Don’t force chicken manure business onto industrial land, Abbotsford council says

Cleanout business needs ‘non-farm-use’ exemption to operate on agricultural land

The best place for chicken poop is on farmland well away from Abbotsford’s city core.

That not-so-controversial view was the consensus reached by council Monday in response to an application to operate a poultry barn cleanout business in the northwest reaches of rural Abbotsford.

While it may seem obvious that such a business would be located in farming areas, manure operations involving waste produced elsewhere are not automatically permitted on agricultural land and the business in question services dozens of local poultry operations. The business was notified in July 2017 that it wasn’t complying with Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) rules. A letter says a manure business has been operating on the site since 1989.

To keep operating, it requires the city to forward an application to the ALC, which must still rule on the “non-farm” use.

Council agreed to do so Monday, with Mayor Henry Braun saying “this makes total sense.”

He noted that the location means that the prevailing winds would generally keep the smell of the manure away from the city’s core.

“If I had to pick a better property, I don’t know where it would be,” he said.

The proposal was also endorsed by the city’s agriculture committee and the Ministry of Agriculture.

RELATED: Abbotsford asks for help enforcing ALR rules

RELATED: Hundreds of farm properties being used illegally: study

The business in question currently operates and services 50 to 60 farms, according to a staff report.

Around one-third of the manure is taken from the source directly to other farms for use as fertilizer. The remainder is stored at the McTavish Road property. The vast majority of that manure is picked up by customers and taken over the border to Washington State. Customers from the Okanagan truck the rest away to farms there.

Coun. Bruce Banman noted that many poultry operations require such help with the waste created by their farms. If such a business can’t be located on agricultural land, it would need to find a home on an industrial parcel. And few, he and Coun. Sandy Blue said, would want to see – or smell – a manure-processing facility in the midst of an industrial park.

A staff report also revealed that the city had missed its own self-imposed one-year deadline to deal with the application.

A bylaw passed in 2016 set a one-year deadline for such applications to be moved on to council. But that date came and went last August. The staff report blamed “staff workloads,” the departure of a manager, as well as the need to co-ordinate various reports with council and committee schedules.


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tolsen@abbynews.com

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