The Chair (Mrs Brenda Elliott): Good morning, everyone. The standing committee on resources development is called to order for the purposes of resuming hearings on Bill 146. On behalf of all the members of the committee, we're very pleased to be here in Belleville, and coming from Toronto this morning, neither rain nor sleet could keep us away from this great spot. We are also very pleased to have Mr Rollins join us this morning.
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): Thanks, Brenda. I would like to welcome everybody here on behalf of the riding of Quinte. I know that the snow was looking a little bit brown the other day, and we changed it around and got it nice and white for you today, so we cleaned up the act.
Mr Rollins: It makes you feel at home. The other thing is it's a lot nicer than coming down last night, because last night the weather was awfully bad about 10 o'clock, but it has certainly improved today even though it is a little bit on the sloppy side.
The Chair: Our first presenters today represent the Hastings County Federation of Agriculture, and I believe we're welcoming Anne Barber and Bruce DeMille. Good morning and welcome. I'm sure you know you have 20 minutes for presentation time. You can either use all of that for presentation or you can allow time for questioning at the end.
The Hastings County Federation Of Agriculture is a general farm organization affiliated to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. We represent almost 700 members, the majority of whom are actively farming in Hastings county. The economic activity of the farming community in the county encompasses 126,000 acres of crop land and produces gross receipts of $63.5 million. The major part of the farming activity takes place in that portion of the county bordered by the Bay of Quinte on the south and north to Highway 7. This area is in close proximity to the major urban centres of Belleville and Trenton.
Recent amalgamations have resulted in the rural municipalities being joined with urban councils, thus resulting in rural representation becoming minimal or farm representation being absent altogether. Such amalgamations also encourage the trend to extend the boundaries of urban areas into the farming areas, which leads to new housing or large subdivisions being created in close proximity to farming operations. At the same time, farms need to expand and embrace new technology in order to remain viable. This situation could lead to serious conflicts between farmers and their non-farming neighbours.
The Hastings County Federation of Agriculture feels that in passing Bill 146, the provincial government of Ontario would be providing protection to farmers who operate their farms using normal and acceptable practices. This bill will also provide a framework for the mediation of any disputes that may arise.
Modern agriculture is a dynamic industry constantly seeking new crops, new products and using new technology. For this reason, we are supportive of the new act's broader definition of what constitutes a farm enterprise, operation or farming activity. The ability of the Minister of Agriculture to specify crops, species of livestock and other farm-related activities is appropriate as outlined in the act.
Similarly, we are supportive of the expansion of the definition of "disturbance" to include light, smoke, flies and vibrations which may result from the normal use of modern farm equipment running, in some instances, through the night hours.
We would like to emphasize that we fully support the requirement that farmers must be in compliance with the Environmental Protection Act, the Pesticides Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and the Ontario Water Resources Act.
With reference to section 3 of the act, the Hastings Federation of Agriculture would be pleased to see the makeup of the Farm Practices Protection Board continue under the same regulations as are currently in force.
In light of the decreasing representation of the farm community in municipal councils, the Hastings federation of agriculture feels that the inclusion of sections 6 and 7 is essential to the effectiveness of this bill. The wording in the clauses will prevent municipalities from circumventing Bill 146 by passing restrictive bylaws that pertain to farming activities.
The Hastings federation of agriculture supports section 9 of Bill 146 giving the Minister of Agriculture the right "to issue directives, guidelines or policy statements" relevant to the act provided that these changes enhance the interests of Bill 146 and provide further protection for the right to farm using normal farm practices.
Over the years, Ontario farmers have faced increasing pressure from non-farm neighbours who would like to restrict normal farm practices, even though these may be necessary for food production. The farm community has, for a number of years, been urging the government of Ontario to enhance the protection for farmers. By strengthening the provisions of the Farm Practices Protection Act, the Hastings federation of agriculture is satisfied that the new Farming and Food Production Protection Act, 1997, Bill 146, will provide the protection sought by farmers. Therefore, we would like to recommend the passage of Bill 146.
Mr Bisson: First of all, welcome to this committee and thank you for having made your presentation. I want to say that I don't think there's a member on the committee who disagrees with the content of your presentation. I think we all understand that the farm community overall needs to make sure that it has some level of protection when it comes to nuisance suits, when it comes to practices on the farm.
I guess what happened since 1988 is that when the original legislation was put in place, I think with good intentions, people thought they had pretty well caught everything. I think over the period of time we've noticed that there are certain issues that were not caught in the first legislation and the government is trying to deal with it on a second attempt through this particular one. For that, we in the New Democratic Party are certainly supportive and want to see this legislation passed.
I want to ask you a question, however, on a comment you made at the beginning. It's indirectly related to what you're presenting here. That's the issue that with the amalgamation of municipalities you're seeing less representation for farmers on the municipal councils. I'd ask you to comment on that. Is it a very large issue within the farm community? Are we seeing a lot less representation and that sort of precipitates some of the problems we're seeing here?
Mr Bruce DeMille: One of the reasons I feel this has come about is because of the farmers being so busy doing their daily routines and so on. Not that we're trying to take away from the business people or the ordinary people who earn income from sources other than farming, but because of the nature of the business of farming, it does take away from the municipal aspect of serving your community.
Mr Bisson: But the comment was, and maybe I misunderstood and that's why I'm asking the question, that through amalgamation there are fewer councils and what ends up happening is that they become more dominated by urban people versus rural people. I'm wondering, is it becoming a big issue in this area as far as people saying, "Those people really don't understand what our concerns are"?
Mr Bisson: If you can make one suggestion to this committee to bring back to the Legislature, other than this bill, about how we find a way to make sure that there's proper representation of the rural community on those municipal councils, do you have any kind of recommendation you can make?
Mrs Barber: I would like to see a requirement that municipal councils should consult with the farming community in some form, either by establishment of a standing committee on agricultural issues or by some other means, to make sure that the farming population has a voice before bylaws are passed.
Mr DeMille: As of last week, we had our first get-together with councils -- Belleville, Quinte West, Stirling, Rawdon, Tyendinaga, Hungerford, Huntingdon. We had a luncheon with them last Thursday and we had very good representation.
Mr Bisson: I was interested you raised it, because we have the same problem in northern Ontario with what's happening in regard to the amalgamations up there. I guess the advice I would give you is that as an organization and as a community, you need to get more politically active at the local level to make sure that either you support candidates who are supportive of the agricultural community or, even better still, run yourselves, because there's nobody other than yourselves who would be better at representing your views on community councils. With larger councils, I think you're going to have to become much more politically involved to make sure your particular concerns are met at council.
Just to follow a little closer the point that has already been made about the content of the municipal council, that was certainly brought up in our consultation process we went through in putting this bill together. There was some concern about the lack of rural municipal councillors who really understood the rural, because they had oriented from some other area and were not familiar with all the things that happen in rural Ontario. So I recognize your concern.
You realize that the changes in the bill allow now for municipal councils to have a place to go when they are ready to prepare and implement a bylaw. They would have an opportunity now to discuss it with the board or whatever to try and resolve some of those concerns that might arise after the fact of the bylaw. They do it ahead of time. So there have been some changes and that should resolve some of those concerns.
The other thing, I guess more specifically, is you mentioned section 3 and the balance of the board, as far as the members and that sort of thing is concerned, and you were satisfied that it should remain as it is. Would there be a problem if that board was to be expanded as far as the number of members that would be part of that board was concerned, and the fact that in relation to that there may be more participation from rural Ontario municipal members, ie, councillors would form part of that board as well? Would that be a problem? Would you see that as any barrier as far as the results of the board are concerned?
Mr Danford: There always has been a feeling and certainly an effort to make sure that it did represent all rural interests. I think the agricultural as well has to recognize that there is rural Ontario and there has to be that balance of the board members. I think that has been displayed and it will continue, perhaps with some expansion of the numbers. That's part of the things that may occur and that's not a problem.
We're changing the terminology or the thinking of normal farm practices from the traditional or the past to whatever is current. I don't notice it in your presentation. Are you comfortable with that? Do you like that kind of thinking, that kind of idea?
