Thursday 19 February 1998
Farming and Food Production Protection Act, 1997, Bill 146, Mr Villeneuve /
Loi de 1997 sur la protection de l'agriculture
et de la production alimentaire, M. Villeneuve
Mr Albert Hitchcock
Chicken Farmers of Ontario
Mr Mike Scheuring
AGCare (Agricultural Groups Concerned About Resources and the Environment)
Mr Jim Fischer
Mr Dave Armitage
Mrs Mary Lou Garr
PROTECT (Presenting Recommendations on Township Environment Concerns Together)
Mrs Anita Frayne
Mr Lawrence Hogan
Mr Mark Sully
Mr Paul Frayne
Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association
Mr Alfred Koop
Mr Michael Mazur
Halton Region Federation of Agriculture
Mr Jamie Fisher
Huron County Federation of Agriculture
Mr Evert Ridder
Mr Victor Roland
Niagara North Federation of Agriculture
Mr Norman Vaughan
Mrs Arden Vaughn
Mr Ken Durham
Mr Lieven Gevaert
Grey County Federation of Agriculture
Mr Karl Chittka
Waterloo Federation of Agriculture
Mr Larry Erb
Mr Mark Reusser
Mr Douglas Desmond
Lambton Federation of Agriculture
Mr Robert Johnston
Mr Earl Morwood
Rural Rights Alliance of Ontario
Mr John McCredie
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Chair / Présidente
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand PC)
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre / -Centre ND)
Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North / -Nord PC)
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North / -Nord L)
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph PC)
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland PC)
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale PC)
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent L)
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls PC)
Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand PC)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk PC)
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale ND)
Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough PC)
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford PC)
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth PC)
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes
Mrs Helen Johns (Huron PC)
Clerk / Greffière
Ms Donna Bryce
Staff / Personnel
Lewis Yeager, legislative research officer
The committee met at 1000 in the College Motor Inn, Guelph.
FARMING AND FOOD PRODUCTION PROTECTION ACT, 1997 / LOI DE 1997 SUR LA PROTECTION DE L'AGRICULTURE ET DE LA PRODUCTION ALIMENTAIRE
Consideration of Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production / Projet de loi 146, Loi protégeant l'agriculture et la production alimentaire.
The Chair (Mrs Brenda Elliott): Good morning, everyone. The standing committee on resources development is called to order. This is our third day of hearings on Bill 146, An Act to protect Farming and Food Production. As the sitting member for Guelph, may I take this opportunity to welcome all the committee members and staff to our great city. We're delighted to have you here. This is one of the very few times I haven't had to travel a great distance to go to a committee meeting -- a special delight.
We've had two excellent days of hearings, some very interesting presentations, and I welcome all those in the audience and the presenters who are about to share their ideas with us.
The Chair: Our first presenter this morning is Albert Hitchcock. Good morning, Mr Hitchcock. Please come forward and make yourself comfortable at the table. You have 20 minutes for presentation time; you may use all of that time for presentation or you may allow some of that time for questions from the caucuses. Welcome. Please begin.
Mr Albert Hitchcock: Thank you very much. I'll tell you, this is hard for me, to get up here and try to express my opinion, what I think about Bill 146 and how it affects my life and the right to farm. I'm no speechmaker whatsoever, but I'll just give you some problems that have happened in our area. I'll start with it and please bear with me.
I've farmed on this farm for 35 years; my grandfather had it. What really disturbs me is the runoff of manure waste. I think we're all aware of that; we read about it in the papers. We go back two years to try to get council to listen to what we feel is happening, and I know it's happening because I live 1,200 feet from these industrialized farm businesses. As far as I'm concerned, it gives the industrialized producers the right to pollute. You've probably heard that, and they'll deny that today. They're already violating the code of practice. Make this law and we would not be here today.
Due to the construction of these factories, our family, to live there in our future generations has changed. I get very emotional about this and I'm sorry; I can't help it.
Violations by this factory: What are acceptable farm practices? Spreading in winter and spring, holidays, altering the watershed -- I'll get into that a little bit. When we went in to amend the bylaw, for them to change -- a concrete pit was already in place and they wanted to change it back to an earthen one. During that time, they had no outside holding tank. They put 3,000 feet of tile, just missing their barn. I had a little reservoir just across the road from them in which we had frogs. As soon as they opened that up, the frogs were dying; they were standing on the shore.
These are just some little things: installing French basins in the low spots, which were situated on what I might say are the Rocky Mountains of Howard township. It's not only me; I'm not only speaking for myself. As a small farmer, we've got farmer against farmer who won't come forth, but I live with this and there are different people who do.
Installing French basins, like I said: If you're not aware of what a French basin is, they put these catchbasins in the low parts of the field and they put three quarter stone over top of their tile. They'll spread this manure and pump it right on to the ground, which eventually ends up in my private drain, which they have no permission to get into. They just went ahead.
I took my own water samples and fortunately there is nothing into it, but I took the surface waters of four wells in this area that has E coli in it. That was done by the department of health. There was one sample in one deep well -- the first sample they found out had E coli. It's kind of unique that I live in this situation. We only have one factory there and the runoff has to come through my place or the neighbour's. We know what's going on because I live only about 12 feet from this private drain.
I'm not too proud to be an OFA member. They are only trying to protect the stakeholders and the right to farm, and this is big business. It's discriminating, I guess you'd say, against us young farmers, who know what bad times are. I feel so sorry for the small farmers today who are getting locked into this, "We've got to feed the world." They're getting locked into contracts with these big industries which all of you well know are four- to five-year things -- good times. There are farmers out there now who are obligated to produce hogs for these industries for five years. They're at a break-even point right now, and all they can say is "You're specialists." OMAFRA can say they're going to at least have their manure and cut down on the manure they have to buy. They have to pay the bills and they're not going to make it and they're losing their places now.
What really disturbs me is that we have officials here from the government, politicians, you might say, and we have a big dilemma out west, at Smithfield, to come in there and fight a battle over who's going to get Schneider's. If you read the papers -- I learn a heck of a lot through the Ontario Farmer, and bless them for what they write. To allow a company like that, the biggest in the United States, maybe with Murphy's or whatever, to come in there with 22,000 environmental violations -- I didn't know there were that many. They're up to amend a $12.6-million violation in courts now. Is that what we want in Canada, Mr Hoy?
We, as concerned citizens, farmers, are being accused by the OFA member, a director, of using guerrilla tactics. That's far from the truth. When we got into this we tried to amend a bylaw, which we won because they didn't get their earthen one. We got active in there, so we set up a meeting, to have meetings with you, Mr Hoy. I think you were invited, and the council --
The Chair: It's probably better if you direct you remarks through the Chair.
Mr Hitchcock: Okay. I'm sorry. We sent out special invitations to all producers, the OFA, OMAFRA and even our council to come to this meeting, because the public knows now. They want to know. We filled the place. Even our own council in Howard township didn't show up -- none of them, not one. What we wanted to do was put the problem we see in front of them, because we don't want another North Carolina. I'm sorry if I get offtrack a little bit.
The Minister of the Environment is a do-nothing, see-nothing as far as we're concerned, and that's the truth. We've called him many times. We had a spill on which we've called him many times before, because this was happening because of winter spreading going into the catchbasins. This has happened before. They didn't do anything. They couldn't see anything wrong.
What happened was that on May 27 we had a liquid manure runoff into the drain into the millions. I took water tested before, and the E coli count was down a little bit because there was still a runoff before in there, and this ran eventually into the lake. If it wasn't for us doing six water samples, I don't think the Ministry of Environment would have done anything, because they just looked at it before and it was see nothing, do nothing.
We took our water samples to the MDS lab. Fourteen witnesses saw it. Seven and a half hours later, which was 6 o'clock, the Ministry of Environment was called. We called Toronto. It took seven and a half hours for a guy to come from Chatham, to drive 20 miles. He took his water samples, we hear, at 1:30 in the morning and they were still in the millions.
The problem with what's happening out there -- we don't blame just this company. It's big, industrialized waste we're talking about. They spread after dark, these companies. They work after dark. They spread their manure. You don't see it because everybody's sleeping. In four or five hours, it's all clear. When it's all clear, there's nothing there. This is the way I see with the environmentalists, how they work.
As far as I'm concerned, the passing of Bill 146 should be squashed. Like I say, if we had this farm practices into law, which is great -- it's rolled up a good group of people -- we don't have to go around with all this crazy rigmarole and we wouldn't have to be here today.
Now they're trying to deceive the young people today and say, "Everything is fine." The Minister of Agriculture has lobbied against this, saying -- I will give you a quote from Dr Surgeoner which was in this Tuesday's paper, on February 7, and I quote, "We want to receive comments from the community as a whole, but we make it clear that we are not interested in hearing from people who want to shut down animal agriculture in the province." Doesn't that tell you something?
I'm a farmer. We've got a lot of smart citizens who came out there and bought these severance farm houses. We have lawyers, we have doctors, we have accountants, we have all kinds of smart people filing out there who try to enjoy the life in the country. I was there before these pig industries. I have the right to fresh water. Where we're situated, I don't know who -- and I could mention his name, who comes out of Guelph saying it was the ideal place. We're on a glacier moraine. It's very fragile, our water, and we're worried about it. They don't seem to care. They seem to put these places on hills and very close to municipal drains.
All I can say to the Minister of Agriculture is get your house in order, because we've got proof of what we have got, and if you don't know, we're certainly going to tell you. You don't have to be a specialist or a doctor. All you have to do is put your technology with common sense. Common sense comes over everything.
We're not against the pig industry; we're all for it. There are a lot of good, responsible farmers out there and they're damned mad. I took a survey around there and 99% of the people didn't know what's going on. They are for us. I got a petition or whatever in the past. Even the people who work for these industries object to what they're doing.
You take the small town of Ridgetown and you surround it by big farms that are expanding. These big places are expanding even into the small farms. They haven't got the room to get rid of their waste, and it's a waste to them. In 1963 when I first started, I had my own nutrient program. It's nothing new. You hand it to these big industrialized places and that is a waste. Make them pay industrial taxes, because it is an industry.
I'll close by saying I feel this industry, which is industrialized, is being irresponsible.
The Chair: Mr Hitchcock, did you want to answer any questions that members of the committee might have?
Mr Hitchcock: No, that's fine.
The Chair: All right. Thank you for your presentation.
CHICKEN FARMERS OF ONTARIO
The Chair: Do we have representatives from the Chicken Farmers of Ontario present? Please come forward. Good morning. Welcome to the committee. Would you begin by introducing yourself for the Hansard record.
Mr Mike Scheuring: My name is Mike Scheuring and I'm the chairman of CFO. We made a submission before the first reading, and I would like to make that submission again here to the standing committee on resources development.
We represent 1,096 chicken farmers in Ontario who produced 320 million kilograms of live chicken in 1996. Chicken consumption in Ontario grew tremendously in the last couple of years and it will continue on the same trend in the future. The production increased by 12% from 1993 to 1995. Production proposals or growth proposals for this year are already 7.5% above last year. Chicken production is a steadily increasing and growing business.
Some chicken farms in Ontario are on small acreage and very close to towns; some have had towns grow around them in the last couple of years. In order to continue our business of producing chickens and to supply consumers with the proper quantity and the highest quality of food, we need legislation which protects farmers who carry on normal farm practices.
The Chicken Farmers of Ontario are in full support of the OFA submission and we would like to highlight some points as especially important:
(a) Expand the list under subsection 2(l) of the act to include light, vibration and flies.
(b) Broaden the scope of the definition of an agricultural operation in the amended act to include the movement of transport vehicles necessary for the farm operation.
That is a special point for chicken farmers because feed deliveries, for example, are done on a 24-hour cycle. Big feed trucks with trailers can come in at midnight or any time of the day. Catching of chickens normally happens during the night. On an average farm, for example, you may have up to 12 tractor-trailers -- and they are using now the biggest sizes possible; I think it's about 53 feet -- and you could have the movement of dozens of tractor-trailers between 10 o'clock at night and 6 in the morning going in and out of a farm. That is part of the business. It can't be done differently. So this point, the movement of transport vehicles, is for us especially important.
(c) The Farm Practices Protection Board should be the only forum dealing with nuisance complaints and it should be empowered to review and void municipal bylaws that it believes are placing undue and unwarranted restrictions on agricultural operations.
(d) A code of practice for individual commodities established by commodity boards, groups or organizations, updated regularly to cover new, evolving farm techniques, should be the base information for the Farm Practices Protection Board. This will set certain standards without taking flexibility away from the board's decision-making ability.
(e) The revised Farm Practices Protection Act should include a purpose statement in the legislation to protect farmers who comply with normal farm practices against nuisance complaints and restrictive municipal bylaws.
(f) A warning statement on land titles in agricultural areas would be helpful for farmers, new and existing residences and the municipality. It would help prevent problems and nuisance claims from occurring.
(g) Decisions of the Farm Practices Protection Board must have a high profile in the legal system. The board should have the power to void municipal bylaws which place unwarranted restrictions on farmers operating within normal farm practices.
Chicken farmers cannot operate at all if some current farm practices are restricted for the public good, and they cannot satisfy growing market needs without stronger protection in the future. Your decision tries to find a fair balance between rural residents and farmers, which we fully support. However, there are limits which go beyond cooperation. Many farmers can avoid dust, noise or smell on certain days or at certain times, but chicken farmers have no option on operating hours. Our exhaust fans must run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We cannot switch them off on a Sunday, we cannot stop loading chickens at night or restrict feed delivery times, and we need legal protection to maintain our normal farm practices.
We think that a revised and strengthened Farm Practices Protection Act is of utmost importance to all chicken farmers in Ontario, and we ask for your support of the OFA submission as well as ours.
The Chair: Thank you very much. That leaves us with four minutes for questioning from each caucus. Are there questions from the government caucus?
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Thank you very much for your presentation. I was somewhat intrigued. In the past we've had a number of instances where applicants request to have something placed on title to warn people who are moving into the community of what they may expect. I see you mention that in your presentation, that a warning statement be put on title. I wondered how the farming community deals with the fact that you would call that a warning statement. What are we warning people about? Does the farming community feel they are being warned beyond normal farming practices, that in fact they could expect more than what is allowed? I have some concerns about placing warnings, about why, if we all agree that normal farming practices are acceptable for all in the community, we'd want to warn beyond that.
Mr Scheuring: The word "warning" might be a little bit too strong; maybe more the word "caution." I know of a case where a chicken farmer lived in his area for the last 20 years and suddenly the township started to develop the other side of the road. He was lucky that he got the municipality to let people know what they have to expect when they move in there, when they buy property there. That is all we want. We don't want to go beyond normal farm practices, but if someone moves out from the city and moves to a rural area, if they are aware that the farm which is sitting maybe a quarter mile off or opposite them on the road has night traffic of heavy trucks, for example, or about the smell, which cannot be avoided, it may change their mind about moving in or they may accept it when they move in. With this, we could avoid these nuisance complaints later on. Avoiding nuisance complaints is actually the main issue we want to achieve with that.
Mr Hardeman: My concern is that if we as a province are going to have a policy that says that if you live in the farming community there are certain standards of normal farming practices that all should expect, and if we still leave in place a warning for certain areas and certain types of operation, that would imply that someone moving into that community today would not get a warning, and then because the farming changes would now require a warning, some would get it and some wouldn't. I think that's less than fair. I think we should all be aware of what's out in the country and accept that level.
Mr Scheuring: Another suggestion might be to have a general caution note that in general if you move into a rural area, there are farmers which use normal farm practices and you should expect that; just very general, and then people could get detailed information on the areas they want. It's just to let people know it's different than somewhere in a subdivision near Markham. There is a smell and there is some noise.
Mr Hardeman: Your suggestion is that this would be put in every deed in the rural area, that there's a caution on the deed to say you are living in a farming community and there are some attributes to living in the country that are not quite the same as living in the urban area.
Mr Scheuring: If that were possible, I think we could avoid a lot of nuisance complaints in the future.
Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): Maybe I could just follow up a little further with the point Mr Hardeman has made. It's a good point, and I want to assure you that it was certainly brought up in all the consultations from the very beginning, before the draft legislation was even put together. But when everything was dealt with, there was also a concern about whether that should be the route to go or whether we should go that far, so to speak.
In light of that, I want to make you aware that there is intended to be an awareness program to allow those people who are considering moving to a community -- either through the municipality, because usually they will visit the municipality for some information about something, at least it's the usual procedure, through the municipal councils, their staff, even through their real estate agents, because they were part of the consultation too, and they also realized they should do this because it raised their reputation, that they were up front and everything. Certainly within our ministry we'll work towards an awareness program to offset some of those conflicts that might arise from not being aware if something happens. I would just make you aware that is certainly part of the process and will be part of it when we continue on with this bill.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Good morning, and thank you for your presentation. I want to follow up on the comments of the previous two members. In providing advice or a caution or whatever term we would use about life in rural areas, I think we'll have to look beyond what we consider just the concession roads, because you could move into a village or town and still have agricultural events taking place just outside of that. I hope the parliamentary assistant and the government would understand that this type of notice would probably have to apply even to cities, on the fringes where the city begins and ends and agriculture starts again, just as a comment to them.
I'm aware of why farmers catch their chickens at night, but for the benefit of other members on the committee, could you explain why this is done at night rather than at 2 o'clock in the afternoon?
Mr Scheuring: It's not done only at night any more; it's also done during daytime. But slaughterhouses normally start at 6 o'clock in the morning, and they need a fresh supply of chickens. You cannot have these chickens standing in trucks for all of the night if you catch them the afternoon before. They will be caught at night in the dark because that is least disturbing and that's the most gentle way to do it, actually, with these birds, because then they don't get excited. If it's dark, they stay very quiet. Then you have the fresh supply as soon as the slaughterhouse starts, at 6. Say, for example, a farmer is just three hours away from a slaughterhouse and he takes three hours to load that truck; that makes six hours, so the slaughterhouse would have to start at 12 o'clock at night with a fresh truck and then go on until the farm is cleaned out.
Mr Hoy: So there are good sound reasons for doing that at night.
Mr Scheuring: Yes.
Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): You can't catch them in the daylight.
Mr Hoy: I understood that, but I thought other members may be interested in that, and others who might be attending here today.
Have the members of your organization, the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, individually taken part in the environmental farm plan?
Mr Scheuring: Yes, but that was up to each individual member to do that. As a board, we did not get into that. That is out of our mandate actually, but I know of many chicken farmers who took part in that.
Mr Hoy: There's also a discussion that I think is part and parcel with this bill and should follow immediately, and it's being discussed now. It is known as nutrient management, and that might also be termed manure management. Is your organization in discussion on the formation of nutrient management plans for all farms?
Mr Scheuring: We are fully aware of it. I personally was here at a meeting about nutrient management about two weeks ago, and we will follow up that group and that organization and we'll see where it goes. We don't know yet what will actually happen, but in general, the Chicken Farmers of Ontario already have strict disciplines and strict ways of handling or running their farms. They have to clean out after every crop and so on. We have strict limitations and management practices within our organization, for example.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Thank you for your presentation. I think one of the major reasons that we're having hearings on this bill -- for which there is, frankly, all-party support -- is our party did have some real concerns about the very issue Mr Hitchcock referred to, and out of all the letters I received as the environment critic for my party, that is the major concern. There are others, but that is the big one, and I think I can say that's the major reason we're having the hearings, although it's good to hear from people on all the aspects. Do you have any comments on that, what might be changed? Do you, number one, agree that it's a problem treating these big pig farms as part of normal farming as opposed to big industry, and two, do you have any suggestions of what could be done about that?
Mr Scheuring: When I came in, the presentation was already under way, so I did not hear the whole presentation. From the standpoint of representing the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, I don't think it would be right for me to interfere with the pork industry, because I'm not specialized in that and I don't have the information.
Ms Churley: You don't have a comment on that. My other question then is related to what you talked about. I refer to land use planning, because you have talked about one aspect of the problem, with people from the cities moving in and interfering with the farmer's right to farm, and I agree that's a real problem. You talked about one suggestion as to how we might deal with it.
Another one is in terms of land use policy itself, in that this government changed that policy to terms that the municipality must have regard to provincial policy but doesn't have to adhere to it. I have a concern, with the downloading that's going on now and the costs that's going to cause for municipalities, that there could be more of a push to subdivide farm land for tax dollars etc, because that has now opened up. Could you see that it would make sense for the government, working of course with the farm community, to come up with some fairly strict land use policies to avoid that kind of deterioration of the farm land? Would that also help?
Mr Scheuring: Yes. The farming community would be willing, I guess, to take some strict guidelines in that respect. If we can get protection that our normal farm practices are accepted as updated, for example, I think most farmers would accept very strict guidelines with respect to subdividing the property and so on. Yes, I think so.
Ms Churley: So even though that's outside the scope of this bill, that's something that we might want to recommend to the government, that it start working in consultation with the leadership in the farm community to look at the guidelines and policies around land use?
Mr Scheuring: I think there's a possibility to go in that direction, yes.
The Chair: On behalf of all the committee members, we thank you for taking the time to come before us this morning and share your ideas on this bill. It's appreciated.
The Chair: I'd like to call now on representatives from AGCare, please. Good morning and welcome. Make yourselves comfortable. When you begin, would you please introduce yourselves for the Hansard record.
Mr Jim Fischer: My name is Jim Fischer. I chair AGCare. Mary Lou Garr is vice-chair, and Dave Armitage is our secretary of AGCare.
I'd like to briefly go through with you what AGCare is about, some of the activities of the organization, our support of the bill and then wrap up.
First of all, AGCare stands, as you see in front of you, for Agricultural Groups Concerned About Resources and the Environment. We represent about 45,000 growers, field and horticultural crop producers, and our main emphasis within our mandate is dealing with pesticide use, pesticide-related issues, biotechnology-related issues on the crop sector, and to some extent, which you don't see in front of you, a little bit with regard to water quality issues as well.
