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Approval officer amendment
Approval officer amendment

The Agricultural Operation Practices Act allows an approval officer to initiate an amendment to a permit on their own motion. This mainly occurs when an administrative error is identified, but can also be initiated when a condition is found to be insufficient or inappropriate for the facility. In all cases, the municipality is advised of the change. An approval officer amendment does not require public notification before the change is made, but all directly affected parties are notified of the change and have the right to request a Board review of the amendment.

Approval, registration, authorization
Approval, registration, authorization

The Agricultural Operation Practices Act defines what kind of permit a confined feeding operation requires, based on the number and species of livestock and whether the application is for an increase in the number of livestock. Approvals are permits for larger operations, and registrations are permits for smaller operations. Authorizations are permits for manure storage facilities and do not authorize additional livestock.


Confined feeding operation
Confined feeding operation

The Agricultural Operation Practices Act defines a confined feeding operation as “fenced or enclosed land or buildings where livestock are confined for the purpose of growing, sustaining, finishing or breeding by means other than grazing and any other building or structure directly related to that purpose but does not include residences, livestock seasonal feeding and bedding sites, equestrian stables, auction markets, race tracks or exhibition grounds."


Deemed permit
Deemed permit

Before 2002, confined feeding operations were issued permits by the local municipality or, in some cases, were issued permits under the Public Health Act. Some confined feeding operations did not possess a permit, often because a permit was not required when the operation was first constructed. 

Under section 18.1 of the Agricultural Operation Practices Act, these operations are considered to have a “deemed” permit if:

  1. The confined feeding operation or manure storage facility existed on January 1, 2002 and a licence, permit, or other approval was not issued under the Public Health Act, or a development permit was not issued by the municipality or other regulator;
  2.  The confined feeding operation or manure storage facility existed on January 1, 2002 and a licence, permit, or other approval was issued under the Public Health Act or a development permit was issued and that licence, permit approval or development permit was in effect on January 1, 2002; or
  3. The confined feeding operation or manure storage facility was constructed and issued a municipal development permit before January 1, 2002, or the permit was issued as described in section 10 of the Agricultural Amendment Practices Act, 2001.

The confined feeding operation must also meet or exceed the livestock threshold requirements that are set out in the Part 2 Matters Regulation of the act.

The Natural Resources Conservation Board is responsible for ensuring compliance with conditions that were attached to the permit by the issuing authority.


Environmental impact assessment
Environmental impact assessment

Environmental assessment is required where the complexity and scale of a proposed project, technology, resource allocation, or siting considerations create uncertainty about the exact nature of environmental effects, or result in a potential for significant adverse environmental effects.

The Environmental Assessment process allows companies and government decision makers to examine the effects that a proposed project may have on the environment. The information gathered during the process helps the appropriate Regulatory Board determine if the project is in the public interest.


Environmental risk screening
Environmental risk screening

A science-based, environmental risk screening tool was developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Board’s Science and Technology division in consultation with Agriculture and Forestry, Environment and Parks and industry experts. The tool is used for the board’s risk based compliance program and to assess the environmental risk for applications for new or expanding confined feeding operations.

The tool looks at the potential risk a facility poses to both ground and surface water and provides consistent evaluations of risk. It assesses the manure type and the potential for contamination, taking into account the local geology, proximity to water wells and facility construction. The information allows facilities to be categorized into potential low, moderate or high risk to surface or groundwater. If merited, a requirement for groundwater monitoring or changes to facility design may be directed as part of a compliance action or permit approval. 

The tool was initially used for the board’s leak detection program, which was recognized in 2011 with a Gold Premier’s Award of Excellence and an Excellence Canada Award of Merit.

Expansion factor
Expansion factor

An expansion factor is used in some minimum distance separation (MDS) calculations. If an existing operation is applying to increase its livestock numbers, and cannot meet the additional MDS that is required as a result of the increase in livestock, the regulations of the Agricultural Operation Practices Act require the approval officer to apply an expansion factor or 0.77 when the minimum distance separation is calculated. The factor can only be applied if three or more years have passed since the most recent construction was completed.


Grandfathered status
Grandfathered status

Confined feeding operations that existed before 2002 are grandfathered by the Agricultural Operation Practices Act whether or not they had a permit, and are considered to have a deemed permit under the act. Grandfathered facilities are not required to meet the standards of the act for their existing facilities. However, they must apply for a permit for new construction. If a grandfathered facility is causing a risk to the environment or an inappropriate disturbance, the issue must be appropriately addressed.

Conditions that were attached to permits issued before 2002 are considered to be part of the deemed permit. The Natural Resources Conservation Board is responsible for ensuring compliance with the permit conditions.