Mr Galt: The change in the bill will be for current practices rather than looking back. We have no idea -- well, maybe we have some idea -- what's coming in the future and the kind of farming we'll see. If you move down the road 10 years, I'm sure there are going to be non-farm activities that we never dreamt of at this point in time. To be able to address those I see as a very key part of this bill and was hoping you would feel comfortable with it.
Mr DeMille: I think one of the messages you can take back to the minister is, that's why we would like to see that there's an open-door policy, that he can change directives, he can create guidelines. If we shut that out, then it might be overridden by some of the other ministries and so on. Leaving that door open still I think enhances farming, the agricultural industry.
Mr Galt: You've mentioned consultations. OMAFRA has gone around the province three times now in consultation since the election. One of the trips was for this particular bill and I think that's why it's being accepted so well.
Mr Danford: There is one part that has been changed and there has been some discussion about it. It's the use of "accepted" or "acceptable" practices. I just wondered if you had a comment on that. Of course, if we use the word "accepted," it's what's been in place, but if we use the word "acceptable," which is now included in this new proposal, in this new draft, it allows for changes as they occur. I just wonder if you'd care to comment on that change and how you see it.
I would make a comment about pure rural representation on councils. We heard this yesterday to some degree -- lack of time to be able to sit on council for some rural people. Also, in my particular area we've gone to a ward system under amalgamation. There is a concern that rural persons might run for council, but even at that they're up against a village that also may have someone running for council as well and there are many more votes within the village than there are in the outlying areas. That's not to suggest that a rural person couldn't win that type of an election, but there is a concern that there's an impediment, even within a ward system. I just make that comment to you. We're equally concerned about that.
Section 9 has been brought up many times, even prior to the hearings, by farm organizations and others. In the main, people believe that the current minister or any future minister will of course give directives, guidelines or policy statements that are acceptable to the farm community. There are others who feel that this is too broad and maybe a minister at some time, although I wouldn't imagine that he or she would do this, may work to the detriment of agriculture.
Do you think it would improve the bill if it stated that the directives or policy statements were to be made public? There are other acts that the Minister of Agriculture has introduced where these directives pertaining to something totally different than this particular situation are not made public. Do you think it would enhance the bill if those particular directives and policy statements were made public?
Ms Barber: I think it would probably enhance the perception that farmers have of the bill if they felt that anything that was changed they would know about at the time rather than that things could be changed without being made public and without anyone knowing until it's too late maybe or until the change affected them directly.
Mr Hoy: It stands to reason that if any minister were to make a guideline, one would see that, because you can't work within the bill if you don't see the guidelines. However, on directives, where the minister is speaking to someone else and says, "I would like to see this happen," it might not necessarily be public, so I asked you that question.
I also want to reinforce that Bill 146, as you rightfully say, maintains the compliance with other acts. It's very important that everyone understands, farm and non-farm persons, that this is not intended to be a bill that allows farmers to pollute. I'm glad that you listed those acts here and your understanding, of course, that that will not happen.
The Chair: With that, on behalf of all the members of the committee, may I thank you for taking the time to come before us this morning with your presentation and your ideas about this bill. It's appreciated.
Mr Galt: On a point of order, Madam Chair: I'm a little confused by the previous comment about making public directives. I don't know of any directives or regulations or anything from a minister that would not be public, that would be kept hidden. Can you clarify that for me?
Mr Steve Waterworth: Good morning. My name is Steve Waterworth. I'm the president of the Ontario Deer and Elk Farmers' Association. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank this committee for inviting me here this morning. We would like to thank the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs staff and Minister Villeneuve for bringing this important legislation forward. I would also like to thank my member Harry Danford for his assistance.
The Ontario Deer and Elk Farmers' Association was founded in 1988. The government of the day was encouraging farmers to diversify into other perhaps more profitable forms of livestock in an effort to improve the economic outlook for the family-run farm.
The value of this farm commodity has gone from nothing in 1988 to an estimated $24 million per year in just 10 years and continues to grow at a rapid rate. This commodity commands returns to the farm ranging from $3.80 per pound for venison, $100 a pound for velvet, the harvested soft antler, $25,000 per one share in a prize elk bull and cows selling at auction for up to $18,000 apiece. An average elk bull costs $350 a year to maintain on the farm and produces a renewable yearly velvet crop worth $2,500. This allows a net profit of $2,150 per animal per year.
We have been working very closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources over the past two years on Bill 139, under which it is made abundantly clear that deer and elk farming is the domain of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and that what happens on an Ontario farm is agriculture and not nature. We worked hard and long to educate MNR that what we have on our farms is livestock, not game or wild animals. The text used in Bill 139 reflects this fact.
The change we are asking you to make in Bill 146 is in the definition section 2(b)(i). We would ask that this line read "(i) livestock, including poultry, ratites, deer and elk." Presently we would have to come under 2(b)(v), which is game animals and birds.
I met with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture this past Monday, with the assistant deputy minister who assured me that the ministry would have no problem with this change, and you heard this request by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture yesterday.
Mr Danford: Thank you very much for your presentation, Steve. Your major concern of course is limited to the one area there. In preparing this draft legislation we had considered a number of things and I guess it was felt in all sincerity that "livestock" did include the issue that you're making.
We have found in the past, and I think all governments will say the same, that sometimes when you try to prepare legislation and you try to have everything so detailed that it includes every aspect of every issue or every part that should be contained, it is difficult to do that and to be assured of that. We felt there was some benefit in leaving some things in a general fashion so as to not eliminate someone or something that was not intended. That would be somewhat the rationale, to share that with you. But in your opinion, you feel that while "livestock" does cover it, you would like it more specific?
Mr Waterworth: I'd like to draw to your attention that we're not only concerned with this portion of the bill. We are in total favour of this bill and want it passed whether you include this amendment or not. What I think needs to be made extremely clear, because it has been a point of controversy now for a number of years, is who controls what. The Ministry of Natural Resources is now saying, fine, what is on an Ontario farm is agriculture, and deer and elk are certainly included in that. They have in the past tried to exert certain control over it. They made the language in 139 extremely clear, and I would just ask that the language in this be made extremely clear. There's also some confusion as to how councils are going to interpret: "Is it livestock or is it game, or exactly what is this?"
Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): Thank you for your presentation, Steve. Subclause (2)(b)(v) refers to "game animals." If we were to include elk and deer in subclause (i), a number of game animals might also have to be included, either now or in the future. If an animal were excluded from that list, it may influence the interpretation in the future because it wasn't specifically named in the act, whereas "game animals" I believe covers elk and deer and also animals that may be there in the future. I'd like your comments on that.
I'd also point out that the Ministry of Natural Resources does recognize the area in which game animals belong on the farm, but we do maintain the responsibility for any released animals or escapes that may influence the wild herds. I'd like your comments on why that would not work under subclause (v).
Mr Waterworth: Under the definition of "game animals" -- it's a matter of public perception here. Game animals are something wild, something that runs through the woods. Livestock is something that is on the farm, raised for food and/or particular products for profit. If you look at the definition of "game animal" in the dictionary, that's what it is. What we're dealing with on our farms are probably 30th to 40th generation farm animals, so it's a far cry from what a wild deer is, and that's the public perception. I guess what we're asking this committee to do for our industry is clear up that public perception by naming us in the livestock section. These are far from game animals.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I'd like to thank you for your presentation. I know you have a lot of support for what you're trying to do in our part of eastern Ontario. I tried to get hold of some of the deer farmers to see if they might come here to back you up this morning, but they're all very busy. They're right in the heart of the ice storm and they haven't got over it yet.
As you said, it's been going on for nine or 10 years and it's about time it was cleared up. Do you see any problems with the Ministry of Natural Resources at the present time, that they're not in agreement with what you're trying to do?
Mr Waterworth: No, we see absolutely no conflict here. As I said in my presentation, we've been working with the ministry for the past two years. We're presently working also with a combined committee which was set up by the ministries of natural resources and agriculture, headed by Frank Miller, and with other members: Ian Barker and John Williamson. Where the Ministry of Natural Resources has some say, and we're fully in compliance with that, is if the animals leave the farm.
