Soil Conservation Act receives blessing

CHris Clegg
South Peace News

An audit of the M.D. of Smoky River’s agriculture service board [ASB] found that council has no policy on soil conservation as required by the Government of Alberta.
It is no longer the case after council moved quickly to pass a policy at its Feb. 9 meeting.
Ag fieldman Shayne Steffen attended the meeting to inform council of the requirement. As a result, he presented a draft policy for council’s approval. In the end, council passed the same document as the Alberta Soil Conservation Act, which has been around in various forms since the1940s.
Councillors did notice a few matters of concern in the document. Reeve Robert Brochu expressed concern about flooding causing erosion.
“It puts the onus on both sides,” said Girouxville Councillor Alain Blanchette.
“It puts the onus on the landowner, it puts the onus on the municipality. This is nothing new,” he added.
One part of the Act requires landowners to clean ditches if it’s deemed soil from the land caused the problem.
“If that’s the case, we could have 50 farmers in here tomorrow,” noted Whitemud Councillor Raoul Johnson.
“Are we on the hook for this?” he asked. “A farmer can say, ‘Go clean this up.’”
“I don’t know,” replied Brochu.
“What choice do we have?” asked Johnson. “It’s part of the Act.”
Steffen cautioned council not to worry because in his 20 years he has only dealt with two matters.
“The farmers, they don’t want to lose the land,” he said.

ASB duties defined

While passing a second policy defining ASB duties, Brochu was surprised to discover a neighbouring farmer can force his neighbour to spray if pests are affecting his land.
Brochu noted, for example, a farmer can force his neighbour to spray for grasshoppers although he may not want to due to a poor crop which makes it financially unviable.
“[He may not want to] pay $15-20 acre to spray,” said Brochu.
Such an order is subject to appeal which could lengthen the process resulting in damage before spraying occurs. A farmer can appeal an order to the M.D., then provincial minister, and Court of Queens Bench.
Council approved the ASB policy.

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