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By Tom VanDusen - AgriNews Staff Writer

It seems that not a moment's attention was given to the ramifications for traditional family farms of a proposed three km buffer zone between hog farms - and pretty well anything else - within the City of Ottawa.

The buffer zone has been recommended by city staff in response to a request by council to come up with ways of deterring intensive hog farms from establishing within Ottawa's expanded limits.

Graham Hudson, patriarch of family farming operations near Kinburn - in Ottawa's far west end - which include farrow-to-finish hogs, beef and 800 acres of cash crops, points out the buffer zone if approved will stifle future expansion.

"I'm not saying I'm in favour of intensive hog operations... but this buffer would catch up everybody else too."

Leading the family's fight against the scheme - and representing Ontario Pork in the process - has been son Bruce Hudson (see related story). Bruce says OP is prepared to go all the way in resisting the anti-farming measure, including Ontario Municipal Board and court hearings.

A coalition of farm groups including OP, which is taking on the city in its shortsighted approach, scored a temporary victory July 24 when it persuaded the planning and development committee to reject the controversial measures - including a limitation of 750 sows - by a vote of 5-4.

But the coalition doesn't expect an easy ride when the proposals finally come before the full 21-member city council Aug. 27. Heavy duty lobbying is underway to try to sway as many councillors as possible before the big vote, Bruce said

The Hudsons have been farming in what is now West Carleton Ward since 1832. They hope to do so for years to come and for that to happen, they need the freedom to continue evolving to meet modern farming practices, Bruce emphasized.

And why wouldn't they be encouraged rather than held back in the place that likes to call itself the agricultural capital, as well as political capital, of Canada?

Bragging about the thriving agricultural industry within city limits, and then engaging in a range war on modern farming, is an amazing contradiction.

Even Dennis Jacobs, the city's director of planning environment and infrastructure policy, has agreed the restrictions as proposed go too far, especially the buffer which would in effect - and this is Jacobs' own take on it - leave very little land on which to construct or expand new operations.

Like everything agricultural in Ottawa, it all ties back to the infamous Sarsfield hog farm. The recommended hog limits and buffer would be part of a new zoning bylaw to replace an interim control bylaw, which expires in September.

That bylaw was introduced strictly to block a Quebec-based hog operation from setting up shop near Sarsfield in the city's Cumberland Ward. When the Quebecers refused to roll over, the Sarsfield case ended up in court where it languishes to this day, with work on the enterprise blocked and taxpayers facing massive legal bills.

The Sarsfield charge was lead by Cumberland Coun. Phil McNeely who says the proposed new measures will protect residential ratepayers from the negative fallout of intensive operations.

Since when to residences take precedence in farm country? And does council really think that somehow its bylaw - if it comes to pass - will supersede the province's more reasonable and accommodating Nutrient Management Act?

Representing the flip side of the coin has been West Carleton Ward Coun. Dwight Eastman, himself a beef farmer and vocal rural advocate. Eastman doesn't mince words in claiming the new measures will be another crippling blow to Ottawa's agricultural industry.

"Ottawa advertises itself as the farming capital of Canada and at every turn of the road it tries to put up roadblocks for modern farming operations," Eastman has stated publicly.

"These are unworkable restrictions. Once you include the three km buffer zone, there's nothing left. They've eliminated the potential for any large pork operations."

Ironically, as Eastman has pointed out, it's unlikely proposed restrictions would rope in the controversial operation at Sarsfield because any new bylaw is not normally applied retroactively.

Hopefully, come Aug. 27, a clear-thinking council will apply the brakes to all this craziness.



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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