The discovery of Clubroot in the Peace Region last fall in both Big Lakes County and the M.D. of Greenview has led to a great deal of discussion, speculation and rumors in the farming community.
It was first discovered in Lesser Slave River in 2014, so is still quite new and not widespread.
The Fieldmen who work in the three rural municipalities covered by the Spotlight insert decided it would be a good idea to co-present some information from a Municipal perspective.
First off, you need to start with a couple Provincial Acts; the Agricultural Pests Act (Pests Act), and the Agricultural Service Board Act (ASB Act).
Those Acts are commonly referred to as “empowering legislation”, they are Acts of the Provincial Government, under the purview of the Minister of Agriculture & Forestry but the Legislated authority is generally considered to have been “passed down” to the Municipalities, they “empower” the Municipality to act.
The ASB Act empowers rural municipalities to hire Agricultural Fieldmen, and to appoint Agricultural Service Boards whose duties (among other important things) are: “to promote, enhance and protect viable and sustainable agriculture with a view to improving the economic viability of the agricultural producer” and “to promote and develop agricultural policies to meet the needs of the municipality”.
The ASB’s recommend programs and policies to the elected Council and one of the reasons this is so key is the Pests Act.
Although the Pests Act is quite specific when it spells out the landowner and occupant rights and responsibilities, it’s really quite vague when it comes to what the Municipality has to do. Other than requiring a Municipality (including Towns and Villages) to appoint inspectors and an appeal committee for a Municipality, its responsibility is to “Take active measures to prevent establishment of, or control or destroy pests in the municipality”. Considering the Pests and Nuisance Control Regulation of the Pests Act designates for example both Grasshoppers and Clubroot as Pests, and one is pretty well everywhere while the other is still quite rare, you can start to appreciate why each Municipality writes specific Polices to deal with the Pests of most concern to them.
Which pests are most important and how a Municipality will deal with those is up to the ASB and Council of the Municipality, the Fieldman works with them to recommend and then enforce those Policies.
So, how a municipality decides to deal with (or not deal with) a Pest may not be at all similar to how other municipalities deal with it, and that’s the municipality’s prerogative.
All three municipalities have Clubroot Policies.
We all actively inspect lands to look for the disease.
Lesser Slave River’s Policy says they will inspect any field “known to be consecutively seeded to canola for more than two years”, Big Lakes County Policy says they will inspect a majority of their Canola fields where Smoky River says a minimum of 50 Canola fields.
Big Lakes and Smoky prioritize their inspected fields similarly, giving higher priority if their producer farms land outside the Peace Region, or is known to have brought in farm or earth moving equipment from outside the Peace and if it is believed Clubroot symptoms are seen.
Smoky also gives higher priority to fields farmed in short rotation.
Regarding enforcement if Clubroot is found, both Lesser Slave River and Big Lakes differentiate what steps they’ll take at 10 per cent Clubroot infection levels, Lesser Slave River will encourage their producers to follow the Alberta Clubroot Management Plan when clubroot infestation levels are less than or equal to 10 per cent, Big Lakes sets specific guidelines including following a 1-in-4 rotation using Clubroot Resistant canola and states if the guidelines are not followed a Pest Notice will be issued including destruction of the Canola crop.
Lesser Slave River will issue Notices when infestation levels greater than 10 per cent are found and require a 1-in-4 rotation.
Above 10 per cent Big Lakes insists on a 1-in-5 year rotation. Smoky River does not have a percentage level differentiating what we will require, if clubroot is found a Pest Notice will be issued each year to enforce a 1-in-4 year rotation, and allow CR varieties seeded after the three-year break.
Although Lesser Slave River doesn’t specify CR canola being grow in their 1-in-4 rotation, the Alberta Clubroot Management Plan does so they have covered that requirement without specifying it.
There are definitely other differences within the three Polices, as well as how we conduct field inspections but we felt those were the key differences worth mentioning in this article.
It’s also important to note that Municipal Policies are much easier to change than legislation. The ASB’s and Council’s review their programs and policies on an ongoing basis and adapt to the changing needs of their municipalities.
Producers in each Municipality should get to know their Fieldmen and become familiar with all municipal agricultural policies.
Even though there are differences municipality to municipality, the intent is always the same, to protect the agricultural productivity of the land, to promote, enhance and protect viable and sustainable agriculture.
Lesser Slave River
Sheila Kaus, CCA
Big Lakes County
(780) 523-5955 ext. 2362
Normand Boulet, CCA
M.D. of Smoky River