Towards Community-Based Monitoring in Manitoba's Hog Industry

Article excerpt

Rapid changes in hog production in Manitoba are occurring within the context of an outdated regulatory framework and uncertain social and environmental impacts and are thus giving rise to a significant gap in public policy (Public Interest Law Centre 2007). Recognizing these challenges, in 2006, the provincial government imposed a temporary, partial moratorium on the expansion of the industry and charged the Clean Environment Commission (CEC), an arm's-length, quasi-judicial agency, with undertaking a review of the sustainability of the hog industry in the province.

We contend that a comprehensive community-based monitoring program would enhance the sustainability of the industry. Community-based monitoring is a form of alternative service delivery that provides a promising solution to environmental problems characterized by uncertainty, complexity and conflict (Ludwig 2001; Diduck 2004). It is a collaborative approach that combines a broad range of functions and activities to produce a comprehensive data set in a participatory manner. Furthermore, being community-based, this approach provides an encouraging response to issues of non-point source pollution (contaminants without a clearly defined origin) created by the hog industry. As such, we argue that the provincial government should develop and implement such a program and, by doing so, would close a glaring policy gap in its resource management regime.

The first part of this article provides a brief overview of the issues in Manitoba's hog industry and summarizes the Clean Environment Commission's mandate in its review. Next, we discuss aspects of environmental monitoring, emphasizing the shortcomings of conventional enforcement monitoring and counterpoising two alternative models. We then offer a rundown of one of these models--namely, community-based monitoring--and then outline the potential benefits of adopting community-based monitoring in Manitoba's hog industry. The fifth part of the article outlines existing legislative provisions upon which a community-based monitoring program could be based and then describes a strategy for developing such a program. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of community-based monitoring for the sustainability of Manitoba's hog industry and other sectors grappling with non-point sources of pollution.

Our research methods included an in-depth literature review that encompassed scholarly literature, publications from government and nongovernmental organizations, a qualitative content analysis of documents presented at recent public hearings in Manitoba and elsewhere, and a detailed review of primary and secondary legislation governing livestock production in Manitoba.

Hog production and the Clean Environment Commission review

Historically, agriculture has played a key role in Manitoba's economy and continues to do so today. Since the 1970s, however, the province's primary agricultural activity has shifted from the cultivation of grains to industrial hog production, spurred by depressed grain prices, higher shipping costs and a rising demand for pork (Livestock Stewardship Panel 2000; Ramsey and Everitt 2001; Novek 2003). This shift has been actively promoted by the provincial government, which recognized that inexpensive grain for feed and a large acreage of cultivated land that can be used for waste assimilation creates a "Manitoba advantage" (Diduck and Mitchell 2003; Novek 2003). The expansion of the hog industry in Manitoba has been characterized by larger, more intensive operations, the vertical integration of the industry, and an increase in corporate ownership. These changes are part of broader trends in the economy that are fuelled by the globalization of agriculture (Qualman 2001; Ramsey and Everitt 2001; Novek 2003).

Larger, more intensive hog operations have introduced a host of environmental concerns. …