barns holding a total of 40,800 pigs at a time were to be located next to 25 families in a 3 mile radius.  The two other barns had 17 families in a three mile radius.  I do not think that this is a sparsely populated area.  What is was is land which was going to be sold by the members of the hog development board, or the family members of the board members.  These land locations were not occupied by the owners, which tends to be the situation in most cases.  The members of the board arrange for their land or family members to sell land to Big Sky, but will live no where near these barns.  How could this possibly be economic growth for a community when so few benefit at the expense of others?

It is preached upon us that this will increase all kinds of things, keep our schools open, keep the hospitals, and keep the population of rural Saskatchewan growing.  This is simply not the case.

As to our public meeting held in February one of the supporters of Big Sky from Rama stood up and spoke of the great spin-offs happening in the community.  These claims are false.  Some individuals have gone there since that and have taken pictures of the empty houses (these were supposed to be all full according to the speaker).  The cafe is closed, and the store is for sale.  Why would the government encourage -- in fact sit at the same table as these people knowing full well what lies are being told to the people in order for it to sound like such a great thing.  This is shameful.

It is also shameful of how communities are divided because of the process of implementing these barns in the community's.  I have no idea of what is promised to the proponents of the barns, but it must be good to make them turn against all that is right.

The people against these barns were the majority, and that was proven by way of petition.  The councillors had no choice but to vote it down.  Now the hog development members are telling us that they will shove these pigs down our throat whether we want them or not.  There has been a price put on the position for reeve, or should I say an offer for someone to run for reeve.  This is all so ridiculous and this government is apart of this whether you admit to it or not.  This is the type of behaviour you are creating with these pig barns.

Mr. Serby, have you ever lived by 40,800 pigs?  Would you like your children breathing in those fumes every day of their lives?  This is the question you should be asking yourself.  If you don't want it, what makes you think we want our children subject to such air quality?  Why should we risk having our water supply contaminated?

We were told of the engineering that was top class doing these projects.  Why then is it the Rama barn ceiling came down?  This factory is 2 or 3 years old.  This was supposed to be designed by engineers who knew what they were doing.  The lagoons are supposed to be designed by engineers.  If this happens to barns, do you think there is a possibility that the walls of the lagoons may deteriorate, cave in, or erode?

I believe that these are not sustainable projects, that you the government can not guarantee anyone that our water will not be contaminated, and that our lives will not be negatively affected by the air quality we would have to breath.

Taxes are another issue that must be looked into by the government.  I have spoken to RM councillors who have mega pig barns and are faced with increasing cost for road repair, gravel and increased maintenance.  The $5.00 per sow just does not cover the cost.  Instead of a $5.00 per sown maintenance agreement let it be $1.00 for every pig that goes to market from the factory.  This I feel would be a more acceptable level of maintenance cost.

This year our roads have been affected by the weather, and on some roads the bottoms of our vehicles are dragging.  There would be no road ban for a semi with pigs going out, or grain coming in -- the road damage from this type of industry would surpass a $25,000 price tag.

Why is the PST given back on the building supplies of these pig factories?  This moneu, totalling some $1.5 million on a 5,000 sow farrow to finish unit, would be more beneficial put back into the health care, or roads, or into the education fund.

Why is this type of industry considered a family farm?  It is time to define "family farm."  A family farm that spreads all over the province is no family farm.  The question of regulation must be addressed.  Mr. Possberg sits on every committee and has input on how he is regulated.  He actually is making decisions on how he should be regulated.  This is no guarantee to the public, that the public interests and concerns will be addressed.  This government must implement a third unbiased party to be the regulators, not the government because they are the owners and not Mr. Possberg because he is CEO, nor any of the proponents such as Mr. Kevin Hursh.

This is definitely a controversial topic, and it needs some major changes.  There is plenty of new technology that could and should be implemented.  These options should be part of the package.  Regulations must become stricter.  This government claims to have strict guidelines, but those are in question.  All one must do is look into the regulations in other countries to be a guide.  For example, in the Netherlands they cannot spread manure on holidays, Sundays, and must be worked in within 12 hours.  They also pay a tax on exceeding the amount of manure that is allowable.

Dr. Eva Pipp of the University of Manitoba has many good changes that could be implemented and I want to strongly urge this government to look into implementing some of these changes.

We are ordinary people, with ordinary lives, we are not cave people, but people with families, and people that should be listened to.  We want to be part of Saskatchewan, we are our children to be here too, but when YOU the government, and hog development boards and REDA insist on pushing PIG barns into areas where it is totally unacceptable, then maybe you don't really want any type of farmers except for the corporate ones to be left on the land. 

That is not economic growth, but a destruction of a way of life, and a building of hatred.

Our hope here today is that you will listen and take it to heart.  That there are concerns out there, across a wide area.  We are not just a handful, and some action must be taken on the government's part.  There will be many more fights and families, friends and neighbours will continue to be ripped apart if something does not change.

This is no way to build a province.

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Rural Group Discusses Mega Hog Issue With Serby, Belanger
By Jack Maluga
June 6, 2003

Numerous concerns and recommendations relating to mega hog operations were presented during a recent meeting between a group of rural residents and two provincial cabinet ministers in Regina.

