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This article was published 9/2/2017 (1317 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
New barns could start springing up around the province in the wake of recent changes to the provincial building code requirements for farm buildings, industry officials say.
Local farm groups had been complaining for years Manitoba's building code regulations for farm buildings were too onerous because they required them to be built to commercial-industrial standards. They argued that was inappropriate for low human-occupancy farm buildings such as barns or storage sheds and in many cases made it too costly to build new farm structures or to expand or modernize existing ones.
They also argued Manitoba's code requirements were much more onerous than those in the other western provinces, leaving farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
Late last month, Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler announced the Manitoba Farm Building Code would be repealed and the Manitoba Building Code would be amended to add specific provisions for farm buildings. The new provisions also will be part of a single regulation, eliminating the need to revise multiple regulations every time new versions of the National Building Code are adopted.
The minister said the changes will help reduce the cost and the red-tape burden on those planning to build new farm buildings while retaining appropriate occupancy-safety and fire-prevention standards.
Building code changes can be made through an order-in-council. Manitoba's Office of the Fire Commissioner, which oversees building code matters, confirmed an order-in-council has been passed and the new regulations are now in effect.
Spokesmen for local, pork, dairy, and chicken producers said the changes should pave the way for more barns to built or expanded this year, although they said it's difficult to predict exactly how many.
"But I would think that in the next two years, we would see a significant amount (of new poultry barns)," said Manitoba Chicken Producers executive director Wayne Hilz.
Hilz said he knows several poultry producers who wanted to expand but said it was too costly under the old regulations. He said some of those producers may now be ready to move ahead with their projects.
Dairy Farmers of Manitoba chairman David Wiens said the changes come at a good time for the province's dairy industry because milk processors are ramping up processing capacity to meet the growing demand for dairy products. That means farmers also need to produce more milk.
"We are hearing of a lot of interest on the part of dairy producers to expand their operations and their quotas," he said.
Manitoba Pork Council chairman George Matheson said the new provisions will save hog producers tens of thousands of dollars because they will no longer be forced to incorporate unnecessary requirements into the construction of their barns.
"This action by the Manitoba government will help our industry stay competitive with other jurisdictions while maintaining high safety standards to protect farm workers and livestock," he added.
The president of the province's largest farm organization — Keystone Agricultural Producers — predicted the changes will help revive Manitoba's livestock industry.
"We will now become more competitive with producers in other jurisdictions, where building costs for barns are lower because they don’t have this excess regulation," Dan Mazier said. "We look forward to working with the province not only to reduce costs, but also to ensure the safety of farmers, employees and animals."
Farmers aren't the only ones who stand to benefit from the regulatory changes. Spokesmen for two local firms that specialize in building barns and other farm structures— Penfor Construction of Blumenort and Tristar Dairy Centre of Grunthal — said the changes will make it easier for both them and their clients.
"If there are less hoops to jump through and all of that, that certainly helps," said Ron Dick, senior estimator and project manager for Penfor, which is a division of Penner Farm Services.
Dick noted many livestock barns are so automated only a few workers spend a few hours a day working in them. Yet under the old rules, they still had to be built to the same building code standards as a higher-occupancy industrial building.
"It really didn't make sense in many cases. It felt like an uphill battle as we were going through each project," he said.
Tristar owner Nico Vos said 2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for his company. He expects most of Tristar's projects this year will be dairy and poultry barns.
Manitoba Pork Council general manager Andrew Dickson said Manitobans shouldn't expect to see a boom in hog-barn construction this year because hog barns still require municipal approval and must meet stringent environmental guidelines.
Dickson said producers feel the planning and approval process is still too long and cumbersome, and pork council officials would like to see it streamlined as well.