Normal Farm Practices Protection Board (NFPPB) Business Plan 2017-2020

April 1, 2017 - March 31, 2020

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Mandate
  3. Values and Operating Principles
  4. Resources Needed to Meet Strategic Directions
  5. Human Resources
  6. Environmental Scan
  7. Risk Identification, Assessment and Mitigation Strategies
  8. Overview of Activities
  9. Performance Measures
  10. Expected Outcomes
  11. Commitments and Highlights of Strategies for 2017-2020
  12. Financial Performance
  13. Inquiries

Executive Summary

The Normal Farm Practices Protection Board (the "NFPPB" or the "Board") is established under the Farming and Food Production Protection Act, 1998 (the "Act") to hear and rule on issues pertaining to farm practices. By protecting normal farm practices, the Board helps to preserve the competitiveness of Ontario farmers in the face of increasing external pressures.

In accordance with the Preamble of the Act, the Board seeks to balance the needs of the agricultural community with provincial health, safety and environmental concerns. Under the Act, the Board holds hearings on nuisance complaints about farm practices, applications seeking non-application of municipal by-laws, and referrals from judges. The Board rules on whether the farm practices at issue are "normal farm practices."

The Act provides in s. 2(1) "A farmer is not liable in nuisance to any person for a disturbance resulting from an agricultural operation carried on as a normal farm practice." Disturbance is further defined as meaning odour, dust, flies, light, smoke, noise and vibration. The Act further preserves the ability to conduct normal farm practices as part of an agricultural operation pursuant to s. 6(1), "No municipal by-law applies to restrict a normal farm practice carried on as part of an agricultural operation."

Board proceedings are subject to the Farming and Food Production Protection Act, 1998 ("the Act") and the Statutory Powers Procedure Act (SPPA). Board hearings are less formal than court proceedings, but follow the rules of natural justice. Hearings are managed in such a way that any complainant or respondent may present their case with or without representation by legal counsel.

The Board protects normal farm practices which are fundamental to farming and food production. While the authority for this protection is the Act, the Board adds value through a conflict resolution process mandated by the Board's Rules. This process, conducted by OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs), resolves the vast majority of farm practice conflicts without recourse to hearings. Farmers and residents are thus spared the costs and time involved in preparation for hearings. In addition, since conflict resolution often results in agreements between the parties, farmers enjoy a better relationship with their neighbours after the conflict than if the matter was decided by a Board ruling.

The Board is governed by the Agency Appointments Directive (AAD), the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive, and other applicable Directives from Management Board of Cabinet and Treasury Board. Board members are made aware of the AAD and its requirements. All accountability and governance documents required for the Board have been published on the Board's web page in accordance with the Adjudicative Tribunals Accountability, Governance and Appointments Act, 2009 (ATAGAA). Reimbursements of Board members' expenses were all within the guidelines of the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive.

Mandate

The mandate of the Board is established by the Act. Section 3 establishes the Board and provides for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to appoint the Chair, Vice-Chair and members. Subsection 4(2) states that the Board has the power to:

  1. inquire into and to resolve disputes respecting agricultural operations and to determine what constitutes a normal farm practice; and
  2. make the necessary inquiries and orders to ensure compliance with its decisions.

Mission Statement

To provide a fair hearing and decision process to all parties involved in disputes regarding farm practices.

Vision Statement

To be acknowledged and respected by all parties in the agricultural, municipal and environmental fields as a fair arbiter of disputes involving farm practices.

Governance Structure

The Chair is accountable to the Minister for the performance of the Board and for responsibilities assigned by the Act and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The Deputy Minister is responsible to the Minister for the performance of OMAFRA in providing administrative support (including staff and funding) to the Board and for responsibilities assigned by the Act or the MOU.

The Secretary is responsible to the Deputy Minister or the Deputy Minister's designate for the management of the Board's operations. The Secretary is responsible to the Chair in implementing policy and operational decisions.

Values/Operating Principles

The Board is committed to the following values and operating principles:

  1. Timely, evidence-based, impartial and independent decision-making with clearly reasoned and expressed decisions
  2. Respect and consideration
  3. Fairness and accessibility
  4. Adherence to customer service and adjudicative process principles

Resources Needed to Meet Strategic Directions

  • Capable members with adjudicative experience and knowledge of agricultural matters
  • OMAFRA provides sufficient administrative, financial and support services
  • Legal Services provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General through the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Human Resources

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs provides administrative, financial and support services to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board. On April 1, 2016, the Ministry reallocated the support services provided by the Board Secretary and Administrative Support from the Environmental Management Branch to the Business Services Branch, Research and Corporate Services Division, which currently supports the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal and Board of Negotiation. This change achieved operational and financial efficiencies by centralizing common administrative functions and accountability requirements while allowing the three agencies to maintain their unique mandate and membership. These changes to administrative support to the Board are not expected to affect Board operations or its service to the public. Three full-time Ministry employees from Business Services Branch are assigned to support the Board. Environmental Management Branch also provides resources through environmental specialists and engineers for the Conflict Resolution process.