Mr Hoy: Good morning, and thank you for your presentation. In my mind, I see your business as livestock rather than game, but we can argue that point all day. The point is, you want to be included here, and I don't see any reason why not.
We always would like the government to put forth everything they have in their minds. However, in this case I do tend to agree that making lists can exempt someone inadvertently, and I don't think that's the ministry's intention. It is certainly not our intention on the opposition side either. I wouldn't have any misgivings about having your deer and elk listed here if that's required.
Game animals can also be on the 13th floor of some apartment building, and that's not what you're talking about. I understand why you want to have it be "livestock," because game animals can be in one's home, and that doesn't necessarily have to be the ground floor; it could be anywhere. I understand the difference between, in some cases, game animals versus livestock.
Mr Waterworth: I agree with everything you're saying. No, we're not talking about something you would keep in an apartment building. What we're involved in is a very serious industry that can revitalize a lot of farm land in Ontario. Our association has worked extremely diligently to make sure that practices are up to standard and so on, and I think we'll probably be having some consultations with the government over the next year or so, once Mr Miller hands in his report, to address any further concerns or problems that are either perceived or real.
Mr Bisson: I'm glad to see that the government has all of a sudden found its way to figuring out that it's a good idea in a democracy to do some consultation on a bill. I've got to give you some credit. On this particular bill the government is doing a fairly good job of consulting. My only regret is that you don't take the same approach with a whole bunch of other bills that people have pretty strong feelings about, having to do with everything from hospital restructuring, municipal restructuring, children's services restructuring, and the list goes on.
That said, I hear the argument you're making about specifically spelling out in subsection (2) the deer and the elk. I hear you saying that that's where you want it. But what difference is it to your business? What does it mean within the investment climate if you have it under sub (i) or leave it where it is? Does it make a business difference?
Mr Waterworth: Once there was the controversy during Bill 162 over deer and elk farms, business went into, shall we say, a nosedive. Prices dropped out of the bottom of the livestock market. Nobody wanted to get involved in it because they'd say, "We don't know whether we're going to be able to do this or not."
Mr Waterworth: Yes, this would send an extremely clear message that livestock diversification in this province was alive and well and that people would then be able to say, "Yes, okay, this is something that's recognized."
Mr Bisson: It's not that you're not a legitimate business, you're very legitimate, but in the eyes of the investment community it's seen as something that's recognized under the law, it's clear, you have protection, there's no ambiguity, municipal councils don't get confused as to whether you are an agricultural business or whatever. That's really what you're trying to get at.
Mr Bisson: From the legislative standpoint, Mr Chudleigh actually makes a good argument. I guess the government has a decision to make. If you add "deer and elk," the argument of Mr Chudleigh is quite right, because that's what you're doing, and Mr Hoy touched on it after, that by doing that you're taking away from "game animals and birds" under section 5 part of what would already be under there, which means to say there was an exclusion.
From the legislative standpoint, we have one of two choices. Either we say we're prepared to do that because we can't think of other businesses that would be excluded, or we maybe have to come at this from a different perspective and have a broader definition of what an agricultural business is under the definitions of the bill. Rather than trying to spell out all the various types of agricultural activities that are spelled out under section 2, have a clearer definition when we talk of -- and I was looking at it here in the first part of the bill, just to be helpful -- but when we get into the first part of the bill under "definitions" we say, "This is the group of farmers, this is the agricultural community we're speaking to," and we don't get into actually spelling out the various ones.
It seems to me we have one of two ways of going. I made that very convoluted; let me make it clear for you. Sometimes you tend to look at these things as much more complicated than they need to be. They have a choice. They either put "deer and elk," they leave it the way it is or you go back under the definition of the bill. If you can't get "deer and elk," would you rather go back into the definition in the bill or leave it the way it is?
Mr Waterworth: Good question. Our preference is obviously that we name it as "deer and elk." I can't see any other way. The comment I had from the assistant deputy minister was: "We put 'ratites' in there. We should have no problem putting 'deer and elk.'"
Mr Waterworth: Ratites traditionally have not been listed under the livestock section and they are a new diversified farming operation. Deer and elk are certainly that, so I would just ask for the same consideration as ratites.
Colleagues, our next presenter has had to attend a funeral this morning, so he is coming at a different time, at 1 o'clock instead. I am wondering if we have representatives from the Dundas Federation of Agriculture, scheduled to come at 12. Not yet? Is there anyone else, perhaps from the corn producers? No?
The Chair: We are very fortunate to have representatives who were actually originally scheduled to be in the 12:40 slot. You have a brief in front of you from representatives of the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture. Gentlemen, we're very pleased that you were able to arrive early and take this slot.
Mr John Boughen: Thank you. I'm John Boughen from the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture. I'm director for Hope township, I'm also first vice-president and Im chair of the property planning and land use committee, which probably brings me here today to carry out this job.
Northumberland Federation of Agriculture is a farm organization representing 878 farm and associate members in Northumberland county. Our organization is part of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in the status of a county federation. The Northumberland Federation of Agriculture has an executive board, two Ontario Federation of Agriculture regional directors, township directors from eight rural municipalities in Northumberland county and one township director from Murray township in Quinte west.
Northumberland Federation of Agriculture has representation from Northumberland Cattlemen's Association, Northumberland Agricultural Awareness, Northumberland Holstein Breeders, Northumberland Dairy Producers, Northumberland Pork Producers, Northumberland East and West Women's Institutes, Poultry and Pigeon Association, and Northumberland Soil and Crop Improvement Association.
Northumberland Federation of Agriculture is making this presentation to the standing committee on resources development to support the Farming and Food Production Protection Act, Bill 146. Northumberland Federation of Agriculture feels very strongly that Bill 146 should become law as soon as possible. Northumberland Federation of Agriculture recognizes that if a country loses control of its food supply, it is in dire straits for survival as a country.
Farmers are decreasing in numbers compared to the overall percentage of population in Canada, but at the same time farmers are continuing to supply an adequate production of food for the consumers of Ontario and Canada. In fact, in 1900 each farmer fed approximately 12 people; today, each farmer provides safe, affordable food for more than 120 people.
To illustrate this on a local basis, in Northumberland county from 1981 to 1996 the number of farms has decreased from 1,736 to 1,366. The result is that the remaining farms are growing in number of acres each farm is operating, and increasing the amount of food produced. Source: Statistics Canada.
Agriculture needs to be protected from nuisance complaints for it to continue to be the second-largest employer in Ontario and to generate an enormous amount of economic activity for the province. For instance, the agrifood sector contributes more than $21 billion per year to Ontario's GDP, which is almost 8% of the provincial total.
In Northumberland county, agriculture is the county's number one industry. Bill 146 is necessary to accomplish the objective of the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture's land stewardship guidelines. Section 3 emphatically states, "To protect agriculture from harassment and indiscriminate restriction when 'normal farming practices and procedures' are used."
Bill 146 should be made law as soon as possible because rural municipalities are changing in demographics and many people do not have an understanding of modern farming and what constitutes a normal farm practice.
Bill 146 is needed to protect farmers from such situations as happened to New Brunswick hog farmer Terry Sullivan. He bought a 250-acre farm in 1974. In 1980, he built a farrow-to-finish barn in compliance with all municipal and provincial regulations. Later, Mr. Sullivan's non-farm neighbours complained about odours from his operation and successfully sued him for nuisance. The courts ordered Mr Sullivan to pay each neighbour $1,500 plus costs. The damages totalled $33,000, which reached $43,000 with interest. The Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal. In 1990 the barn burned, killing 2,000 pigs. Mr Sullivan's body was found nearby in his truck. Suicide was suspected.
In the process of drawing up Bill 146, there was a great amount of farmer participation. Last winter in Peterborough, Northumberland Federation of Agriculture members and directors participated in a workshop on the proposed Bill 146. A written presentation was made February 6, 1997, to the discussion paper on the Farm Practices Protection Act, January 1997, to the resources and planning branch, Ontario Ministry Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
The reasons farmers and agriculture need protection from nuisance complaints relates to weather conditions and time constraints. Certain tasks enjoy very narrow windows of opportunity for jobs to be completed efficiently and successfully. An example is the harvesting of vegetable crops such as green peas and sweet corn on a 24-hour basis and harvesting field crops such as soybeans, white beans and grain corn, which takes place mainly during daylight hours but often continues into the night in order to complete harvest before unfavourable weather develops and production is halted. Timing is also crucial to such farm operations as catching and trucking chickens at night. Farmers must undertake these jobs after dark in order to make the task easier and more efficient and to minimize stress on the chickens.
