Agricultural Operation Practices Act

Act and regulations

The Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA) and its associated regulations apply to all agricultural operations in Alberta. The purpose 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.

AOPA is divided into 2 parts:

  • Part 1 Nuisance: defines how nuisance issues such as odour, dust, noise and smoke resulting from agricultural activities are addressed.
  • 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.

Part 2 of AOPA has 3 associated regulations:

  • Agricultural Operations, Part 2 Matters Regulation
  • Agricultural Operation Practices Act Administrative Procedures Regulation
  • Standards and Administration Regulation

It is important for everybody to understand their responsibilities and roles regarding this legislation. AOPA and its regulations apply to anyone or any operation that produces, stores, transports, receives and applies manure and manure compost. This includes:

For more information, refer to the AOPA Reference Guide.

Responsibilities

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for developing and maintaining the AOPA and 2 of its 3 regulations: the Agricultural Operations, Part 2 Matters Regulation and the Standards and Administration Regulation.

The Farmers’ Advocate Office (FAO) administers Part 1 Nuisance of the act that outlines how to address nuisance issues such as agricultural odour, dust, noise and smoke. For more information, see File a complaint.

The Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) is responsible for maintaining the AOPA Administrative Procedures Regulation and administering Part 2 Livestock and Manure of the act and 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

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:

  • residences
  • 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

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.

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.

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. 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:

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 either:

  • a nutrient management plan (if they do not have enough land and will exceed soil limits), or
  • a 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

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.

Groundwater

Manure application

Manure storage facilities and manure collection areas

Permitting

File a complaint

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.

Affected parties can contact the FAO for more information or through the Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276).

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.

Stewardship funding

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) Environmental Stewardship and Climate Change – Producer Program supports producers in addressing environmental risks. This includes helping producers address risks to ground and surface water quality related to manure management.

For riparian, manure and livestock facilities management projects, please view program categories A and B under the Producer Program Funding List. To stay current on program changes and news on future environmental programming, see CAP Programs.

Contact

To connect with the Ag-Info Centre:

Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276)
Phone: 403-742-7901 (outside Alberta)
Email: aginfocentre@gov.ab.ca