Members of the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate of the Union des Producteurs Agricoles (UPA) issued a bold statement against the dumping and backfilling of potentially contaminated soils on agricultural land, during their annual members’ meeting and general meeting on February 17 in Ormstown. Those present unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the urgent need to supervise and regulate this activity while protecting agricultural territory and the water table from contamination by imported fill.
“We are playing with fire until we do something to control it,” said Douglas Brooks, who introduced the resolution. He described a situation in Franklin where the importation of fill occurred on agricultural land with permits from the municipality, where the CPTAQ intervened to impose strict criteria in terms of allowable fill and protective measures to ensure the rules were followed. He proposed the local syndicate recommend the CPTAQ become the decision-making body for all landfill projects in agricultural zones, and that permits be issued by the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent and not individual municipalities.
Mario Henderson, who represents the municipalities of Havelock and Saint-Chrysostome on the local board of directors, spoke out, noting that while he was in favour of protecting the land and the water table from contaminated soils, it was also important to recognize that the Ministry of the Environment allows for some landfill activities when done responsibly. He noted in some instances there are discrepancies between municipal bylaws and provincial regulations when it comes to determining which activities are allowed. He agreed that better regulation would be helpful.
Along with the resolution, three amendments to the general regulations were also approved during the meeting, including a move by the UPA to adopt gender-neutral and inclusive language, and one to give local syndicates more flexibility when it comes to filling board of director positions. The term “small farms” as a type of production will also now be replaced by “direct to market” farms, which represents business owners with a gross income of $100,000 or less who market their products locally.
Presentations during the members’ meeting included an opportunity to speak with Carole Mallette’s team about issues facing the agricultural community, an introduction to a special project in agritourism being considered by the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent, a presentation by the UPA federation, and an informative session on the pairing services provided by the agricultural networking organization L’Arterre.