February 27, 2006

Nutrient Management Act prescribed under Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights

An amendment to Ontario regulation 73/94 under the province's Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) legislation will add the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 to the list of acts prescribed under the EBR. Environment Minister Laurel Broten said the move will enhance public participation in decisions that affect the environment.

The Nutrient Management Act provides added protection for Ontario's water resources by minimizing the effects of livestock manure and other nutrients stored on farm property or applied to land. The preparation of nutrient management plans and strategies is a key requirement of the act. Bringing the act under the EBR ensures that the public will be provided a period of at least 30 days to comment on proposed changes to the legislation and its existing regulation, as well as any proposed regulations.

The initiative responds to a recommendation to this effect made in the 2004-2005 annual report of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Last October, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) posted the amendment as a proposal on the EBR registry (www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/env_reg/ebr/english/index.htm, reference No RA05E0007). The MOE also notified all 24 members of the provincial Nutrient Management Advisory Committee of this posting, along with as well as 19 agricultural and environmental stakeholders and two agricultural publications. No submissions were received during the 30-day public comment period.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the Ministry of Environment are jointly responsible for implementing the act. OMAFRA provides education and training and works with farmers to approve nutrient management strategies. The MOE oversees the act's compliance and enforcement requirements.

New standards committee

In related activities, the Ontario government is establishing a Nutrient Management Science-Based Standards Committee to develop measures that will build on nutrient management principles and protect drinking water without placing an undue burden on the agriculture industry. Broten said the committee "will help develop progressive, science-based agricultural benchmarks that are consistent with the government's commitment to safe drinking water."

The committee will be made up of six independent experts drawn from diverse fields, including agriculture, hydrogeology, land use planning, risk management and risk assessment. It will make recommendations to the Ministers of Environment and of Agriculture on science-based nutrient management standards and best management practices that could apply to farms, based on risk, by 2008. The committee will address recommendations for regulatory requirements for agricultural activities with impacts on water.

Dr K Bruce MacDonald has been appointed the committee chair. An environmental consultant heading his own firm, Dr MacDonald is a former head of the Ontario Land Resource Unit and Canada Soil Information System and Land Evaluation Branch at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He has spent his entire career working on activities related to environmentally sustainable land use and management.

Other members of the new standards committee are as follows.

Bob Bedggood operates a cash crop farm in London and is chair of the Agricultural Adaptation Council. As a member of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and of the province's Agricultural Policy Framework Advisory Committee on the Environment, he brings both practical agricultural experience and government advisory committee experience to the group.

Dr Peter Dillon, a professor at Trent University's department of Environmental and Resource Studies, also holds the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) industrial research chair in watershed biogeochemistry. He specializes in phosphorous modeling, in geochemical cycling of pollutants and in identifying stressors (including nutrients) on freshwater ecosystems.

Greg Hannam offers industry insight and government advisory committee experience as a seed grain producer and a member of the provincial Nutrient Management Advisory Committee. He has served on the Premier's agricultural task force and is past chair of AgCare (Agricultural Groups Concerned About Resources and the Environment).

Dr David Rudolph, a professor at the University of Waterloo's Earth Sciences department, has comprehensive expertise in groundwater resource management and the protection of regional aquifers. He is a former member of the government's Source Protection Technical Expert committee and the provincial Nutrient Management Advisory Committee.

Tracey Ryan is supervisor of conservation services with the Grand River Conservation Authority. She has co-ordinated the development and delivery of the Rural Water Quality program since its inception in 1997 and has extensive experience in helping farm families and rural landowners protect and improve water quality on their properties.

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