City wants farmer to pay ditch-cleaning costs

Complaint of poor farming practices

The city will file a complaint with the BC Farm Industry Review Board (BCFIRB) requesting a farmer pay the costs to clean ditches, which were filled by blowing soil from their property.

Council voted on Monday to file the complaint against the property owner of 39964 Campbell Rd. to pay the additional costs to the city – $5,200 – to clean the ditches, which a city report says was caused by poor farming practices.

The property owner was asked to pay and declined.

Early in the year, Sumas Prairie experienced strong winds that filled in a ditch on Campbell Road, which a city report says was due to a lack of a cover crop being planted after cash crops were harvested in the fall, and other mitigation methods.

The city says this is a problem associated with poor farming practices which cause soil erosion. Though  the problem isn’t widespread, it has occurred on a few properties that rent out land for cash crops.

While the Sumas Prairie Dyking, Drainage and Irrigation (SPDDI) committee suggests developing a city bylaw to prevent soil erosion, it says it’s difficult to create a bylaw related to farming practices, which are governed by the provincial Right to Farm Act, unless it directly impacts the drainage or irrigation systems.

Rob Isaacs, city director of wastewater and engineering, said that one question they hope will be answered through the BCFIRB process would be whether the issue falls under the Right to Farm Act. If the BCFIRB decides the farmer used poor farming practices, the city could consider bylaws.

If the city is successful, the farmer would be ordered to pay the costs and it would set an example.

Coun. Moe Gill said some farmers take their crops out late in the year and when they do plant a cover crop, it doesn’t grow enough to prevent the erosion, which he said can be an issue. But he added that if a ditch is filled by a farm owner there should be a policy so the city isn’t spending money on cleaning the ditches.