Our primary role at today's hearing is to support Bill 146 and to demonstrate the commitment of Ontario's farm community to address environmental concerns associated with various agricultural production practices.
Right-to-farm legislation is of critical importance to farmers in virtually every jurisdiction in the developed world. When compared to most urban areas, a typical rural area can justifiably be described as a tranquil refuge, yet it must be recognized that farms are located in rural areas and farms are sites of essential industrial and various business activities, namely, the production of food and fibre. Ontario farmers have been well served by the Farm Practices Protection Act since its introduction into legislation back in 1988, but the amendments proposed in Bill 146 will provide an extra measure of certainty to the industry as it moves into the next century.
I'd like at this time to give a couple of personal comments. Personally, I live right near, or some would suggest in, the town of Walkerton, because we are adjacent to that town. Some of our property is within the boundary. These are just little titbits that may help you further as to what we're all about. We live along a subdivision, and the irony is that we get along very well with those people, all those houses lined up there. I would suggest it's because this is in a urban setting, these individuals, in the town of Walkerton, looking out into a rural setting. However, where our second farm is, which is two miles down the road, there may be some concerns, not so much now but in the future where we have an individual from an urban setting living in a rural area and seeing that so-called tranquil setting.
On another note, I can fully understand why that tranquil refuge imprint in our minds or in some of our urban friends' minds is there. In our instance, we have friends who come up from London. They visit once a year. My wife and I invite them at a time when we're not busy and they witness those times of a tranquil, quiet setting, not when we're spreading nutrients -- or as you call it, manure -- but they are nutrients, not at a time when we're combining or there's dust or there's noise, normal farm practices. So it's understandable why people may view that and look at it in that light, and those are just a couple of personal experiences on our own farm.
Following on here, at a recent annual meeting of a major farm organization, a presenter suggested that the environment has evolved from being an issue to being a value, and I would concur with that fully. But I would suggest as well that this is in no way a revelation or something new within the farming community. The majority of farmers have always considered the environment in that light, given that their livelihood is dependent on access to soil, water and air that will support the production of crops and livestock, as well as our families. We live in this environment; our children live in it. Our children grow in this environment. My spouse, our children and I swim in the river along our property in this environment. It's a reality.
Farmers are gravely concerned that there are citizens of this province who view the protection offered farmers through right-to-farm legislation as a right to pollute. This is simply untrue and I'm appalled if I ever hear it. Farmers have a genuine desire to maintain and enhance the environment. I would like to briefly touch on several programs that farmers, over the years, have developed. Recently, most have developed or assisted in developing to ensure that farming activities do not compromise the integrity of the environment.
I'll begin with the grower pesticide safety course, which I think some of you are already up to speed on. It was an initiative originally postulated by AGCare about 10 years ago to ensure that all farmers using pest control products, pesticides, are up to speed in the latest ways of handling and storing and applying these pest control products. The need was there. Currently we have 42,000 Ontario farmers certified through this program. The importance farmers place on this training is evident in that they are willing to recertify every five years in order to keep abreast of new changes that come along. This is an ongoing thing, as with any technology. The initiative was new, unique. It worked. It was something unheard of.
Another example draws on the activities of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition, which you're likely up to speed on. If not, it's OFEC and it started in 1991. It was established by this group, AGCare, along with the likes of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Farm Animal Council. The intent was to develop an environmental agenda for our Ontario farm sector. Over the course of several months a 26-page document, Our Farm Environmental Agenda, was prepared that outlined a number of environmental concerns that we farmers had identified, and we proposed strategies for addressing the concerns that came out of those meetings. Once completed, the document was released for public scrutiny -- not, I would suggest, the approach one would expect if farmers were interested in pursuing so-called right-to-pollute legislation.
With this document we were open, we were forward. We brought in other groups -- non-farming groups, government, non-government, environmental groups. The books were open: "This is where we're at and this is how we want to proceed." We were very forthright, up front and honest with the approach, far from being what was suggested, that we want to pursue right-to-pollute legislation.
Immediately following the release of Our Farm Environmental Agenda, OFEC turned its attention to developing and implementing what has become known as the EFP, as you see in front of you. The primary objective of this program was to raise the awareness of Ontario farmers with regard to the impact of agricultural production on the environment. It is a voluntary program that has attracted over 11,000 participants to date in these past five years. Data collected by the various people, the administrators involved in the program throughout the province, indicate that Ontario farmers have invested close to $20 million dollars in on-farm projects geared specifically to address environmental concerns, and we're not even talking of the multitude of other projects or initiatives, or whatever you want to call it, that farmers have been involved in outside this whole EFP process.
The high calibre of the EFP program is clearly demonstrated by the international recognition it has achieved. Detailed information on the development, implementation and administration of Ontario's EFP program has been requested by a number of people within the agricultural industry, not only in this country but in the US and the continents you see in front of you.
Other OFEC initiatives worth noting relate to water quality in general and nutrient management in particular, as was addressed a little bit by the previous speaker. Again, the primary objective of these important initiatives is to determine how farmers can carry on the day-to-day business of farming, of producing food, without compromising the environment in which they operate. It is noteworthy that a recent draft document outlining a nutrient management planning strategy includes the following principle: that farmers do not have the right to violate pollution laws, and anyone doing so should be held accountable.
Finally, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has overseen the production of a best management practices series of publications which have been out for some time. They are focused almost exclusively on environmental protection. Topic areas range from field crop production to fish and wildlife habitat management, with eleven titles currently in print and two more in the final stages of publication. Each of these publications offers practical, realistic, affordable approaches to conserving a farm's soil and water resources without sacrificing the ability to produce food.
Given the above list of environmental initiatives undertaken within the farming community, I respectfully submit that the majority of farmers are excellent stewards of the land they own and/or operate. AGCare strongly supports enforcement of such environmental statutes as the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act. Bill 146 offers no protection to farmers in violation of any of these statutes, and this is good.
AGCare would also like to lend support to a wording change in Bill 146 with respect to the definition of "normal farm practice." It is our understanding that the Farm Practices Protection Act defined "normal farm practice" in terms of a practice that was "proper and accepted," whereas Bill 146 refers to a practice that is "proper and acceptable." In our view, it's a little tidbit but it is very important in how it's presented. The word "accepted" relies on a historical perspective while the word "acceptable" provides a more contemporary or perhaps more futuristic perspective, given the fact that it is of particular importance to this organization, AGCare, given our interest in agriculture biotechnology as a production tool. Agricultural biotechnology is an emerging technology that as yet could not rightfully be described as "accepted" simply because the production tools it offers have not been available for a sufficient length of time yet to determine whether or not they have been accepted. However, if farmers are convinced that agricultural biotechnology contributes to the production of an abundance of safe, good-quality, nutritious food, with reduced environmental impact in the producing of that food, it could certainly be described as acceptable.
In summary, I've given a brief overview of AGCare, its mandate, what we're all about. I've emphasized that the bill is not a licence to pollute. I've emphasized some of the initiatives of AGCare as well as of other organizations in agriculture that are involved in terms of maintaining or enhancing the environment. In final summary, AGCare offers its full support to Bill 146. On behalf of Mary Lou, Dave and myself, I thank you for the opportunity of being able to spend a few brief moments with you here today.
The Chair: Thank you very much. You have left three minutes for each caucus for questioning. We'll begin with the Liberal caucus.
Mr Hoy: Good morning. Thank you for a very clear and concise presentation as well as the information on environmental farm plans and on some of the work you've done in the past and are currently involved in. You're quite right that none of us here on this committee wants to create a law that would allow farmers to pollute, and farmers themselves don't want a law that allows that to occur. I would say that most farmers are very good stewards of the land, water and air. After all, that is, as you point out, how they will make their livelihood not only for themselves individually but for their families. However, just as some people would disobey the laws of the road, our highways, there may be those who go outside the normal farm practices that we would all like people to take part in. So there will be potentially legitimate claims, and I think that Bill 146 provides an avenue for those legitimate complaints that may from time to time occur.
You're quite right in pointing out that all other environmental protection laws will still be there. The Pesticides Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act must still be adhered to. However, I have a concern that if we have the best of laws for all concerned, rural, urban, farm and non-farm persons, we have to have an enforcement mechanism. Currently, the Ministry of the Environment has been downsized drastically. I know of situations in my riding where the people I used to talk to at the Ministry of the Environment are gone now. Do you have any particular advice or comment to make on the enforcement of these and other acts as they pertain to the environment?
Mr Fischer: First of all, if you look at what we've done with the the environmental farm plan, we've taken a proactive approach. Within its history, the intent of it was to govern ourselves. Where there are problems, let's address them and look at them, the same as we are doing right now with nutrient management, with the ultimate intent -- yes, you're right, the world is not perfect, there will be some people, as in every industry, every situation, who will not do right -- with the intent to limit the number of those negative things that may happen, whatever they may be, to a very basic minimum. The intent, then, after that is that basic minimum can be dealt with. But there will be that situation out there. That's reality.
As far as specifics, Dave, perhaps you may want to comment on this as well. But we've taken the proactive approach to try to address it, realizing that it needs to be addressed. The EFP is a classic example of how we and the others who have been involved in putting that together were likely not blowing our horn well enough in the farm community on how well it's been done. Dave?
Mr Dave Armitage: What I might offer with respect to nutrient management is that we are proposing -- that is a draft document that you have before you, but it is proposed in there to set up local advisory committees, not to deal with violations of legislation but to deal with non-legislative issues, issues that might be of concern to people living in the country with respect to nutrient management. So that is a cooperative approach and very much a peer pressure approach to these sorts of issues, where a committee comprised of farmers and non-farm residents can bring some pressure to bear on people whose farm practices may not be violating a statute but may not be what we consider to be normal, so that happens.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your presentation. I'd like to ask you the same question I asked the previous presenter. Were you here for Mr Hitchcock's presentation, by the way?
Mr Fisher: I was here for part of it, yes.
Ms Churley: As I said, I've received letters and phone calls from a lot of small farmers who expressed, with a great deal of emotion, I may say as well, as we heard from Mr Hitchcock today -- I certainly got the impression that some felt very uncomfortable that there's overall support for this bill, as we well know, but small farmers who have seen at first hand, like Mr Hitchcock, what could happen with these huge industrialized pig farms. I want to focus again on that and see if you have any comments as to whether you personally have seen any of these concerns and if you have any suggestions to the committee today as to what might be amended in the bill or something that can be done outside the scope of this bill to deal with the big industrial farms.
Mr Fischer: First of all, the challenge to you is to separate the difference between emotion and fact. That is very, very important. I think when you're dealing with the facts and dealing with the truth, you realize it may not be as much of a concern as what may have been presented.
The second point: With regard to what the farm community is doing with regard to nutrient management, at a time when we're seeing things get bigger, farms get bigger, industries get bigger, companies amalgamate, I think we're doing very well to try to address that concern. Again, it's the farming community and others being proactive on it.
Ms Churley: Some of the examples cited were North Carolina and Iowa, I believe, which were the two states specifically mentioned time and time again as states where there were no controls put on these huge megafarms and in fact it was very real. The fish were dying, water couldn't be drunk or swum in anymore. Do you believe those are facts and do you believe that could happen here if controls aren't put on those pig farms?
Mr Fischer: I don't believe it can happen here because we've taken a proactive approach second to nowhere else in the world to address this before it can happen. I'm not exactly sure what the situation is in California; I do know there are some big outfits. But we are looking after it. We've realized the need to do it. Mary, did you want to say anything on this?
Mrs Mary Lou Garr: I was just sitting here thinking that we have already excellent controls in Ontario for those situations. We have the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act. I think maybe what you're trying to look at is, what is the family farm and what is an industrial farm?
Ms Churley: No, I'm not trying to look at that. What I'm doing is addressing some very real concerns which have been expressed by the small farmers about the real possibility and in fact some real pollution that's already happened and the concerns that can be exacerbated by this bill. I'm looking at that very real concern that's been expressed and how we can deal with it.
Mrs Garr: I think the controls are there under various legislation, whatever the size of the operation. We in the farm community are drawing all of those operations, whether large or small, into what we're doing in terms of nutrient management planning and environmental farm planning. That's our focus.
Ms Churley: So you don't think the concerns being expressed by these small farmers are real. You think that they're paranoid or -- I don't quite understand why they should be expressing such fears when you say that they don't exist. I'd like to be reassured.
Mr Fischer: First of all, what is your definition of a small farmer?
Ms Churley: I would say the family farm.
Mr Fischer: Let me say to you then, if I may, we're a family farm. My wife is an equal business partner. Our children are involved; one is 18 and one is 15, daughter and son. I would describe us possibly as a medium-sized farm of a 70-cow herd, 250 acres, maybe small in terms of some of the larger outfits, and I don't have that concern. That's the reality. The likelihood is that maybe we're going to try to go that route as well. I have a concern when you raise that, what is a small farm?
Mr Armitage: I was just going to suggest very quickly that the point you're making, I think there are those types of situations you describe, but getting back to the language in this bill, I would suggest that a normal farm practice would not result in the sort of environmental degradation that you're describing. So I think this bill would not protect anyone who was doing the sort of damage you're describing.
Mr Danford: Just a short comment: I was pleased to see that you did make a particular point of the fact that farmers do not have the right to pollute. Through all the consultation, from all farming groups, from everyone who participated, I think that was well mentioned, certainly well endorsed. I think it was also said that farmers have a vested interest in controlling and managing their nutrient disposal because it is an asset and a value to them in their production of crops or livestock, either one.
Given the fact that there are other acts in place that already deal with specific circumstances -- and I'm talking about the environmental act, water resources, pesticides, for instance -- do you feel that Bill 146 then does provide that balance to look after the other practices that are carried on and provide a balance between rural and the farming community?
Mr Fischer: Absolutely, both sectors very well.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you very much for the presentation. I too appreciate your comments that this is not a piece of legislation to give farmers the right to pollute. The minister has made that statement a number of times and it bears repeating, because the legislation that always has applied to all members of our community, farming and urban, still applies. This deals with how we deal with normal farming practices and disputes and if farmers do things that are beyond an acceptable practice, that they are still prosecutable, as they always were.
I do want to question the comments you made in your presentation that relate to "accepted" and "acceptable." If we're to accept the change to be "acceptable" as opposed to "accepted" -- and I agree with your analysis that "accepted" is based on historical practice as opposed to a futuristic approach. But if you change that word, how would you decide, or who would decide, what is acceptable?
I had some concerns in a previous presentation that there was some suggestion that the commodity board or whoever was involved with that industry would set that "acceptable," and I have some concerns that you have to have a standard for the board to judge by, as opposed to the people involved in the industry, to actually be able to set that standard at any appropriate time. If it went to "acceptable," how would you set that acceptable practice?
Mr Fischer: I actually don't know. We only use crop biotechnology or biotechnology in general as an example of an emerging new technology. My goodness, if we dream a little bit, what else is coming down the pike in terms of new technologies that have in many instances, I would suspect from previous history, significant, positive benefit to society in general? I don't mean specifically the farming community; I mean more nutritious food with respect to biotech, but who knows what else? That's the reason we wanted it in there.
When we say "accepted," we're dealing with the past in an instance, and it just would allow this new technology to continue then to be evaluated better. I know I'm not exactly answering your question, but that's the intent and the reason behind it.
Mr Hardeman: If I could just go a little further on that, if you use the word "accepted" but also include the clause of the bill that says the minister can by regulation set that accepted standard, would you not see that that solves your problem, as opposed to changing it, that if there was new technology that was required, a case could be put forward and the minister could, by regulation, then say that is an accepted standard?
Mr Fischer: That would be a step in the right direction.
The Chair: With that, on behalf of all the members of the committee, may I thank you for bringing your ideas before us this morning. We appreciate your input.
Mr Fischer: On behalf of Mary, Dave and I, I thank you as well.
The Chair: I'd like to call now upon representatives of the group called Presenting Recommendations on Township Environment Concerns Together. Good morning and welcome. Make yourselves comfortable. Please begin by introducing yourselves for the Hansard record.
Mrs Anita Frayne: Good morning. My name is Anita Frayne.
Mr Lawrence Hogan: I am Lawrence Hogan.
Mr Mark Sully: Mark Sully.
Mr Paul Frayne: Paul Frayne.
Mrs Frayne: Madam Chair and members of the committee, on behalf of PROTECT, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to present with respect to Bill 146.
We are here today representing a large group of residents from Ashfield township. I would like to take a little time to explain to you who PROTECT is and what we are about.
PROTECT, which stands for Presenting Recommendations on Township Environmental Concerns Together, was formed early last summer by a group of concerned citizens in Ashfield township, which is in the northwest corner of Huron county fronting Lake Huron. Our group includes farmers, cottagers, business people and residents who believe that the environmental wellbeing of our community is being threatened by the introduction of more and larger intensive livestock operations in our township. We believe that this move to agri-industrial-intensive livestock operations poses a profound environmental threat. Research indicates that improper management and/or distribution of liquid manure from these sites, whether it be from weather conditions or human error, has resulted in serious long-term damage to water supplies. Our concerns are based on and confirmed by the experience of jurisdictions worldwide where this industry has been permitted to expand without enough restrictions and controls and where the environmental sustainability of this type of production is now being seriously called into question. The cost-saving strategies which come with these operations must be weighed against their environmental impact. Cheaper food begins to look much more expensive if its production entails serious environmental damage.
Unfortunately, limitations in existing safeguard regulations and municipal bylaws, coupled with nominal penalties and policing to enforce safe practices, give the impression that responsible land stewardship is not a priority. PROTECT believes responsible land stewardship must become a priority for everyone to ensure that safeguards are implemented prior to the development of problems, not after the damage is done.
The primary goal of PROTECT has been to increase public awareness on this issue. Our thrust has been to educate ourselves and become well versed on this subject with the hope of enabling our group to provide input on identifying, addressing and preventing potential problems. To this end, since last summer, a number of initiatives have been undertaken in our area, at group and municipal levels, to try to address current and potential water quality problems.
We would like to strongly emphasize that PROTECT is a pro-farming group. The value of Huron county's agricultural production is of national importance. This fact does not escape us. Many of us are livestock farmers. We all recognize the demand for livestock production and understand, respect and encourage legislation which will protect and support it. Our concerns focus around the intensity or concentration of production in a given area and the environmental impact of that.
The business of food production is changing rapidly, and in particular rural Ontario is experiencing an unprecedented growth in the size of livestock operations. For this reason the right to farm must be balanced fairly and responsibly with the legitimate rights of those who live and work in rural Ontario. If these concerns which are shared by a growing number of people are not addressed, it will be a grave disservice to all Ontario residents, but more particularly to the very sector the proposed legislation is attempting to protect, the agricultural community and the intensive livestock producer. Thank you. I would now like to turn it over to Mark Sully.
Mr Sully: Out of our meetings with PROTECT -- and it was quite interesting to see the number of people who were attending; there are a lot of concerned people -- we came up with three points we would like to suggest for your consideration for input in this right-to-farm legislation. I have changed somewhat the material that I have provided, although I think you can catch the general gist of what I'm saying. The areas we're concerned about in the right-to-farm legislation are:
(1) What is covered under the definition of "normal farm practice"?
(2) The bill's ability to take precedence or override local municipal bylaws.
(3) The concern that this farming and food production legislation will prevent or obscure the ability to create and enforce existing or future environmental laws.
Should we be concerned? In the summer of 1991, a rural well water survey was undertaken in Huron county by Centralia College of Agricultural Technology. This survey was published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in July 1992. Four hundred wells were surveyed throughout the county, with samples taken from wells randomly in a manner that provided a comprehensive overview of the types of wells and quality of water being used by our rural residents. It definitely will be statistically accurate with just the numbers of wells that were sampled. The results indicated:
That 41% of the rural population utilized water from dug or bored wells -- those are wells with an average depth of 25 feet -- and 56% of the population had drilled wells, which had an average depth of 125 feet.
That 37% of all wells had unsafe total coliform and faecal coliform bacterial levels. Alarming as this might be, it is even more startling when we recognize that this is the average for both dug and drilled wells.
That over 40% of the rural population rely on water from dug wells. Over 73% of these wells exceed the unsafe drinking level of 10 organisms per 100 millilitres. The average dug well in Huron county exceeds 50 organisms per 100 millilitres. The average is five times, or 500% higher, than allowable.
Over 30% of the county's dug wells also exceed the acceptable nitrate levels, which is 10 parts per millilitre. This is fact, and this is a real health concern now. We are concerned and we think you should be too.
We are blessed in Huron county and Ashfield township with not only productive and beautiful farm land but also our proximity to Lake Huron. In Ashfield township over half, about 62%, of our tax base is derived from recreational residential ratepayers -- they probably take up about 1% of the overall land base -- most of whom are attracted to this area because of the lake and its beaches. However, we are experiencing an increase in the incidence of beach closings due to unsafe swimming conditions from elevated faecal coliform levels.
Why do our groundwater, rivers, streams and lakes have such high faecal coliform and nitrate levels? Why is our water unsafe to drink? Why is our lake unsafe to swim in? What are the causes? How can we remedy the situation? Does it matter? Is anyone doing anything about it?
We are here today because we are concerned. We are concerned with the present situation and extremely concerned that the present environmental status will become progressively more unhealthy in the future. We know that the health risks identified by elevated faecal coliform levels now measured in our groundwater and lakes are coming from the manure of warm-bodied animals. What we don't know is the exact source.