Staff coordinate the administration and operation of the Board by supporting all required activities related to hearings, including liaising with parties to support hearing process and procedures, issuing official correspondence, explaining process and rules of procedures to parties to appeals and their counsel, and completing the necessary accountability documents required by government legislation or directives.

Legal services to the Board are provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General through the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Board consists of not fewer than five persons, appointed by the Minister, of whom one may be appointed as Chair and one of the remaining members as Vice-Chair. Panels of a minimum of three Board members adjudicate hearings. The Board meets as necessary to discuss policy issues. Members are appointed for an initial term of two years and are eligible for reappointment. The term of appointment is generally a maximum of 10 years in total.

Environmental Scan

The Board is an independent, adjudicative agency of the Ontario government. The environmental scan describes the business environment in which the Board operates.

External Influences

The Board's volume of cases remains as some of the highest in its 30-year history; experiencing an increased volume of applications for both nuisance complaints and by-law issues.

In recent years, some hearings have become more complex due to an increase in motions regarding site visits, jurisdiction and parties seeking third party status

Current Trends

The movement of excess soil from developed land to farm land has become a contentious issue, particularly in the municipalities surrounding the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The public's concerns range from nuisance (i.e. noise, dust) to ground water contamination. Municipalities are reacting to local concerns by enacting or revising their own site alteration by-laws. The approach has not been consistent across a number of municipalities in Ontario.

In 2016, OMAFRA released a new fact sheet entitled "Importation of Soil onto Agricultural Land" to provide information regarding best management practices, regulation requirements, and guidance for farmers to limit the impacts to farmland.

MOECC (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change) developed an Excess Soils Policy Framework in 2016. Consistent with this framework, MOECC is consulting in Spring 2017 on a new proposed excess soil reuse regulation, including new excess soil reuse standards and proposed amendments to other supporting regulations. The proposal includes a supporting rationale document for reuse of excess soil at receiving sites.

OMAFRA staff have also experienced an influx of nuisance (odour & noise) complaints from medicinal marijuana production facilities. Over the past few years, several floriculture greenhouses in Ontario have converted or are in the process of converting to medicinal marijuana production facilties.

Municipalities have the authority under section 135 of the Municipal Act to pass by-laws for the purposes of regulating the destruction or injuring of trees. Some recent municipal by-laws provide exemptions for normal farm practices, as decided by the Board. A new communications project has been initiated by OMAFRA staff to raise farmer awareness of municipal by-laws for tree cutting.

Risk Identification, Assessment and Mitigation Strategies

The Agencies & Appointments Directive requires provincial agencies to have a risk-based approach to managing agency oversight. Risk assessment and management is reviewed every quarter from the perspectives of both the Board and the Ministry. The most recent risk assessment did not identify any high level or medium level risks; those risks that were identified were assessed as low level from both Board and Ministry perspectives.

The table below represents a sample of the low-level risks identified:

Risk Category: Operational

Risk Description Mitigation Strategies

Increasing complexity of hearing applications requiring legal advice on acceptance or rejection.

Before deciding to hear a case, the Chair reviews the application. The complexity of the application can increase the time required for this review from 15 minutes to several hours, potentially increasing the cost of each occurrence by thousands of dollars. Such complexity can also introduce a need for legal counsel, with associated costs. The increased complexity also tends to result in longer hearings.

Board Rules require that all cases coming to the board first go through a conflict resolution process. The goal is to resolve at least 80% of cases, drastically reducing the number of hearings which must be held.

Caseload/number of applications and their complexity could have an impact on the Board's ability to conduct a timely hearing.

Mitigate the risk by informing stakeholders that scheduling of matters may take longer than anticipated due to the complexity of the matter under appeal and volume of evidence required to be considered.

Overview of Activities

The Board will continue to deliver the following key activities supporting its strategic directions:

