Odours remain top farm complaints

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

With farms, woods, wildlife, and fresh air, rural residents cherish the charm and beauty of the countryside. Many people move from cities seeking peace and a pristine environment in the country.
Most people understand that a rural community includes farmers and that farming is a business. But what happens when people make complaints about their farming neighbours?
Finbar Desir, Innovation, Engineering and Program Delivery Unit with OMAFRA, provides some information.
Ontario’s agriculture and food sector employs 650,000 people and contributes more than $30 billion to the province’s economy every year. This means that certain activities take place according to a production schedule—and some affect residents living close to farms.
In almost all cases, farmers and their rural neighbours get along well together. However, there are some exceptions.
Last year (2007-08), the ministry received 203 complaints related to farm practices. Of these, 103 (51 percent) were about odour. The others were mainly about noise (35 percent) and dust (eight percent).
The odour complaints generally are related to farmers spreading manure on fields, fans ventilating livestock barns, manure piles, and mushroom farms.
To manage conflict about farm practices, the Ontario government enacted the Farming and Food Production Protection Act (FFPPA), which establishes the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board (NFPPB) to determine “normal farm practices.”
When a person complains about odour or other nuisance from a particular farming practice, the board has the authority to hear the case and decide whether the practice is a “normal farm practice.”
If it is, the farmer is protected from any legal action regarding that practice.
Traditionally, when people make complaints about farm practices, a regional agricultural engineer works with all parties involved to resolve the conflict. This year (2008-09), the branch’s environmental specialists have joined the engineers in resolving complaints.
The board requires that any complaint go through this conflict resolution process before it comes to a hearing.
Each year, through the conflict resolution process, branch staff have resolved the vast majority of complaints. In 2007-08, only six of the 203 cases resulted in hearings before the board.
Of these, only two were odour cases.
Thus, while odours remain the biggest cause of complaints about farm practices, branch staff working through the conflict resolution process has proved very effective in dealing with them.
Dates to remember
•Feb. 14—Grower Pesticide Safety Course, Emo (call 1-800-652-8573 to register).

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