Potty trained pigs, a good move or a stinker of an idea?

Posted Dec 14, 2009 by Stephanie Dearing
Taiwan is a small island nation that loves to eat pork. With an estimated six million pigs being raised on the main island, mostly in the south, water quality issues have become an epic battle that the government has been fighting against.
Taiwan's five major rivers have suffered enormously from agricultural pollution, a serious matter because the rivers are the source of drinking water to 75% of the island's population. The major cause of the pollution? Pig farming. Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has spent the past eight years and billions of dollars fighting to keep it's sources of drinking water clean.
Taiwan is home to some 22 million people. The majority of farmers are families who grow food on less than one hectare of land, with an estimated 800,000 small-holder farms in existence. The government is discouraging the practice, attempting to persuade people to expand their farm operations to achieve economies of scale, or to abandon the practice altogether. Taiwan had close to 30,000, pig farms with estimates putting the number of hogs raised at around 10 million in early 2002.
The EPA has undertaken a multi-pronged approach to reducing agricultural pollution from pig farms, which have been identified as a major contributor to Taiwan's poor water quality. The EPA started by moving pig farms away from river, paying farmers compensation. The EPA has moved on to reducing the number of pig farms in operation, closing over 4,000 farms since 2002. Farmers with 200 or more hogs are now required to install waste treatment facilities on their farms, and the government has reported high compliance.
A new measure being introduced by the government in 2010 is a water pollution fee which will be levied on some 12,000 farms. In conjunction with this fine, the government has introduced the idea of capturing pig waste in selected spots so as to prevent pollution of the waterways. The experimental project to potty train pigs to use these spots for defecation seems to be successful, with participating farmers reporting up to 95% compliance from their pigs. The EPA is also working to develop pig manure as a fertilizer to give the manure a commercial value, thus helping to divert the waste from rivers.
The water pollution fee is anticipated to generate revenues of up to $300 million for the government, which it will then redirect back into improving water quality. The EPA is achieving some success in its quest to clean up Taiwan's waters.
Although Taiwan produces the majority of the pork it eats, because of the water quality issues, the government is attempting to discourage the numbers of pig farms and American pork producers are gearing up to take advantage of the market. In spite of heavy competition from countries such as Canada, the U.S.A. anticipates the Taiwan pork market to grow over the next few years.
The potty training experiments have been so successful that the EPA has been introducing the idea to other regions. Pigs prefer to use a limited number of locations for taking care of their business, and pet pigs have been successfully toilet-trained. It is not know if pork producers who use the pig potties would avoid having to pay the pollution fee. However it appears that Taiwan's approach should succeed, mainly because it is not putting all of its eggs into one basket.
Lately, Taiwan has been creating recreational farms, dedicating thousands of hectares to the enterprise. Guests can pick fruits and vegetables, as well as picnic and learn about local natural resources.
The nation became a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001.
A typhoon experienced in Taiwan earlier this summer caused extensive damage to Taiwan's farms.