Urban Issues and Right to Farm

As populations increase, farmers must become good communicators. Understanding and complying with local bylaws is important, as well as having discussions with non-farming neighbours. Explaining normal farm procedures, along with reasons for the practices and giving neighbours a chance to voice concerns, may eliminate or minimize many misunderstandings.

Farm Practices Protection (Right To Farm) Act

The Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act (FPPA) was adopted in 1996 and applies to farmers who operate in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), on Crown land, in other areas where farming is permitted by local zoning bylaws, or in are-as licensed for aquaculture. In 2009, the courts narrowed the application of the FPPA to aquaculture.

The Act protects agricultural producers from legal action as a consequence of nuisance complaints surrounding agricultural operations and farming activities.

Protection against such complaints depends upon the farm being operated in a "reasonable manner or in accordance with generally accepted farm practices" and not being in contravention of the Public Health Act, Integrated Pest Management Act, Environmental Management Act, regulations under those Acts or any land use regulation.

The Act is part of the Ministry's Strengthening Farming Program, which links farm practices protection with planning for agriculture. Much of the program focuses on preventative measures. Local governments are encouraged to consider means within their plans and bylaws to reduce the potential for land use conflict.

In addition, focused “edge planning” helps ensure greater land use compatibility between urban and agricultural areas to prevent potential conflicts before they happen. Farm practices protection, supported by sound planning for agriculture, will translate into benefits for the community as a whole.

Resolving Complaints

The Act also provides a balanced approach to resolving concerns about farm operations for people living near farms. Both informal and formal processes haave been put in place to assist all parties in resolving concerns and complaints about farm operations.

On lands where zoning allows agriculture, outside of the ALR and Crown lands and aquaculture permit areas, some types of local government bylaws can be enforced, including those related to fireworks and firearms, animal control, noise control and nuisances and disturbances. In each individual case, the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board (BCFIRB) or the courts can define "normal farm practices."

BCFIRB has a mandate to hear complaints from persons who are personally affected by agricultural operations. If BCFIRB finds that disturbances are caused by practices that are not normal farm practices, it can issue an order to modify or cease those practices. The board may also study any matter related to farm practices and report its findings and recommendations.

Staff from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture will work with persons concerned about a farm practice in an attempt to resolve the concern before the complaint reaches the board.

The ministry also developed the Farm Practices in B.C. Reference Guide to assist the board, local governments and others in understanding farm practices. Over time, key issues related to farm practices will also be examined to help establish operational guidelines.

Noise

One issue that has been the focus of Ministry attention is trying to find a balance between the concerns of farmers about crop damage of certain fruit crops due to birds and the concerns of non-farmers about the use of audible bird scare devices to protect crops.

The use of these devices may result in complaints from neighbours, particularly where farms are located adjacent to residential areas.

Before deciding to use any such devices, check the bylaws of your local municipality. The Municipality of Surrey, for example, has already banned the use of noisemakers, and other municipalities have placed restrictions on their use.