Inappropriate disturbance
Inappropriate disturbance

An inappropriate disturbance is something that has a significant and adverse affect on adjacent landowners and their ability to enjoy their land. If a complaint is received, the board must ascertain if the concern is an inappropriate disturbance or if it would be considered acceptable farm practice in rural agricultural areas.

Most complaints received by the Natural Resources Conservation Board are about odour. (Noise and dust are also frequently cited.) In order to determine if an inappropriate disturbance is occurring, the Natural Resources Conservation Board works with complainants to assess the frequency, intensity, duration and offensiveness of an odour, using the board’s odour protocol. If an inappropriate disturbance is identified the board will follow up with the operator to resolve the issue in accordance with the board’s compliance and enforcement policy.

Intensive and extensive livestock operations
Intensive and extensive livestock operations

The Agricultural Operation Practices Act defines a confined feeding operation, or intensive livestock operation, based on the number of animals and the method of confinement and feeding.

New or expanding confined feeding operations require a permit under the act. They must also meet the technical design standards, the minimum distance separation (MDS) requirements from neighbouring properties and the operational requirements of the act and regulations. These include, for example, setbacks from water bodies, record keeping and spreading requirements.

Operations that primarily feed animals by grazing are not considered a confined feeding operation. These operations (sometimes called extensive or grazing operations) are regulated by Agriculture and Forestry. They do not require a permit under the Agricultural Operation Practices Act and they are not required to follow the act’s requirements for minimum distance separation from neighbouring residences. However, when livestock are concentrated into a smaller area for certain periods of the year (for example, a seasonal feeding and bedding site), the operation must adhere to the setbacks from water bodies that are required by the act.



The Agricultural Operation Practices Act defines manure as livestock excreta including associated feed losses, bedding, litter, soil and wash water. It does not include manure to which the Fertilizers Act (Canada) applies.

Composted manure is considered to be the same as manure. The regulations that apply to manure (setbacks from water bodies, application limits, etc.) also apply to compost.

Minimum distance separation
Minimum distance separation

The Agricultural Operation Practices Act sets out minimum requirements of distance between a manure storage operation or facility and the nearest residence that is not owned or controlled by the confined feeding operator (see section 3 of the Part 1 Standards, and schedule 1 of the Standards and Administration Regulation). Minimum distance separation (MDS) helps address concerns related to odour, dust and other potential nuisances that are normal aspects of a livestock operation.

The act specifies how to calculate the minimum distance separation for each facility that is applied for, taking into account an odour factor that is based on the species and the number of livestock, and the category of land zoning. Approval officers use the calculation to determine the minimum distance separation for each confined feeding operation. The minimum distance separation is measured from the outside walls of neighbouring residences, not the property line, to the point closest to the manure storage facility or manure collection area.

The odour factor takes into account the nuisance value of the livestock category and the technology used to construct the facility. Other considerations that the approval officer must consider include: 

  1. manure production - the kind of livestock and quantity of manure
  2. dispersion factors - the topography, natural or constructed screens, and micro-climate conditions
  3. the expansion factor - if an existing operation is applying to increase its livestock and cannot meet the MDS required as a result of the additional livestock, the approval officer must apply an expansion factor of 0.77 when calculating the minimum distance separation. The factor is applied only if three or more years have passed since completion of the most recent construction.

The regulations set out four categories of neighbouring land uses and accompanying odour objective factors:

  • Category 1 – residences on land zoned for agricultural purposes (e.g. farmsteads or acreage residences) (odour objective factor 41.04)
  • Category 2 – residences on land zoned for non-agricultural purposes (e.g. country residential, rural commercial businesses) (odour objective factor 54.72)
  • Category 3 – residences on land zoned for high use recreational or commercial purposes (odour objective factor 68.40)
  • Category 4 – residences on land zoned for large-scale country residential, rural hamlet, village, town or city (odour objective factor 109.44)
Municipal land use provisions
Municipal land use provisions

Approval officers are required by the Agricultural Operation Practices Act to deny any application that is not consistent with land use zoning or other land use provisions set out in the municipal development plan. The Board is not bound to the provisions and may overturn them if there is sufficient justification.


Odour protocol
Odour protocol

The Natural Resources Conservation Board worked with Stantec Consulting Ltd. to design a protocol for inspectors’ use when responding to complaints. Inspectors must determine whether the confined feeding operation or some other cause is the actual source of the odour, whether the odour is acceptable for normal agricultural practice, and the appropriate steps to respond to the odour.

The protocol includes use of an odour report form that is completed by complainants and tracks the frequency, duration and intensity of odours. It also identifies factors that inspectors should consider when they evaluate individual complaints, and various actions that can be taken to respond to odour issues. Inspectors also follow the response model outlined in the Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

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