(Quebec) The Legault government postpones for four years the firm application of a regulation aimed at the protection of water in agricultural areas, even if it is “crucial for the protection of water and soil”, according to the Environment Minister Benoît Charette. Quebec wants to give farmers more time to comply with the new standards.

“I wouldn’t say the regulations are excessive, but you have to give yourself a longer compliance period. In recent weeks, the news may not have percolated, but there has been an announcement of a compliance lag of a few years. We will be there to support the producers, ”dropped the minister during an exchange with Liberal MP André Fortin during the study of the budget appropriations of his department, Wednesday at the National Assembly.

This postponement concerns two measures announced in 2022. The first is a “requirement to establish vegetated strips of five meters along watercourses, and three meters along ditches”, in particular to avoid pesticide releases in the rivers.

The second concerns a measure that forced farms to treat excessively polluting waste water from washing fruits and vegetables.

The minister’s office then clarified that during this four-year period, our inspectors will provide support for farmers.” “We will ask them to demonstrate their real desire to change their practice or improve their practice. In a case of bad faith, sanctions may still apply, “said the minister’s press secretary, Mélina Jalbert.

The exact wording of this relaxation is not yet known. In a press release, the ministry said it “will be proposing a regulatory amendment in the coming months to give farmers more time to adapt to this new requirement.”

When the regulations were made public in May 2022, Quebec claimed that they were necessary to “ensure the protection of the environment, particularly that of water and soil, against pollution caused by certain agricultural activities”.

His colleague Minister of Agriculture André Lamontagne also sang of the environmental virtues of this measure. “All the work done since March 2021, with the establishment of the committee made up of MAPAQ, MELCC and the Union des producteurs agricole, to recognize practices that aim to improve the environmental balance sheet, is finally showing results. Today’s announcement confirms the importance our government places on sustainable and environmentally sound agriculture,” he said.

During the study of credits, MNA André Fortin defended agricultural producers. He believes that the regulatory requirements are too important.

Minister Charette replied that vegetable washing water is not free of pollution, particularly in terms of sediment and pesticides. He took potato wash water as an example, which contains starch and “ages” waterways by causing them to sediment.

Mr. Fortin countered that a beet farm had to temporarily close following a complaint, since its discharges into a watercourse turned the water “red”.

“Wash water can be extremely dense and loaded with sediment. Color is not just a color. If we come to affect a watercourse, it’s serious, ”said Mr. Charette, adding in the same breath that he will finally let four years pass before applying the firm settlement.

His ministry said it “will be proposing a regulatory amendment in the coming months to give farmers more time to adapt to this new requirement.”