What’s new: A subsoil investigation is usually required to obtain the information necessary to support an application for a new or expanding manure facility. The newly completed series on subsoil investigations is available to support consultants performing these investigations.
Act and regulations
The Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA) and its associated regulations apply to all agricultural operations in Alberta.
Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation is responsible for developing and maintaining all of AOPA and the Agricultural Operations, Part 1 and Part 2 Matters Regulations as well as the Standards and Administration Regulation.
AOPA consists of the following parts:
Part 0.1 Insurance for Farming and Ranching Workers
- Requires farming or ranching operations to carry suitable private insurance, or else have coverage under the Workers’ Compensation Act for its employees.
- Has an associated regulation, the Agricultural Operations, Part 0.1 and Part 1 Matters Regulation, which defines 'private insurance' for the purpose of section 1.2 of the act.
- Is administered by the Farmers’ Advocate Office (FAO).
For more information, see Workplace Insurance: Farm and Ranch.
Part 1 Nuisance
- defines how nuisance issues such as odour, dust, noise and smoke resulting from agricultural activities are addressed
- is also administered by the FAO
The FAO helps find solutions when disputes over nuisance issues arise between the agricultural industry and neighbours. An appointed panel can review complaints related to nuisances such as agricultural odour, dust, noise and smoke. See the AOPA Practice Review Committee’s practices and procedures.
Part 2 Livestock and Manure
- sets the permitting process for the construction or expansion of confined feeding operations (CFOs), the compliance process, and management of manure on agricultural operations in Alberta.
- Has 3 associated regulations that set:
- the permitting process for the construction or expansion of CFOs
- the compliance process to address complaints regarding manure management on agricultural operations (see File a complaint)
- offences related to penalties for violating the act
- is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB).
The purpose of Part 2: Livestock and Manure of the Act is to ensure the province’s livestock industry can grow to meet the opportunities presented by local and world markets in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Livestock and manure management
Who AOPA applies to
It is important for everybody to understand their responsibilities and roles regarding this legislation. AOPA Part 2 and the 3 aforementioned regulations apply to anyone or any operation that produces, stores, transports, receives and applies manure, compost and composting materials. This includes:
- crop producers using manure as fertilizer
- custom manure applicators
- livestock producers using seasonal feeding and bedding sites or wintering sites
- producers with existing, expanding or new confined feeding operations
For more information, refer to the AOPA Reference Guide.
Confined feeding operations
A CFO is defined as 'fenced or enclosed land or buildings where livestock are confined for the purpose of growing, sustaining, finishing or breeding by means other than grazing, and any other building or structure directly related to that purpose' (AOPA, Section 1).
CFOs do not include:
- grazing livestock operations
- livestock seasonal feeding and bedding sites
- equestrian stables
- auction markets
- race tracks or exhibition grounds
Permits for CFOs
Under AOPA, non-CFO facilities as described above do not require permits from the NRCB. The NRCB only issues permits for:
- building or expanding CFOs
- manure storage facilities
- manure collection areas
The type of permit depends on:
- nature of the activity
- number of animals and animal species (as outlined in the Agricultural Operations, Part 2 Matters Regulation, Schedule 2, Threshold Tables)
- amount of manure
The 3 types of AOPA permits are:
- Registrations: AOPA permits for smaller CFOs
- Approvals: AOPA permits for larger CFOs
- Authorizations: AOPA permits for construction of manure storage facilities or manure collection areas
Note: The AOPA regulations allow for increased flexibility to capitalize on livestock market opportunities by allowing confined feeding operations (CFO) to change livestock types within a category. This online calculator helps CFO owners or operators evaluate changes, including combinations, of livestock types within a livestock category as specified in Table 1, Schedule 1 of the Standards and Administration Regulation.
As the owner or operator of your CFO, you are legally responsible for obtaining all required permits before beginning construction. If you are concerned an activity you started is construction, contact the nearest NRCB field office. They will determine if you require a permit and work with you should you need one.
Before constructing your facility and as part of the permit process, you will need to confirm that the technical requirements of the act and its regulations can be met. Ensure your plans are consistent with municipal land use planning rules by contacting your local municipality.
For operations not listed in this legislation – with animal numbers that fall below the registration threshold or produce less than 500 tonnes of manure per year – contact your municipality. For more information, see Municipalities and the Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA).
