Resolving Farm Concerns and Complaints
While providing farmers with protection from unwarranted nuisance complaints, the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act also provides a balanced approach to resolving concerns about farm operations for people living near farms. Both informal and formal processes have been put in place to assist all parties in resolving concerns.
These processes are intended to resolve concerns in order to:
- let farmers farm
- keep people out of court
- deal fairly with people's concerns and complaints
- deal with poor farm practices when they might occur
A person with a concern or complaint about farm practices has a choice of engaging an informal or formal process to address their issue.
- Local Government - As in the past, people with a concern about farm practices often turn to their local government for information and advice. Steps have been taken to provide improved information to local governments about farm practices, including the Farm Practices in BC Reference Guide.
- Ministry of Agriculture - Ministry staff throughout the province represent an important informal avenue that people can turn to when they have a concern about a farm practice. Ministry staff have been dealing with these types of inquiries for many years, but the FPPA provides additional focus to these efforts.
- Peer Advisors - In some areas of the province, peer advisors drawn from the farm sector investigate nuisance concerns when requested to do so. An example of the peer advisory system is the BC Blueberry Council providing a Grower Liaison Officer in the Lower Mainland to address noise complaints regarding audible bird scare devices.
- BC Farm Industry Review Board (BCFIRB) - Informal approaches to handling concerns may not always satisfactorily resolve the situation. At any time in the process, a person may contact the BCFIRB to request their participation in an informal process or to pursue a more formal process regarding their complaint.
The BCFIRB is an independent administrative tribunal that hears complaints from persons that are distressed by noise, odour, dust or other disturbances from farms and certain aquaculture operations. Under the FPPA, BCFIRB can also report on and make recommendations about farm practices. As a tribunal, BCFIRB is independent of government in its decision making.
- Where possible, BCFIRB uses alternative dispute resolution processes to try to resolve issues by agreement without the need for a formal hearing.
- If a solution cannot be reached, BCFIRB holds a formal hearing.
- Following the hearing BCFIRB determines if the farmer the complaint is filed against is following “normal farm practice”.
- If the farm is determined to be following “normal farm practice” the complaint is dismissed. If BCFIRB determines the farm is not following “normal farm practice” BCFIRB can order the farm to modify or stop its practices.
BCFIRB’s farm practices decisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia if a person thinks there was an error in law or jurisdiction. An appeal cannot simply challenge a BCFIRB decision as being wrong. BCFIRB’s processes and procedures can be reviewed, on request, by the Office of the Ombudsperson.