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Improving our agricultural waste management in British Columbia

October 22, 2015

The proposed improvements to the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation are positive, but do not reflect the current needs of our farmers, nor our public. The BC Ministry of Environment is currently reviewing and updating the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation, and invited feedback on its 2nd Policy Intentions Paper.1 This response is based primarily on areas with where most of the farm gate receipts in British Columbia are generated, and where:

“the development of certain intensive farming practices has over time created serious agricultural pollution issues that are not encountered on the same scale elsewhere in the province.” 2

Two guiding statements used in this review include:

  1. managing our environmental and public health as a prerequisite to increase our economic viability:

Increasing importance is being placed on producing local healthy food and reducing our environmental and carbon footprint, thereby promoting the economic viability of the B.C. agriculture and food sector.3

  1. our agricultural producers need to be included in shaping our regulation and industry in light of global and local environmental and health concerns and initiatives:

“in order for producers to properly fulfill their roles as stewards and managers of agricultural lands, their awareness of environmental stewardship issues needs to be increased. Producers are a vital link in the solution making progress chain and need to be informed about alternative approaches and other interests.2

Our farmers can provide solutions that are economically viable and protect environmental and human health. We have experienced this with the Avian Flu response in British Columbia, where our farmers have worked with government agencies in developing an excellent management strategy that minimizes risk for environment and public health, and meets international requirements.

Strategies and regulation for agricultural waste management must be integrated with local and global environmental and public health concerns. These include the increasing public health concerns regarding potential pathogens and antimicrobial resistance, as well as the environmental concern regarding greenhouse gas emissions.

As farming continues to intensify to meet British Columbia’s economic goals, more food is produced on a smaller land base, resulting in more agricultural waste.  The importance of sustainable management of excess agricultural waste, already identified in 19962, is now more critical because the volumes have increased, and there are additional environmental and health concerns.

The Ministry of Environment Policy Intentions paper does not deal with provincial agencies having encouraged agricultural production but have provided few options for managing excess agricultural waste. The lack of options encourages illegally zoned waste management sites which include sites on agricultural land that do not meet environmental or land use regulations. The intentions paper also does not adequately address international food safety requirements or the increasing public health concern regarding pathogens and antimicrobial resistance.

How can we invite British Columbians into a healthy dialogue for a regulatory process that benefits our farmers, our environment and our health, and allows our agricultural industry to be world leaders in modelling economic, social and environmental sustainability?

Full response to the AWMR Intentions paper is here: John Paul Response to AWCR 2nd Intentions Paper Aug 31 2015

References

  1. BC Ministry of the Environment. 2015. Agricultural Waste Control Regulation Review Update http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/waste-management/industrial-waste/industrial-waste/agriculture/awcr-review-2nd-policy-paper_july-2-2015.pdf
  2. Management of Agricultural Wastes in the Lower Fraser Valley Program Steering Committee. 1997. Management of Agricultural Wastes in the Lower Fraser Valley. Summary Report – A Working Document. Report 9, DOE FRAP 1996-30. dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/271800.pdf.
  3. C. Ministry of Agriculture. 2008. The British Columbia Agriculture Plan – Growing a Healthy Future for B.C. Families. www.foodsecurecanada.org/sites/default/files/Agriculture_Plan.pdf

 

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