Huron county's agricultural production is tremendous. Over 80% of the land base is zoned agricultural, almost all of this being either class 1 or 2. Both agricultural crop and livestock production are important and significant in a global sense. Today Huron county's livestock output creates manure equal to a human population of approximately three million people. There are approximately 30,000 people residing in the county's rural areas. Therefore, we know today that 99% of the warm-bodied animals creating manure, which is the source of faecal coliform, are domesticated animals and that 1% of the faecal coliform is created by humans using septic systems.
We have a rural environmental problem that's a health hazard today caused by elevated levels of faecal coliform, and 99% of the total faecal coliform in Huron county's rural areas is created by domesticated animals. To address the problem, we must at least consider the source.
We are concerned that the legislation in Bill 146 does not face the fact that we have a real environmental problem now. We are concerned that this legislation will provide a method to continue ignoring our existing environmental problem and make it increasingly difficult to resolve this problem in the future.
The points we would like to address in the legislation are as follows:
(1) What is "normal farm practice"? We question categorization of large, intensive livestock production as farming. At what point does it just become big industry or a big factory? If the normal farm practice has a negative impact on the environment, does this make it okay? If it is assumed that normal farm practice will always be environmentally sound, then why not be specific and include this assumption in the definition of "normal farm practice"? For example, you could say, "Normal farm practice, provided this practice does not have a negative impact on the environment."
(2) We strongly object to Bill 146 providing provincial powers that override a municipality's ability to create bylaws to regulate farming. The power to strike a municipal bylaw ignores the fact that these local bodies are in the best position to make and enforce logical, practical and safe regulations to serve their local needs. Providing the province this authority is particularly disconcerting in light of the province's inability to provide adequate environmental safeguards, standards, research studies or enforcement personnel to assure us that our environment is being adequately protected. We see provincial funding to local conservation authorities eliminated, fish and wildlife protection and supervision in the Ministry of Natural Resources cut or radically reduced and Ministry of the Environment resources stretched to the point that no one can respond to or enforce existing regulations.
We are deeply concerned with the Ministry of Agriculture's quest for unfettered growth in livestock production when there is a decided lack of scientific data or research to suggest that this growth will not have a long-term negative environmental impact. We are concerned that the present level of livestock output is hurting the environment. Our concern with the Ministry of Agriculture's support for continued livestock expansion without the necessary concrete studies to provide Ontario residents the assurance and comfort that their environment will not be compromised is extremely worrisome. This feeling is even more compelling when you look at the skimpy, botched or downright misleading studies that the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture have provided to identify sources of faecal coliform in our water.
The local municipal residents feel strongly that they should have the right to regulate their own municipal bylaws. Over 75% of the Ashfield township residents, when asked, supported a petition to suspend further expansion of intensive livestock production facilities until research could be undertaken to determine what ramifications further expansion would have on the environment. The petition was supported despite the fact the petition clearly indicated that the cost to undertake the necessary research study would be entirely funded by the township residents, at an estimated cost of $80,000 to $100,000, and this cost would result in $114 being paid by each ratepayer. These people felt they needed to have a hand in creating bylaws that would regulate agricultural production in their area. The ratepayers were willing to pay a significant amount of money, $114 each, to support this desire. That's a strong indication that municipal residents want and believe they deserve the right to create bylaws which regulate agriculture at the local level.
The third thing is that we're concerned that this farming and food production legislation will prevent or obscure the ability to create and enforce existing or future environmental laws.
In summary, our concerns are based on the fact that we already have existing water quality problems, an unhealthy situation, in our area. We're concerned that there's a great potential for this to grow if intensive livestock production is allowed to expand in an unregulated manner. We are concerned about the definition of "normal farm practice" and believe it's necessary to include reference to the environment in the definition of "normal farm practice." We are concerned about the removal of a local municipality's ability to create and enforce bylaws that regulate farming in their area. We're concerned about the potential for the bill to obscure or preclude the ability to create and enforce existing or future environmental laws.
The Chair: Thank you. We have two minutes for questioning from each caucus. We'll begin with Ms Churley from the NDP caucus.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your presentation, as I sit here trying to separate out fact from fiction, which I think all legislators need to do when we have the responsibility to make laws. In the previous presentation, I was told I should do that. I want to be clear from your presentation, and I know it's a very short time, what evidence you have. There is a problem and we all know that; the evidence is there. There isn't the evidence we need yet to know for sure exactly what the problem is, and there needs to be more intensive study done. Before that happens, there should be -- what? I don't know. We should stop the expansion of intensive livestock production for a while until we know more? What's your recommendation around that?
Mr Frayne: If I might answer that, Madam Chair, that's a very good question. There's actually a sheet of paper at the back of our handout here. It's not the minutes of the meeting, but it's a report on a meeting of the Perth County Pork Producers' Association that was held in late 1997. Their guest speaker was Pat Lynch, one of the most distinguished agronomists in the province and probably in the country. At that meeting, Pat Lynch made the comment that there are many questions and many answers that have got to be looked into about these nutrient management plans.
If I may quote one part that Mr Lynch said near the end of the meeting: "Pat also made the comment that court battles should be dragged on for years and years so researchers have time to come up with answers backed up by research data."
The problem we have in this province right now -- it's no coincidence that municipalities right now are struggling in an attempt, through bylaws, to regulate the rapid growth of the intensive livestock section. They are searching for answers. OMAFRA has not been doing their homework. The different commodities associations have not done their homework. I've heard today that they have, but the reality is that they have not.
The poor old municipal politicians in this province are struggling with this issue. When Bill 146 says that they may take that responsibility away from them, who is going to set the guidelines here? Already, because of the situation, the local municipal politicians have found to their dismay that there are no answers. The research is ongoing. At the PROTECT meetings, the hog producers association stood there and told us to give them time, and we recognize that it will take time. But Bill 146, by taking away the democratic rights of people through their elected people at the municipal level, denies them the basic right to have input into this.
The general feeling in the rural population is, is it really a coincidence that Bill 146 is being introduced by the government at this time, at the very same time that the intensive livestock sector of this province is under extreme scrutiny, and for very good reasons?
Mr Fischer from AGCare --
The Chair: I'm sorry, we only have a brief time for questions and answers. We'll move now to Mrs Johns from the government caucus.
Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): Good morning, Huron county. I'd like to address my question to Mr Hogan because he's a small farmer in Huron county, probably not so small, I guess, but I think in Ms Churley's definition.
Mr Hogan: It depends on whose definition you use.
Mrs Johns: That's right. In Ms Churley's definition that might be the case.
I have been watching this and I'm concerned. We have an environmental problem in Huron county. There's no question about that. We have two issues: First of all, we're concerned about intensive livestock, and your group is specifically concerned about intensive livestock; second, we're concerned that our lake is getting more polluted and it's affecting our tourist industry all the time.
In our community, because you people have brought to the forefront these problems, we have come together in a group and we're looking at exactly who is trying to pollute in the lake. Your group, plus a number of different groups, have gone together to try and analyse through labs, I think, the E coli that's in the lake. I was quite surprised today when I heard that 90-some per cent of the pollution may well be coming from animals.
It's my understanding that we have a municipal problem. We have people in sandy soil without proper sewer system; we have towns that don't have the proper septic systems; we have agricultural people who aren't following the rules; we have cottagers without septic tanks. I understand those results may prove we have more of a balance of pollution in the lake than that. I know our results have been stopped a couple of times from coming out. I'm wondering if you at PROTECT know what the results are in those lake studies and if it is true that there's a balance from a number of different sources, along, I suspect, with Perth farmers and Perth pollution from their municipalities also.
Mr Hogan: No, we don't know the results of those tests at this point. They probably shouldn't be published until a full year of results is tabulated, because the levels will vary widely from month to month depending on -- you're saying the cottagers contribute to some of the pollution, and I'm sure they do, so in the July-August period and maybe September, you tend to maybe see more human pollution, but if they were to do the test in May, June, July, you'd tend to see more from the livestock sector. And I don't think Mark said that 99% of the pollution was from livestock; he just said that's 99% of the manure produced.
Mrs Johns: Oh, sorry, I misunderstood that. Sorry, Mark.
Mr Sully: It is a mathematical impossibility to have the elevated faecal coliform and nitrate-loading levels in the overall watershed -- and it doesn't matter whether you're measuring rivers, streams, groundwater, anywhere -- it's a mathematical impossibility to have that or even a large portion of it -- a small portion of that is attributable to people. It's just a scientific, mathematical impossibility. Unfortunately, we're led to believe -- and that's why it says "skimpy, botched and downright misleading." The information that has been provided and done to date has been so messed up by the groups that were involved in putting it together that they just twisted it around where it absolutely doesn't make any sense. I'd be happy to go through it, but it would take a while for me to show that.
Mr Hoy: Thank you very much for your presentation. I want to make something clear, at least in my view, on the question of small or large farms, or medium-sized or whatever they might be.
Ms Churley: Good. Let's clear this up.
Mr Hoy: No one, small, medium, or large, has the right to pollute, so we need to encompass a set of guidelines and laws that will affect everyone equally in that regard to pollution. I want to make that clear from my perspective.
One of the occurrences here is that Ontario in the main, across the agricultural sector, is producing a quality product. People around the world like our products; Ontario people like our products. I mean that in every sense, not just livestock. But now what we need to do in this evolution of agriculture and the evolution of laws to deal with that evolution of agriculture is to provide quality farm practices. I think there has been an evolution of agriculture, about which you are very concerned, and I appreciate everything you've said in your brief, but as legislators we're also trying to evolve along with them and provide the right laws and the right mechanisms to protect you and everyone in Ontario, farm and non-farm alike.
The statistics you gave are quite dramatic. You may have been in the room when I raised a question. I sympathize with you and am concerned about conservation authorities, the Ministry of Natural Resources and in particular the Ministry of the Environment having their funding reduced. We can make all kinds of laws, but if we have no enforcement, it's not going to provide you or me with what we want to see in Ontario. Thank you for your presentation.
The Chair: On behalf of all the members of the committee, I would like to thank you for coming today and for bringing your ideas forward as we consider this bill.
ONTARIO FRUIT AND VEGETABLE GROWERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: I call upon representatives of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association. Good morning, and welcome. I'm sure you know you have 20 minutes for presentation time, which may be your presentation or you may allow time for questions. As you begin, please introduce yourselves for the Hansard record.
Mr Alfred Koop: I'm Alfred Koop, first vice-president of OFVGA. I'm a grape grower in the Niagara Peninsula, growing juice and fresh grapes and wine grapes.
Mr Michael Mazur: Michael Mazur, executive secretary of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association here in Guelph.
Mr Koop: At the outset, I'd like to make it clear that we are on side on this bill. We work together with the OFA and have a member on their board of directors. I would make that very clear at the beginning.
You have the paper in front of you. I'll just read through that and then we'll open it up for questions. I think that will leave a fair amount of time for questions.
The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association represents the interests of approximately 8,400 fruit, vegetable, greenhouse vegetable producers and industry members in Ontario. It is the intent of our association to share with you the need for a workable piece of legislation that allows producers to produce fruits, vegetables and other value added products that use normal farm practices without undue pressure through conflicts that arise from nuisance complaints.
The conflicts that have arisen in the past revolve around changes in demographics of the rural community and by a lack of understanding by individuals of normal agricultural practices. The farm community has attempted to deal with these issues and continually makes every effort to accommodate and assist in the resolution of complaints and adopt best management practices to alleviate concerns wherever and whenever possible.
On the bylaw development: Appropriate bylaws under certain guidelines must be consistent across all municipalities in order to maintain a level playing field between all producers regardless of location. Bylaws should not be restrictive to current and/or future types of farm enterprises. In order to remain competitive, producers will look at expansion and/or value added activities.
Water taking: The current requirement for the taking of water is essential in order to maintain appropriate riparian rights for food production needs and residential requirements. An order of preference for the taking of water should be considered. Essential needs must be looked after prior to recreational needs.
Vandalism and trespass: Regulations that ensure safe properties and farm practices cannot be overemphasized in this regard.
Farm property protection: Discharge of firearms and other devices for property protection from nuisance animals and other predators, such as birds, must be allowed. These should be operated under normal conditions and at reasonable times of the day.
Farm machinery: Agricultural operations are at the vagaries of weather, and at times must operate various equipment at off-normal hours for cultivation, planting, spraying or harvesting activities. These must be understood in order to maintain sound production practices.
Light and ventilation: For some operations these practices are essential for production purposes, such as greenhouse operations and icewine-making during evening and early morning hours. Those are new things that have come along as far as light goes. People are operating at night under high-powered lights in icewine-making and there is a problem of lights flashing in neighbours' houses and these sort of things.
Solutions: Conflicts will undoubtedly arise. It will be important for all parties concerned to understand a farm operation and its normal production activities.
(1) Encourage all producers to undertake the environmental farm plan workshops, utilize best production and management practices wherever possible, establish a code of production practice for various farm enterprises that would identify activities and their impacts to the environment and neighbouring residents.
(2) Encourage municipalities and real estate agents to prepare a demographic profile of their region that would apprise residents or future residents of the agricultural land base present in the area in order to understand the interaction that will take place.
(3) Encourage an educational approach before enforcement.
(4) Maintain the farm practices tribunal for dispute resolutions.
I would open it up for questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have about five minutes each caucus for questioning. We'll begin with the government caucus.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you for your presentation. We've heard a lot of comments made about whether the act gives farmers the right to pollute. The minister has said many times, of course, that it doesn't and that all the present legislation that is in place to prevent that from happening will stay in place. This act does nothing to override any of those acts.
In your presentation you speak of nuisance complaints. From the fruit and vegetable growers' position, I'd like to know, if you were spraying an orchard or spraying your vineyards with a chemical and that chemical was to leave your property and contaminate someone on the neighbouring property, would you consider that a nuisance or would you consider that an environmental problem that was still prosecutable?
Mr Koop: I don't know if I would see it as either. It's a matter that it has to happen. If you say that's a nuisance -- it just is part of the fact of working on a farm. We'd like to see common sense also prevail in some of this.
Mr Hardeman: I'll just clarify it a little. If I was the neighbour, whether I am another farmer or an urban-type resident who lives out in the country, if the overspray from your vineyards contaminated the air I breathe, as a farmer, would you consider that as a nuisance or would you consider that you or the farmer spraying had to do something about that so it didn't happen? Do you think this bill gives you the right to overspray into someone else's property?
Mr Koop: No, no more than it did.
Mr Hardeman: I think it's rather important. We hear a lot of discussion. The previous presenters said this bill somehow does more for intensive livestock operations or intensive farming than the present legislation does. I don't see it doing that. I was wondering whether you felt it does.
Mr Koop: I don't either. I don't see that being said in this legislation. It's still the best management practices to be the underlying factor. That's where we're at, I think.
Mr Danford: Thank you for your presentation, Mr Koop. I have a couple of comments based on your presentation. You spoke about bylaw development. Certainly through the process, there was a presentation about a year ago presented to rural Ontario municipalities at which about 800 participants were there who represented the province. From the floor that day came the comment that this should be dealt with as a provincial interest. When we talk about formulating bylaws, they were receptive to the fact -- in fact wanted it to be in place -- that they would have a place to go to try and implement new bylaws and keep it in respect of farming and rural in general.
You also talked about remaining competitive for the future. Do you feel that the fact that we've implemented the word "acceptable," which tries to address that sort of thing, rather than take the present practices that are in place now, accommodates and provides a balance for both rural and agricultural interests?
Mr Koop: I think we're okay with that. We've recognized that it needed to be addressed, the municipality part of it, and we feel that it is in this bill.
Mr Danford: That was the feeling of all the stakeholder groups we worked with, that there had to be that allowance. The present bill didn't allow for that, for the future, so we could accommodate that sort of thing and update it.
Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): Thanks to the OF&VGA for their report today. I believe the OF&VGA is one of the oldest organizations in Ontario, well over 100 years, perhaps 130. I can remember former presidents saying that the organization does not represent farmers that break the law, and I would expect that you also would not represent farmers who pollute or break pollution laws. Given that pollution has been of concern and this bill has been maligned perhaps as giving the right to pollute, has the OF&VGA's policy on representing farmers who break pollution laws or who would fail to live up to their responsibilities in environmental protection changed, or would you do what you could through peer pressure and otherwise, or would this bill strengthen your ability to bring those farmers to heel?
Mr Koop: I think our policy was always the same. Our idea is that the farmer is responsible with his actions. That doesn't change. The best management practices are still the underlying factor, and they do not allow him to pollute. We see in the pesticide end of it a tremendous reduction in pesticide use. That's a fact.
Mr Chudleigh: And does this legislation help you in that area?
Mr Koop: I think it covers off the ones we deal with. The light is one that's coming on, and the noise was already part of previous ones, which we used in the bird-bangers. We did win that in the Niagara area, where bangers were allowed if they were properly used. They were asked to put them in certain directions, but we were able to work out solutions and I think that has worked out okay.
The Chair: We'll go on to Mr Hoy. Perhaps you can continue that in response to Mr Hoy's questions.
Mr Hoy: What I would do, Madam Chair, is allow them to continue to respond. It may be my question.
Mr Mazur: Thank you, Pat. Further to Mr Chudleigh's comments with regard to representing producers, as Alfred mentioned in his response, is that if a producer is in violation of an act, whether it's within this guideline or other acts which we have recognized almost supersede this, such as the Environmental Protection Act or the Ontario Water Resources Act, we will inform our producers if they are in violation of, say, the water resources act. There are instances that we are dealing with currently, and we encourage our producers to abide by those pieces of legislation that do supersede even this one.
Mr Hoy: Do you think this bill could be enhanced and improved upon if it stated that an elected member of council from the Rural Ontario Municipal Association was part of the normal farm practices board?
Mr Mazur: Personally, I would think so. We don't have a policy on that per se as an association, but if we're looking at consistency of bylaw development across the province so that there isn't any unfair advantage to one producer in one county over another producer, I think that would enhance it, yes.
Mr Hoy: The education of the non-farm community has been mentioned in many briefs. Who should be responsible for providing that information? Should it be the farm organizations of Ontario? Should it be the government?
Mr Koop: I think we have different organizations that are doing a good job: OAFE. You're talking about education, right?
Mr Hoy: Yes.
Mr Koop: I think we have a fairly good underlying basis for this. The OFA also has their hands in different organizations. Do you know of some more organizations?
Mr Mazur: It's almost incumbent upon all of us to educate each other in why we do things or what we're doing. I think it's important for us to understand one another rather than from a confrontational perspective; it's more of a cooperative, understanding perspective or approach.
Mr Hoy: What I'm thinking of here is, why does a farmer go out early in the morning to do a certain task and then he's not seen from 10 o'clock on? It's because he's into the heat of the day and that particular application of whatever he's doing doesn't work well. The non-farm resident might just say, "He's doing that, driving around my home here at 5 o'clock or 6 o'clock in the morning, to annoy me," but there is a reason for that, and there are many instances I can think of, pea harvesting, for example. Why does it occur when it does? There's an answer for all of that. Perhaps there's a need to inform the non-farming community that the farmer doesn't do these things just because he takes a whim to do it at that time of day. That's the point I meant, in terms of education in that regard.
Mr Mazur: Agriculture has invested quite heavily in terms of groups like AGCare, OAFE, and that's coming out of our organization's pockets or producers' pockets to fund these activities to inform people what's happening. They've done an excellent job. We try to do our part. How much more do you want us to do as the agriculture community, when you have pressures that are constantly being put on by outside competition from a global economy that may not have legislation such as we have here that impacts on their bottom line? I don't want you to get the impression that we're skirting the issue, but it's incumbent upon everybody to understand one another.
Mr Hoy: Perhaps the message isn't being heard.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much for your presentation. When I was the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, I was responsible for the alcohol industry and therefore dealt quite a lot with the grape growers. I see you represent them. I certainly know that to produce icewine your members have to get up very early, at the crack of dawn, to pick those grapes. Thank God, I think we'd all say this year, for the cold snap finally, so we're actually going to have icewine this year.
I wanted to come back to this whole rhetoric that's starting. It seems to me that what's starting to happen today is that there are those who say, "This bill is a licence to pollute" and they're bad somehow, and then all the rest. I don't know, maybe there is a group or two who have said this bill is a licence to pollute. I haven't heard that today. What I am hearing and what I heard before these hearings is real concern from people who live in the area, farmers and others, about the issue you're hearing a lot about today, and that's the large livestock farms.
What I'd like to get at is some way we can step away from that rhetoric that it's either this or that and look at the good parts of the bill and then try to focus on the areas where people are expressing what I believe to be our real concerns. I'm wondering if you would agree with that comment and if you're seeing in the area a very polarized situation, with those who are for and those who are against and there's no common understanding. Are you seeing that at all in your area?
Mr Koop: I couldn't say. Not in the fruit and vegetable end of it. I think we're different from the hog operations. Some will obviously also have hog operations on their farm, on their fruit farm or whatever it may be, but as far as our association specifically is concerned, the parts directly affecting our industry are being addressed and we have other things that aren't included that we are looking forward to. Water-taking, for instance, isn't really being addressed right now, and we're hoping it can and will be. But as far as what's here is concerned, it seems -- I know what you're saying, and that's sort of a side-effect of some of us; some of us are also egg producers and some of these other things. But just speaking on these issues, I don't think we feel we need to get involved in that other discussion.
Ms Churley: A wise decision, I guess. You'll stay out of that one.
Mr Mazur: I think it's important that everyone recognizes that producers are stewards of the land. They drink the water that's adjacent to their house or might be adjacent to their field. They're producing the food and they're probably consuming some of that food they actually produce themselves. We're guided by food safety issues, we're guided by grower certification programs, best management practices, environmental farm plans, probably world-recognized as a first-class initiative that came from Ontario -- all to address issues such as water quality, such as potential pollutants and activities that may have some detrimental effect on the environment. I don't think we're second-class to anybody. I think there is a polarization, and I think it's probably because of a lack of understanding or appreciation of what we have recognized worldwide as potential problems, and we're trying to correct those problems here in Ontario as best we can.
