Spain updates its regulation for pig farm management

Last February the government approved, at the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture, the new rules that bring national pig production up to date. They are aimed at adapting the sector to the new challenges in terms of health, environment and animal welfare.

Sector porcino

A hard challenge

The already in force RD 306/2020, which modifies an earlier one from 2000, has taken almost three years to be agreed by all parties. According to ministry’s officials, it was not easy to open a debate on this subject. The regulation complexity –which covers many legal areas- and the economic relevance of the sector, as well as the public exposure of its activity, made the fronts, when dealing with a regulatory update, multiply; the process was even not completed the last two times that a revision of the RD 324/2000 was considered.

New challenges

However, the updating of a regulation dating from 2000 was more than necessary. In addition to the obvious development of the sector, the legal framework for all livestock activities has evolved, with the publication of numerous production, health and environmental standards at European, national, regional and local level.

Finally, the evolution of Spanish society has configured various challenges that a sector, which is a world leader, not only cannot turn its back on, but must face up to from a proactive and integrating perspective.

A two pillars’ policy

For the ministry, it was necessary not only to update the rules due to the changing situation, but also to revise in depth the pillars of the 2000 royal decree: (1) animal health and (2) environmental management of farms.

With regard to animal health, the dependence of the Spanish sector on exports involves obvious risks, which make it increasingly necessary to ensure the health status of the entire pig population. The sector must consider biosafety as a real protection network. Furthermore, combating antibiotic resistance is an EU priority.

Sector porcino III

In the environmental field, pig production can have a significant impact in relation to the production of nitrates and the ammonia emissions into the atmosphere and, to a lesser extent, because of its potential to emit greenhouse gases.

Pig production has to incorporate environmental challenges and, in particular, the commitments made by Spain under Directive (EC) 2016/2284. The measures proposed in this respect also contribute to the fulfilment of Spain's climate objectives, as set out in Regulation (EU) 2018/842.

In addition, another important objective of this update is to ensure that the interpretation made by the different competent authorities does not differ between regions. The new standard clarifies aspects, which have been the subject of debate and different interpretations, mainly in relation to the location of holdings, their extension or the determination of permitted movements.

To ensure compliance and uniform enforcement of all provisions, a Livestock Management Board was created. Representatives of the 17 regional governments responsible for the execution and development of this regulation, as well as the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge and the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030, will be members of this board.

Main horizontal aspects of the regulation

The scope of application of the royal decree extends to all farms that, under an intensive regime, hold animals of the Suidae family. The 2000 rule only included the domestic pig.

The mandatory involvement of an on-farm veterinarian to make it possible all animal health and biosafety requirements.

All the requirements established in the royal decree must have a documentary endorsement registered and articulated through a single document, the Integrated Management System for Pig Farms (SIGE). The SIGE must cover several plans related to the management and operation of the farm, to hygiene and animal health measures, to the environment and, as an interesting novelty, a specific plan for animal welfare.

This SIGE also applies to farms existing before the entry into force of the new royal decree. The content of the SIGE must be updated at least every five years.

The standard also stipulates that all persons working with swine must have a minimum of 20 hours' training.

Sector porcino II

Health requirements

The first requirement in this respect is the mandatory involvement of an on-farm veterinarian, whose three main functions are:

(1) Advising on bio-safety, hygiene, health and animal welfare matters, (2) planning for animal health visits including an assessment of the rational use of antimicrobials, and (3) drawing up the sections of the Integrated Pig Farm Management System (SIGE) related to health, hygiene, biosafety and animal welfare.

Among the issues that must also be assessed by the veterinarian is the level of biosafety on the farm. Biosafety issues have been one of the drivers of change in this new regulation. The new royal decree includes new requirements in terms of infrastructure, equipment and management, which must be complied with on all farms, including the existing ones.

Environmental requirements

One of the main reasons for the new royal decree has been the establishment of new environmental requirements that will enable the sector to tackle some of the most important challenges in this area. The main one is the appropriate management of manure, to reduce nitrate pollution. It is also very relevant the reduction of emissions of polluting gases and greenhouse gases, with particular attention to ammonia emissions, since Spain is exceeding the ceilings set for this sector.

With regard to the requirements related to the management of manure on the farm, the royal decree presents important innovations that, in any case, must be completed in the future with a new regulation of sustainable soil nutrition. These novelties are related to the calculation of the volume of the manure storage ponds, the adoption of techniques that reduce ammonia emissions by 80%, requirements for working with solid manure, a new system for calculating the nitrogen content. The Manure Management and Production Plan involves all farms and is part of the SIGE.

The royal decree includes an emissions reduction program through the mandatory implementation of Best Available Techniques (BAT), as well as new measures to meet national commitments to reduce ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions. The new environmental impact requirements will make it possible to reduce emissions of pollutant gases and greenhouse gases by around 21% by 2023, compared to the baseline scenario without these rules.

The SIGE will have to establish an Environmental Management Plan also including measures to optimize the use of water and energy, for the control of noise, particles, dust and odors.

Farmers and NGOs’ reactions

The production sector considers that, despite the economic cost of implementing the new standards, they will be able to ensure the high health status.

No quiero macrogranjas

Some environmental organizations have condemned the lack of social participation in their drafting and have considered it a "lost opportunity" to limit and reorganize a sector, which is growing exponentially. Environmentalists have criticized the ministry's failure to take into account the population affected by the expansion of industrial livestock farming. They have also demanded a moratorium on new factory farms and the opening of a social debate to move towards a sustainable model that responds to the climate emergency.

Several sources