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WHEREAS for generations farmers and ranchers have been the stewards of the land, protecting and when possible enhancing productivity and sustainability; and
WHEREAS the costs incurred by farmers and ranchers to meet the requirements of new regulations and standards are adding to the financial burden facing primary agricultural producers; and
WHEREAS as primary producers, farmers and ranchers have no method by which to recover any of the money spent on environmental assessments and surveys; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC request that the provincial government exempt farmers and ranchers from the requirement to do environmental assessments and regulations while carrying out normally accepted agricultural activities on crown land.
For generations agriculture has been an integral part of the economic and social structure of Alberta. Long before other industries came to this province farmers and ranchers have been the stewards of the land, recognizing that their livelihood was reliant on the health of the environment. As time has gone on farming practises have improved and knowledge has increased, allowing increased productivity and a greater understanding of how agriculture impacts the environment.
In the past the provincial government has exempted agriculture from the environmental rules and regulations governing other industries in an effort to protect the economic viability of agriculture. In a sense the government trusted those on the front line of primary agricultural production to make decisions that would be in the best interest of the land they draw their livelihood from.
In recent years the provincial government has been moving towards requiring agricultural producers to adhere to many of the same rules and regulations that other industries are required to follow. Before many improvement projects, including small projects such as building fences or new corrals, can begin environmental assessments and surveys must be done, all of which cost money and cause significant delays. It truly seems as though the government’s desire to protect the farmers and ranchers in this province is beginning to dwindle. Agriculture is not the same as other industries, whose only goal is to remove the resources from the ground and then leave. Farmers and ranchers rely on the land, and the primary method of ensuring the long term sustainability of their industry is to make responsible decisions with the environment in mind.
The AAMDC has no current resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Sustainable Resource Development is responsible for Crown land in the province, while agricultural activities fall under the mandate of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. Off Crown land, Alberta Environment approval is required for activities that may impact the local environment. Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and Water Act set clear rules and obligations for the protection, enhancement and wise use of the environment, including requiring environmental impact assessments in some cases.
Sustainable Resource Development:
Under existing legislation, agricultural producers are required to adhere to many of the same rules and regulations that other industries are required to follow. In some areas, before many improvement projects can begin, including small projects such as building fences or new corrals, environmental assessments and surveys must be completed.
Alberta Sustainable Resource Development concurs that low-impact activities required for the ongoing management of an existing agricultural disposition, such as fencing and water development, should be exempt.
While the department can look at specific requirements relating to the ministry’s practices, other requirements are at the discretion of the minister responsible for a particular statute.
Agriculture and Rural Development:
The Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA) and its regulations provide a consistent set of requirements for permitting and operating livestock operations. The purpose of AOPA is to ensure that the province’s livestock industry can grow to meet the opportunities presented by local and world markets in an environmentally sustainable manner. AOPA contains no provision for mandatory assessments; however, it prescribes that the National Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) has the authority to decide if an assessment is needed based on the level of risk posed to the environment. In the case of agricultural producers, this risk would be caused by the handling and spreading of manure.
AOPA and its regulations apply equally across the province. The ownership of land, crown or private, does not affect how it is applied. In the case of manure application to crown land, the crown as the landowner must decide if manure can be applied. If manure application is allowed, then it must be done according to the regulations under AOPA, or the NRCB may determine an assessment is required to ensure proper stewardship of the environment.
In responding to this resolution, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development committed to examining specific requirements relating the ministry’s practices in this regard. Further, at a meeting with Alberta Environment Minister Renner, the AAMDC was advised that there is nothing under environmental legislation that currently requries these types of assessments for farmers and ranchers carrying out small agricultural improvements unless the work affects runoff and changes a water course. The AAMDC will continue to discuss this issue with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development to ensure appropriate application of existing legislation.