The Chair: Gentlemen, on behalf of all the members of the committee, we thank you for coming before us this morning to share your advice on this bill.
HALTON REGION FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Chair: I now call upon representatives of the Halton Federation of Agriculture.
Mr Chudleigh: The great Halton Federation of Agriculture.
The Chair: Mr Chudleigh says, "The great Halton Federation of Agriculture." Good morning and welcome.
Mr Jamie Fisher: Thank you very much. This is Harry Brander, our regional OFA representative. My name is Jamie Fisher. I'm the current president of the Halton Federation of Agriculture.
I hope you all have a copy of the handout portion of our presentation. I will be referring to it. There is some background material, especially at the very back of it, that is there for a paperweight or in case you're interested.
Halton's location at the edge of the GTA and next to Hamilton, as shown on the first map, has resulted in significant urban encroachment on agricultural land. While the on-farm population of the region is less than 1%, approximately one half of the land base is still in agricultural use. While it is true that livestock numbers continue to decline in the region, other agricultural industries such as horticulture are on the increase.
This bill should help smooth the way as agriculture continues to evolve into forms that are mostly compatible with our urban neighbours. This bill, especially section 6 on municipal bylaws, goes a long way towards keeping existing agriculture viable and productive. Section 6 we consider especially important because most complaints from our urban neighbours are directed to government and its enforcement agencies.
Our difficulties are further compounded by the fact that very few of our cities and towns have enforcement people or planners who understand agriculture. This has led to some bizarre bylaws. Most recently, the city of Burlington has produced its new draft zoning bylaw. I'll just give you a couple of quick examples out of it. They are proposing regulating fencing in all areas to urban standards set under their fencing and privacy screen section.
My favourite part is the provisions they've put in against the parking of utility trailers between November 1 and April 30, and then they define utility trailers to include any vehicle designed to be towed by a motor vehicle for the purposes of transporting or storage of goods, material, equipment or livestock.
Our group is often involved in commenting on many municipal initiatives such as this draft bylaw, often with some success. We have, however, noticed that an interesting phenomenon happens when laws are passed. The words take on a life of their own. The intent of the writer is no longer relevant. The assurances and explanations given at the time the laws are passed have little bearing on how they are interpreted.
Although this section deals with municipal bylaws, I am going to try to illustrate this point with a section from Bill 146 where the intent could be twisted. In your handout, there is a page with an example at the top of it and it refers to subsection 6(17), "Application." We've pointed out two interpretations of the same words. Clearly the one interpretation is not the intent of the bylaw, and at some point a party not happy with the decision may appeal based on this interpretation of words where the intent was clear, or at least I think is clear to all of us.
When you have hundreds of pages and thousands of words, such as this bylaw -- and there are lots more of those within our region -- the interpretation and reinterpretation can change significantly. This bill, in our view, should help to balance the agricultural business perspective against the urban-based planning we find in our region.
On the page of the handout entitled Concerns with Bill 146, the one thing we'd like to specifically draw your attention to is our request for change in subsection 6(15), "Factors to Consider." We request that the word "shall" be changed to the word "may" and our rationale is provided. I hope you'll take time to read that section.
In conclusion, I don't want our concerns to detract from our support of the bill. We strongly support this, with hopefully at least one small change. Regardless, we have confidence in your committee and the provincial government to ensure that this is an excellent piece of legislation and that it is soon passed.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have about three minutes for questioning from each caucus and we'll begin with the Liberal caucus.
Mr Hoy: Good morning and thank you very much for your presentation. I was looking at the sections you were citing here. Could you help me out here and explain what the fencing bylaw was? Can you do that quickly enough?
Mr Fisher: Sure. In the draft Burlington zoning bylaw what they've done is taken the -- we used to have two bylaws, an urban bylaw and a rural bylaw. When they combined the two they applied the fencing requirements for between neighbours, fencing around your pool and that kind of stuff, to the rural areas as well, which limits where you can have solid fences and where you can have farm fences. Your Page wire fence is not a legal fence any more because of the urban component.
We do expect they will listen to us and change this in the final version. It's just an example of things that can happen, and I'm sure there are others that have slipped through here that we haven't got.
Mr Hoy: Could you describe for me the utility trailer one? I'm not certain, first of all why it's there, and then how it applies to you as farmers.
Mr Fisher: Again, it's a similar thing. By defining a utility trailer essentially as encompassing any trailer, it becomes illegal to park your truck trailer on your farm. It becomes illegal to have perhaps a wagon if it's potentially towed by a motor vehicle parked on your farm during the winter months. I doubt if it was the intent to restrict the parking of livestock trailers or farm trailers on a farm, but that is the way the bylaw reads at this present time.
Mr Hoy: Thank you for the explanation.
I am sure the committee will consider your word changes you propose here. "Shall" and "may" do indeed have different meanings.
Prior to my being elected, I talked to a farmer from your area. I think it was maybe in 1987 or 1988. He was concerned about what you show on this map, the urban shadow part. He was concerned that he wouldn't be able to farm any more. He had that general concern over 10 years ago and he was quite worried about it. He didn't know whether he should sell his farm or continue on or make an educated guess that his young son didn't want to farm and therefore it would be a good idea to sell now, or that his son and family members might want to continue. He really was having a problem with this notion in that particular area. So I have heard of the urban shadow effect where you are.
Mr Fisher: We actually find that some types of farming become even more viable, especially the horticultural section and its ability to roadside-market, and the greenhouse sector, and they're both active and growing. I'm sorry, the stats I've provided in the back are based on 1991 statistics, I believe, but you'll see that the greenhouse and horticultural section is quite significant in our region.
Ms Churley: Thank you for providing the background information. It's really helpful to have. Just following up on Mr Hoy's question, urban sprawl and concerns you might have about that, does the municipal report deal with agricultural land use planning at all?
Mr Fisher: It certainly does.
Ms Churley: Could you just talk a little bit about what direction the bylaws are taking?
Mr Fisher: The bylaw is based on the official plan, and the official plan, as indeed the provincial policy statements, recognizes agriculture as an important land use. Where we start to lose it, though, is through the fact that people who are in the planning department don't know the agricultural business. They come and we talk to them and we try to work things out, but we're often sideswiped by words with legitimate intent, which is why I specifically brought up the example of the intent of laws straying into who knows what. I would say, though, that our region does support the agricultural industry, tries to do it through their plans and their bylaws, at least until the neighbours start complaining and then sometimes the politicians push to have something done or whatever.
Ms Churley: Would that be neighbours who might be complaining, wanting subdivisions? Are you talking more about the nuisance complaints now or about the land use?
Mr Fisher: Whether they're actual nuisances, you can get some very interesting complaints when you have urban neighbours.
Ms Churley: I'll bet.
Mr Fisher: What typically happens with a complaint, especially at a municipal level, is that it goes either to the politician or the bylaw officers. They are trained, the bylaw officers especially -- I don't want to say whether politicians are trained or not, but they tend to respond to four or five calls with, "Something's got to be done," and before anybody knows any information about it, they've started a process rolling that can involve considerable expense not just to the farmers but to their own staff and their part in it. Some of them are humorous if you're not involved, but to the farmer who is involved the process itself to get exonerated from doing something he's done every other year on his farm is ridiculous.
Mr Chudleigh: Thank you for your presentation. I know you're here representing the Halton Region Federation of Agriculture, but you yourself perhaps farm in a particularly interesting section of the county in that you are well south in that shaded area and you're impacted by a very urban municipality of Burlington. You're also impacted by the conservation authority and the Niagara Escarpment Commission and have that experience in your background.
Talking about the utility trailers, which may include corn hoppers, and I expect corn is harvested in your area pretty much in that November-December area, and the other influences those areas have on your farm personally, do you find that municipalities, once you find something such as you've mentioned in the draft bylaw, are responsive to your inputs? I know you have the HAC, the Halton Agricultural Committee, and you might want to comment on that as to how effective that has been when dealing with the region of Halton and the municipalities within that region. Do they listen?
Mr Fisher: I would say they certainly listen. As with all politicians, they have to balance many interests, many conflicting views, and they do their best. I don't disagree with the intent of a lot of what they're trying to do. It's the fallout from it that tends to hurt in a lot of cases. We certainly do have our areas where we disagree, but I would say we are listened to, and as you mentioned, the HAC is composed of agricultural members who advise the region. It is a very effective voice, and I don't know --
Mr Chudleigh: Would those comments relate to the conservation authority and the Niagara Escarpment Commission as well?
Mr Fisher: The conservation authority and the Niagara Escarpment Commission both have regulatory powers that, in my opinion, this act will not likely affect in any way. We are considerably less successful in having our comments heard at both of those agencies. There is a lot of frustration with the same sorts of things. We all support the protection of the Niagara Escarpment Commission -- the Niagara Escarpment, not necessarily the commission -- but implementing a program, it sometimes seems like they're alienating the very people they need to make the program work.
The Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming before us. On behalf of all the members of the committee, we appreciate your input. You're right that we're not trained. The only thing that makes politicians of all parties involved is that we care about what happens to our citizens in the communities of this province. Thank you for your advice on how to do things better. It's appreciated.
Colleagues, that's our last presentation of the morning. We'll reconvene at 1:20 this afternoon. At this point the committee is recessed.
The committee recessed from 1207 to 1326.
HURON COUNTY FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Chair: Good afternoon, everyone. We have had some excellent presentations in the last couple of days and this morning, and we now look forward to a presentation from the Huron County Federation of Agriculture. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Please make yourselves comfortable.
Mr Evert Ridder: My name is Evert Ridder. I represent the Huron County Federation of Agriculture.
Mr Victor Roland: I'm Victor Roland, also representing the Huron County Federation of Agriculture.
Mr Ridder: I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. I would like to state first that we did not go into too many details regarding statistics of agriculture since the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has made a presentation to that effect already and we fully agree with all the details in that presentation. We also would like to say that we 100% support the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in that respect. We fully agree with their perspective on the act.
On behalf of 2,200 members of the Huron county federation I want to thank you for the opportunity to address this committee regarding the Farming and Food Production Protection Act. The Huron county federation has been actively involved in the consultation process to develop this new legislation. In our assessment of the Farming and Food Production Protection Act, the proposed legislation incorporates many of the enhancements the farm community has sought through our federation.
The Farm Practices Protection Board has a solid track record in dealing with nuisance complaints in a timely, cost-effective manner. Annually, of the more than 700 agriculturally related complaints received by either the Ministry of Environment and Energy or the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, an average of only two have reached the Farm Practices Protection Board. The overwhelming majority are resolved through mediation and education by ministry staff.
The proposed Farming and Food Production Protection Act will allow the same low-cost way of problem solving of agricultural disturbances such as noise, odour, dust, plus now light, vibration, smoke and flies. It will also allow a low-cost way of dealing with municipal bylaws that restrict normal farming practices.
This will allow farmers to concentrate on the business of farming and feeding the nation rather than having to worry about costly litigation. There is also room for changes to be made by the minister as new technology is developed or new crops and livestock species are brought into production without changing the whole legislation.
We feel very strongly that this act does not provide farmers with a licence to pollute, nor should it. It simply protects farmers against nuisance court actions under the common law of nuisance. In order to be eligible for nuisance protection, the farmer cannot be in violation of the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Pesticides Act or the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
However, we do have some concern with subsection 3(1) regarding the appointment of the members of the Farm Practices Protection Board by the minister. We believe this should be done in consultation with farm organizations.
We appreciate the way we have been able to give input into the development of the Farming and Food Production Protection Act. Farm organizations need to be consulted and considered as sources of useful information for changes in the act, should the need for those arise.
This morning there were also some questions regarding large or small farms. My personal opinion on that is that we see large corporations amalgamate and governments amalgamate. They want counties or municipalities to amalgamate for cost-effectiveness. The consumer shops in large stores, very much so. They buy not in small stores any more; they all flock to Loblaws, Wal-Mart and so on, yet they expect the farm community to stay in the 1970s. I don't think that's possible any more. In order to compete we have to expand and get larger to be cost-efficient.
Those are some of the comments I have to make. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to address this act.
The Chair: You have given us about four minutes each per caucus for questions. We'll begin with Ms Churley from the NDP caucus.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your presentation. I'd just like to follow up with you on your last comment because there has been a focus today on the environmental concerns and I think that's partly because of a couple of the presentations.
When we talk about the issue around small versus large, I'm not sure if for me that is the issue. The politics of all of that, trying to save the family farm, I think is to some extent a separate issue. What I'm hearing is the concern about what has happened in parts of Europe and the United States when the huge, particularly pig, farms start to be set up in I suppose not a well-enough-regulated way and there have been serious problems, with water in particular.
That's what I'm hearing more today, that there is concern about what the runoff and other problems of those big farms could have on communities, both small and large farmers. It affects the community no matter what size your farm, and I'm wondering what your comments are on that.
Mr Ridder: My comments on that would be that in Huron county we have quite a bit of problems with perception. If you ask for facts, they're pretty hard to find. As far as that goes, the Huron County Federation of Agriculture has initiated a coalition of all the farm commodity groups in the county to work on this under the same program as the provincial one does, whereby all farm commodity groups try to look at issues and, in cooperation with the municipalities, try to find solutions based on scientific facts rather than on emotion. A lot of groups go on the Internet and try to find whatever suits their purpose and that's what they call facts.
Ms Churley: So for you personally, from the information you have, this is not a concern of yours. You believe that what happened -- and there is factual information about what happened in Europe and some parts of the States. What I think I hear you saying is that you don't think this is starting to happen here and you don't believe that's going to be a problem here.
Mr Ridder: We are aware those things can happen. What we are trying to do is take prevention so they do not happen. What I hear quite often is that a large operation is a dangerous operation. I like to differ from that. I believe a large operation is quite often better run and cannot afford to make mistakes environmentally because of the impact on the environment. The operators quite often are better managers than the small operator. There are times, for instance, if you spread manure and you get four inches of rain all of a sudden, that can have an impact, but that is something that cannot be prevented. Just the same as when a municipality sewage system overflows, it goes somewhere too. You cannot stop that either. Those are facts of nature that we cannot control. I think the large operators take the best possible preventive measures not to do things the way they should not be done.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you very much for your presentation. First of all, I want to commend you. When you started your presentation you suggested that you agree 100% with someone else's presentation. It's not very often that we can get any two groups to agree 100% on anything, so we commend the Huron County Federation of Agriculture.
Mr Ridder: We try to work together.
Mr Hardeman: Very good. I appreciate that. One question I had was on the issue of the appointments to the board by the minister. You suggested that the act should include the fact that the minister must in consultation with the farm organizations appoint members to the board. Do you feel it's critical that actually is in legislation? Do you feel he would not consult with all parties involved in appointments?
Mr Ridder: In a way I believe that past experience has shown most ministers will do it. The possibility is there, since farmers are a very minor part of society, that you will get a Minister of Agriculture who will not do it. That possibility is there and that's one of the reasons we stressed that point.
Mr Hardeman: Are you suggesting that the appointments should be made by the minister on the recommendation of the farm organizations then, or are you just talking about consultation?
Mr Ridder: I would like to see a recommendation out of farm organizations, but I will stress the consultation part.
Mr Danford: My comments and questions were mostly along the same line as Mr Hardeman's. I think it has been fair to say that, as you've already suggested, ministers have in the past taken those things into consideration and provided some sort of balance. I believe it's fair to say. I have no reason to think that wouldn't continue, quite frankly. But as we all know there are a number of farm organizations, for instance, that could have members placed on this board and there are probably more farm organizations certainly than could allow for everyone to be represented at the board level. We also have to have representation from the rural side of it too. I guess it would be difficult to try and come to some specific formula, perhaps. There has to be some reliance on the minister's judgement, with consultation. I respect that. I haven't seen anything specific that could put up another formula that would guarantee improvement on the makeup of the board.
Mr Ridder: I agree with you there. It's difficult to put it in legislation, but I want to stress the point that it's as long as that consultation is there and that we do talk to each other before we do something. We are working in Huron county at the moment on trying to resolve some of the issues we are facing. A lot of study has to be done. We are getting people together, working together with the municipal authorities. On some of the nutrient management bylaws we have been asked for advice on how to do things. We did not get all our recommendations answered, but there are several areas that have been taken into consideration and it has helped improve the bylaws and make them more acceptable to the farmer and other people in society.
Mr Chudleigh: There have been a couple of times today when the European problem with hogs has been mentioned. I think primarily that has taken place in the Netherlands. Of course, the Netherlands is a rather small country. I think it would fit into southwestern Ontario rather easily. They have a population of about 15 million people in that small area and yet are a major exporter of pork and dairy products, which intensively uses the land. They also have a very high water table and a drainage system throughout the country with canals.
None of those situations mirror themselves very exactly to the southwestern Ontario experience and I don't believe that situation could develop in southwestern Ontario. Having had the knowledge and the experience of what happened in the Netherlands probably gives us an opportunity to prevent some of that pollution from occurring in intensive operations here. I think it should be pointed out that the situation is significantly different.
Huron county, I believe, is a fairly major producer of hogs. I'm not sure if our situation is going to cure itself, but over the last number of years, four or five years, we've gone from perhaps six hog processors in the province, and I believe there are two left and one of them is on strike. How much longer we're going to be producing vast numbers of hogs, most of which are being exported to the States right now -- but as soon as that market turns around, which it will, that market will dry up. Unless we take some rather serious action, we may find ourselves as a non-hog-producing province, similar to our beef situation. Do you see that as a good thing?
Mr Ridder: I don't see it as a good thing. What I do see happening is if the market dries up for hog production the whole economy will suffer. You will lose jobs all around. If I look at Huron county, 75% of the farm income is derived from livestock production.
Mr Chudleigh: Good point. Thank you.
Mr Hoy: Good afternoon. Thank you for your presentation. I've taken note that you support the Ontario Federation of Agriculture brief.
I too had a line of questioning about your one recommendation, that the minister consult. There are, as you might know, appointments made to many bodies. I'm thinking of one in particular where the minister accepts a list of names from the farm community and from that list he may choose some people. I'm also led to understand that he may send that list back and say, "Give me other names," because their expertise may not follow whatever it is that he might want to appoint them to.
It's not legislated. I think it just makes for a good minister. If anybody wants to be a good minister, consultation is paramount, and of course that would extend through the whole government. I know of examples where lists of names from the farm community given in certain circumstances and then the minister may or may not choose from that particular list, but certainly consultation goes on. I would expect that to continue and would want it to continue.
But to the makeup of the board, we've had other concerns and I would like to ask you your opinion, if you think the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board would be well served if an elected person from a council was appointed to that board as well.
Mr Ridder: Would you clarify "elected" person?
Mr Hoy: An elected councillor from somewhere in Ontario.
Mr Ridder: A municipal councillor?
Mr Hoy: A municipal councillor, yes.
Mr Ridder: I would have no objection to that. Like I said before, I like to see cooperation of all segments of society so that you can work together, as long as they are appointed for what they know, not who they know.
Mr Hoy: Point well taken. Thank you.
The Chair: Gentlemen, with that, on behalf of the members of the committee, I thank you for coming before us today with your brief and your ideas on this bill. It's appreciated and will be considered.
Mr Ridder: Thanks for the opportunity.
NIAGARA NORTH FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Chair: I'm now calling upon representatives of the Niagara North Federation of Agriculture. Welcome. Please make yourselves comfortable. You have 20 minutes for presentation. You may use that time for presentation only or you may allow some of that time for questions. Please begin by introducing yourselves for the Hansard record.
Mr Norman Vaughan: All three of us are going to make short presentations, and I'll let them introduce themselves when their turn comes up. I'll start.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, members of the Legislative Assembly. My name is Norman Vaughan, president of the Niagara North Federation of Agriculture, with a membership of 971 farms. I am here to support this bill and how it will help the Niagara-area farmers.
As you drive down the QEW from Hamilton into Niagara, you notice the Niagara Escarpment to the south. Driving along, you see miles of orchards, grapes, greenhouses and vegetable production -- beautiful scenery, lots of rural development. On top of that escarpment is more of the same, along with dairy, beef, hogs, poultry, forests, deer and cash cropping.
We provide the consumer with perfect products, because over the course of years that is what the consumer has demanded, the perfect product. To achieve this, fruit, vegetable, grape and other food farmers have to spray a few extra times to make this extra-perfect product.
Along with this, urban people are moving to rural properties. They also demand the city-in-the-country atmosphere, so we see sports complexes in the middle of the country. They are allowed to have bright lights, make noise and sometimes cause a disturbance to the rural life. We cannot do much about this. On the other hand, if farm animals were making a noise or a farmer was spraying his orchard, they figure that this is not normal farming and complain about it.
We had a case where some urbanites were making loud noises in their backyards on several occasions, yet when the fruit farmer next door used his bird-banger to protect his crop, they complained and took the farmer to court. As a result, this farmer lost three years of crops due to political anarchy. At the end of the three years all that came out of the whole process was that the farmer could not use a doublejohn bird-banger near this property; he could only use a singlejohn bird-banger, with a single sheet of plywood behind it to act as a noise deflector. This case cost the farmer thousands of dollars, along with many thousands more spent by local farm organizations to help support this farmer. The consumer demands the perfect food and when we try to produce it, the consumer complains. We need this legislation.
Another case was simply flies from a nearby chicken barn. Again it was a case of a city dweller moving to a local town. Sitting along the town line, across the road, was a chicken farm. His crops of bird went out the first of June. The farmer cleaned his barn and had a trucker hauling away the manure. It rained on this operation and it turned really hot with high humidity. The hauler's truck broke down for a couple of days. Result: flies.
