in the Weyburn Review on April 20, 2005
Proposed hog barn: Benefits may
be less than expected
by Kevin Berger
Members of an environmental coalition working to
eliminate factory farming warned Pangman residents on Wednesday that a
proposed Big Sky Farms hog operation will be a detriment, rather than a
benefit, ot the economic development of their community.
At a meeting attended by roughly 100 people, Bill Weida,
co-ordinator of GRACE Factory Farm
Project, said that only a few people will “get rich” from allowing a hog
barn into their area.
The hog barn in question is a 5,000 sow breeder/farrow
operation, similar to the one near Ogema, that will begin construction
sometime in the next two years. Ratepayers
in the RM of Norton voted in
early January to bring the operation to Pangman.
According to their website, the Global Resource Action
Centre for the Environment (GRACE) Factory Farm Project is a national team
of consultants who rallies communities “to oppose the spread of factory
farms in favour of sustainable alternatives”.
During an interview on Monday morning, Weida agreed the
main reason for bringing the hog operation to Pangman is to generate money
in the community.
But for a community to truly benefit from a hog
operation financially, it has to offer full services, which means it has to
have places for the money to be spent.
“If you look at Pangman, it doesn’t,” said Weida.
“Even if people in the area were to get jobs and earn
money at those jobs, they would still have to spend out of town and you
would still get no economic development.”
Weida also said large hog operation are themselves a
very tricky business. While
there was a very good market for hogs last year, banks won’t generally
take a risk on financing them because of the risk.
Weida then said most operations try to get into a
position where the community takes the brunt of the fallout if they go
under, particularly in the crippling clean-up costs that are left behind.
Weida cited other dangers, such as a drop in property
values in those homes around hog barns, and that the saline content of the
soil around Pangman would make it ill-advised for spreading the manure
created by the hog barns. People
would end up losing the productivity of those fields, he said.
Following the meeting, Weida was asked by RM councillor
Tom Webb what, if not the hog barns, would he suggest on bringing into
Pangman. He said development
would be a difficult job but possible in “ones and twos”, or small
projects that employ one or two people.
From an economic standpoint, Weida suggested Pangman
has options as a place to live for people who want to escape the confines of
Regina, as well as a community for retirees.
The best the could do is re-open the grocery store, he said, and then
create local financing to get other local businesses going.
Another vocal opponent of hog barns speaking at the
meeting was Ken Sigurdson, the Manitoba co-ordinator for the National
Sigurdson, who has battled hog operations in northern
Saskatchewan and Manitoba for many years, warned they are industrial
operations, not family farms. They
provide fewer jobs than people expect, leave communities divided and wipe
out independent hog producers.
On this last matter, Sigurdson said, because of
industrial operations, independent producers are forced to take the lowest
price for their animals and become residual suppliers.
Since 1996, the number of small producers in Manitoba
have dropped from 2,300 to 1,200 because of the proliferation of large
operations, said Sigurdson. He
also quoted presidential candidate John Kerry, who said the corporatization
of farming in Iowa “is destroying the ability of family farmers to
Sigurdson himself knows of independent producers who
shut down “because they were ending up having to market their hogs all the
way down to South Dakota, because nobody wanted them in Canada”.
Sigurdson also warned about the build-up of phosphates
in waterways, which has been shown time and again to be detrimental to
Lisa Bechtold, a member of GRACE, was also on hand from
her farm in Alberta to illustrate how her community managed to oppose a hog
operation being built in her community of Foremost.
Foremost was similar to Pangman, she said, though
perhaps a bit smaller. Their
community was in serious financial trouble and a Taiwanese company had been
courted by the Alberta government to establish an operation there.
Like Pangman, some Foremost residents opposed it
because of their concerns for local water supply, air and roads.
She believes the financial benefit would have been far less than
expected, because Foremost is not a full-size community with many services.
More than anything, Bechtold said she wanted to stress
to Pangman residents to do their own research.
“If you’re going to invite something like this in,
you’re stuck with it,” she said.
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