Farming as an occupation by nature produces dust and noise. Modern farm practices today involve larger and noisier farm equipment. Planting and harvesting operations both produce dust and noise; for example, large tillage equipment, tractors, combines and grain-drying equipment.
The perception of farmers compared to the perception of non-farmers about various farm operations is different because the general public is becoming further removed from the farm with each generation. Many people are unfamiliar with the workings of a modern farm and will bring a number of complaints forward which could result in injunctions, virtually stopping the farm operation from continuing on any given day. Urban sprawl and relaxed planning policies are allowing houses and subdivisions to locate closer to sizeable farm operations.
Northumberland Federation of Agriculture supports Bill 146 as written because (1) it allows farmers to make a secure, stable living from agriculture, (2) Bill 146 provides for an orderly procedure to allow legitimate complaint concerns to be brought before the Farm Practices Protection Board, (3) Bill 146 discourages nuisance complaints, (4) injunctions cannot be forced on a farming operation using normal farm practices in order to stop the farmer from carrying on such activities as field crop planting or spraying and (5) municipalities won't be able to arbitrarily enforce bylaws on farm operations which conduct business using normal farm practices.
Today farmers make up less than 3% of Ontario's population. In traditional farming areas, only 15% of the residents are engaged in food production. Many rural municipal councils have become dominated by non-farm representatives. Some councils have passed bylaws to unnecessarily restrict farming activities such as machinery storage and property standards, round bale storage and manure storage.
"The minister may issue directives, guidelines or policy statements in relation to agricultural operations or normal farm practices and the board's decisions under this act must be consistent with these directives, guidelines or policy statements."
In summary, based on the various reasons outlined in this presentation, Northumberland Federation of Agriculture urges the Legislature of Ontario to pass the Farming and Food Production Protection Act so the farmers of Ontario can continue to supply a safe, high-quality, reasonably priced food product for the consumers of Ontario for many more generations.
Mr Hoy: Good morning. Thank you for your presentation. It's good to have examples for those who might not understand the farm as well as others. You give examples of green peas and sweet corn being harvested on a 24-hour basis. Not only that, but in a lot of cases they have to be at the processing plant very quickly as well.
You talked about what I would characterize as a generation gap, and I understand that completely, as there are fewer farmers, fewer sons and daughters going into farming. You're quite right that people are increasingly becoming less aware of how farming is done here in the 1990s.
There was a suggestion made at one time at the early onset of this bill that those people moving into a rural area should be given some type of notice or advice that they are moving into an agricultural area. First of all, do you think it would be a good idea to do that? Secondly, who should be responsible for informing people that they are moving into a rural area? Should it be on a legal document like a land title? I just wondered if you had any opinions about that.
Mr Boughen: Yes, I do. Certainly in our township, Hope township, which is just north of Port Hope, to give you an idea of where we're located, we have a lot of severance going on with houses, non-farm houses, rural residential as they're called. Probably for about six or seven or eight years now, on the severance application, the township issues a a notice of conditions, that if further severance is to be created to create a rural-residential house, they are in a farming area. More or less they're made aware that there are farmers around them, that it's not like living in the city. So we do have that procedure in place. I don't believe it can be at this point put on a deed, but it certainly should be, because once that first owner sells that property and the next owner takes over and it's not registered on the deed, there isn't continuance of that knowledge or information.
Mr Bisson: I am sure you're aware of it, but just for the record, the example you used on the second page of your brief, in regard to Mr Sullivan, that particular issue was caught under the old legislation. I believe odour was covered under the old legislation. You couldn't be sued for a nuisance complaint having to do with odour.
I think we understand what's happening here. The government is trying to expand the bill for things that were forgotten back in 1988 and for practices that have changed. I think it's certainly a step in the right direction.
I have a question in follow-up to Mr Hoy in regard to the whole issue of the declining population, or whatever way you want to put it, in the agricultural community. Do you feel the provincial government or governments -- and I don't think it could just be attributed to this one -- have not been strong enough in doing what they need to do in order to protect the farm land that currently exists within the inventory of Ontario? Do you think there's far too much urban crawl, far more farm land being turned over to development than we can sustain over a longer term?
Mr Boughen: Yes, I'll agree with that. We've been very active in our township to have a good official plan and to prevent land being consumed with houses. We know that some of this is going to happen, but we'd like to have proper planning so it's directed away from the best agricultural land.
Also, in the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture we've been very active. We have stewardship guidelines, and I can provide a copy of that for anyone who is interested. We address that issue in there.
As far as protecting good land is concerned, most of the good land is right along the lake, as you go up and down through this area, and certainly that's where most of it is in Hope township and Hamilton township. We were active just a little over a year ago in a question about Cobourg's annexation of land to the west of Cobourg, which contains some of the very best land in Ontario, in Canada, in the world. The NFA was active in that. We weren't saying to Cobourg, "You can't expand," but we were suggesting that they direct their expansion to the east-northeast of Cobourg, which is a poorer quality of land in that area, and not to expand to the west of Cobourg. So we've taken a very active role in that.
Personally, it's one of my very great interests, that we certainly are using up a lot of our good land in Ontario. It's gone forever. Some people ask me and I say we do have enough land now, but certainly that's changing. If we have weather problems, that can change very quickly. But I'm thinking into the future, 100 years from now, and that's not just here in Canada; it's happening all over the world.
We have to be very careful and we certainly have to stop urban sprawl. Even down in the United States of America they have various organizations to try, through land trusts, to protect their good farm land. You'd think the United States would have all kinds of land, but they don't. What has happened down there is that once cities have a superhighway coming out into the rural areas over the last 20 or 30 years, the people move out and this land is used up closer to the city as they keep going further and further. So they've gone out into a lot of the good farming land down there. They're probably even further ahead in the United States than we are here in Canada in that respect.
Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): Thank you for your excellent presentation. I like the example you gave of Mr Sullivan to show what crisis can happen out there. We certainly don't want to see this happening in Ontario, and that's basically the reason we feel these guidelines have to be properly put in place in Bill 146, so we don't have instances like this.
I noted that in your presentation you said Northumberland Federation of Agriculture members and directors participated in the workshop on the proposed Bill 146. The thing I'd like to point out here is that we certainly had these workshops across the province to deal with this bill so the bill would be put together in accordance with the federations of agriculture and those groups that are in conjunction with what the bill is all about. I'd like to point out that it was because of the opposition wanting more consultation with the public on this that we're in this situation today.
The thing is, this hearing today is going to cost up to $15,000. It's great to see people and meet with you and hear these presentations, but really it's very unnecessary when you're all supportive at the time.
Ms Corry Martens: Good morning, or maybe it's good afternoon already. My name is Corry Martens and I'm president of the Dundas Federation of Agriculture. This is Andrew Geertsma, who is the director for the Dundas Federation of Agriculture. It's a pleasure for us to be here today and to present to this committee a presentation on the Farming and Food Production Protection Act.
The review of the Farm Practices Protection Act seeks to address the real needs of all stakeholders, including farmers, rural citizens, municipalities and environmental groups; and secondly, to produce legislation that balances all of these needs. DFA wants to register its firm support of farm practices legislation. There are several good reasons to review the legislation, and we will focus on three of them in this presentation.
First, agriculture is changing rapidly. New technology has brought precision farming and no-till or minimum-till growing practices. Planting decisions take into consideration long-range weather patterns. Global liberalized trade forces farmers to become ever more efficient.
Second, changing population demographics are creating communities that don't always understand farming. The pressure on farm land will increase. So will the pressure on forests and aquifers. These are priceless resources that must be protected for generations to come.
Farmers are already responding to these demands. The environmental farm plan was initiated by proactive farm groups. More than 11,000 farmers participated in EFP workshops. The financial commitment of farmers to the EFP is close to $17 million. This figure indicates that every dollar of EFP incentive funding is matched by $3.90 of farmers' money, excluding farmers' own labour, for implementation of action items identified in their EFPs.