  1. Communication with the Public
    • Through its website, the Board will continue to provide the public with information about normal farm practices, what to expect when people move into farming country, the work of the Board, how to apply for a hearing, how to prepare for a hearing, accessibility considerations and the operation and accountability of the Board. The Board's Rules of Practice and Procedure and Citizen's Guide are available from the Board's website and Board secretary. Full past Board decisions are available on www.canlii.org or from the Board Secretary.
    • Before making substantive changes to its Rules of Practice and Procedure, if any, the Board will consult with key client groups according to its Consultation Policy. The Board's Consultation Policy is published on the Board's website.
  2. Processing of Applications
    • The Board will process hearing applications with regard to its performance standards.
    • In order to reduce financial burden and minimize the number of hearings and promote agreement between parties, the Board will continue to require that disputes undergo a Conflict Resolution process before an application is filed for a hearing. OMAFRA conducts a highly successful Farm Practices conflict resolution process, which historically has resolved at least of 80 percent of cases. The Board will also conduct settlement conferences whenever possible as part of the pre-hearing process on cases that were not resolved through the conflict resolution process.
  3. Hearings
    • The Board will:
      • Conduct all Board business according to the customer service standards of the the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), as set out in the Board's Accessibility Document.
      • Endeavour to have hearing procedures adhere to the principles of natural justice and the duty of fairness.
      • Make available to parties adequate information on hearing procedures in a form that is easily understood and meets the requirements of the AODA.
      • Provide full access to information on the Act and the Board, and to all Board decisions. Subject to the cost implications, parties will also continue to have full access to transcripts of Board hearings, by purchasing them from court reporters.
      • Manage cases at the pre-hearing and hearing stages in a manner that encourages settlement between parties and eliminates or shortens hearings.
      • Complete the processing of hearing applications and issuance of decisions in a timely manner to meet Board service standards.

Performance Measures

The NFPPB measures the performance of its programs in four areas:

    1. The performance of the conflict resolution system in reducing the number of NFPPB cases that arise from complaints about farm practices. If the conflict resolution system were not in effect, all complaints about normal farm practices would become NFPPB hearings.
    2. Speed of response regarding Acceptance or Rejection of Application for hearing: Number of days between receipt of a hearing application and response to applicant on whether the application is set for a hearing. This is a measure of the length of time a person who applies for a hearing has to wait before they know when the Board will hear their case. The measure begins when the Board receives a complete application; it does not include time taken for the applicant to provide missing information. To assist the applicant, the Board has provided full application forms showing all the required information on the NFPPB website linked to the OMAFRA website.
    3. Speed of Issuance of Board decisions: Number of days between completion of the hearing and release of the decision. This is a measure of the length of time the parties have to wait for the Board's written decision after the hearing has ended.
    4. Quality of Service: The Board is committed to the following values and operating principles:

Expected Outcomes

  • Proficient delivery of adjudicative services.
  • Confidence in the Board by parties.
  • Efficient decision-making and timely release of decisions.
  • Compliance with the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Directive.
  • Compliance with the requirements of the AAD and ATAGAA.

Commitments and Highlights of Strategies for 2017-2020

The Board will continue to deliver on its historical key commitments and strategies moving forward into the 2017-2020 business cycle. These commitments and strategies envelop the Board's steadfast goal of providing a fair and impartial hearing and decision process in an accessible venue. The Board's focus continues to be on proficient delivery of adjudicative services, confidence in the Board by parties in the application and hearing process, efficient decision making and timely release of decisions and compliance with all regulatory requirements.

Financial Performance

The Board operates under a budget allocated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and as such do not have their own audited financial statements. The budget allocated will continue to be used to deliver on all business priorities of the Board.

NFPPB Annual Budget for Operating Expenses: 2017-2020

Transportation and Communication
$ 9,500
Services
$ 90, 000
Supplies and Equipment
$ 500
Total
$ 100,000

Inquiries

Board documents are accessible to the public, as required by the Adjudicative Tribunals Accessibility, Governance and Appointments Act (ATAGAA), in formats as addressed in the Board's Accessibility Document under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The following documents supportig the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board are available online and in print:

    • Information pamphlets:
      • So, You're Moving to the Country
      • Normal Farm Practices Conflict Resolution Process
      • Preparing for an Normal Farm Practices Protection Board Hearing
      • The Hearing Procedure - Normal Farm Practices Protection Board
      • Citizen's Guide to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board
      • Legislation and Farming Practices
    • Legislation and Rules:
        • Farming and Food Production Protection Act, 1998 (E-Laws)
        • The Farm and Food Production Protection Act, 1998 and Nuisance Complaints
        • NFPPB Rules of Practices and Procedure
        • Application to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board - Hearing Application
    • Accountability Documents:
      • Accessibility Document of the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board
      • Public Complaints Policy
      • Member Accountability Framework
      • Members Code of Conduct
      • Consultation Policy
      • Ethics Plan
      • Mandate and Mission Statement
      • Service Standard Policy
      • Business Plans
      • Annual Reports
      • Memorandum of Understanding

Copies of full Board decisions are available electronically and in print from the Agricultural Information Contact Centre and from Board office and online at CanLII.

Media requests made to the Board are handled as per the MOU.

All questions or queries regarding any matter pertaining to the Board may be directed to:

Normal Farm Practices Protection Board
1 Stone Road West
Guelph, Ontario N1G 4Y2

Telephone: 519-826-4049 or toll free at (888) 466-2372 ext. 519-826-4049

Email: SecretaryNFPPB@ontario.ca


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 2 January 2018
Last Reviewed: 2 January 2018