WHEREAS the Agricultural Operation Practices Act came into force on January 1, 2002, transferring responsibility for confined feeding operations to the NRCB; AND WHEREAS the Honourable Shirley McClellan, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, has indicated that the Agricultural Operation Practices Act can be reviewed if it has unintended consequences; AND WHEREAS oversights in the legislation and Board decisions on reviews of enforcement orders have already had negative impacts on producers; AND WHEREAS the livelihood of producers must be protected from frivolous complaints;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development to immediately conduct a review of the Agricultural Operation Practices Act, and include extensive consultations with all stakeholders while conducting this review.
The Agricultural Operation Practices Act came into force on January 1, 2002. The County of Newell had concerns with this Act and expressed these to the Honourable Shirley McClellan, Minister of Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, in a meeting during the Spring 2002 AAMDC Convention. She did note that changes could be made to the Act if the implementation of the Act did not have the intended consequences. As of August 29, 2002, the NRCB website posted two Board decisions on requests for reviews of Enforcement Orders. These two decisions alone contained the following negative implications for producers and municipalities: 1. When there is a request for a review of an enforcement order, the municipality need not be informed of this review. The County of Newell was not informed of an enforcement order review regarding a producer within its own municipality. We have always been told that municipalities would be an important player and yet we do not get notice of the reviews that affect our ratepayers. In a response to this concern, the Minister replied, in writing, that the Act does not specify that the municipality is required to receive such a notice. She further indicated that this was not part of the Act because this requirement was not identified as a concern by municipalities in the over three years of consultations that took place. In the other decision regarding a review of an enforcement order in Special Area 3, the decision dated June 3, 2002 states that: the panel believes that it would have been better, at least in this case, to have had a representative of Special Area 3 available at the hearing to address questions from both (producers name) and the panel regarding interpretation of the development permit. The date of this decision was June 3, 2002. This was well over a month before the hearing in the County of Newell, which was held on July 11, 2002 and yet the County of Newell was still not notified. 2. The Inspectors appear to be able to add further conditions to a Development Permit that was issued previously by a municipality even if the condition does not address an environmental risk. The transitional provisions of the Act state that the Act applies to previous municipal approvals but that the conditions of the previous approval prevail over the Act if there are inconsistencies. The exception here would be if there was a risk to the environment. In the Special Area 3 case decision, the applicant had indicated on his application that compost would be handled and bagged indoors on site. This was not included as a term or condition of the approval. It was agreed that the outside storage of composted or partially composted material at this site did not pose an environmental risk. The inspector and the Board deemed that the comment on the application regarding the composting indoors on site was a condition of approval. This appears to be adding conditions when there may be no environmental impact. If this becomes common practice, it will have serious implications to producers anytime someone complains about an odour. 3. Seasonal Feeding and Bedding Sites will be classified as an extension of a Confined Feeding Operation if they are in close proximity to the Confined Feeding Operation. In the County of Newell case, it was determined that seasonal feeding and bedding sites in close proximity to confined feeding operations are to be considered as an extension to the confined feeding operation. This means that minimum distance separations must be met taking into account the seasonal feeding and bedding site and considered when applying for approvals or authorizations. In our case, the seasonal feeding and bedding site was adjacent to the confined feeding operation but was clearly a separate and distinct type of operation. Unfortunately, the Board decision did not specify what distance separation is required between a seasonal feeding and bedding site and a confined feeding operation before they will be considered separate operations. Many operators with such sites that are within a certain threshold distance could face the same consequences and according to Field Inspector, Karl Iverson, there is general consensus that locating livestock within the Minimum Distance Separation of an established CFO would be considered as an expansion of the CFO. Depending on what the interpretation on this issue will be, the number of operators affected could be devastating. It also came out that there was no definition of a seasonal feeding and bedding operation. The Field Inspector, in making his determination, noted that the cattle were being fed the same ration and that there was a bunk that was used for feeding the cattle in the pen in question. It did not matter to the Inspector that the bunk was not of the same quality as was used in the confined feeding operation. This should be addressed in the legislation and should be defined for the situation in Alberta and not what the practice is in other Provinces. Only a made-for-Alberta solution will effectively address the needs of our producers. Given the consequences of the decisions that have been made to date, the County of Newell feels that it is very important that the Act be reviewed as soon as possible and respectfully requests the support of their resolution from the municipalities present.
The AAMDC has a number of resolutions currently in effect dealing with the regulation of confined feeding operations (CFOs), most notably: Resolution 2-01F calls for the provincial government to full compensate municipalities for any costs incurred in assisting the NRCB to handle applications dealing with CFOs. Resolution 4-00F calls for the province to implement environmental and technical regulations pertaining to CFOs, while leaving control over land use issues with local municipal governments. In addition, the AAMDC invited member municipalities in September 2002 to provide their comments on the experience to date with NRCB regulation of CFOs. Approximately 23 members provided comments in response, with a wide variety of suggestions for improvement of the current legislative and regulatory process. The AAMDC board of directors met with AAFRD staff in late September 2002 to discuss this issue in further detail, and summary of these member comments has been provided to the department.