The Dundas Federation of Agriculture emphasizes that the Farming and Food Production Protection Act will not be a licence to pollute, just as the Farm Practices Protection Act has proven not to be a licence to pollute. Existing legislation protects both farmers as well as the general public.
Under the common law of nuisance, one can be found guilty of creating odours, noises, dust etc that interfere with a neighbour's right to the full enjoyment of their property. Some everyday farm practices create odours, noises, dust etc, and they may annoy the neighbours. Strict adherence to the code of practice or best management practices will not eliminate these nuisances. However, these nuisances do not threaten life, health or the environment. Rather, they are temporary nuisances that cannot be avoided completely, even when using the most stringent farm management practices.
Another important point in the proposed legislation is the definition of an "agricultural operation." We feel the updated version better reflects the realities of Ontario agriculture today and into the next century.
Section 6 of the Farming and Food Production Protection Act forms the key feature for farmers in this legislation. This section enables farmers to apply for an exemption from a municipal bylaw that unnecessarily restricts a normal farm practice. Eight Canadian provinces and 48 out of 50 American states have some form of legislation protecting farmers employing normal farm practices from nuisance lawsuits.
There seems to be some concern with section 9 of the Farming and Food Production Protection Act. Some people believe section 9 gives too much power to the government in place. DFA does not share this opinion. The power to make regulations is an everyday part of statutes. Few are enacted without regulation-making powers.
Earlier in this presentation we noted how the makeup of the population in Ontario's rural communities is changing. Even in traditional farming areas, only 15% of the residents are engaged in food production. Municipal councils have a dominant representation of non-farming residents. It becomes apparent that proposed bylaws and bylaw amendments restricting agricultural activities may encounter little resistance to become enforceable.
In closing, we want to consider the economic impact of agriculture on the rural community. A vibrant agricultural sector, where farmers can go about doing their work in an environmentally responsible manner, with proper and acceptable work methods, is essential to the economic health of rural communities.
Farm families live in rural communities. They want to be a part of the social and economic environment. They will do all they can to protect their status in the community, while running their farm operation with as much consideration as possible for their neighbours' enjoyment of their property.
The Dundas Federation of Agriculture supports the Farming and Food Production Protection Act because it offers protection and a fair process of recourse against court actions under the common law of nuisance.
Mr Bisson: I have two points. I guess I'll start in reverse order. You say in your brief: "The power to make regulations is an everyday part of statutes. Few are enacted without regulation-making powers." You're quite right, but I think the concerns, as I've heard them both from people who have contacted me in regard to this bill, and there have been a number -- I wouldn't say huge numbers -- and the briefs that I've read, part of it is around section 9 but I think really it goes over to section 10, and that's the issue of moving the power to make regulation away from an order in council through cabinet directly to the minister. Normally, what ends up happening is there's an order in council in cabinet and then whatever the regulation is is then gazetted, so that anybody in Ontario who's interested is able to look at the Ontario Gazette and is able to say, "Ah, this is a new regulation." Your association and individuals who are interested are able to go to that.
In regular times I don't think it would be an issue the way it's been put to me, and I don't know how we're able to address that through this bill, and I don't think we can, because you need to give the minister this power. I would not argue against it. There are a number of people who feel this government is doing too many things outside of the Legislature and away from the people. People are concerned there is too much of that going on, so when they see clauses like that, that is what they're speaking to, to make sure for the record that you understand where that's coming from.
I have some concern personally around the minister having the ability to do a lot of the stuff he's doing under section 10. I'd feel more comfortable, even if it was my own minister, to keep it as an order in council, because at least that way you're assured there will be a public process. That's one.
I want to come to the first point and I think it's something that's understated greatly in your brief, and that's the whole issue that the farm community quite frankly are pro-environmentalists. I think if there's any misconception on the part of environmental groups in regard to this bill, it's that sometimes, maybe for no other reason than not understanding a lot about what the farmers do, they don't understand that most farmers, I would say the vast majority of them, are stewards of the land and are environmentalists in their own right. Something needs to be done by the farm community to carry on some of the work that the OFA and other organizations have done to point out that people in the farm community are environmentalists, believe in the land, believe in making sure that land is there in the future for our kids.
When people are concerned around some of the concerns that have been raised by the environmental community, I think maybe it's because we haven't done a good enough job as legislators, and yourselves as the farm community, to point that out. I'm wondering if you can comment on the kind of work your organization has done to highlight the kind of environmental work you people stand for.
Ms Martens: I think the environmental farm plan campaign has been a very public one and is one that is well recognized in the rural communities and with our neighbours. I have to agree with you that farmers are the first people who actually benefit from the environmental farm plans because they do protect their livelihood. So what can be done is to just keep telling people what we're doing.
Mr Rollins: I think one of the things they brought forth was putting into the protection of the act light, vibration, smoke and flies, some things that were put in as a result of those round table meetings that the minister and staff had heard from there. I think it was one of the better points to make sure that this type of presentation is out in the public before the bill is written. It is certainly commendable to the minister and to Harry and all the staff. That's something I just wanted to get on the record. Thanks very much for your presentation.
Mr Danford: If I can respond a little to Mr Rollins's concern, I believe, being part of those consultations, and we had ones in Kemptville and Alfred as well, there was representation, as I recall, from your area, from your county.
A couple of points, certainly a couple of things you referenced here: your comment about legislation that balances all of these needs. That was part of the theme that came from those consultation meetings, that there needed to be a balance, that farmers and agricultural people were trying to live in harmony with rural residents. They recognized there was a value to having them there as well, and certainly that was evident all the way through the consultation. The fact that there will be an effort now to make newcomers to rural communities better aware of what happens in those communities will certainly help that situation considerably, and everyone bought into that process, if I can use that word. Certainly the municipalities, when we dealt with rural municipalities and real estate boards, and all those who were involved at those meetings felt that was something that had to be and that will be part of the process.
I'll just read the other thing you made reference to: "While there is recourse for farmers to appeal Planning Act bylaws to the Ontario Municipal Board, there is no parallel appeal process for the Municipal Act bylaws." I think it has been well received, and it was approved by the rural municipalities. They felt now, with the implementation if this bill, it will give them an opportunity to look for some decision-making and some guidance to put in place bylaws that will not be a problem and have to be contested at a later date. So there is a strong commitment and you do feel the way this is being presented will recognize that and allow that to happen?
Ms Martens: I certainly hope so. I wasn't aware that this legislation puts in place an appeal process. My understanding is that the legislation will not offer a blanket protection; there will be a case where you can make a case for the one occasion or that the one farm, on Thursday night once every three weeks, needs to have access with a truck to, for instance, their livestock loading business. I think that's the benefit of this legislation, because it does offer this balance. It's not going to have trucks all over the road every night every time somebody turns around. It does offer this balance. It's just practical, common sense, and it makes it easier for us to carry out our livelihood.
Mr Danford: That's right, and I think the fact that this act clarifies and has brought up to date, so to speak, those things that are necessary to be covered, and now the municipalities before they implement a bylaw, if they're considering one, can go and look for direction and use this as a guide and avoid some conflicts instead of implementing a bylaw that they have to go back and have a lot of discussion about with the public and the people it affects, so I think there's quite an improvement there. That was well received and there was no resistance from the municipalities. They felt that would be a real advantage.
Mr Cleary: I'd like to thank you for your excellent presentation. Some of the things that you have touched on have already been dealt with, so I won't deal with them. I just want to emphasize that farmers do protect their agricultural land.
The other thing I want to say about these Bill 146 hearings is that when the bill was in the House we were asked by the government members if we thought it would be a good idea to have this type of minimal hearings across the province. I agreed with that and my colleagues did too, so I don't see what the big fuss is about this morning right here in eastern Ontario.
Anyway, there's one thing that you didn't mention in your brief that some of the others did. They're worried about the amalgamations that have been brought down by the government. Do you have any concerns about not having local agricultural representatives on the municipal council? In your part of Dundas I don't think you're in that position, but other areas in the province are. Does that concern you?
