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