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Regulations in British Columbia Limit Biosecurity and Waste Management Options For Poultry Producers

December 21, 2015

We encourage our local and provincial governments to consider their regulations to allow enhanced biosecurity and sustainable waste management options for the poultry industry.  The poultry industry indicates that enhanced biosecurity for poultry manure management includes:

“All manure handling must be documented. While the minimum standard is documentation of its removal, onfarm composting prior to any removal would be an enhancement. Composting must be implemented according to local environmental standards. In any case, raw manure should not be spread on fields.” (BC Poultry Association Biosecurity Committee 2006)

The poultry layer industry in British Columbia is thriving and growing. In 2012, egg sales generated $ 113 million for the egg producers, which was an increase of almost 25% during the last five years (BC Ministry of Agriculture 2012). This industry generated approximately $ 617 million in economic output, 2100 jobs and $ 25 million in taxes (Price Waterhouse Coopers 2009). Much of this production is in Abbotsford, and much of the production occurs on small properties that are not able to utilize the manure produced by the birds. None of the feed is grown on the farms. The BC Ministry of Agriculture reported production of 69 million dozen eggs in 2012 (BC Ministry of Agriculture 2012), and 65 million dozen eggs from 2.6 million birds (BC Ministry of Agriculture 2013). This translates to 36.9 million dozen eggs from 1.475 million birds (Census of Agriculture 2011) for the poultry layer industry in Abbotsford.

Given that feed input is 1.88 kg per dozen eggs (BC Ministry of Agriculture 1997), and that all the feed for poultry is imported into Abbotsford, there is an import of 69,000 tonnes of feed. With an N output as manure of 2.3 g per bird per day and a N content of 5.84%, (BC Ministry of Agriculture 1997), poultry layers in Abbotsford excrete 1238 tonnes of N in 42,406 tonnes of manure, assuming an average moisture content of 50%. Where can all this manure go?

As we consider sustainable waste management strategies for agricultural waste, and consider the biosecurity concerns for the poultry industry, we need to consider how to allow this important industry to flourish. There are currently five options for managing poultry manure in British Columbia:

  1. exporting the manure to local dairy farms – will become limited with promotion of nutrient management plans and the concern regarding animal health effects of excess potassium
  2. exporting the manure to farms in the interior – not as practical for layer manure with high moisture content and we must consider the export of potentially pathogenic and antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  3. exporting the manure for use in mushroom compost production – this is an excellent solution for poultry broiler manure, but poultry layer manure is not currently used for mushroom production
  4. composting and exporting the manure into the US – there are no legally zoned properties that have developed and adopted biosecurity measures to reduce risk of exporting diseases.
  5. composting the manure to meet Good Agricultural Practice Guidelines for use on fruit and vegetable farms in BC or elsewhere
  6. Organic fertilizer production – may involve composting
  7. Other manure processing technologies – Timmenga & Associates (2003) identified several other potential promising manure processing technologies, but as yet, none of them has come to be.

Composting the manure to allow safe and sustainable export of poultry manure meets the enhanced biosecurity protocols for the poultry industry as well as enhancing the protection of our environment and public health.

The City of Abbotsford zoning bylaw, the provincial Agricultural Waste Control Regulation and the ALC Regulations may be restricting the poultry industry’s ability to meet their enhanced biosecurity goals.

On-farm composting of poultry layer manure may require a non-farm use exclusion from the Agricultural Land Commission because the import of wood waste as a bulking agent for composting is currently not an allowed use. The addition of wood waste or other high C/N ratio materials may reduce ammonia loss during composting. This is also important in the Lower Fraser Valley because of the concerns of the high ammonia emissions from agriculture and the impact on air quality. Under the current Agricultural Waste Control Regulation (Province of British Columbia 1992), import of wood waste for composting is not an allowed use:

“20 Wood waste may only be used for (a) plant mulch, soil conditioner, ground cover, on-farm access ways, livestock bedding and areas where livestock, poultry or farmed game are confined or exercised, (b) berms for cranberry production, or (c) fuel for wood fired boilers.”

The BC Ministry of Agriculture (2014) confirmed that importing wood waste for use as a bulking agent for composting manure may require a non-farm use exclusion:

“Woodwaste is the only non agricultural waste that can be co-composted with agricultural waste and the resulting compost may be used on the farm or be sold off the farm. However, the wood waste must have been previously used on the farm for one of the allowed uses described in the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management….Composting operations which fall outside the definition of composting in the Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management may require approval from the Agricultural Land Commission. In addition, local or regional government bylaws may require permits or applications for a composting operation to be constructed or operated on a farm. ”

The City of Abbotsford zoning bylaw states that: “The area used for processing of livestock wastes into garden compost shall not exceed 465 m2 per farm operation.”  This suggests that many poultry producers would have to request a variance to the existing Abbotsford zoning bylaw.  In addition, because the import of woodwaste to blend with the poultry litter is considered a non-farm use, the City of Abbotsford’s Consolidated Soil Removal and Deposit Bylaw 1228-2003 also applies.

In conclusion, we encourage our local and provincial government to adapt current regulations and bylaws to allow our poultry industry to flourish by meeting enhanced biosecurity measures for poultry manure management, strategies that will also have a positive benefit for environmental and human health.

BC Ministry of Agriculture. 1997. Minimizing Pollution from Poultry Manure: 1. Nitrogen. Poultry Factsheet.

BC Ministry of Agriculture. 2014. Farm Practices – Composting. Strengthening Farming – Right to Farm. Order No. 870.218-29.

BC Ministry of Agriculture. 2012. British Columbia Agri-Food Industry – Year in Review.

BC Ministry of Agriculture. 2013. Website:

BC Poultry Association Biosecurity Committee. 2006. BC Poultry Biosecurity Reference Guide.

Price Waterhouse Coopers. 2009. BC Dairy, Egg and Poultry Industries: Socio-economic impact of British Columbia’s dairy, chicken, turkey, hatching egg and table egg industries.

Province of British Columbia. 1992. Agricultural Waste Control Regulation. Includes Code of Agricultural Practice for Waste Management. B.C. Reg. 131/92.

Timmenga & Associates. (2003). Evaluation of Options for Fraser Valley Poultry Manure Utilization. Prepared for the Sustainable Poultry Farming Group.

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