Ms Martens: Just looking at our own local area, you're quite right, we don't have that problem yet, but I think everybody who is active on the political scene and active like you people are in the government makes it a habit to look ahead, and when we look ahead, we might be in a position one day that we don't have people who understand farming and normal farm practices on our local council, and that's probably when the problem will start. Today we're looking at this legislation here and we need to look ahead and say, "Is this going to fit for three years or is this going to fit for 30 years?"
I do have a little bit of concern with municipal amalgamations where we have something like Kingston, for instance, which is amalgamated with one township around it. I think there is going to be a lot of water under the bridge before things will go smoothly there, and they particularly need this farm legislation more than maybe Dundas county does.
Mr Hoy: Thank you for being here this morning. In your brief you mention nuisance complaints, and I agree with you on that part, but members of the committee here are also looking at legitimate complaints, and we have to deal with those as well. Most farmers are good stewards of the land and water and air. That's how they make their living, and you pointed out that's how they make their livelihood, but at the same time I think we need a mechanism that works well for legitimate complaints, as few as there may be.
You spent a bit of time talking about the rural situation and rural councils. Do you think it would be a good idea to have in the legislation that a member of the normal farm practices board come from a rural council background, from ROMA? In the makeup of the farm practices board should one of those people be a rural council person?
Mr Hoy: There are some opinions that it would be good. As well, we have had some remarks made that councils see this board as influencing their bylaw-making decisions, so I think we could have two things come together here. We could have a rural council person and also satisfy those municipal people who see some kind of encroachment into their bylaw-making decision if there was actually one on the board. I appreciate your answer, and we'll wait and see if there's an amendment that's acceptable to the committee in that regard.
Mrs Anna Bragg: Good afternoon. My name is Anna Bragg. I live in the greater Toronto area, in the small town of Bowmanville in Durham region, east of Toronto. I am a director representing region 4 of the Ontario Corn Producers' Association and I'm also first vice-president. We represent 21,000 farmers and, of course, other members who get our magazine.
I would like to state right from the beginning that we at OCPA totally support OFA's submission and that we, and I personally, appreciate being here today. I know that there are cost factors to everything, but it's great to have democracy here in this country. Let's hope that we all work a plan out where everyone is the winner and not just a loser-winner. That's very important.
As you know, the Farm Practices Protection Act, enacted in 1988, was to protect farmers using normal farm practices. We have had challenges on this act in our own farm, which I'll mention in a few moments. OCPA believes that there are good reasons for amending the legislation, since new technology is bringing forth rapid changes in farming and also urban encroachment has forced us to face the issues at hand.
My own farm operations include an 800-acre base, and we own 136 acres. We diversified our own business five years ago and started farm-gate sales, not out of having a bright idea but just out of simple survival. Urban encroachment took over about three farms and custom farming was cut down immensely. Those huge homes were put up, and I guess you might as well join the forces and have a service for them, so now we're very, very fortunate. We have an excellent clientele and we look after the wild birdseed industry in our area. Also now we're starting to, believe it or not, ship to Nova Scotia, and I deal with Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Dakotas, Minnesota. That's only in the last five years, so there certainly is an opportunity there. Mr Villeneuve is always talking about niche marketing and value added. We've certainly gone that route and it's helping pay our mortgage.
I think we don't need to waste a lot of time here, knowing that there is urban encroachment and they're filling up the acres in Durham. Being that we're under the greater Toronto area, there's an obvious growth, just like everywhere in Ontario. Again, I think we need to work in a balance. I'm not saying that I need all the land I had before, but it sure was nice. Now it's getting very hard to be that efficient farmer cutting down on chemicals, being aware of all the different things. The Braggs have been there since 1843, and I don't think the first Braggs really worried too much about the aquifer, didn't really worry too much about our environment per se, because they weren't knowledgeable. Today, even with technology, in the news media we're made so aware. Right now we know there could be a war going on, and by the time I'm driving home, I'll know what's happening moment to moment. There's good to that and there's bad to that.
We have had a few problems that I can reiterate for why we need this act. We spread custom manure. We try not to spread it on a day that someone is getting married. We try not to do it on a Sunday morning. We respect all those different things. They're commonsense things to have respect for your neighbours. But I have to do it when I have to do it. There have been complaints and we were fortunate that behind us stood normal farming practices, so it is very, very important to have this in place. It could have turned vicious.
The only thing that happened -- and this is a personal view -- is that I lost a little respect for my neighbour who complained. Because I have an excellent rapport with the ag office, I found out inadvertently who it was, and that was very hard for me, because we've been there for absolute years and they built on a severance lot that was supposed to help the parents and they don't do anything other than work in the city. You just keep quiet and try the best you can, but it causes animosity. They don't know I know, but that is hard for me to live with, and when you drive by and they're waving, you know the complaints are there.
We're proactive. I am very proud that the corn producers have been so involved with the environmental plans, before it was legislated. We were right in there trying to improve things and show the farmers their weaknesses, and that they weren't going to get their knuckles wrapped but that we could do something proactively to make our role better.
What we did on the farm is we have aspirators and cleaners. It was simple. We put a bag and we catch the red dog. Now we have people coming and we give it away. We do not sell it. They mix it for dog food and they're using it for bedding. You can utilize these things. We don't have one thing now that is thrown away from our cleaners, from the racing pigeon mixes that we do and the birdseed, right from the cobbing that's used for pigeons, to dog food that's made, to a fellow who has deer, because he started a little petting zoo. We sell it for $3 a bag and it's as heavy as can be -- about 110 pounds. I'm really proud of that, that we're utilizing and being proactive.
I'm not an individual; I know for a fact from representing OCPA that we're all inclined to be like this and proud of it. Being stubborn as a farmer personally has come in handy because then you have to think in a very creative manner to be able to, per se, be one step ahead of these complaints so we're not closed down.
Mr Lloyd Crowe: My name is Lloyd Crowe and I'm from Prince Edward county. I think you know where that is. I know Gary's a good neighbour. I'm married with four children. Two are married and I have three grandchildren. I'm involved in a fairly large cash crop operation with two uncles and we also have a pea-harvesting operation in western Ontario. I am regional director for the OCPA in region 3, which is about 800 corn growers who I represent at the regional level, and I'm also the regional director for the soil and crop association for basically the same area.
I'm here for three areas of concern that I have experienced, and also for my support and the OCPA's support towards the OFA submission. I'm not going to go into all that. I've studied it thoroughly and I agree with everything it says.
There are three things about why I support this Bill 146. First of all, Prince Edward county is quite a tourist area and we have run into some problems with a lot of people coming in. There's still a lot of land that we have to farm for a living and we've actually been stopped from planting and harvesting in a couple of situations because of the noise that was keeping the people up. Normally we don't run 24 hours a day, but when you have some springs where it rains for 30 days you sometimes have to adapt accordingly and get the crop in -- or if it's harvesting. When you're told by the police to stop, you have to stop. But now I think I could have said, "No, I don't think you can stop me." That's one of the reasons.
Another reason, as Anna was saying, is our dryer. We have a fairly large dryer that also has to run 24 hours a day for maybe a month in the month of November. There are getting to be quite a few houses around, more and more all the time, and it's a concern, because if some kind of municipal complaint stopped us and we had to shut everything down, I would hope that would not be the case because then we'd be in big trouble.
Third, as I mentioned, we harvest peas in the London-Ingersoll area for Cobi Foods. It's just about 4,000 acres now. If any of you here are aware of pea harvesting, it's either ready that day or too old the next. You do not schedule it on an eight-hour day, five days a week. We've run into a little bit of trouble, but most people are very understanding. The machines aren't that bad, but sometimes the lights might shine in the bedroom of somebody's house and then they would get upset. We have to work together on this. We do our very best to be environmentally friendly and do the right thing. I end at that and look forward to any questions.
Mr Danford: I thank both of you for your presentation. I appreciate your sincerity. I think it's important when we have delegations and presenters come to us and speak without a prepared text. I think it adds so much more to the credibility of their comments.