This lady across the road complained and tried to take it to court. This caused the farmer great hardship and a lot of stress. The end result was that the farmer was asked to try to clean up his manure a little faster and to deflect the eavestroughs so that the water couldn't get near the manure. Before the case was over, the lady who had complained moved away. We need this bill.
Now I turn our presentation over to our second vice-president.
Mrs Arden Vaughn: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Arden Vaughn. I'm the second vice-president of the Niagara North Federation of Agriculture. Along with my family, we operate a farm in the city of St Catharines.
I'd like to thank you for allowing us to tell you about the importance that we feel the bill has for Niagara. Due to its unique microclimate, the Niagara region has one of the most diverse agricultural bases in Ontario. With its tender fruit and grape and wine industries, it is one of the most valuable regions in the province. There are currently 16,000 acres of grapes in Niagara, with sales in 1997 of $38 million. A thousand acres are being planted each year at a minimum cost of $14,000 an acre. The tender fruit industry in Niagara covers 16,000 to 17,000 acres, with sales of $40 million.
This intense agricultural activity is occurring in one of the most densely populated regions of Ontario. Herein lies the concerns of Niagara farmers. Population growth in Niagara has led to expanding urban boundaries in both cities and rural communities. This has resulted in fragmentation of farm land and increased the risk of conflict between farmers and their neighbours. These urbanites demand a clean and safe rural environment and often do not fully understand modern farming or what constitutes a normal farm practice. In addition, changing market conditions and farm diversification mean constant changes in products, technology and farm practices. Farmers have demonstrated their commitment to environmental responsibility through the development and support of environmental farm plans and the grower pesticide certification courses. Our family farms grapes, beef cattle, deer, elk and cash crops right on the urban boundary in the city of St Catharines. As one of many fruit growers in this highly urbanized area, we must be ever vigilant of how and when we apply pesticides in our vineyards and orchards, whether it be in a neighbour's backyard or beside our children's school.
I'm sure you have all witnessed the turnaround in our grape industry. Those involved have faced great challenges and feel they have a bright future ahead. This new legislation encourages supportive municipal bylaws that will help these businesses to thrive and be more competitive in the global economy.
Section 6 of the bill says no municipal law can restrict a normal farm practice carried on as part of an agricultural operation. As livestock operators, this will protect us from nuisance complaints of odours, noise, dust, insects etc, but more important, it will protect deer and elk farmers, or what you might call exotic or alternative livestock operators, from municipalities enacting bylaws banning the farming of these animals.
The fastest-growing agricultural sector in Niagara is the greenhouse business. This business has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years and has the potential for more growth in the future. In Niagara there are 250 acres under glass, with sales of $130 million. It represents 30% of Ontario production.
I'd like to also speak about agritourism. Although it isn't exactly agriculture, it is another important and expanding area in our rural economy in Niagara. It brings an ever-increasing number of urbanites out to the country, inviting more exposure to everyday farm practices. This movement is educational as well as entertaining and will bring about a greater knowledge and understanding of normal farm practices and how our food is produced. As well, it encourages the farming community to put its best foot forward and be more aware of the environment that we live and work in and to adhere to best management practices.
Mr Ken Durham: Good afternoon, Madam Chair. My name is Ken Durham. I farm down in West Lincoln. I want to talk to you more from a provincial viewpoint across the province rather than just what's happening in my backyard of some 800 acres in dairy farming in my area. I want to talk more generally in an avenue not of protecting farmers but protecting the right we have to farm, and not the right to pollute.
I'm going to start with a little bit of history. In 1987 the Farm Practices Protection Act was proclaimed, and it enabled a board to inquire into and make orders related to odours, noise and dust for complaints against farmers for nuisances. Prior to 1987, another group, called the Farm Pollution Advisory Committee, advised and assisted the Ministry of the Environment and OMAFRA as to a "normal farming practice" as being exempt from sections of the Environmental Protection Act and some other acts.
Since 1987, the Farm Pollution Advisory Committee's advice has been obtained in situations only involving water pollution. In the protocol of how to handle these types of things dated July 1989, handling noise, odour and dust, "the FPAC will continue to advise the Ministry of Environment with respect to livestock-related water problems." Further, "It is mandatory that the FPAC's advice be obtained prior" -- and I want to underline that word for you -- "to issuing a control order or laying any charge against a farmer relating to pollution." You can refer back to government procedure F-11, dated April 1994.
On April 1, 1996, the Minister of Environment concluded that FPAC's mandate was considered fulfilled and sunsetted the committee. The minister stated, "FPAC's advice and guidance was helpful," but disbanded that committee. These water-related problems have not disappeared as of April 1996, and I'm sure you've heard that this morning. If you just look at any reports and newspaper articles since 1986, we still have the same problems. However, farmers have no "water-related" and "normal farming practice" protection. MOE has no "advice" or helpful guidance.
This farm peer committee was very beneficial in resolving water issues for the Ministry of Environment and OMAFRA, and I suggest that it must be either incorporated into this new legislation or reinstated separately, whichever the government sees fit.
The public and the farmers in Ontario need a farm peer committee, like an FPAC or the protection board, any type of related committee, to help protect both the farmers and the general public. I sat on that committee so I know what we did. I know how the situations were resolved for the farmers in Ontario. It was quite beneficial to the district MOE offices to define for them the words "normal farming practice."
I'm talking about water, not noise, odour, dust, as in the previous act, or any vibrations or light and so on that we're considering in the new act. Water is forgotten about. When we farm, we're out in the environment and dealing with water. We need to include that.
Any new legislation, such as we're considering now, should have this included in the act or some provision by the subcommittee to address water-related problems. As previous presenters said, if it rains three inches it may be a problem but it could be considered a normal farming practice, but if it didn't rain it's not a normal farming practice. I thank you for your attention today.
The Chair: Thank you very much. That gives us two minutes per caucus for questioning. We begin with the government caucus.
Mr Danford: Thank you for your presentation. As to the examples Mr Vaughan started off with, we've certainly heard other similar examples that have happened in the past. I was interested more in the point that you said it had been dealt with in the courts and the decisions had come from there, and while they were somewhat satisfactory, or whatever the viewpoint is on that, they had come from the courts.
Given that the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board is made up of rural people, basically, who are there for their expertise, understanding rural concerns and issues, would you feel comfortable with the decisions they could make if it had been dealt with by that board rather than going to the court system? What sort of difference would you see there? How would you assess that?
Mr Vaughan: It depends on what body you're talking about, who all is in that. If it's farmers and municipal town people, I'd see no problem with that. they could work together and come up with some kind of solution, yes.
Mr Danford: It certainly could be a balance of both. As Mr Hoy has mentioned and as has been mentioned earlier in our meetings, there has been the opportunity for rural elected officials, even from ROMA involved with councils, to be there, because they also have knowledge of providing a balance in rural communities. It's certainly intended that even if we expand the board for this new act, that would be part of that expansion as well. So you would feel comfortable that they would have the knowledge and the expertise to deal with the situation as you just presented it?
Mr Vaughan: The one thing I talked about was the bird-bangers. That's the one that went to court. I don't know if you remember the Saunders case down in Niagara. That cost thousands of dollars. The end result was not an awful lot. The farmer just had to get a deflector and go from a doublejohn to a singlejohn bird-banger. I don't know if you know bird-bangers that much or not.
Mr Danford: I'm familiar with them. I'm involved in that too.
Mr Vaughan: He could use these doublejohn bird-bangers on the rest of the farm. Actually, that whole thing -- people were stumbling over themselves trying to take the farmer to court, and then when they found out they had gone too far, they tried to backtrack and make it look good. That's why it took three years.
Mr Danford: But given that the board could have made a decision whether it was normal for that area and normal farm practice to continue your business, they could have made that decision fairly easily, if I could use that word, and perhaps saved a lot of time and effort and dollars too.
Mr Vaughan: In a lot of cases that could be done.
Mr Hoy: Good afternoon. I appreciate your presentation. In the Legislature, I mentioned bird-bangers during one of my speeches, and I daresay I was asked more questions about that particular phrase than anything else I've ever said in the House. I was relating to the fact that when there were complaints about them, and I recall them some years ago, the farmers worked very hard to coexist with their neighbours. I stand to be corrected here, but I think there was some technology change where these guns would point and move and not be stationary. By and large, farmers try to get along with their neighbours. Most of them are very courteous. However, there are some who are not, and that's why we need law.
I took particular interest in your comments about the relationship with the Ministry of the Environment. Water is a growing issue throughout Ontario, not only in regard to Bill 146 but in other matters as well. In my communities people, for some reason, want to move away from well water -- not that they feel it's bad, but they want water from the lake. I think part of it is that they feel they can acquire unlimited amounts of water that way as opposed to taking well water. As well, they know that in my area wells are about 110 or 120 feet deep and it costs $10,000, $15,000 to put them in; they also require a lot of maintenance over the years. For some reason, people seem to want lake water or something that comes out of a larger municipality. Water is truly an emerging issue in many ways, and I appreciate your comments on what you mentioned about the environment.
Mr Durham: I was referring to the water issue mainly from a pollution standpoint and not supply. In the past what the province has done -- and I've seen what's happened -- is to try and stop any pollution. If there's any way to feasibly get a farmer to get the cattle out of the creek, we would do that and educate the farmer to do that. But there's nothing out there now except that a ministry officer comes and says: "I've seen the cow in the creek. Here's the fine. Appear at court." There is no legislative way of any peer farmers going out there and saying: "We don't do it this way. Put up a small fence and it'll work better." That was the relationship. I wasn't really speaking to irrigation by water and things like that. That's a very big issue; I understand that.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your presentation. I wanted to follow up as well on your comments about water. I know you made a recommendation already, but I believe it is an important area for the government to address and it can be done outside this bill if amendments aren't made to deal with it within the scope of the bill.
One of the things our government did, and I know it was a very small piece, was bring in the CURB program, the Clean Up Rural Beaches program. I realize it was just a beginning, but there was a program in place that was partly educational and, partly, there was some teeth to it. That's now gone and I'm wondering if you would recommend bringing something like that back or something similar, at least to get it going again.
Mr Vaughan: I'd like to answer that because I live along the Welland River, or the Chippewa Creek, and there is a program in effect now; I think it's a federal program. You see, the Welland River, which I have my farm along, is also used as a reservoir by Ontario Hydro. They lower and raise the level of that river by as much as two feet a day, and the result is it's killed all the vegetation along the side so that all the shores are eroding. My farm is a pilot project this year with the conservation authority and the Ministry of Natural Resources, and we're going to plant trees along the side to try and stop -- I have quite a steep bank and I have major soil erosion. The whole bank has fallen in the creek. I've lost in the past 30 years, I'd say, 12 feet of shoreline to the river. So they're going to try and restore this with natural vegetation and shrubs like that. I've donated about 100 feet of the property along the river and we're going to try and stop the erosion. That's just a test project. So there are programs out, but there needs to be more.
Ms Churley: There needs to be more.
Mr Vaughan: The septic systems too. The CURB program took in the farmers, but also along that Welland River there are 6,500 urban homes. Over 25% of them have no septic beds and another 25% are leaking.
Ms Churley: So it's a whole combination.
Mr Vaughan: It's a whole combination, and when they come out with new programs, they have to take in septic beds.
Ms Churley: Not piecemeal, but they have to look at the whole thing.
Mr Vaughan: They have to take in everything.
The Chair: On behalf of all the members of the committee, I thank you for coming before us this afternoon with your presentation.
The Chair: Calling now Mr Lieven Gevaert. I hope I've pronounced your name correctly. You'll correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure. Welcome.
Mr Lieven Gevaert: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I commend you. You pronounced my name almost fully correct. The first name, right on the money; the last name is Gevaert, but I appreciate you did a good job.
Members of the legislative committee and ladies and gentlemen, my name is Lieven Gevaert. I live in the north end of Nassagaweya township, which is within the town of Milton, which is within the Halton region. I'm the past president of the Halton Region Federation of Agriculture, prior to Jamie. I'm also a member of the Halton Agricultural Advisory Committee, of which Jamie spoke, and I run a small cash crop operation in north Halton. I'm now kind of betwixt and between because I've become a politician like you are. I'm now a Milton councillor.
I'd like to make comments on four issues: first of all, Bill 146; second, the effect of other legislation on farming operations -- I think there have been a number of presentations which have allowed that freedom and I appreciate that; third, a comment or two on the urban shadow; and fourth, perhaps naïve, possible solutions.
First of all, I agree with Bill 146. I want to make sure that is clear: I agree with Bill 146. I agree with the presentation that was made by the federation of agriculture and with the presentation that was made by the local Halton federation of agriculture by Jamie. So let me make sure that we understand each other.
I also believe very strongly that this bill is not a licence to pollute in any way, shape or form. This is why I believe very strongly in good farming practices in a similar fashion as good manufacturing practices that are done by industry within this province. After all, farming is an industry if we look at it from that point of view.
Vexatious problems, as illustrated by the previous presenters, can be very time-consuming. Unfortunately, I would like to comment on some areas which are similar in which vexatious problems are extremely time-consuming and at times very health hazardous. So what I want to talk about is by example only, where organizations interfere very strongly with the normal farm practices. I feel that by giving you these examples we may go a little bit further in perhaps not this bill but other bills or regulations to see how we can work together better.
I'm going to give you the three examples: first, part (b) heritage policy and legislation; part (a) conservation authorities; and part (c) Niagara Escarpment.
On the heritage policy and legislation, we of course have received your provincial policy statement, part of which addresses the heritage policy. In that heritage policy, one of the sentences that you quote is that in no way should any bylaws and regulations on natural heritage affect adversely the farming community. I commend you for putting that in there, because sometimes, especially in urban shadow counties, that issue of importance gets lost very much and the farmer ends up taking a very large burden because of proposed bylaws on such things as natural heritage.
I can tell you that the first draft that was made on this natural heritage in Halton, which was made in very good faith by staff -- unfortunately, most of those staff don't know anything about farming -- gave some very adverse situations to farming. Had it not been for the vigilance of our local federation and the fact that we, the farming community, through the Halton Agricultural Advisory Committee, have a good relationship with the region's governance, this might have gone by, and then six months later we are in real difficulty.
What you have done here, to me, is very correct and how that is interpreted can be very problematic; in other words, from policy to interpretation can sure travel a winding road.
The second item I want to bring up is conservation authorities, specifically regulation 150/90. That is interpreted, unfortunately, by some conservation authorities -- not all, let me make that clear. There are conservation authorities in Ontario that have the proper, constructive, let's-resolve-our-problem relationship with their constituents. But some conservation authorities use this regulation to the great disadvantage of the farmer and the farming community in such normal practices as cleaning or shaping ditches that carry water away from a pasture or carry water away from a little dip in the land, and in fact make it extremely difficult to make that happen, to the point of actually giving violations to what farmers consider a normal operating practice so they can continue to farm or pasture on those lands without their becoming a lake.
There are many examples -- I'll give you a couple; they're not in here, I'm sorry -- where an interpretation for a golf course was made and three persons downstream of the golf course lost the water in their stream, which was a cold water stream which had certain fish in it etc, flora and fauna. The one farmer lost the ability to board and work with horses, 100%. It took four and a half years for some resolution to be made, and the responsibility lay squarely on the interpretative situation of staff of the conservation authority. This was certainly more than a nuisance. It took this person four and a half years to get back the water that he'd lost because of an interpretation of the conservation authority with regard to a golf course.
Also, applications that are made and that would normally go to a conservation authority are very much applicant-dependent in their resolution rather than application-dependent in their resolution. There seems to be a relationship between the size of the applicant and how easily or how well he can get his application through. Since farmers are perceived to be small applicants, guess what happens to them?
Violation notices, which a conservation authority has a right to do, also seem to be applied more on the actual violator rather than on the violation. Again, this creates difficulties with normal farm operation practices and puts walls in front of a person by being served a violation which, when it's finally resolved, never should have been one.
What I'm trying to say is that if we want to resolve problems, they need to be resolved by the philosophy of both people, of both groups, whatever they are, wanting to resolve them. I was just listening to the last presentation. I think they gave a good example of two groups trying to resolve problems and, by golly, it worked, as opposed to two groups throwing hand grenades at each other.
The last example I want to give you is the Niagara Escarpment Commission. I don't need to elaborate, but I do tell you that farming is far second to anything else. A Do Not Disturb philosophy is the philosophy that at least we farmers on the outside see as the philosophy of the NEC.
These examples are symptomatic of philosophical and regulation implementations that actually affect the farming community and their normal farming practices very severely.
I'll give you one other example. There are certain regulatory bodies that will say, "Hey, we'll let you do this," but they want there to be zero impact. Now, try to define "zero impact" and see what it means. Yet on the other hand, recreational endeavours don't have to follow zero impact on lands controlled by the conservation authorities and it seems to be acceptable.
I'll give you an example. There are recreational things ongoing in one CA where the recreation consistently destroys up to 1,000-year-old little trees that grow up a rock. I'm not going to define the authority; I'm just going to say that's what happens. Yet that's allowed to happen. When a farmer asks for something with respect to a normal farm practice, he gets put through 500 hoops.
The next item I want to cover is local effects. I'm not going to say anything more than that we are lucky in Halton that we have the Halton Agricultural Advisory Committee so that at least there is some educational input for elected and staff members, which is a very good model to follow.
The last thing is I thought I would be so bold as to offer some solutions. They may be elementary, but I always figure that if you set out a problem and you don't give the solution, you haven't done the job, so let's try it.
On regulatory bodies that are not farmer-user friendly, I wonder whether if they belong to other ministries, there could not be some cross-discussion: "Hey, folks, how do we get a more friendly outlook on implementation, primarily, so that both sides, the regulatory authority and its customer, its client, get help with solving problems?" I also think perhaps ministry staff might be used, because whenever there are ministry staff, it always elevates the importance of any meeting. That's the way the animal works. If ministry staff could facilitate some regulatory body and farm organization meetings at a local level, where issues could be laid on the table, could be clarified, so that the intent of what one side wants and the intent of what the other side wants could kind of become interlocked, that sure would help in getting rid of a lot of vexations and nuisance problems.
In terms of the urban shadow, we have to remain vigilant and sure that official plans are looked at by us as local farmers.
On education there are a couple. I'd like to suggest joint council-local farm organization meetings -- and again bring them up to that elevated level by perhaps a ministry official doing the facilitation -- on a local area basis so that mutual education and understanding, especially of this bill and what I have heard as they're taking away the opportunity for councillors to make bylaws, would be a good idea to again on a local basis get a common understanding.
The other educational comment I would like to make, which was actually suggested by my colleague, was that since the educational process, governance and so on, is now driven by different generators, it might perhaps be good to have that subtle persuasive power of the provincial government in curriculum policy introduced so that every person starting in the next generation would have the opportunity to understand better through some part of a curriculum, formal piece of education, food farming -- the effects, positive, negative, and so on and so forth so that a generation from now every person would have a good understanding of what farming in Ontario and the effects of farming on the food chain etc are like. That education won't bear fruit today, but it sure will bear fruit in 15 years. It's kind of like it'll bring a little reality on a very important segment of Ontario's economic strength to every person in Ontario.
I appreciate very much the time you've given me to come in here and comment and I thank you very much.
The Chair: We have time for just a brief question and answer from each caucus and we'll begin with the Liberal caucus.
Mr Hoy: Good afternoon, Mr Gevaert. I would just make a comment on the last part of your brief. I appreciate everything you said in regard to other legislation and fitting conservation authorities and others into place in this place called Ontario.
Under education, the joint council-local farm organization meetings etc, I'd hope that would take place and that the ministry could visit certain areas and regions of Ontario. If indeed Bill 146 is to provide some guidance for a municipality, it would only make perfect sense to me that the ministry should visit, just as you have explained here. It'll be interesting to see whether they have the people to do it, but I appreciate everything you've said in your brief and the educational part is one component here that's very important.
Ms Churley: I appreciate your offering solutions at the end. It's always very useful to a committee to get advice like that. Because there is very little time left, I just want to ask you very quickly: You mentioned local planning. How do you see, in probably 10 words or less, the provincial role vis-à-vis the municipality role in terms of interpreting planning? For instance, should the municipality, as the province now says, just have regard for provincial planning or should there be less flexibility to the municipality to help protect farm land?
Mr Gevaert: A very complex question. I'll say it in 10 words. One example is what's been done here in natural heritage. There will be no effect on farming. When you go to planning it's a little bit more complex, but whatever policy guidance and information the provincial government can give to actually accentuate the importance of farming practices will be a help. On the other side, the local people must participate on local official plans. So it's a combination of two.
Mr Chudleigh: Lieven, you mentioned earlier in your presentation that this bill doesn't give farmers the right to pollute, and we've heard that several times today and we've heard that as a concern from presenters both in Toronto and Belleville. Could you perhaps indicate what there is in this bill that would give the impression that it might provide the farm community with the right to pollute? Why do people keep saying this doesn't give the farmers the right to pollute?
Mr Gevaert: There's nothing in this bill that in my opinion would give that right. In fact, if I look at clauses 2(3)(a) to (d), which actually list those other acts, it tells me very clearly that the farming community must live within regulations. The reason I say this is because there are other opinions out there which ignore that and automatically say, "This is a bill to pollute." So my reason for saying "within the established regulations," is to make sure that we don't have 100 groups saying, "It's a bill to pollute," and have nobody saying, "No, folks, we're farmers and we're going to live within it." So it's very clear in the bill, but I thought I'd just reiterate it.
Mr Chudleigh: Thank you very much. You've done that very well.
The Chair: Mr Gevaert, thank you on behalf of all members of the committee. We appreciate your taking the time to come before us this afternoon with your suggestions.
Mr Gevaert: Thank you for the opportunity.
GREY COUNTY FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Chair: Now I'd like to call upon representatives of the Grey County Federation of Agriculture. Good afternoon, sir. Welcome. Please make yourself comfortable and introduce yourself for the Hansard record before you begin.
