Agricultural industries and their impacts
Commercial farms are businesses like any other, and moving in next door to a farming operation may not always meet your expectations of a peaceful life in the country. In rural areas, the sources of the impacts you experience are often much easier to notice than in an urban environment, where impacts more easily blend in or are readily dispersed.
When moving to a rural area, it is important to understand that many of these impacts are produced by legitimate rural land management activities. The common impacts of agricultural production are explored here, with suggestions as to how you might address them.
Some odour-producing land uses include:
- Dairies and piggeries
- Egg and chicken production
- Garbage tips and waste effluent treatment plants
- Septic systems
These are rarely a threat to human health, yet wind direction and strength can cause impacts well beyond the boundary fence.
Dust can be a nuisance, with common sources including:
- Ploughing and other cultivation operations
- Crop harvesting
- Traffic on unsealed roads, including large trucks
- Natural causes such as wind storms
Dust impacts are highly affected by wind.
Smoke is unlikely to create a long-term impact and may only last for a couple of hours. However, it can trigger health conditions such as asthma and other breathing disorders.
Some agricultural practices recommend burning crop stubble to minimise the risk of crop diseases spreading. These burn-offs are very well controlled and notification must be given to the Country Fire Authority.
Fires and fire management activities are hard to avoid when living in country Victoria, and the Country Fire Authority can be a good source of information on the local area.
In some agricultural areas and at some times during crop production cycles, rural Victoria can be a noisy place, and it can keep you awake at night. Open country, and wind strength and direction can help noise carry over long distances.
Many noise impacts are seasonal and may only last for a few days, but they can be generated by a wide range of activities, including:
- Night-time and early morning machinery operations
- Trucks, tractors, and diesel pump motors
- Bird and other pest scaring devices
- Animals, such as young calves recently weaned from their mothers
- Motor bikes, dogs barking and windmills
Productive agricultural land can be put to many uses and increasingly, Victorian farmers are trialling new and different ways of keeping their farm enterprises profitable. This means rural landscapes can change frequently, for example:
- Pasture and grazing land can be turned over to crops or orchards.
- New, more intensive industries can develop.
- Farm buildings can appear.
- Native scrub and other vegetation can be cleared under a permit system.
- Broadacre rural land can be subdivided into smaller rural residential allotments.
- Hail and bird netting can be constructed over large areas of orchards, possibly changing the view for many weeks of the year.
The responsible use of agricultural chemicals provides benefits for both farmers and the surrounding environment. Farmers are very careful in their use of chemicals, as it is a waste of money if the chemicals don't hit the target plant or pest. Farmers are also required to undertake farm chemical user courses emphasising correct application rates, safe use and safe storage.
It is an offence for chemicals to cause damage beyond the target area, and there are a range of acts and regulations that control their use. The use of some chemicals is restricted in various parts of Victoria.
There are likely to be many different philosophies about the use of chemicals in agriculture. Much of the high quality, fresh food that is produced requires the use of chemicals for pest control.
Some farmers use organic and bio-dynamic production systems which have a reduced reliance on chemicals, but it is the decision of the farmer as to what system they use.
Land holders have minimal grounds for objection if their neighbours are using chemicals legitimately.
- Research the main agricultural industries in your area so you know what impacts to expect.
- If you are buying a property, consider what impacts may affect you, and how your planned endeavours may affect others.
What you can do?
Keep in mind that your own production systems may impact your neighbours. Taking time to understand neighbouring operations is the best way to ensure your farms are compatible.
- Do your research before you buy, to find out whether there are any odour-producing industries nearby.
- Meet with your neighbours to discuss your concerns, and encourage a cooperative approach that minimises the impact on you.
- Because wind direction is such a big factor in transmitting odours, wind breaks and strategic planting of trees and shrubs can reduce some odour impacts.
- Take whatever measures you can on your own property to minimise dust nuisances.
- Talk to your neighbour about the impact their dust is having on you.
- Work cooperatively to develop appropriate measures to reduce the impacts.
- Plant vegetative windbreaks to interrupt the transmission of dust through the air.
- Find out whether smoke-generating activities will be a regular occurrence nearby.
- Let your neighbour know your concerns and ask if burn-offs can be undertaken when the wind is blowing away from your property.
- Go away for the time of the burn-off.
- Let your neighbour know when you are about to undertake smoke-generating activities.
- Talk to your neighbour to find out when noisy activities are likely to occur.
- Plan your activities around these times. You might decide to go away if the impact will be significant.
- Consider incorporating acoustic insulation in and around your home.
- Plant trees and shrubs along your boundary for a good long-term solution. Ask your neighbours if they would plant some as well.
- Suggest to your neighbour that irrigation pump motors be enclosed in an acoustically insulated shed.
- Talk with your neighbour if your operations include noisy activities.
- Be aware that vistas may change.
- Be aware of the types of agricultural activities that are likely in your area.
- Be aware that in most of rural Victoria, professional farmers who are carrying out legitimate agricultural activities will own much of the land that makes up your view.
- Plant screening vegetation to reduce the impact of unsightly sheds and other developments.
- Be aware of the agricultural activities in the area and find out the likely level of use of chemicals – some crops require more chemicals than others.
- Ask your neighbour whether they use chemicals, and understand how these might affect you.
- If you are thinking about setting up a new industry like a vineyard, fully consider what impact your use of chemicals will have on the existing residents around you – and what impacts neighbouring farms may have on your operation.
- Be aware of your own obligations regarding the use of chemicals on your property.