We talked a little bit about the consultation meetings and the fact that this meeting is here and available for you. I definitely think it's important. Usually I have found that the best advice and direction comes from those who are involved and can reflect and discuss how changes will affect them and impact them. I think that's important and that our consultation process brought that out loud and clear. The fact that you're here today too will support that.
I'll probably address this to Anna. I believe she mentioned something about balance. It is necessary, I think we all understand, to have some sort of balance. We have to deal with what is there in the rural communities. Anna, without going into anything further, do you think that the bill, the way it is now, provides that level of balance and security somewhat to both, that things can be worked out whatever issue comes up? Do you feel that's fair?
Mrs Bragg: I should commend all the people who were involved with it. I really think you've tried. Even with just changing that one word, I know, I've been on those kinds of committee, and it's the interpretation of the person who's reading it. I feel you've done a good job that way and I'm behind it and so is the OCPA.
The type of nuisance we're talking about in agriculture, yes, if that was ongoing from industry at that level, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, it would be upsetting. But we're talking about very short term. We've worked this board into this rather than trying to define it in law. Are you comfortable with this kind of arrangement rather than trying to define it in law and define it in regulation?
Mrs Bragg: I would say so, because we have a large holding pit, a lagoon pit, and it's been cemented. It's done to all the different specifications. If we have to, because we do custom manure spreading -- we're out of hogs now. Since I got so involved in OCPA I have no time to do the vet work. What we're doing is using that and utilizing it. Then I can spread it in the spring when I'm going to be right on the ground within a couple of days; I would say 24 hours. That has helped with that.
Mr Hoy: Thank you for being here today and providing us with some examples of your experience with the community around you. We had peas mentioned earlier this morning, and if people want tender peas they have to be harvested within hours, shipped within hours and processed within hours.
Farming's quite different from many other businesses in that timeliness is critical and you can't just turn the switch off and say, "We'll come back and do this tomorrow." It pertains to livestock and through the whole agricultural industry. You just can't, from time to time, shut the switch off and walk away. If you do, you give up your livelihood in a lot of cases. So I appreciate your experiences related to us this morning.
I understand that on the label, where you mail it to the farmer, the number on that label is when your membership was first acquired. You're number 1, you're number 2. If I remember right, I'm number 156. So I was there way back. I appreciate your comments this morning.
Mr Bisson: I have no questions. I just comment in regard to the work your association has done, as well as others, to try to highlight that the farm community takes environmental issues quite seriously and has for years, way before it ever became in vogue. As we move forward with new technology, so does the farm community and our understanding of what needs to be done. The only thing I would say is to carry on the work because it was nice to hear some of the stuff you've done around your industry that has been quite interesting and proactive here in the area. I encourage you to keep that up.
The Chair: With that, on behalf of all of the members of the committee, may we thank you for coming this morning to make your presentation and to tell us your story with regard to Bill 146. We appreciate it.
The Chair: I'd now like to call on the Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture, Mr Williams. You've just walked in the door, sir. You haven't had a moment to catch your breath. Please make yourself comfortable, get settled. Good afternoon. We're sorry you had a personal matter to attend to this morning, but we're very glad that you were able to come and make your presentation to us.
Mr Bob Williams: First, I'd like to say thank you to the standing committee on resources development for allowing us the opportunity to meet with you and discuss some of our ideas on this very important bill. My name is Bob Williams, representing the Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture.
Before you go any further, if you're trying to read that letter that was handed out, I apologize. It was my first draft of that letter and I didn't get time to correct the errors. As you will see, there are sentence structure problems and so on, but I hope it will give you the meaning of the ideas we had in mind.
On behalf of the Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture, I wish to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. We feel this is democracy in action for your committee to have a series of meetings to hear comments from the public on this very important piece of legislation.
We feel this legislation is very important for many reasons, but since it's likely that some of the points will be mentioned by several, I would like to emphasize that we feel it is a very important aid in fostering better relations between farm and non-farm people in rural Ontario.
What I was referring to there was that the importance for farmers to be able to do their job and so on will be emphasized by many. What we were doing here was taking a different angle on some of the other aspects of it, but that doesn't mean we don't feel that the major thrust of the bill, to help to allow farmers to do their job efficiently, is not extremely important to us and the main purpose of the bill.
Prince Edward's two main industries are agriculture and tourism. Another area I look at as a growing industry is a significant influx of people retiring in Prince Edward county, and these people come mainly from cities like Toronto and Montreal and places like that.
Because of downsizing and earlier retirement, quite a few of these people are younger than what would have been considered retirees a few years ago. Most of these people bring a great deal of experience and expertise with them and I feel are contributing a lot to our communities. Because there are quite a few of these people and they require goods and services, I consider this a very clean, positive growth industry.
First of all, I feel that part of the positive potential that can come from this bill is a public education and public relations program to make buyers and potential buyers aware of the activities that happen in rural areas and how they are necessary for food production.
I would even like to see a program explaining this with information that real estate agents must give to people considering buying property that is close to land zoned for agriculture. There could even be a couple of statements on the real estate form to be made out for the transaction so that potential buyers have acknowledged that they are aware of the fact that they would be near farmland and that there could be farming activities that could present odours, dust etc, and that there is legislation that protects the farmer if he is following normal farm practices and being responsible. It would be much better for the real estate agent to lose the odd sale than to have an unhappy customer later on.
I might mention, and it may come out in questions and so on, I've talked to a real estate agent about this and he pointed out several cases in which this has been done. I think there's a case close to Gary Fox that Gary's quite aware of, where this was put on the deed, that they had to be aware it was in a farming area and so on. It is being done and I feel it could be a real strong part of better relations if people know, when they're looking at farm land, or at least a place in the country, that it's next to farmland and there will be farming activities going on there so that they go in with that in the first place. Then, if there are problems, that can be referred to, "You knew when you were coming in, so maybe we can discuss this," and see how it works for both the farmer and for the non-farmer.
It is my understanding that there are over 600 complaints per year to the board and that on average only about two end up in court. To me, this is a tremendous accomplishment. If, when there is a complaint, the two sides can get together, either on their own or through the board representatives, hear each others' points of view and try to come up with a solution, then we have made great strides in rural harmony.
Not only are farming activities necessary if people are to eat, but agriculture is one of the major industries of this province and plays a very important part in our economy. Agricultural exports are increasing and as we produce more and process more, job creation is also increased. This legislation can be a tool in helping agriculture do its job as an engine of growth in Ontario.
In conclusion, I feel this legislation has two very important thrusts. One is to avoid problems arising from complaints. The other is to find ways of satisfactorily settling any complaints that arise.
I also have -- perhaps you want me to do it separately -- a letter from a member of our committee who wasn't able to make it today who had an experience of being involved with a board hearing and feels there is real need for this. In this hearing he felt there was a weakness there, so he pointed out the weakness and some possible solutions. Unless you want to ask questions on what I've already presented, I will read the second letter and then I'm open to questions on either or both.
"Allow me to suggest that the Farm Practices Protection Act be amended. The act should stipulate that solutions and/or directives given by the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board must be technically sound and/or have proven to be workable in the past.
"In the early nineties the Farm Practices Review Board heard a complaint from cottagers about a farmer (Derek Prinzen) irrigating his crops from his right-of-way on West Lake. The objections were tractor noise and diesel fumes.
"The board directed Mr Prinzen to build a small, high-walled building with no roof in which to locate his tractor for irrigation purposes. The hours of operating were restricted to the hottest time of day (and irrigation is usually done during the hottest time of the year!)
"Mr Prinzen contacted a great number of knowledgeable people. They all warned him that placing a hard-working tractor into such an environment at that time of year would create an extreme hazard for machinery as well as for people entering such a building.
"Mr Prinzen tried to get answers from the board whether their method has been successful elsewhere; and, if not, whether the board would compensate him for any losses that may occur as a result of their directive. The board kept silent.
"The board's silence indicates that their 'solution' was not properly researched. Had the board consulted experts in irrigation, they would have found a much better and less costly solution, a solution that would have satisfied both the cottagers and Mr Prinzen.
When I talked to Fred about this, he certainly wasn't diminishing the importance of the board and the need for it; it was just that he was offering a suggestion here that there are areas perhaps where the way the board functioned in the past could be improved when you're looking at it. This is not intended so much as criticism, but pointing out a problem and possible solution.