CFOs existing prior to January 1, 2002
All CFOs, manure storage facilities and manure collection areas that existed prior to January 1, 2002 are 'grandfathered' and have a deemed permit under AOPA. This permit may or may not be written. The NRCB has sole responsibility for enforcing conditions on written permits. For operations that do not have a previously issued permit, the NRCB will make a grandfathering determination to determine its working status along with permitted livestock numbers and facilities. They also have the authority to amend the terms and conditions of permits issued for CFOs and manure storage facilities. For more information, see Permits and Regulations for Existing Operations.
See also guidelines and calculation tool to help determine the livestock capacity of a CFO.
To find a permit for an existing CFO, use the NRCB CFO Search Engine. If a CFO existed prior to 2002 and does not show up in the search results, contact your local NRCB office – they may have information on the operation in their files.
Neighbours of an expanding or new CFO
Under AOPA and its regulations, directly affected neighbours have an opportunity to address environmental and nuisance concerns through the permitting process. The following factsheets outline in more detail where neighbours fit in this process:
Seasonal feeding and bedding sites
Seasonal feeding and bedding sites (SFBS), or wintering sites, are defined as areas where livestock are fed and sheltered over the winter. Farmers managing SFBS and livestock corrals must follow AOPA regulations.
SFBS do not require a permit. However, all livestock farmers are expected to follow the AOPA setbacks required from common bodies of water when locating wintering sites and livestock corrals. This practice will help minimize the risk of contaminated runoff potentially affecting the water quality of common water bodies. For more information see Wintering Sites and Livestock Corrals.
Manure management standards
Everyone that manages manure must follow manure management standards as required to minimize environmental risk to surface and ground water. This applies to all cropping and livestock operations including CFOs, cow/calf operations and horse owners. Environmental standards for manure management in Alberta’s agricultural industry include requirements that deal with:
- siting of CFO facilities
- livestock corrals and seasonal feeding and bedding sites
- catch basin design and management
- manure application
- record keeping
- soil testing
According to the regulations, expanding or new CFOs applying for permits must show they have access to enough land for manure application so they do not exceed soil nitrate-nitrogen and salinity limits.
Operations must develop one of the following:
- nutrient management plan (if they do not have enough land and will exceed soil limits)
- manure handling plan (if they do not comply with land base requirements)
Land base requirements can be determined by using the Manure Characteristics and Land Base Code that contains manure production volumes for various livestock types. For more information, refer to Manure Spreading Regulations.
Under the Standards and Administration Regulation, CFOs, custom manure applicators, cow/calf operations and others who apply, transfer or receive more than 500 tonnes of manure per year must keep records for a minimum of 5 years and must conduct soil tests. For more information, see Manure Management Record Keeping Regulations.
Technical guidelines clarify and provide guidance on practical and technical aspects of AOPA and its regulations. For more information on each guideline, see the Technical Guideline Listing.
- Leak Detection Groundwater Monitoring Parameters
- Leak Detection Groundwater Sampling
- Monitoring Well Construction, Installation and Development
- Reclamation of Groundwater Monitoring Wells
Manure storage facilities and manure collection areas
- Subsoil investigations for manure storage facilities and manure collection areas
- Subsoil investigations for naturally occurring protective layers
- Subsoil investigations for compacted soil liners
- Determining Equivalent Protective Layers and Constructed Liners
- Non-Engineered Concrete Liners for Manure Collection and Storage Areas
- Identifying Manure Storage Facilities and Manure Collection Areas at Confined Feeding Operations
- Temporary Suspension of Manure Storage Facilities
- Closure of Manure Storage Facilities and Manure Collection Areas
File a complaint
For manure management related complaints or concerns arising from confined feeding operations and non-compliance with Part 2 of the Act, regulations or permit conditions, call the anonymous NRCB 24 hour, toll-free reporting line at 1-866-383-6722. For more information, see AOPA Complaint Process (PDF, 2.3 MB).
The new Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP) is a 5-year (2023-2028), $3.5 billion investment by federal‐provincial and territorial governments that sets out to strengthen competitiveness, innovation, and resiliency in the agriculture, agri‐food and agri‐based products sector.
The Sustainable CAP Farm Technology Program supports the adoption of innovative technology that minimizes agricultural waste and optimizes farm efficiency, and encourages farm security best management practices. This program provides financial incentives on new technologies that are commercially available and already demonstrated under Alberta conditions. To be eligible for funding, the program targets technology that is proven, but not yet widely adopted within an applicant’s farm type.
The Resilient Agricultural Landscape Program helps producers improve the environmental resiliency of their land by encouraging adoption of beneficial management practices.
To stay current on program changes and news on future environment programming, see Sustainable CAP in Alberta.
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