A delegation of 16 rural residents from nine east-central and north-eastern rural municipalities met with Agriculture Minister,  Clay Serby and Environment Minister, Buckley Belanger on May 14th at the Legislature. The rural delegation included farmers from the Quill Lake-Watson, Wynyard, Foam Lake-Sheho, Rama, Churchbridge, Archerwill-Rose Valley, Porcupine Plain and Whitewood regions. Most of the areas have been chosen as locations for mega hog expansion, or have existing operations.

Typical industrial hog operations under construction in Saskatchewan are 5,000 sow production units. They consist of five huge barns, holding approximately 65,000 hogs, as well as a smaller boar barn. According to the developers, they use 50 million gallons of water and generate 40 million gallons of liquid manure annually. 

Issues raised at the meeting ranged from environmental concerns; to divisive effects on communities; to the implications factory farms will have on family farms.  Mr. Serby was told that small-scale hog production is as economically viable as mega farms, but due to the government's promotion of large-scale operations, small-scale operators are disappearing.  

The ministers were informed a mega hog operation is being developed in an area internationally recognized for its diverse bird-habitat – the Quill Lakes.  Each year the Quill Lakes are used by nearly one million birds - they are also a seasonal home to more than 150,000 shorebirds including the endangered Piping Plover. The towns of Wynyard, Wadena and Foam Lake have been actively promoting birding projects in the area in an attempt to attract tourists.

Mr. Serby was reminded that tourism should also play an important part in his rural revitalization plans. It was pointed out to Mr. Belanger that concerns over chemical changes to Big Quill Lake resulted in a full-scale environmental impact assessment being done when a potassium sulphate plant was built on the south shore of the lake in the 1980's – however, mega hog operations in Saskatchewan have not yet had to undergo such an assessment. 

Environmental concerns were also an important issue in the Whitewood area where a mega hog operation near the Scissors Creek received provincial approval this spring. Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food have promised a two-foot dyke will be built around the barn sites, but the potential for trouble if a manure spill occurs and it reaches the Qu'Appelle River was raised. Mr. Serby was asked to put a hold on construction until the site was re-assessed. The cabinet ministers were told that approximately 15 families live in the proximity of the proposed hog barns - some of which have plaques recognizing the fact the land has been in their families for 100 years. 

The delegation from the Churchbridge-Langenburg area told Mr. Serby the RM of Churchbridge had paid thousands of dollars for testing for suitable sites for barns without the consent of their ratepayers and the RM would only be repaid if the hog project went ahead. 

Concern was also expressed that a pilot project currently underway by the provincial government and SARM could take approval of intensive livestock operations out of the hands of municipalities. Mr. Serby and Belanger were told that a mega hog project was not compatible with plans for attracting tourism to a proposed mineral spa in the Langenburg area. 

Representatives from the Foam Lake-Sheho area outlined the series of events that took place in the RM of Foam Lake last winter, where a mega hog project was turned down. They expressed concerns that mega hog industry officials sit on committees that make decisions on how their industry is regulated. There are no guarantees that the public's interests and concerns are addressed, the Foam Lake group said.  Industrial farming is not economic growth, but destruction of a way of life, the delegation stated. 

Mr. Belanger was asked why piezometer readings around earthen hog lagoons in Rama (which measure possible leakage) are not available to the public, or even to environment department officials. "The government sets them up (mega hog operations) and then they regulate themselves," one farmer commented. 

The Archerwill-Rose Valley delegation discussed a proposed 5,000-sow hog operation in the RMs of Barrier Valley and Ponass Lake. They were concerned that a questionnaire circulated at an informational meeting held April 9th in Archerwill and Rose Valley was taken as an indication the public welcomed the project. However, residents of the northern half of the RM of Barrier Valley, closest to Tisdale, received no notice of the meetings at all. Local residents have since formed a "Stop The Hogs Coalition" and petitions are being circulated against the project in both RMs. A plebiscite in the RM of Ponass Lake has been sent out to ratepayers and must be returned by June 30th. 

Mr. Serby was asked to leave the business of raising livestock to the farmers of Saskatchewan. "Farmers are a versatile bunch, but family farms can't compete with corporate farms - especially those funded by government money. With pork prices as low as they are, these corporations are losing money, and yet they plan to expand," a Rose Valley area resident said.  With the federal government suggesting farmers will have to prepare individual environmental farm plans by the year 2008, Mr. Serby was asked why his government was encouraging the unprecedented growth of the mega hog industry - an industry whose environmental practices will soon be outdated, if not outlawed. 

That issue was also raised by the delegation from Watson-Quill Lake, which asked Mr. Serby to put a hold on the hog development in their RM until new technology such as bio-digesters are available. The digesters, which are used in Europe and on at least one Alberta Hutterite colony, remove methane gas from manure and convert it to electricity. Water can be re-used, and only a small amount of concentrated manure remains. However, their arguments failed to sway Mr. Serby, who said Saskatchewan currently raises fewer cattle than Alberta and fewer hogs than Manitoba.  At one point during the meeting he interjected,  "You're all telling me the same thing, and I've heard these arguments before." 

Mr. Belanger stated his department is not being pressured by Sask Agriculture to approve sites that shouldn't be developed. He said they act independently of Mr. Serby's department.

Jack Maluga

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