I'm open to questions on either letter or any other questions on this matter. The Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture feels this is a vital piece of legislation. We certainly are going to have more need for food in the future, and if farmers are going to do an efficient job, be world-class, competitive, then we have to have large machines, we have to work sometimes at night, and there are going to be times when there is dust and so on created. But I think if we can promote better understanding so that the non-farm people can also realize what is happening, the two can sit down. To me, the worst part is if there is conflict and, instead of the alternative of this legislation, it becomes a matter of suing. Then you end up with one party winning and the other being very upset. That doesn't foster good relations in the future.
If we can use this legislation, then hopefully it can lead to understanding and sitting down and discussing and coming up with an amiable solution so that in the future there can be good relations between farmers and non-farmers. As farms are becoming larger and more highly mechanized, the need for this becomes even greater, and of course, as fewer people are close to the grass roots of having been farmers themselves or their families having been farmers, there is less understanding. To me, it's two-pronged: if we can do a better job, use this for doing more public relations to explain agriculture and so on, and on the other hand, when there is a problem, then a way of dealing with it without somebody suing somebody else. We feel it's very important and we appreciate the fact that you people are doing this.
Mr Hoy: Thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon. The public relations exercise in informing people of where they are actually moving is one that has arisen throughout the hearings, and I understand why it's required. As you say, generations have been removed from the farm for so long, and of course farming has changed as well. It's not the same as it was even 10 years ago. It has changed very rapidly. You mention some solutions. A real estate agent you spoke to thought it would be all right to inform people. Have you given thought to any other mechanism for informing the public about rural Ontario in regard to agriculture?
Mr Williams: I haven't done a lot of work on this, but it seems to me we have a board here with a budget and we have organizations and farmers that are in support of this. Together we should work on trying to do public relations; maybe have a pamphlet at the real estate office or at the municipal offices and so on and any other ways we can promote the idea that agriculture is vital, that agriculture, if it's going to work, has to be on the road and has to work long hours and this sort of thing, so there's better understanding there. I feel any of the activities we can do for public relations is good.
Of course, this can't be just to farmers. The farmers themselves have to look at it and think we've got to be careful in how we spread manure and all these other things so that we try and do our share of the job too. It has to be public relations both to the farmers and to the non-farm people, but any avenues we can follow would be great.
Mr Hoy: Let me give you an example of how things have changed. Some time ago a dairy farmer in my area wanted to retire and let the herdsman move into his home and he was going to move into the herdsman's home, but he wanted to sever that land. They didn't allow it because, they said, "We're afraid of who the second person that's going to move into that home will be," down the years when he had passed away. Now what has happened in that same jurisdiction is that they are severing homes rather easily. If a farmer has excess housing, as they call it, perhaps he has multiple holdings as far as land goes and has six homes, lives in one, he can sever the rest. I've never done any study, but I suspect that many of the people who are moving into those homes are not farmers.
Mr Williams: Right. This is part of the reason why this is so important, because then they can say the legislation is there. If the farmer is doing normal practices and doing them responsibly, then there is some protection for the farmer. We all realize it doesn't mean he's allowed to pollute or allowed to do things that aren't proper, but it does give him some protection from nuisance complaints. That's why this legislation is becoming more important all the time.
Mr Bisson: I want to thank you because you've pointed out a couple of things that I think nobody has really gotten their heads around, and it shows the value of being able to come out to the public and to have people comment on bills.
I have two questions. The first one is for the parliamentary assistant and the second one will be yours. Before I do, just because I may run out of time, we'll probably put forward two amendments, depending on how this will work out technically.
The first question is, to the parliamentary assistant, would the government have a problem with making an additional clause somewhere in the bill that basically says, around the suggestion of the real estate agents advising people that they are going to be buying land close to or on agriculturally zoned land, that this law exists? Would there be a problem with that?
Mr Danford: That certainly came up in all the consultation and discussion that we had. How far we could go with it and whether it could be included in legislation that would require the real estate agent to do it, to put it into law, so to speak, was debatable. There certainly was appreciation from the real estate people who were involved in the discussion and they had no problem with it on an individual and local basis, but whether it could go as far as to be implemented in the act was doubtful, whether you could go that far and require that they "shall" do it.
The second one is your second suggestion around the letter that you got from Mr Hassenbach. We've seen that. Anybody who has been in the Legislature long enough would have dealt with any board. Sometimes the board makes a really good decision for really good reasons based on the facts, but their solution is just as unworkable as the problem. I think if there's any way of being able to put language in that clarifies that within good practices to be able to fix the problem would be a good one.
Again to the parliamentary assistant, would the ministry see that as a friendly amendment if we were to move something? I'm looking specifically -- because I noted it in the bill under clause 5(4)(c) -- if we were to add something that basically said that is technically sound and/or have proven to be workable in the past when it comes to the decision of the board. Would that be seen as friendly?
Mr Fox: Thanks, Robert, for your presentation this morning. In the discussion that we've just had here, there's no question that after the passing of the bill there's going to have to be some follow-up to the message of the bill to coincide with the development in the future in rural Ontario.
You mentioned the situation that I was in and I would like to follow up on that for clarification to show the necessity of this bill. My operation is one of the larger animal units in the county, and at the same time there was a 78-lot strip development alongside of me. I have no problem with what the neighbour does with his property as long as it's in coherence with what we're doing and doesn't lead to problems down the road.
At the time of the rezoning of this property, I said I would go along with this as long as there was a clause in there stating that there would be excess noise and dust in the area because of my farm operation. It has been a big plus because it was put in the offers to purchase and it was put in the deeds. I have had neighbours who have complained in a friendly sort of manner. They know that because of the situation of it being a clause at the time of purchase, they have nothing to stand on. That's where the importance of this bill shows up for the future of other farmers and people in rural Ontario, to have a good communication between rural and urban. That's what this is all about.
Mr Galt: I'm curious about the letter that you brought forward. It's an interesting point that you have here, the weakness of this using proven technology. The changing in the wording from "accepted" to "acceptable" was to acknowledge new technology and that we wouldn't be outdated. Do you have a solution to try and balance those two things?
I think pretty stupid the recommendation to put a working tractor in a hot environment. It could easily go up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit in a building like that. But I can follow where it came from. They wanted to stop some of the noise and deflect some of it. How do we acknowledge new technology? I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm just curious. Do you have a thought here?
Mr Williams: The intentions were certainly good on this, but they weren't familiar with it. The part that's probably of concern here is that then the person who had to make the changes recognized that there was a problem with it, but at that particular time the board maybe wasn't flexible enough to go back and say, "Yes, we understand that there were complications we didn't think of, so let's look at what the alternative is."
As I was talking to Mr Hassenbach, apparently the alternative was -- and I don't have the exact information -- to put a very quiet, high-volume, low-pressure pump that would pump the water from the lake partway back to the farm. Then the high-pressure noisy one could pump it to the rest of the farm.
Again, with changing technology and ideas -- I guess the solution maybe is if we can allow a certain amount of flexibility here. To me, that's what the bill is all about: instead of people suing because there's a noise or something, it encourages discussion and looking for solutions. I don't know whether I answered your question, but I think the thrust towards being flexible is the key to it.
Mr Galt: The kind of people who would be appointed to this board -- I don't know if I have taken it for granted but I think they would understand that kind of thing and wouldn't have come forward with that kind of a recommendation. I'm rather surprised that situation actually happened.
Mr Williams: It may have been the first time they had dealt with that. No one is perfect and everyone makes some mistakes, but if we can build a piece of legislation that's as flexible and as sound and sensible, then hopefully it will benefit everyone. To me, the idea is better relations because we need those people in the country and we need food and we need agricultural production. If we can find ways of increasing harmony, that's to me what it's all about and we're thrilled that you're doing this.
Colleagues, that's our last presenter this morning. Just a few housekeeping notes. If you're going to take the bus and head back to Queen's Park, if you would be so kind as to pick up a sandwich downstairs, we'll lunch together en route. Those who are taking the bus tomorrow morning to Guelph should meet us at the front doors of the Legislature at 8:15. With that, we are adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning in Guelph.