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Farm Construction, Agriculture and other issues 


Farm building construction, generally regulated under the Ontario Building Code, involves buildings, for housing livestock and equipment, as well as other structures (including silos) used for the production, storage and processing of agricultural products. The Ontario Building Code also permits farm building construction in Ontario to be regulated by the National Farm Building Code of Canada. 

As with residential and commercial structures, the building department of the applicable municipality issues building permits for farm structures. Prospective buyers contemplating new farm building can avail themselves of expertise through the Canada Plan Service (CPS). This Canada-wide network of agricultural engineers and livestock specialists focuses on the planning, design and construction of modern farm buildings. The CPS has developed various plans that include detailed design specifications.

Whether or not engineered drawings plans are required depends on the size and complexity of the building project. Also, plans may be needed to address unusual circumstances. Further, officials will usually require engineered drawings to ensure that structural designs properly address anticipated loads. A site investigation may be necessary to assess soil conditions for heavy structures, such as a tower silo.

The zoning by-law will set out minimum building setback requirements. Farm buildings used for livestock facilities or manure storage warrant special mention. Two minimum distance separation criteria are used:

1.       Minimum Distance Separation I (MDS I): The minimum separation distance required between new development and existing livestock facilities or manure storages.

2.       Minimum Distance Separation II (MDS II): the minimum separation distance required between new or expanding livestock or manure storage facilities and property boundaries, houses recreational areas and other land uses.

MDS II calculations are enforced by the municipality and compliance is required in order to obtain a building permit for any new or expanded livestock or manure storage facility, regardless of size. MDS I calculations are part of a nutrient management strategy required under the Nutrient Management Act.

The Nutrient Management Act, 2002, requires that any building project relating to livestock housing or manure storage facility must have an approved nutrient management strategy (NMS) before a building permit will be issued. This applies to all farms that generate more than five nutrient units and are proposing to build, expand or renovate. A nutrient unit is calculated based on the number and type of livestock being housed.

The Nutrient Management Act, in addition to minimum distance requirements for livestock or manure storage structures, also addresses the following:

·         Storage, handling, use and transportation of commercial fertilizers;

·         Requirements to develop, documents and retain records relating to nutrient management plans and strategies;

·         Required qualifications for farmers and others applying such materials; and

·         Establishment of minimum distance requirements regarding land applications to protect adjacent land and watersheds/sources.



Registrants may encounter various unique circumstances involving commercial farming operation. Selected topics are included for illustrative purposes, but those individuals focusing their efforts on farming should pursue advanced education courses to further their careers.


Commercial farming operations may be involved in the installation of an underground drainage system, either tile, pipe or tubing, which can improve productivity of agricultural land as it removes excess water from crop roots, thereby heightening crop yields and overall farming efficiency. Farmers can be eligible for a tile loan program under the Tile Drainage Act, subject to approval by the local municipality. Loan specifics can be obtained from the local municipality or the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The work must be completed by a licensed drainage contractor. A completion certificate is prepared, as well as a tile drainage record showing the location, spacing, direction and depth of the tile bed. Each year, thousands of feet of agricultural drainage are installed. Currently, tile-drainage records are being organized into a geo-spatial tile drain database to consolidate existing tile drain information. Registrants are cautioned, however, that the existence and/or location of old tile beds may not be known.


Larger farm operations may undertake certain water-related projects including the construction of dams, general drainage, diversions and similar projects, which falls under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Ace. This Act gives the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) a mandate to manage various water-related activities, particularly in areas beyond the jurisdiction of conversation authorities and where statutory compliance is necessary.

The Act sets out approvals required based on land ownership; e.g., Crown land, municipal or private. A property owner, when contemplating the building of a dam, drain or diversion, should contact the MNR for guidance on whether or not a work permit is required and obtain information concerning environmentally appropriate practices and procedures. Local conversation authorities may also be involved in the approval process. For property fronting on the Rideau Canal or Trent-Severn Waterway, the owner should also contact the Department of Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada.

SOIL TESTING            

A soil test is used to determine what specific amounts and types of fertilizers should be applied for best crop production. Laboratories may also use other methods to assess needs, such as plant analysis and nutrient deficiency determinations in crop leaves. Soil testing facilities for farming operations are available through various laboratories. The Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs has an accreditation program to ensure that testing procedures are highly accurate. Farmers are encouraged to use accredited laboratories for the best results.

The success of any soil testing depends on the number of samples, the correct depth of sampling and sampling patterns used for fields or areas being sampled. The Ministry provides detailed sampling instructions but, generally speaking, the more samples systematically taken, the greater the reliability. Fields for most farming areas should be sampled every two or three years.


Registrants should be generally aware of taxation issues to assist in the listing and selling of farm property. However, appropriate expertise must be obtained to address specific buyer and seller circumstances and matters relating directly to a particular property.  Ontario farmers receive a 75% tax reduction for municipal taxes, based on the current residential property class if the property is assessed and valued as farmland by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation if they:

·         Carry on a farming business generating a pre-determined level of gross income;

·         Are Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada.

·         Have a valid farm business registration number under the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993; and

·         Submit the appropriate application annually.