A presentation to Property Rights, Economics, and Environment: Land Resources, an international conference organised by the Centre d’Analyse Economique Environnement and the International Centre for Research on Environmental Issues. The conference took place in Aix-en-Provence, France, on June 26-28, 2006.
With the passage of a new Planning Act last month, Manitoba’s NDP government furthered its 33-year campaign to foist factory farms on an unwilling public, ensuring that neither individual property rights nor the desires of a local community can stop large farm operations that create nuisances or pollute the environment.
Canada’s powerful farm lobbies would have you believe that farmers operate under too many rules. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture complains of a "multitude" of unjustified laws and regulations, while the BC Agriculture Council lobbies for a "real reduction of regulation."
Traffic chaos again disrupted Toronto yesterday as convoys of tractors – in the second such demonstration in as many weeks – converged on Queen’s Park to demand more privileges for farmers. Last week, 8,000 farmers organized by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture lined up at the legislative trough for cash. Yesterday’s protesters, led by the Lanark Landowners’ Association, demanded a different kind of subsidy: freedom from accountability.
In her annual letter to supporters, Elizabeth Brubaker argues that provinces are stripping citizens of their property rights and disempowering local governments in order to promote industrial farming. Continue reading →
Last month, 150 residents of Ashburn, Ont., filed a civil lawsuit against Greenwood Mushroom Farms, claiming the stench from the farm has created a nuisance. Thanks to a provincial law designed to promote agriculture, the judge hearing the case will have to consider not whether GMF’s operations are harmful but whether they are "normal" – a standard that defies economics and undermines the property rights of all rural residents.
Should hog farmers be allowed to create odours so foul that they make neighbours physically ill? Should cattle farmers who follow manure-management rules be exempt from local bylaws limiting their size and density? Should vegetable farmers be allowed to send clouds of black dust across neighbouring lands, or awaken neighbours throughout the night with cannon explosions designed to scare away wildlife? How much pollution is "necessary" or "acceptable," and who should decide?
Last Friday, in a national "day of action" against factory farming, rural Canadians denounced the giant feedlots, mega hog barns and concentrated poultry operations that increasingly threaten their health and well-being. While demonstrators in Saskatchewan and Ontario called for provincial moratoriums on the hog industry’s expansion, activists in Alberta and Manitoba cut to the heart of the matter, insisting on local control over the siting of livestock operations. Their demands point to an often-overlooked fact: In robbing Canadians of their property rights, heavy-handed provincial legislators have brought us factory farms.
Earlier this year, several days after a lengthy interview with a writer for a weekly news magazine, I received a puzzled e-mail. "How would you describe yourself politically?" the writer asked. "Do you lean towards the left or the right?"
"Subsidizing farmers has backfired in Canada," says Lawrence Solomon, one of the authors of a report released last week by the Urban Renaissance institute, which is a division of Toronto environmental group Energy Probe. Energy Probe is also affiliated with Environment Probe, an organization which recently sent out a fundraising letter slamming Ontario’s farmers for polluting the environment, living off the avails of subsidies, and hiding behind exemptions in environmental protection laws.
A Toronto-based environmental group has sent out fundraising letters to people who supported it and its partner organizations in the past, criticizing Ontario’s farmers for "threaten(ing) both human health and the environment," for "enjoy(ing) special status under the law," and for accepting economic subsidies which "discriminat(e) against responsible small-scale farms."
"Treat farming like any other industry and clean it up, inquiry urged." So read the headline of a Toronto Star article about one of our presentations to the Walkerton Inquiry. Our approach was considered newsworthy, but it shouldn’t have been. After all, isn’t it just common sense that we need to start cracking down on pollution from farms?
When it comes to polluting, farmers shouldn’t be treated any differently from industry, the Walkerton inquiry heard yesterday. Among the experts at the public hearing in Toronto was Elizabeth Brubaker of the Energy Probe Research Foundation. Farmers treated like industrialists, she said, would have to bear the cost of preventing pollution on their land. When it comes to polluting, farmers shouldn’t be treated any differently from industry, the Walkerton inquiry heard yesterday.
"What farmers facing environmental restrictions have suspected about provincial urban sewages systems is true: they are massive environmental polluters of sewage and other compounds. Because it would cost so much to upgrade facilities in cities and towns, the situation often gets a blind eye."
It took just a few minutes. A manure irrigation gun, left unattended, pumping at full throttle. A faulty connection. Before anyone knew what had happened, several thousand litres of liquid hog manure were flowing down the slope towards the small trout creek.