The Delta Farmers' Institute is voicing its opposition to a regional district plan to charge farms that produce what may be considered offensive odours.
In a letter to Delta council, DFI president John Savage said Metro Vancouver's proposed Odour Management Regulation, which would establish fees to sources of odourous emissions, including agricultural uses, would drive up costs for such permitted farming practices as spreading manure on fields to grow crops.
"The imposition of such a bylaw would penalize farmers and carry a cost that would be not only extremely burdensome but also unrecoverable," Savage said.
On Monday, council discussed a staff report looking at the region's proposal to develop and implement an odour management program, which is to include a regulation that "would address key sources of odourous emissions and effective complaint management and communication processes."
The report notes the goal is to address the considerable "potential for odour impacts" from certain industrial sources, especially those from meat by-product rendering, composters and anaerobic digesters.
Several Delta farm operations have added or are looking at adding anaerobic digestion systems, which process on-farm agricultural material and some off-farm non-agricultural waste to produce renewable energy.
Metro Vancouver has developed a draft regulation that would define operations in one of three categories: low, moderate and high potential. ties would be required to obtain an air emission permit, measure or estimate odour emissions, conduct dispersion modeling to estimate odour impacts in the community and pay an annual fee of $5 per year for every person that is impacted by odour based on the dispersion modeling (to a maximum of $150,000 annually).
High potential facilities locally would include the Enviro-Smart Organics in Ladner and Earth Renu's proposed industrial anaerobic digester on Annacis Island.
Metro Vancouver facilities, including sewage treatment plants, and the City of Vancouver Landfill composting facility would be exempt because they are regulated by the province.
Odour would be measured by taking air samples and sending them to an odour lab for analysis. Presently, the closest Canadian odour lab is in Ontario.
Savage said the DFI sees the proposed bylaw as a first step to licence all farm odours.
"And, from our perspective, we do not believe 'odour' means pollution - many 'odours' that may be offensive to some are actually acceptable by the public generally. The question needs to be asked: What is next if this moves forward?"
Coun. Ian Paton, a farmer and DFI member, said he's concerned the bylaw could go after legitimate farming practices, adding, "The history of farming is synonymous with odours."
Coun. Bruce McDonald agreed, noting the fact the Annacis Island sewage plant would be exempt "is the biggest hypocrisy of all."