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.

Whitewood
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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
Wynyard

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New Hog Barn Coming to Whitewood Area
Yorkton Extra
June 16, 2003

The first phase of Saskatchewan's newest major hog production facility near Whitewood has been approved by provincial regulatory officials.  Kilback Family Farms has been granted permission to construct a new 5,000 sow breeding barn.

Kilback Family Farms currently operates a 1,200 sow farrow-to-finish operation near Broadview, and a 750-sow operation at Balgonie.  Allen Kilback, the project developer, started working on the expansion project about 18 months ago, and he wants to share his vision with other area farmers.

"Somebody can have a hog barn on their farm but they are directly tied into the new Family Farm where we can use our assets and leverage each other to be profitable - to get those farms to the size they can compete in the global market," Kilback says.

Kilback plans to raise $3 million in equity capital for the first phase.

"We want to make it attractive - anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 investments from local people right up to institutional investors that will put in larger amounts of equity," Kilback says.

The sow barn is expected to create 15 new jobs.  Kilback currently employs 17 people.

Construction of phase one is scheduled to begin later this year.  Kilback has secured a contract with the Maple Leaf plant in Brandon.  As well, he is expecting to purchase large amounts of feed grains from local farmers.

The sow ban is just the first phase of Kilback's anticipated expansion.  He hopes to add 11 feeding barns that each house 4,000 hogs at three different sites in the Whitewood area.  That would bring the total to 50,000 hogs and 60 new jobs by the final phase of the projected $30 million operation.

Kilback has said that he has been getting a lot of positive feedback on the project.  However, some who farm in the vicinity of the new barn are worried about he smell and environmental impact from it.

For his part, Kilback said he has tried to involve the public from the beginning.  As well, he had to submit documents detailing his manure management plan which was approved by various government departments.

With its proximity to Brandon, the community of Whitewood is well positioned for the expansion project.  Also, since whitewood is on the Trans-Canada, shipping costs will be lower.

All that remains is securing of investment capital.  "We have received expressions of interest from many local investors and we're very confident about our ability to attract investment capital.  The hog market is rebounding so this is a perfect time to get into one of the fastest growing sectors of the farm economy," Kilback states.

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