The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is one of 17 Ontario ministries that is required under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR) to include the public in its environmentally significant decision making. Click on a heading below to learn about the OMAFRA and its EBR requirements and performance.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has a mandate to ensure the sustainability of agriculture in Ontario, including its impacts on the environment. The OMAFRA deals with a broad range of environmentally significant issues, including land use planning, nutrient management, water quality in the Great Lakes, air and noise issues related to agriculture, farm animal diseases, human-wildlife conflicts, and pollinator protection. The ministry has an identified role under Ontario’s Biodiversity Plan, as well as an important role in addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Statement of Environmental Values
Each ministry that is prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) is required to develop a Statement of Environmental Values to guide ministry staff when making decisions that might significantly affect the environment. Read the Statement of Environmental Values of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
Public Notice and Consultation
Each ministry that is prescribed under the EBR is required to consult the public on certain environmentally significant proposals via the Environmental Registry. Specifically, the OMAFRA must give notice of, and consult on, any proposal to make or amend a policy or act that could have a significant effect on the environment.
In addition, the OMAFRA is required to provide notice and consult with the public on any proposed regulation, or amendment to a regulation, made under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, or any regulation made under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 that relates to the disposal of deadstock, if the proposal may have a significant effect on the environment.
Applications for Review
Under the EBR, members of the public can ask the OMAFRA to review the need for a new environmental policy, act or regulation. In addition, the public may ask the OMAFRA to review the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, a regulation made under this Act, or any of the ministry’s existing policies.
The ministry is required to consider all such requests, and to respond within 60 days of receiving the application to let both the applicants and the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario know whether or not it will undertake the requested review.
Pending Requests for Review
Soil Management in Agricultural Operations (R2014002): In January 2015, two Ontarians submitted an Application for Review requesting a review of the need for an act to declare the Ontario government’s support for sustainable and careful use of soil. They stated that current legislation and incentives are insufficient to encourage responsible soil management on agricultural land. The ministry agreed to undertake a review, which it expects to complete by winter 2017.
Applications for Investigation
Under the EBR, members of the public can ask certain ministries to investigate alleged contraventions of certain acts, regulations and instruments. The OMAFRA does not administer any acts that are prescribed under the EBR for Applications for Investigation.
In December 2015, the ECO invited prescribed ministries to recommit in writing to the EBR. Read the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' recommitment to the EBR.
The ECO evaluates prescribed ministries’ performance under the EBR. Here is the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' EBR report card for the 2016/2017 reporting year.
ECO Comment: The OMAFRA carried out some of its EBR responsibilities well this year, continuing to post high quality notices on the Registry and doing a better job of responding to the ECO’s requests for proof of consideration of its Statement of Environmental Values. The ECO also continued to have a productive working relationship with the OMAFRA’s EBR co-ordinator, who was proactive in seeking advice from our office on Environmental Registry matters and was co-operative with requests from the ECO. Unfortunately, the OMAFRA failed to post its one decision notice in 2016/2017 as soon as reasonably possible, taking 2 months to give notice to the public that it had finalized an important policy on pollinator health. Further, at the end of the reporting year, one of the OMAFRA’s proposals on the Environmental Registry was outdated; with very few open proposals on the Environmental Registry, the OMAFRA should be able to ensure that all notices are kept up to date by posting updates or decision notices promptly. Finally, the ECO encourages the OMAFRA to conclude its now overdue review of soil management in agricultural operations in 2017/2018.
Quality of Performance
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is deeply committed to meeting the objectives of the Environmental Registry and the ministry’s statutory obligations under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR).
I am pleased to see positive results for OMAFRA in the EBR Report Card for the 2016/17 fiscal year which saw progress on a number of environmental initiatives in the ministry’s mandate letter. This includes broad public consultation in developing an Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy.
OMAFRA also acknowledges areas for improvement identified by the ECO and is committed to improving its performance. We will move forward on these and other important decisions that may have a significant effect on the environment. OMAFRA will also continue to update its internal processes to better meet its EBR responsibilities
To view other ministries’ EBR report cards, go to Government Performance on this website and select the ministry of your choice.
The ECO’s full report to the Legislative Assembly on the 2016/2017 EBR report cards can be accessed here.
In our reports, the ECO makes recommendations to improve EBR compliance and environmental protection. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has several outstanding ECO recommendations, including:
- The ECO recommends that the MOECC and the OMAFRA ban, province-wide, the spreading of phosphorus-based agricultural materials, including manure, fertilizer and sewage sludge, on frozen or saturated ground (2017 Annual Report).
- The ECO recommends that the OMAFRA amend the Drainage Act and its policies to ensure that provincially significant wetlands are protected from being drained (2009/2010 Annual Report).
- In 2014, the public submitted over 52,000 comments through the Environmental Registry on Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' proposal to enhance pollinator health and reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. The ministry reported that it carefully considered the public's comments in developing a draft Action Plan.
Since 2000, the annual ECO Recognition Award has recognized the hard work of ministry staff in an initiative that benefits Ontario’s environment and meets the goals of the EBR. Every year, the ECO asks prescribed ministries to submit programs and projects to be considered for the award. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has not yet been the recipient of the ECO Recognition Award.