Draft Agricultural Impact Assessment (AIA) Guidance Document
OFT recently reviewed and provided recommendations for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs’ Draft Agricultural Impact Assessment (AIA) Guidance Document. These recommendations work to improve the document’s impact and the process’ transparency, benefit, and consistency, which ultimately improves its protection of farmland and the agri-food sector.
Overview of the draft document:
The Agricultural Impact Assessment Guidance Document is a technical document that is used to guide practitioners in meeting new provincial standards for an Agricultural Impact Assessment. The document will help to standardize assessment information and create best practices for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating impacts to agriculture.
Overview of our feedback:
OFT provided several recommendations to strengthen the guidance within the draft document. The recommendations were divided into several themes: mitigation, AIA use outside of the GGH, long-term farmland protection, meaningful stakeholder consultation, and qualified professionals.
Key recommendations included:
- language around “mitigation measures” should be altered throughout the document to reflect the broader suite of options available and clarify the preference of avoidance strategies
- consistent language should be used throughout the document for AIAs within and outside of the GGH to provide all municipalities equal guidance
- more information should be provided about long-term protection of farmland through stronger language, clearer definitions, and education activities
- additional information and clarity should be included regarding consultation processes and requirements. Furthermore, representation from the agricultural community should be included during pre-consultation
- professionals involved in the process should be required to have experience in assessing agricultural impacts.
OFT believes that the Draft AIA Guidance Document is a promising tool to direct the use of AIAs to protect Ontario’s farmland and the agri-food sector. We look forward to any future opportunities to further strengthen its guidance and impact.