Mr Karl Chittka: I'm Karl Chittka. I'm the first vice-president of the Grey county federation but I also wear another hat. I'm one of the farmers you guys have been talking about all day. I do have pigs. I don't have that many, but I do have pigs. Besides that, I'm also on council. I'm a councillor in the township of Proton. My main presentation today is on behalf of the Grey County Federation of Agriculture. Here we go.
The Grey County Federation of Agriculture, with over 1,500 registered farmers in Grey county, has reviewed the proposed change to replace the Farm Practices Protection Act with a much-improved Farming and Food Production Protection Act, known as Bill 146.
Grey county, as one of the largest counties in Ontario and by far more rural than urban at this time -- and I think that's a blessing from what I heard from other areas -- is very much concerned that the farmers in our county can continue to do what they do best, ladies and gentlemen, which is producing high-quality food for all of the people in Ontario. We'd like to keep doing this now and in the future.
We are also very committed to protecting our environment for the next generation. We are demonstrating this by encouraging as many farmers as possible, and we are really shooting for 100%, to participate in the environmental farm plan workshops. We have been running, in Grey county, environmental farm plan workshops for the last five years. I don't know the exact number of farmers who have participated, but our workshops have always been very well attended and we have seen some good results because of this in terms of manure management and water preservation and this type of thing.
We are also encouraging our farmers, I think partly because it is in legislation, to participate in the pesticide workshops in order to get their licence to use the pesticides and also to give people an education -- what is safe and what is not safe -- to do with these chemicals. It is our sincere belief that we want to keep our lands clean, safe and productive, not just for the short term but for the long haul.
We are also aware that more and more people from urban areas have the desire to settle in rural areas and enjoy the good life. However, this can create problems for farmers, as many of our new neighbours are not familiar with acceptable farm practices and nuisance complaints and lawsuits can erupt. This is counterproductive to the farmers' main goal: to produce good, safe and healthy food. By no means are we in favour of or do we condone achieving our main goal by polluting the environment or by making life miserable for everyone else, that is, the new neighbours and the next-door neighbour. We have always striven and we continue to strive to be good stewards of our land and we hope to get along with the neighbours.
The Grey County Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture have always promoted this goal, and I sincerely hope that we will continue to do so. After all, it's our livelihood and our future, and here I mean it's not just the future of the farmer but of every citizen in Ontario, because without food, and good, healthy food, we're all going to be in trouble.
The Farm Practices Protection Act has helped us in the past and has served us very well. However, in these changing times it has become apparent that some new language must be introduced to clarify what is acceptable farm practice in a way that all parties can understand. We in Grey county, after studying Bill 146, the Farming and Food Production Protection Act, are in favour of all the proposals and support the passing of this bill as soon as possible.
Thank you very much on behalf of the Grey county federation.
The Chair: Thank you very much. That gives us four minutes for questioning from each caucus.
Mr Chittka: I'm not quite finished.
The Chair: I beg your pardon. Go right ahead.
Mr Chittka: As far as the Grey county federation I'm all done, but while I was sitting in the back there and listening to some of the other people, I had some personal views in regard to intensive or what is being called industrial farming.
I believe in Grey county, at least in our township, we are looking after this by having a zoning bylaw which specifies the number of livestock units one can keep on a certain amount of acreage on a farm, because I think if the livestock is kept to the land base, pollution and other adverse effects should be very minimal. But of course if you put 1,000 sows or, heaven forbid, a North Carolina type of operation on a small land base, you're asking for nothing but trouble. I know pigs do smell. I did this morning.
The other item that was mentioned here was the nutrient management plan which is in the making now. I have had the opportunity to get a copy of this. I know this is not the board that will deal with this in the near future, but I'd just like to make one comment. When reading this document, I feel that there's a good possibility, when everything is implemented, it will lead to some farms being shut down if that law is enforced, because nowhere in that act does it show that there's going to be any kind of assistance for farmers to be able to comply with this. Some of the recommendations in that plan are very money-intensive projects that would have to be undertaken to bring the farms up to standard.
I don't know how many people are aware of this in this room here, but I'm sure if you're farming you must be aware of it. The profit margins in farming, be it pigs, be it cattle, or in other words the commodities that are not covered by supply management, are at best minimal and the returns cannot support major capital expenditures for that purpose. I think in a way it's a shame that people who work hard and produce the best food in our area have to put up with such low returns as we are getting now. As a matter of fact, when you paste a $20 bill on every pig that you ship, I don't know how long we're going to stay in business. Then being hit with having to do some major changes to get rid of your manure I think is going to be very difficult. That's from my personal point of view. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you, and I apologize. I didn't mean to interrupt you. We have about three minutes for questioning from each caucus and we will begin with the NDP caucus.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much for your presentation. It's clear that you have long experience in this area and I appreciate your comments. I wanted to comment on Mr Chudleigh earlier saying that he heard today, and we heard today, people saying that this bill is nothing but a licence to pollute. I personally haven't heard that today. What I have heard is a great deal of concern -- that's not to say people haven't said it before; I don't know, but not today -- about the large livestock farm issue. You mentioned that in your area, for instance, there is something in place to deal with that and that is limiting, depending on the land mass, I believe you said. Could you elaborate a tiny bit on that and how that came about?
Mr Chittka Proton township, which I'm a resident of, has always had a zoning bylaw and it always dealt with the units of livestock you can have on a certain land base, and it has worked very well for us.
We do have a little concern that what is happening also in our township now -- and I don't know how we're going to deal with that because land is relatively cheap in Grey county and there's plenty of it -- we're finding that we get more and more people from other parts of the province and people from abroad accumulating larger land bases. I can foresee that they will be getting into more intensive livestock farming, and that's a concern to us.
Mr Barrett: Thank you, Mr Chittka. You mentioned you have a hog operation, and there are a number of hog operations in my riding of Norfolk. We have a couple of highly visible cases where a new operation is being set up or a very large operation is being expanded. It's in the media a fair bit, and there does seem to be a lot of confusion and a lot of emotion around this issue. I just wondered, from your perspective as a farmer and also a councillor, should more be done to try and explain to the general public how these operations run and the safeguards that are there?
We know there probably are a few bad apples, but should the pork producers or should the federation of agriculture be playing a larger role to educate the public, or do we rely solely on Ministry of the Environment legislation to deal with it?
Mr Chittka: I think farmers sometimes have to make their own decisions as to what they want to do. Do they want to be industrialists or do they want to be farmers? Being forced to expand because of the price gap or in order to exist may be the most motivating part. I have made my operation based on my land space, and I do not intend to get into a large operation or to build a 1,000-stall barn or things like that, so it's my personal choice, I guess.
I think education courses would be very helpful, because everywhere you hear, "If you want a pig barn, you are public enemy number one." Of course, we know how to combat that too. If you don't want your pig operation to smell, you put a couple of sheep in front of it. Other than that, education in that respect would help, and I think that could be done.
Mr Hoy: Thank you very much for your presentation. Committee members might be interested to know that Mr Chittka has been here since before 9 o'clock today, I believe, and has been listening in to all that has happened today. He has been a very patient man waiting for his time on the agenda.
You mention North Carolina, and I don't think anyone here, on this committee most certainly, wants to have the negative experiences that have come from that jurisdiction or any other jurisdiction happen in Ontario.
You did mention that it is another issue, but the cost of compliance is also an important one for the farming community, the rural community and the urban community as well. I did make mention in the Legislature that currently, in general, agriculture is doing pretty well these days, but you and I both know it's a cycle. I'd hate to predict when, but it is quite likely that the prices are going to change. Agriculture has a cycle to it and quite often grain prices don't go in the same cycle as livestock prices, but often they're influenced by each other.
You make a very good presentation, and I appreciated your personal remarks at the end and your comments that you want to have a clean, safe and productive farm all at the same time. That's what I think we want too.
The Chair: Mr Chittka, thank you very much on behalf of all members of the committee. We appreciate your taking the time to come before us this afternoon with your advice.
WATERLOO FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Chair: Representatives, please, from the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture. Good afternoon, gentlemen, and welcome. As you start, please introduce yourselves for the Hansard record.
Mr Larry Erb: I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the committee, and we thank you again for the opportunity of having the Waterloo federation come back. There are some familiar faces in your group, so I'm sure they will remember hearing us before. I'm Larry Erb, past president of the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture, and Mark Reusser is the OFA board member for Waterloo region, so we represent Waterloo today.
I'd like to read the presentation to you, the one dated February 19, 1998. For your information, we have also included a file copy of our presentation to Dr J.S. Ashman dated April 9, 1996. Some of our comments with respect to what we're presenting today actually are reflected in that previous presentation that we made, so I hope you will find that of value.
The Waterloo Federation of Agriculture's response to the proposed Farming and Food Production Protection Act, Bill 146:
The WFA represents the agricultural community of Waterloo region and is involved in issues that concern it. In the past, we have made presentations to government on the following: the Sewell commission on land use planning; the review of Bill 163 NDP land use planning; Bill 20 current land planning policies; the Fair Tax Commission; and the development of the Farming and Food Production Protection Act. That's the copy we're talking about.
The importance of agriculture in Ontario and in the Waterloo region cannot be ignored or discredited. In economic terms and job opportunities, it is second only to the auto industry in the province. The position of the WFA on issues has always been to promote the protection of the food production land base in policy development and implementation. The food production capabilities of Ontario and the ability to feed ourselves must always be assured. The population of actual farmers, 3% of total, and the population of rural non-farmers is of concern if the interests of agriculture are not protected at the provincial level.
The downloading of responsibility to lower-tier government can result in a power struggle at a local level. The importance of a strong Farming and Food Production Protection Act cannot be underestimated.
In reviewing the current proposed act, the WFA wishes to make the following comments. We believe the previous bill, the Farm Practices Protection Act, served the farm community well and was successful in keeping the number of complaints going to the board at a minimum. However, the need to expand the areas of concern to include light, smoke, vibration, flies and flexibility in defining normal farm practices to meet today's situation made changes necessary.
We also believe that the previous bill was successful in keeping complaints out of the legal system to assure that undue cost to the farmer is kept at a minimum. The assurance and determination to deal with complaints through mediation and out-of-court resolution must continue to be very high priorities.
In our original submission, we were very strong in advocating direct access to the board by a farmer who has been accused of a violation. While it appears that some changes have been made to make the board more accessible, we continue to be concerned about potential legal costs that may occur during the determining of normal farm practice. A preliminary assessment of the situation before a complete hearing takes place would eliminate the need for legal counsel at the beginning of a complaint situation. It is our observation that complaints are very often the result of a previous conflict between neighbours that is not related to agriculture. The legal cost of hearings could be astronomical unless a system is in place to eliminate this type of situation from influencing the process and being a factor in the final decision of the board.
Section 9, the minister's role and powers: The WFA appreciates the concern of other farm organizations and individuals on this issue. However, our support for the proposed bill as it is written would be priority over losing the bill completely if this section is not withdrawn. We believe it is naïve and overzealous to think that a Minister of Agriculture will always act in the best interests of the farm community. Political pressure and the desire for re-election may influence decisions and have a negative impact on agriculture's ability to be viable and productive.
The Waterloo region is a prime example of the importance of strong farming and food production protection. We, the leaders of farm organizations, are trying our best to find ways to be proactive and to educate non-farmers about agriculture and its importance to the region's economic survival. Our involvement in promoting water quality programs, strong land use planning policy and farm tours is number one on our agenda. We believe that developing strong relationships with regional and township councils' land use planners, water resources personnel and the private and public sector is instrumental in preventing conflicts.
During our involvement in the many situations previously mentioned, the relationship between land use planning and farm practices protection has become very evident. The need for one to support the other cannot be ignored. We have been frustrated by the unwillingness of provincial ministries and agencies to implement land use policies that prevent rural and urban conflict. Scattered residential development in agricultural areas continues to be one of the greatest threats to agriculture's viability. Unless the reality of this situation is acknowledged, the number of complaints will escalate.
In our original submission, dated April 9, 1996, we supported expanding the Farm Practices Protection Board's duties to include the ability to require compensation to be paid in certain situations. These include restrictions placed on agricultural operations located close to municipal wells. In situations where farmers are adversely affected by restrictive municipal bylaws, the need for compensation must also be considered. An example of this is a situation brought to our attention in a neighbouring county. In this case, a barn had been empty for a number of years. The owner of the farm was prevented from housing animals because it could not meet MDS to a neighbouring residence. Compensation to build a new barn may be necessary. We believe this type of restriction contravenes provincial guidelines.
In our opinion, Bill 146 is the minimum of protection that is needed to assure the future of Ontario agriculture. Those who argue that it is agriculture's licence to pollute have ignored many of the intentions and statements in the proposed act. We make specific reference to it being subject to the Environmental Protection Act, the Pesticides Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act.
In closing, we wish to compliment the province and OMAFRA staff on their determination to develop the Farming and Food Production Protection Act, Bill 146. We urge the provincial government to pass this bill as soon as possible to assure continued support for agriculture.
The WFA thanks the commission for the opportunity to respond on this very important issue.
The Chair: Thank you. That leaves us four minutes for questions from each caucus. We'll begin with the government caucus.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you, Larry, for your presentation. I just want to get some clarification on your concerns on page 2 as they relate to the legal cost and getting to the board with a complaint and your suggestion that that's still going to be cumbersome and costly and if you have any suggestions on how we would improve on that to avoid that.
Mr Erb: What we're alluding to here is that if I, for instance, as a farmer were to get a registered letter in the mail from my neighbour's lawyer indicating that he was suing me or whatever for something I was doing, we should be able to make the proper contacts and have some type of evaluation system in place before I even phone my lawyer. That's being hypothetical, but it's what we're aiming at here, so that I as an individual who is being accused of something that has not been determined by a legal body as being a problem should not have to spend a lot of money in legal costs before the process even starts. That's what we're alluding to here. If there were a mechanism whereby I as an individual farmer could phone someone at the OMAFRA office, for instance, and say, "This is the letter I've been given. I would like to have some kind of a pre-hearing evaluation of whether this is or is not a normal farm practice," that's the type of thing we're thinking about.
Mr Hardeman: I guess from that, then, you're making the assumption from the way the bill is written that the first step in the process would be legal action, and then the two legal sides would take it to the board, as opposed to my vision that if there was a complaint from a neighbour, the first step would be that both parties would try to negotiate a settlement, and the next step would be the board, and if it was not considered to be a nuisance complaint, the board would so rule, and then it would go the legal process. But you see that you would have to have legal involvement prior to going to the board?
Mr Erb: I guess what I'm saying -- and I have some understanding of the process as it exists under the present act -- is that if the complainant bypasses that route and goes directly to a legal situation, then that would be a possibility. If that person has used the process that is in place, which I believe is to contact OMAFRA, and if OMAFRA is brought in, they will contact the Ministry of Environment or whoever. That process is there. But if someone goes the other route and decides to challenge just strictly on a legal basis, I'd like to see some kind of a channel there that could work before the farmer has to pay out a lot of money in legal costs.
The Chair: There's a little bit of time if you want to follow up.
Mr Danford: No, go ahead.
Mr Hardeman: The other question was in relation to the clause you mentioned some of the other farm organizations had requested be removed. You're supporting, somewhat, the bill as it is, and you don't want to lose the whole bill based on that section so you would accept that. Do you not see that section as protection for farming as opposed to a detriment to farming, that in fact the minister could, through regulation, set what was a normal farming practice even though it was not so decided by the present practices?
Mr Erb: I think we're making reference to the suggestion that in the ideal situation we would hope the minister would always act in the best interests of agriculture. But we're suggesting there may be cases or a situation or a time in particular, for instance, in the mandate of a particular government, when there may be some other influence and outside pressures, or pressures from within, that may influence him to look at it a little differently or his support for agriculture may not be quite the same. We're making reference to the population of rural Ontario, not just the agricultural population but the population of rural Ontario. Certainly you have that mix in any riding. The potential for re-election, for instance, in a situation of that nature may influence a person.
Mr Hardeman: My concern was that if there was not something of that nature in the bill and there was something that was new in technology or new in the way of doing things, the board would not be able to judge that based on past practices. There has to be some way to define whether that could be considered normal farming practices or nothing new would ever be allowed to happen. Wouldn't you see that as a problem?
Mr Erb: We see this as giving the ultimate power to the minister. Is that correct? The ultimate power is at the minister's level, and he could possibly use that influence at some time in a negative way.
Mr Hoy: Thank you for your presentation. You've actually answered my questions on section 9. You were talking about legal cost. As well, the minister may make regulations prescribing fees in respect to an application under this act. He may also authorize refunds. It doesn't say he will give refunds -- he may -- and, of course, he may make fees. If fees are applied, I would hope it's a balanced fee schedule, that we don't have fees that push people away from the board or cause them not to approach the board. I hope the government will be wise in that regard and we don't have a fee schedule that turns people away from the normal farm practices board. But that was not your issue, was it? You were talking more in the sense of lawyer to lawyer?
Mr Erb: In respect to your question on that issue, my response would be that if we are comparing it, for instance, to the Municipal Act and an OMB hearing, where a hearing board chairperson can in fact assess costs to a party if it's considered to be vexatious, that type of situation, we would see it in somewhat the same kind of light.
In our presentation we make reference to conflicts on occasion not being agriculturally related. It may have been something that has developed, a conflict between two neighbours, and this suddenly becomes a way of one getting at the other person. There is the possibility of that type of situation, and that's where I would see your assessment of costs under somewhat similar guidelines, the situation being vexatious or frivolous or whatever. I would say those are two different issues, but we're talking strictly about the cost to an operation or an operator who really hasn't been deemed guilty.
Mr Mark Reusser: May I follow through? I think our main worry is that a motivated complainant might want to and try to, in every way possible, circumvent this process, perhaps knowing that the complaint might be found vexatious or frivolous in this process, but by going through the legal process he or she might have a better chance of winning. That's what we're worried about, I believe.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your very thoughtful and I find helpful presentation. I want to follow up on the whole issue, because we haven't discussed it yet today, of so much power in the minister's hands. This is a concern we've heard from some others as well, and certainly it's a concern we've heard about a lot of this government's bills. It is just repeated and a lot of power is given to the minister. When you point out that in the future there could be a minister who could do damage, it's well taken. What I'd like to know is what you would suggest because there probably will be an amendment on this, which if the government doesn't put forward, I expect I will. I wonder if you have some suggestion that you think the government members could live with to replace that clause.
Mr Erb: I would have to say I don't think we've given that enough thought and we would have to have some time to respond to that. Maybe that's not a fair response but I think it is the only one I can give today.
Ms Churley: That's fine. There is some time, if you want to think about it. We will be doing clause-by-clause. I think it's March 10. If you wanted to consider something, I'm sure the government members as well would like to see that. There might be an alternative there that we can all agree to.
The other thing I want to follow up on is the land use planning. I note that you participated in the Sewell commission on Bill 163 and also on Bill 20. Of course there was quite a drastic change from Bill 163 to Bill 20. I wanted clarification. I've looked quickly at this document you've attached. It is the whole issue around the agricultural land use guidelines. Under this government, it says that the municipalities are required to have regard to the provincial land use policy as opposed to -- and this was a major argument when they brought their bill in, when they changed that from our wording, and that is to --
Mr Hardeman: A difference of opinion.
Ms Churley: A difference of opinion, right.
I wonder if that's what you're saying, that you'd like to see that clearer in the municipal plan so that there is less of an opportunity for what I've been hearing from some of the farm community about the urban sprawl and the subdivisions, the fear around losing more and more of our farm land. Is that what you're saying? I may have misinterpreted it.
Mr Erb: Yes, exactly, that's what we're saying. Mr Hardeman has heard us on this issue a number of times. I think that whether people want to accept the fact or not, the crossover between use planning and farm practice protection is there. It cannot be ignored. I'll give you an example, and this happened in our own region just in the last couple of months. This happened to be a vacant parcel. For some reason, the local municipality did not apply MDS. A castle, literally, went up about 500 feet from a neighbouring chicken barn. If anybody can tell me that's good planning, then I have some difficulty.
The Chair: On behalf of all the members of the committee, we appreciate your taking the time to come this afternoon to present your ideas and advice.
The Chair: I'd like to now call upon Douglas Desmond, please. Good afternoon. Please make yourself comfortable. Welcome.
Mr Douglas Desmond: My name is Douglas Desmond. I'm a lawyer and a farmer in Howard township in Kent county down around the Ridgetown area. You have in front of you my written submissions, which I know appear a little intimidating, but in fact the written submissions are only 9 pages and the rest of it is just some supporting materials that you might be interested in.
For the purposes of oral submissions, there are essentially three issues I wish to alert the committee to.
The first issue the proposed legislation deals with is virtually identical but notably different from the Farm Practices Protection Act. It concerns itself with immunizing farmers from the common law action of nuisance for certain types of disturbances that they create or could create.
The second issue of the proposed legislation is new and not dealt with under the Farm Practices Protection Act. The new power contained in the legislation is the proposed authority of the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board to effectively strike down municipal bylaws, or more precisely to grant a variance to a farmer who makes the case that his practice should not be prohibited under a bylaw but should be viewed as a normal farm practice.
The third issue concerns the definition itself of a normal farm practice.
First then, let's deal with the nuisances identified under the act, or what they describe charmingly as disturbances. As you're well aware, I'm sure, this sort of legislation is common throughout Canada and the United States. I'm not here today to make the case that a farmer should not be protected in nuisance in this manner. I am here, however, to alert the committee that there are novel changes in nuisances identified under the proposed legislation as opposed to the antecedent legislation. Under the current legislation, dust odour and noise, I believe, are the only nuisances identified. Under this legislation, flies, light, smoke and vibration are included.
