We can expect more land use rules in the future

If there is one thing I am rather confident in when I look toward the future of agriculture, it’s that producers will face more and more rules and regulations in terms of what they do on their own land.

That is perhaps not a particularly surprising statement since there has been a trend in that direction for years now.

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Regulations rarely start here on the Canadian Prairies, but as new rules come into play in other jurisdictions they are often adopted here, albeit at times tweaked to specific situations here.

As examples, farmers today face much more regulation when they go to trench across their land to drain a slough than they did a decade ago. The new rules developed as it was better understood that draining a slough might well aid the producer doing the draining, but the impact on neighbours ‘downstream’ where the water would flow might well be negative.

Farmers can also face localized regulations for the rather straight forward fall burning of straw, which of course creates smoke that can be an issue for neighbours, especially for urbanized clusters near the fields in question.

There are also rules developed in the last decade, or so, regarding the disposal of dead farm animals. Simply dragging them to a fence line for the coyotes and magpies to clean up is being frowned upon, for some rather obvious reasons.

Livestock producers also face new regulations when it comes to veterinary work on the farm. It is no longer a simple case of going to the farm supply store to buy a bottle of penicillin and going home to self-treat a sick animal.

The list of regulations will only get longer moving forward.

Producers wanting to get a glimpse of what might be coming down the road need only watch international news, in particular in Europe and California, both locales where the urban voice is organized, strong and ultimately listened to by governments.

It can be argued politicians should listen to those who put them in power, but often voters come at perceived issues from an emotional viewpoint rather than one based on good science and common sense. That can create some real issues for governments trying to appease the voters they need to keep happy to be re-elected, and doing the best thing for, in this scenario, agriculture.

That was the apparent case in France recently when the government established safe distances for pesticide spreading on crops near homes in an attempt to settle a debate between farmers and environmentalists.

From January 1, there must be a five-metre gap between sprayed fields and housing for shorter crops like cereals and a 10-metre zone for taller crops like fruit trees, the agriculture, environment and health ministries said in a joint statement according to a recent story at www.producer.com.

The government regulations haven’t made either side happy, not a surprise, but it does show how politicians have to juggle to try to develop reasonable rules and to hold onto votes.