Ontario Agriculture

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Government And Industry Are Progressing Slowly On Waste And Wash Water Regulations

Water use related issues are of rising importance to farmers across Ontario. Potential solutions to environmental concerns surrounding wash and waste water for fruit and vegetable growers are progressing slowly. If Ontario is going to continue to succeed as a major food producer, agriculture needs low cost, efficient solutions that meet environmental concerns head on.

Earlier this year, the Christian Farmers Federation expressed its support for greenhouse and nursery growers to have a new option available to them in handling wash and waste water through the Nutrient Management Act. Farmers desire more options than the Environmental Compliance Approval approach that is currently required. The CFFO believes that an outcome oriented, triple-bottom line approach to regulations is essential.

A number of agricultural organizations have expressed strong concerns regarding the requirement of Environmental Compliance Approvals for greenhouse wastewater and vegetable wash water. The provincial government has responded with a regulatory review. The work being conducted so far by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is producing some interesting possibilities. While nothing is set in stone yet, it is possible that a tool box approach that allows farmers to choose the best option for their individual operation may be the outcome of this process.

There are issues that remain outstanding. The cost for small and medium scale producers to engage in the Environmental Compliance Approval process is very prohibitive. Even a nutrient management strategy or plan comes with development costs. The issue of rain water that flows off the rooftops of greenhouses being considered “waste” needs to be addressed in a common sense manner. Both of these concerns need serious consideration within this review.

It is encouraging to see that progress is being made on waste and wash water issues. It is critical that realistic, cost effective solutions are developed on these issues. There is a careful balance that needs to be maintained in order to meet environmental concerns without crippling the industry with regulatory red tape. Agriculture and food production is one of the cornerstones of the Ontario economy and the CFFO believes that the right approach to environmental policy is needed for that to continue.

Nathan Stevens is the Interim Manager and Director of Policy Development for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website:www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.

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