Members of the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate of the Union des Producteurs Agricoles (UPA) will be meeting with representatives from the regional council of the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent, as well as the administration, to discuss ways they can work together to regulate backfill operations within the region.
The closed-door meeting is scheduled to take place on June 12. It comes following the wide release of a statement by the local UPA calling on local elected officials and the MRC to quickly intervene. A series of propositions were submitted to the MRC, and the UPA hopes to discuss control measures available to municipalities.
Josiane Carrière, the vice president of the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate, says that while the board members are looking forward to the meeting with the MRC, a letter is being sent out this week in part to remind local syndicate members of the legal framework that governs operations carried out on agricultural land.
“We do not want to see a ban on backfill,” she says, while explaining that the local UPA is also not against development. “It is a standard agricultural practice,” she says, noting the letter is meant to reassure members that the syndicate supports backfilling when done correctly. “We want to be sure producers know what they are accepting as backfill, and that they understand the risk of contamination.”
Carrière says there has been some questioning among producers about the regulations in place in white zones; these are not covered by the Act respecting the protection of agricultural land and agricultural activities, which governs the types of fill work producers may carry out. All fill activities must comply with the Environment Quality Act and may require a permit depending on the municipality, but it is not clear what regulations govern citizens who are not farmers.
There is also some concern among local producers that the attention being focused on controlling illegal dumping could lead to an increase in farm inspections.
Carrière says that while this may be a legitimate concern, producers must remain vigilant when it comes to the integrity of their farms and the region’s water and soil resources.