What is important to note in this list of disturbances is the disturbance of flies in particular, because this is the first clue, in my view, in the legislation as to what the amendment of the Farm Practices Protection Act is really all about. What attracts flies? I can assure you, it isn't soybeans, corn and wheat. It's livestock. Livestock by and large means pigs, because that's the most quickly growing area of agriculture in Ontario, I believe.
What's important to note is that the production of livestock, particularly hogs, is not of the traditional family mixed farming sort of livestock production. The type of livestock production now occurring in southwestern and south-central Ontario is livestock facilities that may contain as many as 5,000 pigs in one barn. By even the most conservative estimates, 5,000 pigs create the equivalent quantity of manure as does a population of 20,000 people.
Some time when you're driving by one of these barns -- I'm not sure whether you're farm people or not -- and you notice that horrific odour, you should be cognizant of the fact that the barn you're smelling may house the equivalent in human population of 20,000 people.
It's a normal farm practice -- I'll get to the subject of what is or isn't a normal farm practice and what it means -- to take all that excrement, untreated, and spread it on the land, winter, summer, spring and fall without regard to weather conditions or soil types. Invariably, that liquid manure runs off or leaches through the soil and enters in our watercourses, lakes and rivers.
The so-called disturbance identified as "odour" in the proposed legislation was also contained in the previous legislation. The odour, however, towards which this legislation is directed is not the same odour that the Farm Practices Protection Act anticipated. At the time the Farm Practices Protection Act was made law, I believe it was in 1986, the intensive livestock industry had not yet come to Ontario in a significant way. Times, however, have changed.
Accordingly, when you read "odour" in the list of the disturbances in the proposed legislation, it should not be understood as the sort of odour that proceeded from the mixed farms of perhaps your childhood memories. The odour contemplated in this legislation is odour that can extend literally for miles around the facility itself. Scientific studies in the United States support incontrovertibly the proposition that a livestock facility containing as many as 5,000 pigs will extend a plume of odour for a mile or two around the facility that is as strong as if you were standing directly beside the barn.
Supposedly, the issue of odour is addressed in the Agricultural Code of Practice, now known as the Ontario Guide to Agricultural Land Use. This guideline sets minimum distance separations from facilities to neighbouring residences not on the same lot, a calculation which is purportedly based on calculations of odour production per animal unit. An animal unit for hogs, for example, can be five sows. But this is not odour as any reasonable person would understand it; this is debilitating odour. This is odour that has a profound effect on the value and enjoyment of neighbouring properties.
The minimum distance separations set out in the code of practice which are now law in some municipal jurisdictions, including my own, are so grossly inadequate that if you have the misfortune to be within a mile or two of even one of these small facilities, you can expect to be smelling the odour of pig manure every day for the rest of your life.
The second important issue and distinction between the proposed legislation and its predecessor is the ability of the proposed Normal Farm Practices Protection Board to effectively strike down municipal bylaws.
More precisely, in my view as a lawyer, the power is one of granting a kind of variance from any restriction placed in a bylaw. I can assure you that there is one reason, and one reason only, that this authority is being proposed to be granted to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board. This section of the act is being proposed for the benefit of one industry in particular, and that is the intensive livestock industry. The intention of section 16 of the proposed legislation, the hidden agenda if you will, is to grant this industry, retroactively as well, a licence to expand without interference from the municipalities and the other citizens they represent.
The third issue of paramount importance that I wish to direct to the attention to the committee is the proposed definition of "normal farm practice." This definition is identical to the definition that was contained in the Farm Practices Protection Act. What is notable about this definition from a legal point of view is that there is no reference, expressed or implied, as to whether the farm practice under review is proper or improper. In other words, the standard of care that this definition of "normal farm practice" implies has no regard and makes no reference to the economic or environmental consequences of the practice.
To make an analogy, a definition of a standard of care or a definition of due diligence for a farm practice like "proper and acceptable customs and standards established and followed by similar agricultural operations under similar circumstances" would be equivalent to saying to the medical profession that as long as all doctors performed a procedure in a particular way, it's acceptable, notwithstanding that all the patients died from the procedure.
This definition of a normal farm practice as a standard of care is, in my respectful view, a prescription for environmental disaster and in fact defeats the precise purpose for which the definition exists. I am a farmer and a lawyer, and I can assure you that the courts are not so naïve they are likely to accept as a standard of due diligence or the defence of due diligence a standard of care which is no standard at all. This definition of "normal farm practice" is not only a complete fraud upon the citizens who will suffer the consequences of the particular farm practices; it's also a fraud on the farmers, particularly the livestock producers, that it is intended to protect.
There is only one reasonable solution to that difficulty, and that is to set into legislative form a standard of care that has regard to the consequences, environmental and economic, of the particular practice. That standard of care exists in the Agricultural Code of Practice and in other agricultural guidelines, including the Canadian Pork Council's code of practice for environmentally sound hog production. Unfortunately, these codes of practice are not law. They exist simply as guidelines and have not traditionally been used to give meaning and content to what is or is not a normal farm practice. This state of affairs has to end, not only for rural residents but for the livestock producers themselves.
In short, this definition of "normal farm practice" does not protect an intensive livestock operator from me, acting as a lawyer. What is in my view essential for the committee to understand, if it hasn't been made clear already, is that the proposed changes to the Farm Practices Protection Act are for the sole benefit of this one industry; that is, the intensive livestock industry.
There's no doubt you have heard many submissions today that don't appear on first blush to be directly on point. You will note that many of the submissions are focusing on the intensive livestock industry. It is not apparent from a reading of the legislation what relationship that industry has to the changes proposed in the bill. If I do nothing else today, I hope that if the connection has not been made thus far, my oral submissions and particularly my written submissions will help you to do so. I would commend you to read my written submissions, which are considerably more legalistic and might not be appropriate in the form of an oral submission in any event.
The Chair: You have left us time for about three minutes of questioning from each caucus, and we begin with the Liberal caucus.
Mr Hoy: Good afternoon, and thank you very much for your presentation. I will look through the brief that you have submitted as well, probably this evening.
You talked about a great many things here. The minimum distances not being adequate for today's agriculture is one you have cited. Do you have any suggestions in that regard as to what it might be?
Mr Desmond: I reviewed a year or two ago, in an application process to amend the township of Howard bylaw, all of the codes of practice throughout Canada and the United States. As to the particular method that Ontario is using for this odour-potential calculation, we are the only province, the only jurisdiction, I have found that calculation to be in. All other jurisdictions, in my reading, were using absolute minimum distance separations, fixed distances.
I think if you talk to Mr Toombs, it will be readily admitted that calculations of minimum distance separations in the code of practice did not anticipate livestock facilities of over 500 animal units. That issue hasn't been dealt with at all, not even in the code of practice.
Mr Hoy: On the questions you've posed about bylaws, we heard earlier today of bylaws where urban thought was going to put, in the opinion of the presenter, some undue harm in regard to fencing. It was perhaps an innocent error in an urban setting -- they were talking about swimming pools etc -- where it was going to have an effect on the fencing of many acres of land. I think that may be resolved eventually, but it was a point of where a bylaw could have a negative effect on a farming operation that was unintentional.
There are other examples, notwithstanding your argument, where maybe there needs to be a body which says, "This would be an abnormal application to a normal farming practice." I would think you would agree that the type of fencing that might be used around a swimming pool wouldn't be required around, let's say, a 100-acre farm. My point is that there may be some need to scrutinize bylaws so that we don't have a negative impact on the people involved in agriculture, or maybe simply a landholder.
I haven't read this other part of your brief. This legislation changes the word "accepted" to "acceptable," and there has been some discussion about that from others during the course of our hearings. I wondered if you had any mention of that in here that you might want to comment on.
Mr Desmond: No, I didn't make that distinction, but you're probably correct. Do I think it has any meaning or significance? Off the top of my head, no. In my respectful view, the problem with this definition is a problem that's going to cause a tremendous amount of litigation, particularly for livestock producers. They're not protected by this at all. They need a standard of care they can rely on so that they can raise a defence of due diligence when or if they are attacked legally, and this does not protect them at all, or anybody else.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your presentation. I'll take a look at this later.
I noticed that in your oral presentation you concentrated on odour, but those who have concerns about large livestock operations have mostly expressed concern about water, particularly water contamination. There is some question, as I've been listening to various groups, of whether there is any evidence that there is such a problem or even will be a problem. I'm wondering if you have a comment on that.
Mr Desmond: If you wish evidence, I can provide you with a mountain of it from all over the world.
Ms Churley: I think we could all use some information and some evidence because it is important that we all have the facts. There is some disagreement around this table and from people who are presenting to us as to whether or not this is an issue. We had some government member refer to those who have concerns about it as those who say this bill is merely a licence to pollute. In my view some of them are not taking this issue seriously and I would like to try to get to the bottom of it because it's a very critical issue for the future of our children.
Mr Desmond: The truth is, of course, that the real issue is about water pollution, and that's part of the fallout from this act. Unfortunately, it's an act that deals particularly with nuisances and the only way to approach the issue of the potential for pollution through this act, as far as I can tell, is through the issue of odour. At least that's been my experience in reading the case law under the Farm Practices Protection Act -- all 12 cases.
Sure, that's why I'm here today. It's water pollution that I'm worried about and I'm trying to alert this committee that this bill does not address the real issues and the real problems that are on the farm. What this act appears to be saying to the farmers and livestock producers in particular is, "This act is going to help you. This act will save you," when in fact it's not going to do anything for them.
Ms Churley: What do you mean by that, that it's not going to do anything even for the livestock farmers?
Mr Desmond: Because if somebody is contaminating my land with offsite contamination, which happens to me on a fairly regular basis, I have my remedies in nuisance. Unfortunately, those lawsuits cost thousands of dollars to bring. But the remedies are severe. If I bring an action in nuisance because I have a river of excrement flowing through my farm, my remedy in law is an injunction to prohibit him from spreading at any time.
Ms Churley: So what you're suggesting is that if this bill goes ahead without a remedy for that possible problem, the pollution will happen and we'll end up not dealing with it until after the fact, and the expense and the health problems associated with that.
Mr Desmond: Yes. I'm suggesting that this act does not deal with the problems that are actually on the farm or the actual nuisances that the farmers are creating. That's the essential problem with this act.
Ms Churley: Are you therefore recommending that the government withdraw the bill or are you recommending a particular amendment?
Mr Desmond: If you read my submission, there are some suggestions, but my fundamental suggestion is that they put a proper standard of care into this act so the livestock producers and the rest of us know where we're at. That standard of care in fact exists in the Ontario Guide to Agricultural Land Use. It would be my recommendation that section 9, for example, specifically refer to the Ontario Guide to Agricultural Land Use as one of the guidelines and that any directives that purport to change the definition of "normal farm practice" are subject to the code of practice. We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our legislation is subject to review under that. I would suggest that the proper way to approach that issue here would be to make any directives that would affect the definition of "normal farm practice" subject to the agricultural code of practice.
Mr Danford: Thank you, Mr Desmond, for your presentation. I too will have an opportunity I'm sure at a later date to read it more thoroughly and understand it more than the time allowed you to make your presentation.
Mr Desmond: Please do. It took me about 15 hours to write.
Mr Danford: Well, we will certainly spend as much time as we can and what's necessary.
You spoke specifically about water pollution, which was one of your comments. This bill, as you well realize, is to deal with what comes under normal farm practice and whether in fact it creates a nuisance. It is not intended in any way, and never was, to supersede anything in the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and all those other acts that are already in legislation.
Mr Desmond: That's correct.
Mr Danford: Are those acts not more appropriate to cover some of the concerns with regard to water pollution, if that's in fact the case, than this act? Would they not be the ones to deal with it and that avenue be the way to go?
Mr Desmond: It would be nice if the Ministry of the Environment had the will and the means to enforce its own regulations, or for that matter if the Ministry of Agriculture had the will to enforce it's regulations under the Drainage Act, which it does not enforce either, because I've tried to use those sections of the act. My understanding is that the Ministry of Environment's budget has been dropped 40%, at least that's what I read in the newspapers. So you have a situation where in fact the ministries that are supposed to be enforcing the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Environmental Protection Act are not in a position to enforce them.
You'll find in my submission some other problems with those acts. For example, section 15 of the Environmental Protection Act excludes farmers from even the reporting of spills if the spill occurred as the result of a normal farm practice. What's a normal farm practice? A normal farm practice is to spread your waste whenever you can.
Mr Danford: I'm certainly not going to debate it with you this afternoon, but I think if someone has a spill of commercial fertilizer or something to any great extent, then I think that would be considered a spill in my interpretation of it and they would be subjected to all the same rules of a spills act as anyone else would be, in all fairness. I don't know whether you want to comment, but that's the way I understand it. I'm just sharing my opinion.
You mentioned some concerns about flies and particularly odour. You referred to odour and it was more or less directed relating to the odour in this case from the pork industry.
Mr Desmond: Correct.
Mr Danford: You feel that's the only place that the odour really presents a serious problem?
Mr Desmond: Practically speaking, I think that's the industry that's growing rapidly and the industry that the Ministry of Agriculture is promoting and trying to help. It's where the money is for a lot of farmers. These opportunities come along once in a generation, don't they? I don't blame the Ministry of Agriculture for wanting to promote this industry. I have a problem that they don't want to recognize the problems that are associated with this industry worldwide. That information is readily available because I have it myself.
Mr Danford: I'd just like to share with you that in the consultation and in developing this bill, as you readily recognized earlier, odour was part of the former bill. That's not new. But odour can occur in rural areas in a variety of ways and I think it's not necessarily true to say that it all happens from the pork industry. I'm not necessarily defending them they can look after themselves but I think you will also realize that odour can come from the spreading of sludge from municipal waste, which comes from a different source. It's not all animal units. I think that also can occur and that could be dealt with under this bill as well. It does try to cover all the aspects of odour and it goes beyond.
Mr Desmond: That may very well be true. I'm suggesting to you that the spreading of sludge is not the problem in farm areas.
Mr Danford: But it does cover the whole definition in the gamut of odour and it is not confined to one particular place.
I guess the other thing is, I will look forward to reading your presentation. I couldn't help but notice that when you mentioned the definition of normal farm practice you related it to fraud in developing it and putting it together. I think I will read your presentation to further clarify that point. I think "fraud" was a rather extreme word. There may be a difference of opinion, but to say it was done fraudulently I think is somewhat different. That's just a comment.
Mr Desmond: Fair enough. It might have been a little bit of an exaggeration. What I'm suggesting is that the government is proposing this act to these livestock producers and suggesting to them that this will help them. I'm suggesting that it will not help them and it will not help anybody else either. It does not protect them because it doesn't set a proper standard of care that they can rely on so that they can raise a defence of due diligence should they be attacked: "Here's what I'm supposed to do; this is what I did."
The Chair: I know there are people who still want to ask you questions, but our time is up. On behalf of all the members of the committee, we do thank you for coming forth. You have given us some homework tonight. We appreciate it.
LAMBTON FEDERATION OF AGRICULTURE
The Chair: I call upon representatives of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture, please. Welcome.
Mr Robert Johnston: Madam Chair and members of the committee, my name is Robert Johnston. I'm past president of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture. My partner here today is Earl Morwood. He's one of the vice-presidents on the Lambton Federation of Agriculture.
We're very pleased to be here today to bring the views of farmers in our county, some 2,900 of them ranging from cash crop mixed-farming to some of those intensive livestock operations.
We pulled together our public relations committee and brought in some commodity group people and we had a meeting and got some of their thoughts down there as well as the thoughts of some of the folks from the Lambton Federation of Agriculture. I'm going to try to hit the high points of this, the salient points, so we have more time for questions.
While the Farming and Food Production Protection Act is legislation that has been formulated to protect proper farming methods, we have some concern that in review of the cases that have been brought before the review board as the years progress, farmers are having to do more corrections of what are already normal farm practices in order to satisfy the public at large and the members of the Farm Practices Protection Board.
Some everyday farm practices create odours, noise and dust. These can be a nuisance to some farm neighbours, especially if other conflicts already exist in that relationship. We can underline there and put between the lines family feuds. The current act responds to these nuisances. Even when a farmer strictly follows the rules, adheres to the codes in place and follows best management practices, there can be problems with the neighbours. We recently had such a case in Brooke township in Lambton county, where the farmer followed everything by the book and still when it went before the board he had certain limits placed on his manure application practices, even though he was following good guidelines and always acted in good faith.
Manure smells. Dryers, farm machinery and animals make noise. Harvesting and tillage, by the nature of the activity, make dust. These things may be annoying but they do not threaten life or the environment in a traditional sense. We simply ask for legislation that protects the farm community from outside complaint and court action when the farmers are carrying on practices that are normal and practical in their setting.
Farmers are definitely not asking for legislation that allows them to pollute. When we do review the cases that have come before the protection board, we find many times that it is not an outright act of pollution that is the main culprit but an action non-farm neighbours do not understand or an action they consider to be a nuisance. Every farm activity, especially those affecting water, land, wildlife and protected plant species, involves legal obligations.
There are other acts that govern watercourses: Well drilling, weed control, pesticide storage and fuel storage. Local bylaws often address, in our county, minimum distance standards, topsoil preservation and other things such as environmental farm plans and grower pesticide safety courses. We seem to have many of these things covered very tightly.
The Lambton Federation of Agriculture agrees with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture that new legislation include nuisances that concern light, vibration, smoke, flies, odour, dust and noise. We also support OFA in regard to section 6 of the act, which enables farmers to apply for an exemption from a municipal bylaw that unnecessarily restricts farming practices considered to be normal. Of course, as we've heard several times today, what was normal back in 1975 when I got out of Ridgetown College doesn't look quite as normal now. But the act of spreading manure on the ground is the same as it was then.
The LFA also supports the fact that the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board can refuse to hear an application made to it under nuisance or disturbance municipal bylaws or vehicle bylaws if the board believes the applications are frivolous.
We also support OFA in regard to section 9. Some believe section 9 gives the agriculture minister too much power. Other Canadian and US farm practice acts contain similar provisions. Without them, administrative changes would have to go through the legislative process.
Skipping down a little bit on the page, a quote from our friend Mike Huybers, president of the Lambton Pork Producers, sums up the debate from a hog farmer's perspective. In his discussion of the act he said that the act must be more than a device that drives up the costs to farmers, with the result that the changes make the producers in Lambton county high-cost producers and unable to compete with producers from the other provinces and other regions of the world not operating under such restrictions. I think he can see down the road in the future where maybe there won't be any hog production in Ontario, that it will all be moved out west, with the resultant loss of the economic activity involved.
We went around the table at our meeting with our public relations committee and with some commodity board people who were involved in livestock, and I'll just quickly run through some of the things we consider to be normal practices and a couple that perhaps aren't.
Many producers consider winter application of manure acceptable when applied in lower quantities and at properly selected times.
Application of manure by irrigation and tanker on no-till land is a normal farm practice in Lambton county.
Injection of manure into the soil is a normal farm practice in Lambton county
Piling of solid manure -- that would be what's produced from the animal and absorbent material such as straw -- in a rigid pile is a normal farm practice in Lambton. The representative from the LCA recommended separating solid and liquid components of the manure.
Livestock manure should be shared with a cash crop neighbour when the soil tests on the livestock farm indicate that the nutrient level loads are excessive in the fields that are normally spread.
Soil testing, grid sampling and common sense should become normal farm practices in Lambton county for all commodities including cash crop, hay and pasture.
Farm machinery and grain dryers and barn fans running around the clock is a normal practice in Lambton county.
The representatives of the commodity boards felt that organic farming in the way that we regard it today is not a normal farming practice in Lambton county because it's not something that's been very active in the county, although that's no indication that we are against organic farming. Rather, it is the feeling that properly applied manure in proper quantities provides the organic nutrients needed to produce healthy crops and meat products for the consumer.
We very much appreciate the chance to come here today and we hope to answer your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much. You've left us with about three minutes for questioning by each caucus. We begin with the NDP.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your presentation. I take it you don't agree with the previous presenter.
Mr Johnston: There are points that he makes that are good points, of course. Sometimes it takes a while to get through the legalese of the whole thing. As I indicated and as other presenters have indicated too, we're up against a price crunch and a cost crunch, especially in the hog business, and it's getting worse.
Many years ago when I gave up hog farming, it was a great hobby but I thought it was getting to be too expensive. I thought I could have more fun losing money sitting down at the local pub than wading around in the hog barn. It's going to continue and there's no way to put an end to it other than putting so many restrictions on the larger operations that they just either close down or move to another province.
Ms Churley: I understand what you're saying about the competitive nature and what's happening in the United States. I think that is a real issue. I suppose what I'm hearing some people say is that, be that as it may, we ignore the possible potential environmental hazards of the industry at our peril, for existing farmers but also for future generations. As farmers yourselves, what is your position on that?
Mr Johnston: There's probably no one in Ontario who is more concerned with the natural environment than the farmers. The position that these large operations are put in, I'm sure it's got to haunt their consciences too when they say, "We have to put up a gigantic barrel in the ground or a hole in the ground to hold this stuff for a year or a year and a half, and then find ways to properly put it on the soil so it's not running off into the ditches, so it's not going out through the tiles."
We can only hope that through the preaching of organizations such as OFA and the animal councils we have here in the county, we can convince these producers to do things as right as they can. Even when you do that, there's always a potential for something bad to happen. Life is full of risk. If you have a spill once every five years in a particular area, that's not going to necessarily destroy the natural environment. If you're having these spills once every six months, then it becomes a problem and the other operators in the area have to zero in on it.
Ms Churley: On the whole issue of what is considered normal farm practice -- you mentioned some; it was good to have some of those listed -- could you see a situation where there may be a practice that has been considered normal for quite a while and a municipality says you can't do that any more, for whatever reasons, environmentally unsound or whatever, and it goes to the province and because it's always been considered normal, they will overturn it because they can under this new law? Can you see that as a problem?
