Agricultural Composting

The Code of Practice for Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM Code) lays out requirements for agricultural composting.

The AEM Code specifies

  • The types of materials that can be agriculturally composted
  • Where agricultural composting can take place
  • How agricultural compost can be distributed or used

Agricultural composting is defined in the AEM Code as a process where agricultural by-products and wood residue are mixed or layered and managed to decompose in an oxygen-rich environment. Agricultural by-products include:

  • Solid manure
  • Soiled animal bedding
  • Agricultural, vegetative material

Non-agricultural waste materials are not allowed to be added. Storage is not composting. Composting must be an actively managed process.

The AEM Code applies to agricultural operations that compost:

  • Agricultural by-products and wood residue that are generated on the operation
  • Agricultural by-products and wood residue brought on from another operation
    • As long as all the finished compost is land applied on the operation where composting is occurring
    • Material cannot be brought onto a farm, composted and then shipped off the operation

For composting mortalities, please refer to Mortalities management.

Any other type of composting activity would be subject to the Organic matter recycling regulation.

General rules

  • Collect and contain any leachate generated and do not discharge directly into a watercourse or onto the land
  • Divert rain or stormwater runoff from entering piles
  • Prevent contaminated runoff, air contaminants and leachate from entering watercourses, crossing your property boundary, or going below the water table
  • Prevent wildlife, pests, and domestic pets from accessing composting structures or outdoor piles

Specific rules 

Method-based composting requirements

  • The composting structure must be set back at least:

    • 30 metres from drinking water sources
    • 15 metres from a watercourse
    • 4.5 metres from your property boundary
  • Make sure the structure has a protective base (e.g., concrete pad, engineered compacted soil liner, or synthetic liner)
  • Check the protective base for leaks every six months, keep records of the date of the inspection and what you found
  • Locate the pile in a high, dry area (i.e., not in standing water, water-saturated soils or seasonally flooded areas) and set back at least:
    • 30 metres from drinking water sources and watercourses
    • 4.5 metres from your property boundary
  • Piles may stay in one location for up to 12 months for agricultural by-products, and up to 15 months for composting mortalities or processing waste, and that location must not be used again for at least three years
  • Check the pile weekly, keep records of the date that composting began, type and source of materials, the location, and what you found
  • If your field is in a high precipitation area (600 mm or more from October to April, e.g., Lower Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island), cover the outdoor agricultural composting pile from October 1 to April 1
  • If your field is in a vulnerable aquifer recharge area, make sure the outdoor agricultural composting pile is not on coarse-textured soil (i.e., soil that is highly porous and allows water to move rapidly)

Exporting your manure or agricultural composted products

If you keep five or more animal units (AU) one AU is equal to 455 kg of livestock and/or poultry) and you sell or give away the agricultural by-products that you produce, then keep records according to the amounts listed below:

Exporting in units of ≤ 5 m3 (~ 6.5 yard3)

  • The total amount exported (in m3) annually
  • Dates export began and ended
  • Type of product exported (e.g., manure, agricultural compost, used growing media)

Exporting in units of > 5 m3 (~ 6.5 yard3)

  • The amount exported (in m3) for each distribution
  • Date of export
  • Type of product exported
  • Receiver name and business contact information
  • A copy of the receiver’s signed receipt

Please note, only composted material that meets the requirements of the federal Fertilizers Act or the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation may be exported as compost. 

If you dispose of mortalities or processing waste using an agricultural composting process, read Managing Mortalities and Processing Waste for further specific requirements.


Disclaimer: The information on this page is guidance only. Please refer to the Code of Practice for Agricultural Environmental Management for specific regulatory requirements.