Requirements for Agricultural Environmental Management

The key requirements of the Minister’s Regulation - Code of Practice for Agricultural Environmental Management - are summarized below. Guidance on these requirements are currently being developed and will be made available on this page.

This information is not legal advice nor an exhaustive list of all the requirements.

Universal Requirements

Agricultural operations in B.C. will need to protect the environment by preventing contaminated runoff, leachate, solids and air contaminants from crossing property boundaries or entering watercourses and groundwater.

Boilers and heaters being used for agricultural purposes must be registered, with the exception of small capacity boilers and heaters (less than 0.15 MW).

To register an agricultural boiler or heater – including how to calculate output capacity and manage emissions properly – visit the link below.

The regulation sets more explicit requirements to ensure storage structures are not leaking and do not overflow. Some examples of storage provisions are:

  • Storage capacity must be sufficient to contain all agricultural by-products until they can be applied as fertilizer or soil conditioner, or distributed off-site
  • Solid agricultural by-products may only be stored in a field for seven months
  • Liquid manure may only be stored in a permanent storage structure, and new or modified permanent storage structures must be designed by a qualified professional
  • Existing earthen manure storage (e.g. earthen lagoons) over vulnerable aquifers need leak assessments, and new and modified earthen storage require protective bases

Minimum setbacks for certain activities and structures

Agricultural activities and structures must be set back a minimum of 30 meters from drinking water sources, a minimum of 15 meters from watercourses and generally a minimum of 4.5 meters from property boundaries to prevent pollution from entering. 

Composting of agricultural by-products on-site will continue to be allowed, but requirements include: preventing leachate or contaminated run-off from entering the environment; composting structures must have a protective base; and outdoor compost piles must not be in areas that have standing water, saturated soil or are prone to flooding.

Requirements regarding livestock and poultry operations seek to prevent pollution of the environment. For example, a self-sealing layer under a feedlot must be maintained to prevent leachate from entering groundwater, and safe disposal methods are set for mortalities.

If an agricultural operation has an existing wastewater treatment facility on their farm, and discharges the treated wastewater to land or water, or if they intend to either modify an existing treatment system or build a new one, they will need to notify a Director prior to the discharge. A template for you to notify a Director is currently being developed and will be made available prior to the regulation taking effect on February 28, 2019. 

Clean wood residue (e.g. sawdust and wood chips) can be used for plant mulch, horticultural bedding, soil conditioner, growing media, composting with other agricultural by-products, as animal bedding, or processed and used as fuel for wood-fired boilers.

It must not be used for the construction of berms, as envelopes for tile drains, or to fill or level sites.

If you have an agricultural land base of two hectares or more and apply nutrients, soil tests for each field must be taken for post-harvest nitrate and phosphorus.

Nitrate and phosphorus tests must be completed at least every three years, and nitrate tests must be completed annually on fields with high nitrate results (≥100 kg N/ha). Records of the soil test results and the nutrient application rates (both calculated and actual) need to be kept.

Agriculture operators must not apply nutrients to land covered with standing water, on snow or frozen ground, or during high-risk conditions. In addition, self-prepared nutrient application plans may be needed for those operations with very high soil nitrate and phosphorus levels (150 kg N/ha, and 300 ppm P2O5) to ensure that nutrients are not applied in excess of crop needs.

Learn more about nutrient application plans.

Records must be kept for numerous agricultural activities, such as:

  • using biomass as a fuel for boilers or heaters
  • using outdoor composting piles
  • total amount of agricultural by-products generated and distributed offsite
  • using an incinerator
  • burying mortalities, or solid/semi-solid waste


Requirements for High-Risk Areas or Conditions

The regulation takes a risk-based approach, where requirements are tailored to environmental risks. If you operate in a high-risk area or during high-risk conditions, you will need to take additional protective measures specific to the environmental risk.

Additional requirements for agricultural operations located in high risk areas or operating during high-risk conditions include:

Ensuring proper storage of agricultural by-products and other materials. For example, temporary field storage and outdoor composting piles must be covered in high precipitation areas from October to April.

The application of nutrients (e.g. fertilizer or manure) to land is restricted at certain periods, times and under certain conditions.

For example, in high precipitation areas, such as the Lower Fraser Valley, application of nutrients:

  • in November, December, and January is prohibited
  • in October, February or March will require that a risk assessment is completed prior to spreading

Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) aim to ensure nutrients applied to land match crop needs. NMPs will need to be developed either by a qualified professional or a person experienced in nutrient management if risks are high, as determined by the location of the operation and the results of the soil tests. For example, if in a high-risk area, a NMP is required if the soil test results are ≥100 kg N/ha, or phosphorus test results ≥200 ppm. A qualified professional is required if the soil nitrate test is ≥150 kg N/ha, or 300 ppm for phosphorus.

These requirement will be phased in over a 10-year period. 

Learn more about Nutrient Management Plans, triggers for needing one, and the phase-in time frame.