Mr Johnston: The first one that comes to mind would be a fight against spreading manure on frozen ground.
Ms Churley: Because of the runoff when it --
Mr Johnston: It's debatable whether it's better to spread it on frozen ground or not. It's not allowed in Quebec. I have spoken to livestock producers who say that if you spread it lightly and more times, the freezing and the thawing effect in the soil will actually trap it in the soil better than spreading it in the summertime and having five inches of rain come down.
Ms Churley: So there are even different opinions on that.
Mr Johnston: Definitely, and the scientific community still hasn't brought us definitive knowledge on that.
Mr Chudleigh: By and large we've talked about the industrial production of hogs, a very large unit. Do you have any personal experience with these types of units, where you've been onsite, you've seen how they operate, you've seen how they handle their waste and how it's spread?
Mr Johnston: I have not personally been to visit one.
Mr Earl Morwood: The farm in Brooke township that we mentioned and Mr Desmond mentioned is in my neighbourhood, and I'm familiar with it, yes. It's a new site and he irrigates his manure. It's a mid operation, in between sows and then finishing. He was irrigating his manure on no-till land and was taken before the farm protection board.
Mr Chudleigh: By and large, in other types of agriculture, and I haven't been onsite in one of these large hog producing areas, I find that some of the largest producers are also perhaps the most conscientious, the best planned processes.
Mr Morwood: Yes, from necessity, that's right.
Mr Chudleigh: I know in the fruit and vegetable business, in my experience, it's 100% true. I'm not sure I can think of an example where a large producer isn't also a very good producer from all aspects, and almost has to be to economically survive in the marketplace. Would you find this to be generally true in the hog production business or in the broiler business, as well, which I think could present an equal problem?
Mr Morwood: This is one example. We don't have as many broiler operations in Lambton but we do have lots of hog operations. The one in my township is the most visible because of the problems it's had. He did everything, got his zoning bylaws right, got his MDSs right, everything he did; his ventilation etc was perfect. He needs to do everything right because I think these farms are very expensive and they have to turn out a product when the prices have probably dropped, for a finished hog, by about $100 in less than the last year. He's been very efficient, done everything extremely well, and even then he was a leader in Ontario politics. This man knew his business and still got into some difficulty with the neighbours and now can't spread manure on no-till ground, which we think is a normal farm practice. That means he has to go out and buy another line of machinery to apply the manure. So it's a problem.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you very much and thank you for your presentation. I appreciate that at the end of your presentation you go through a format of what the people and the producers in Lambton county consider normal farming practices. I wonder if it's your position that's how normal farming practices should be set. Is it because 5% or 10% of the farmers do it that it should be considered a normal farming practice, right or wrong, or should it be set on what is an appropriate farming practice?
Mr Morwood: It's much more than 5%. We met with the organizations that represent the producers and are asking the producers what they want. They consider these practices to be normal because they're effective and don't pollute, so I think probably the answer is --
Mr Hardeman: I didn't want to focus on the percentage. My question was on the issue of spreading manure on frozen ground, provided we don't spread too much. I was wondering where in the discussion of that the issue of nuisance liability would come into play. Whether it's frozen ground or unfrozen ground, if you pollute the stream, that is not a nuisance, that is pollution and it would be covered under the Environmental Protection Act.
Mr Morwood: Yes.
Mr Hardeman: So whether it's normal farming practice to do it on frozen or unfrozen ground, how did this group decide that was considered a normal farming practice and should be involved whether it was a nuisance or not?
Mr Morwood: From the results, from the experience. These were experienced producers. The chairman of the hog producers in Lambton has a very large operation, and the other one has been doing this for some time. He's a cattleman and they have been doing this practice for some time. They find that when they separate their solids and liquids, if they spread it in an effective manner in the winter, they're not polluting and probably the smell -- many of us have noticed the smell in the summer on hot, humid days, and maybe we don't notice it so much in the winter. These are people with lots of storage. It's not because they don't have the storage; it's because they think it's a normal farm practice.
Mr Hoy: I was thinking along the lines of this frozen ground, and it's quite right, if it's pollution it's pollution; there's the answer. But in part I think the ministry must get involved in the science of doing this as well. I too have heard from farmers who say that it may be better to do this when it's frozen, so I think we need expert opinion now.
Things are changing quite dramatically in life. There was a time when we thought asbestos was okay. We filled buildings full of it, and now we've decided that it's not right and we have to do something about it. That's an example of change and an example of a science telling us that certain things are not good for us and not proper to do. I think we're into an issue where we need a fair bit of science applied to it as well.
In section 9, "The minister may issue directives, guidelines or policy statements," and there have been some, as you mentioned, who are not particularly in favour of that section at all. In my mind, if the minister makes a policy statement, one is going to know about it, and if he makes a guideline, one should see it. It seems to flow. But where the debate may lie is in the directives he makes. I know that under another bill the minister makes directives but does not have to make them public. As a matter of fact, we proposed an amendment to a bill that would require the minister to make his directives public after a period of time.
Do you think the minister should make his directives public, and if he does and an amendment were made in that regard, do you think it might make section 9 more palatable to those people who are worried about it?
Mr Morwood: I would concur with that. I would like to see those amendments made public for comment.
The Chair: With that, gentlemen, all members of the committee thank you for taking the time to come before us this afternoon. We appreciate your advice on this particular issue.
RURAL RIGHTS ALLIANCE OF ONTARIO
The Chair: Calling now on representatives from the Rural Rights Alliance of Ontario, please. Good afternoon and welcome.
Mr John McCredie: My name is John McCredie. Thank you for allowing me to speak today on behalf of the Rural Rights Alliance of Ontario. Our group was formed when directly confronted by the threats of large industrialized agriculture in the form of a large hog factory in Howard township. Our concerns have escalated as the problems of these facilities continue not to be addressed by all areas of government.
Our experience is that problems such as agricultural runoff and leaking lagoons are ignored by the Ministry of the Environment. With staff and resources slashed, they, along with the Ministry of Natural Resources, have chosen not to respond when contacted about countless spills. Likewise, local health units have turned a blind eye to direct continual threats to well water and public safety.
Perhaps our greatest frustrations are reserved for those directly responsible for agriculture, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Every violation of the Agricultural Code of Practice meets with the same response from OMAFRA, "They are just recommendations; they have no power of law." In fact, when we attempted recently to have some of the agricultural code's recommendations imbedded in local township bylaws, the opposition was led by Michael Toombs, an urban interface specialist with OMAFRA, who came down personally to address our Howard township council with his grave concerns. His grave concerns apparently do not exist when winter spreading results in thousands of gallons of pig faeces and urine ending up in our rivers and lakes.
Our experiences with OMAFRA have been farcical. After contacting an OMAFRA agriculture enforcement officer recently to report a pile of rotting pigs, we heard back the next day that the dead stock person for the area had been contacted and the problem taken away, without any attempt at an investigation.
I mention all this to point out a level of frustration that will only become worse with Bill 146. Bill 146 is nothing more or less than an attempt to serve up Ontario to the interests of large, industrialized corporate agriculture. These interests have as their agenda -- proven in many other jurisdictions -- removal of future nuisance complaints and local control over land use.
The result specifically will be ever-larger, mammoth hog confinement processing facilities. Neighbouring communities will be forced to look on helplessly as the quality of life plummets. Land values will fall and properties will become unsaleable. With each hog producing an average two tons of manure a year, virtual rivers of sewage will proceed through our watercourses and drinking water. Health problems that are only starting to be documented will escalate.
Not participating in the economies of scale, smaller farm producers will find themselves shut out of these vertically integrated systems, which brings us to the lobby efforts of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. With its propaganda and support of Bill 146, the future of thousands of its paying members will be in jeopardy. Why is it lobbying for changes in a system that has only resulted in 12 hearings before the farm practices board in the last eight years, a system that currently serves the majority of complainants well? The majority of these complainants are farmers, because down the road they know full well the problems of nuisance complaints will increase with large, multimillion-dollar hog factories.
Unfortunately, the neighbours of these facilities will be OFA members, members fighting to survive against the huge economic force of these mega-farms. The OFA's misguided involvement is troubling and should be questioned. The OFA should be fighting for the survival of small and medium-sized producers, those making up the majority of its membership.
Turning to specific problems of Bill 146: No one to date has been able to give us an example of that which is not a normal farm practice. With such a wide scope, all farm practices become normal farm practices and controlling legislation will be deemed restrictive and voided by the normal farm practices board.
An example of the problem of defining a "normal farm practice" already exists in section 15 of the Ontario Environmental Protection Act. It states that offsite pollution is not permitted except in cases of normal farming practice. With prosecutors facing the impossible task of proving that contamination resulted from an abnormal farm practice, this clause is in effect a licence to pollute. The future complainants facing the Farm Practices Protection Board would likewise have to prove abnormal farm practice, a frustrating exercise ultimately not worth making, to the advantage of large animal confinement facilities like hog factories.
This bill also takes away the rights of those suffering beside large animal confinement facilities to sue for an expanded list of nuisances. While trying to protect these mega-hog factories, the effort will ultimately fail. Evidence now is pointing to the fact that such nuisances as odours, flies and dust are serious health problems. Large open pits of animal faeces and urine contain dangerous pathogens that are spread through the fatty acids that produce unbearable smells. Flies, mosquitoes, rats and mice further spread disease to not only humans but livestock. Recent studies show a direct link between proximity to these facilities and intestinal/respiratory diseases. In the United States, studies show an unbelievable 57% of intensified hog confinement workers suffering from chronic bronchitis. Nuisance has turned into a serious life threat.
Many of these nuisances are produced by the uncontrolled practice of dumping manure anywhere at any time in any amount. While everyone is currently scurrying behind smokescreens of nutrient management plans, the fact remains that when manure is spread in ideal conditions, following all the best guidelines, it still leaches into drainage systems and watercourses. Believe me, I'm out there checking. I can tell you through many dozens of water samples we've taken that that's the case.
The result is that barely a week goes by without reports of large-scale contamination of drinking water. In Ontario, the cities of Collingwood, Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay have experienced boiled water alerts due to the animal byproduct bacteria cryptosporidium. Beaches along all our major lakes are experiencing increased closure due to E coli and coliform counts directly linked to agricultural runoff. As we speak, the toxic algae pfisteria is proceeding to us up the eastern seaboard, its source the industrialized agricultural nightmare that is North Carolina. This toxin kills fish and produces memory loss and open sores in humans.
How remarkable that while other jurisdictions are addressing these problems directly, we in Ontario have put on the blinders and come up with Bill 146. While ignoring the evidence all around us, we are bowing to lobby efforts. Bill 146 seems to meet the specific agenda of large confinement facilities. The end result will cost every resident of Ontario monetarily, environmentally and physically.
Further attacks on participative contributory democracy come in section 3 of the act in which the minister is given power to appoint all five members of the Farm Practices Protection Board. He can then ensure that his appointees not veer from his view by forcing them to comply with all the minister's directives, guidelines and policy statements, powers given in section 9. People thought Bill 160 gave too much unaccountable power to ministers.
What is the solution to this mess? Bill 146 must be scrapped, and our group calls for a full moratorium on the building of large-scale agricultural confinement facilities. Then some very serious questions need to be thoroughly addressed.
Some of these questions are: How do these facilities impact local communities? What are the health risks to neighbours and workers? Will there be liability consequences to governments and communities that allow the building of these facilities? Why are there no requirements for liners or covers in manure lagoons? Why do most of these lagoons have inadequate capacity, resulting in winter spreading? Why is animal waste not subject to the waste disposal act when it's far more toxic than human waste, which is? How can we ensure that the vast amounts of manure already being produced stay out of our water courses and aquifers?
Who will be responsible for the monitoring of these facilities that currently go unregulated? Has OMAFRA compromised the majority of farmers in Ontario by promoting corporate industrialized agriculture? What part does the small and medium-sized producer have in the future of Ontario agriculture with ever-dominant mega-farms? How are agricultural jobs affected and what are the economic consequences to communities having these factories?
The problems we in Ontario are starting to experience, problems well documented by our group, will increase exponentially with the adoption of Bill 146. The Rural Rights Alliance of Ontario firmly believes that options for sustainable agriculture exist without going down this disastrous path. On this date, February 19, 1998, we ask you to send this message on our behalf to the Ontario Legislature.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I just want to ask one question. You refer to several exhibits here.
Mr McCredie: Yes. I'm making them available to Donna Bryce and she'll have them for you either tomorrow or Monday.
The Chair: That's excellent. Thank you.
We have about four minutes for each caucus. We begin with the government caucus.
Mr Barrett: You make mention of the uncontrolled practice of dumping manure and the result that barely a week goes by without reports of large-scale contamination of drinking water. The examples you use refer to the cities of Collingwood, Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay, where there have been boiled water alerts due to the bacteria cryptosporidium. I know this particular bacteria is also in a number of other more remote rural areas in northern Ontario. Do you have evidence? Is this exhibit 4, where manure has been dumped in northern Ontario and infected these cities?
Mr McCredie: In a recent news report, they called it the beaver disease in I think it was Sault Ste Marie. It's happened in Milwaukee, it's happened out in New Brunswick.
Mr Barrett: That's from beavers in Milwaukee?
Mr McCredie: No, it's from cryptosporidium. The feeling is very much that it's coming from manure, from agricultural runoff. The cryptosporidium can apparently be stored in humans, but it actually is produced in animals. So the source is there.
Mr Barrett: Is there any suggestion it may be from wildlife in the north or in Wisconsin?
Mr McCredie: There has always been wildlife in the north, for a long time and we see these outbreaks literally on a monthly basis now. The feeling is that the changes have come directly from the spreading practices.
Mr Danford: Thank you for your presentation, Mr McCredie. You mentioned the present board and the number of hearings that actually went before the board and how the system has actually worked with the past legislation. Are you saying in some degree that you fellows have been somewhat effective, by your comment earlier?
Mr McCredie: This was one of the questions we were asking: Why do we need this bill right now? I believe there are up to 700 complaints a year registered with the farm practices board. Most of them are resolved through mediators and what not. My understanding is that there are only 12 cases, which Doug has mentioned previously, that have actually gone to the final stages. The obvious question would be, if this is such a horrible problem that needs to be dealt with and it's causing such an uproar in the rural community, why do we need to revamp this thing? It's not like the farm practices board is stuffed with people trying to get in.
It looks very much to me like it's an agenda, and this is what's happened in North Carolina and other places. Years before these things move in, local publications, local lobby groups start preying on the paranoia of farmers, that their right to farm is being persecuted, they're not getting their rights addressed. You get these things all in place and then down the road, when the big guys come in, what do you do when you have a pig farm with 20,000 pigs in it beside it? Do you finally get to complain? At what stage do we in the country, both farmers and non-farmers, get to have a say in things?
Mr Danford: Certainly in the consultation, the updates and improvements to this present bill that we're putting together now for consideration, it was dealt with; with everyone in Ontario, for that matter. Everyone had the opportunity and it certainly --
Mr McCredie: I actually attended --
Mr Danford: I'd like to just finish now. It did reflect the wishes and the opportunity to present their views, from rural people, urban people and certainly the agricultural community. It was dealt with in that fashion, and certainly the rural municipalities, an association of hundreds of representatives, were part of that process too. It does reflect a balance.
Mr McCredie: I had the opportunity to attend the meeting -- I guess there were nine different towns you went to -- in Ridgetown. I prepared a five-page submission. I asked George Garland at that meeting if I could present it. He said: "No, you can't. We're going to go into rooms, we're going to put you in a group of 13 people, we're going to give you one question and we'll have one person come out after two hours and present the answer to the question." Our question I believe was, should costs be assessed to people to bring up complaints?
In fact, at that meeting I remarked that most of the questions were directly related to the OFA right to farm and the model farm bill from the OFA. This was in no way an open consultation. In our group, where we had some people mentioning different facts, at the end of the three hours the presenter did not give everybody's point of view. That was not an open consultation at all. In fact, my speech was never read or submitted.
Mr Danford: You obviously are referring to a specific meeting which I wasn't present for, so I'm certainly not going to the point with you.
Mr McCredie: Mr Garland told me that I couldn't speak at this one because nobody else could speak at the other ones.
Mr Danford: If we followed all your suggestions that you've put in here, how would you foresee agricultural activities occurring in the province of Ontario, and more importantly, because it affects every person in the province of Ontario affecting the cost of food, how would you foresee that, if you could share it briefly? I know I'm probably taking a little extra time from Mr Hoy.
The Chair: Yes, you are.
Mr Danford: If you'd comment, I'd appreciate it.
Mr McCredie: This isn't a new phenomenon. We're not the first ones to have these things. North Carolina had these 15, 10 years ago. There have been problems in Illinois, Iowa. You can go on the Internet. There are two great sites: Families Against Rural Messes and Iowa Confinement Sites. They've got hundreds of articles. Families Against Rural Messes even gave a breakdown on what each state was doing in the United States. It varies from moratoriums to different bylaws. In most of the jurisdictions where they have proceeded the state gets the powers and now the local people are trying to get them back. I say let's go down there and see what's going on, see what the fallout of this is. Let's not just jump into this. The fact is that if we're the last people to have the loose regulations and the open view of things that seems to be happening, then they're going to come here en masse.
Mr Hoy: Thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon. You asked the question, what is a normal farm practice and could we list those? The ministry lists those. That's perhaps a very fair question to ask. However, I still think the board will need some latitude and I'll give you an example, because one can never foresee the future and decide what is normal and not normal, not having run into a particular instance.
My example is that the board was asked at one time to decide whether the burning of manure was normal or not. I would never have envisioned that someone would try to burn manure. It just wouldn't have crossed my mind and therefore it wouldn't have been on the list, if I was making it, of what's normal and not normal. I didn't know that you could burn manure, let alone even think about it. So it was found to be not a normal practice. I think the board will need some latitude to take care of what we couldn't envision as being so abnormal as the burning of manure.
The other point: I agree with you that the Ministry of Environment has undergone some tremendous changes. Even before the cuts, they were unable to enforce adequately the ruling by the board that this burning of manure should cease. The Ministry of the Environment's been cut by approximately 40%. I was told quite some months ago that the morale was low and people had a tendency to perhaps not be as diligent as they should be, and that's not the way the ministry should be operating.
My point is that all of the best laws -- the Environmental Protection Act, the Pesticides Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act and this bill -- will fail if we don't have enforcement. I agree with you that the Ministry of the Environment is another place the government should be looking at part and parcel with all that we have discussed today.
Mr McCredie: We are totally frustrated, dealing at the local level, with enforcement. Just to give an indication, the farm across from us was charged back in May of this year with pollution. Since that time, they've spread an additional four times on the 50 acres of land around them. That makes a total of 14 spreadings in a two-year period.
If you can guarantee the people of that community that that water will not get into their system, if these people are going to continue spreading on the same parcel of land every two months -- you can't do it. They're going to have contaminated well water. It mightn't be next year, it might be two years, but eventually they will, and that's what we're faced with: total frustration.
Ms Churley: Thank you very much for your presentation. Are you a farmer?
Mr McCredie: No.
Ms Churley: Have you lived in the area?
Mr McCredie: I lived in Denfield, in London, up till I was about 25, on a farm. My father is a part-time farmer.
Ms Churley: So you come from a farm community.
Mr McCredie: Yes.
Ms Churley: One of the things that I'm finding, I suppose, today during the hearings and letters I've received is that the minister said, and some members -- I'm going to quote the minister from an article from the Western Producer from July 1997: "The importance of the food-producing industry is such that we are having an increasing number of disputes between people who love the serenity of the country but who also happened to sign the agreement of purchase when there wasn't manure being spread and crops being harvested and dried."
He then went on to say: "The bill was drafted, in part, with proposals for larger livestock and hog operations in mind. In the concentrated livestock production that was seen coming in, hog operations particularly, odours that emanate are not always pleasant, but that is part of the normal business of that sector. This act will give some comfort to those producers making the investment and also help our municipalities which are becoming less agriculturally oriented by giving them guidelines on what normal practices are."
My concern is that I was being led to believe that a large part of this bill was to deal with the problems between people moving from urban areas into rural areas. I totally agree with that; I think it's wrong for people from urban areas to move into farm country and then start demanding that farmers change their habits. But what I'm learning and what I'm hearing from a lot of people is that really is not what's happening here, that it's --
Mr McCredie: If that was the case, then I think the proportion of complaints registered to the farm practices board would be from urban people moving to the country. In fact, that's just an excuse for bringing up this whole right-to-farm business. It's got nothing to do with what we actually see, and certainly in our jurisdiction it's not the people, who are evenly distributed between farmers, retired people and people who have separate lots.
Ms Churley: Again, I'm trying to get clarification, because my impression has been, and you know there is all-party support for this bill -- I'll be putting forward some amendments. The government members have not seen fit in the past in other committees to pass my amendments, but you never know. Assuming that the bill will pass, I guess what I'm concerned about is I was under the impression that overall the farm community supported this bill. I'm just trying to get a handle on who's supporting it and who isn't.
Mr McCredie: You heard from PROTECT this morning and those are mostly farm people. I brought up the whole issue of small versus big, and in that area they've realized the situation that their livelihood and their future are at threat from these operations. I just have to leave it with what they said this morning.
The Chair: On that note, Mr McCredie, on behalf of all members of the committee, we appreciate your bringing your perspective before us this afternoon. Thank you again.
Colleagues, that's our last presentation of the afternoon. I would like to remind everyone that we have agreement to file amendments with the clerk by 5 pm on February 26. On that note, we will be adjourned until March 10 at Queen's Park for clause-by-clause review of this bill.
The committee adjourned at 1612.