Alberta’s agriculture ministry is moving to ease worries that non-farmers might be appointed to hear agricultural nuisance disputes.
The provincial government proposed new legislation Oct. 31 to dissolve the Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA) practice review committee and 13 other agencies.
Official changes are currently being debated in the legislature.
The AOPA committee used to have a list of names from which the agriculture minister would select members to agricultural nuisance disputes involving odour, dust, noise and smoke.
While no one has sat on the AOPA committee since 2011, the Alberta Federation of Agriculture released a statement Nov. 7 calling on the provincial government to clarify the proposed changes.
The AFA was concerned that if the AOPA committee was disbanded, the minister could no longer be able to select farmers or ranchers from the list to hear disputes.
“They haven’t been clear in this change in process,” said Graham Gilchrist, a director with the AFA. “We want to be sure that any new appointments by the minister for these disputes does not result in only appointing government staff or non-farmers or ranchers being appointed.”
Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier brushed off those claims.
He said while the AOPA committee is slated to be disbanded, he will still select people with agriculture expertise when it comes to forming a panel to oversee nuisance disputes.
In fact, there are two disputes being debated right now, he said, and people on those panels are from the agriculture sector.
“We still draw from the larger agriculture community, so nothing is lost in that way,” he said. “We can still set up a review committee to review any complaints or appeals that might go forward for intensive livestock.”
He said he will appoint executives from agriculture commissions when it’s necessary to create a panel.
As well, if a dispute occurred in the Peace Region, for example, he would appoint members from that area. Any disputes involving hogs would include hog experts, and the same could be said for cattle or other livestock, he said.
“I think AOPA as an act is serving its purpose to ensure that farmers have the right to farm but, at the same time, that their neighbours are aware of a process in case they need to have their say,” he said.