The Ponoka Right to Farm Society (PRTFS) issued a letter of intent to Ponoka County related to its recent confined feeding operations bylaw.
The letter was issued to the county Feb. 15 with lawyer Keith Wilson, of Wilson Law Office, stating the intent of the society to file a claim in the Court of Queens Bench to strike down the bylaw.
Last October, Ponoka County approved an area structure plan that would see no new confined feeding operations (CFOs) in an area northwest of the Town of Ponoka. That bylaw is what’s being challenged.
“The Ponoka Northwest Area Structure Plan bylaw seeks to interfere with property rights,” alleges Wilson in the letter to the county.
It also claims that the bylaw prohibits legitimate livestock farming and is based on, “…based on biases against supply-managed livestock businesses and other improper considerations.”
The letter states concerns over motivations of the county and elected officials.
Speaking on behalf of the society (264 members), board member John Hulsman, said it is comprised of more than CFO operators who are concerned about the implications of the bylaw.
“We have shown the county that there’s nothing unique about the area and if the county can ban new livestock farms in the northwest area then the county can do that anywhere.”
Another concern for the society is that modern livestock operations are governed by the National Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) and Environment Canada. On top of that, Hulsman says current laws take into account proximity to other properties.
“Ponoka County is a farming community and the municipal government should not be setting up exclusion zones and banning new farms,” said Hulsman.
He added that in order to be competitive, farms also need to be able to grow. The society’s chairperson is Harry Makkinga.
CAO Charlie Cutforth said this is a unique situation for the county. “This was done intentionally with the direction of the NRCB.”
He said the point of the bylaw within the county’s Municipal Development Plan was to find some balance between the different uses within its boundaries.
The current bylaw is not designed to restrict industry from doing its work, he added. Cutforth said the process started with the county bringing the initial proposed bylaw to the NRCB, which then made some notes to the proposal.
Ponoka News has not yet seen a statement of claim.