Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae
Table of Contents
The Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae are land use planning tools that determine setback distances between livestock barns, manure storages or anaerobic digesters and surrounding land uses. The objective of MDS is to minimize land use conflicts and nuisance complaints related to odour. MDS does not account for other nuisances such as noise or dust. MDS is made up of two separate, but related, formulae that act reciprocally to site both new development and new or expanding livestock facilities:
MDS I provides the minimum distance separation between proposed new development and any existing livestock barns, manure storages and/or anaerobic digesters.
MDS II provides the minimum distance separation between proposed new, expanding or remodelled livestock barns, manure storages and/or anaerobic digesters and existing or approved development.
The MDS Formulae are based on five factors:
The calculated setback distances will vary according to these five factors, and will result in unique distances for different types of operations in different circumstances and locations. In Ontario's rural and prime agricultural areas, the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, requires that new land uses, including the creation of lots and new or expanding livestock facilities, comply with the MDS Formulae. References to MDS are to be included in municipal planning documents such as zoning by-laws and official plans. Before a land use planning approval can be given, or a building permit can be issued, conformity to the MDS Document must be demonstrated.
The current version of the MDS Formulae, definitions, factors, implementation guidelines, calculation forms, explanatory schematics and additional training information are in Publication 853, "The Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Document Formulae and Guidelines for Livestock Facility and Anaerobic Digester Odour Setbacks." This document is effective as of March 1, 2017, and replaces all former versions of the MDS Formulae and guidelines.
To get a copy of Publication 853:
A revision to the MDS Document - Publication 853 was made on March 27, 2017. If you have an older version of the PDF or hard copy of the document, we recommend that you get an updated copy. For information about MDS, the MDS Formulae, the MDS Document or the MDS software (see Section 6 below), contact your regional OMAFRA Rural Planner or the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or email@example.com.
The concept of controlling the separation of livestock barns from other, potentially incompatible, land uses originated in Ontario in 1970 with the introduction of the document, A Suggested Code of Practice. To address nuisance issues associated with odour, A Suggested Code of Practice recommended fixed minimum separation distances between livestock or poultry barns and neighbouring houses, residential zones, lot lines and roads.
While A Suggested Code of Practice contained a framework for the building or expanding of livestock barns, it provided little protection for livestock operations from encroachment by other land uses. In 1976, the Agricultural Code of Practice was introduced to address concerns not accounted for by the previous approach. One of its significant additions was the provision of a two-way approach to separating livestock and poultry barns from non-compatible uses, and vice-versa. It also introduced a sliding scale for separation distances to better accommodate the range of sizes and types of livestock operations that exist. The previous approach applied fixed distances, which were often either too restrictive or too lenient.
The Agricultural Code of Practice created two formulae that mirror the approach that is still taken in the current MDS Formulae. The MDS I formula was established to determine the minimum separation distances between proposed new development and existing livestock facilities and/or permanent manure storages. The MDS II formula was developed to determine the minimum separation distances between proposed new, enlarged, or remodelled livestock facilities and/or permanent manure storages and other existing or approved development.
In 1995, the Agricultural Code of Practice was replaced with three separate documents: Guide to Agricultural Land Use, Minimum Distance Separation I (MDS I), and Minimum Distance Separation II (MDS II). Revisions were made to the individual Minimum Distance Separation Formulae but the basic principles remained the same as the 1976 version.
In 2006, following the advice of the Agricultural Advisory Team, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) undertook an extensive review and consultation, and the individual MDS I and MDS II documents were combined into one comprehensive document called the Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae - Publication 707.
Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Formulae - Publication 707 committed OMAFRA to undertaking a five-year review of the MDS to ensure it:
The review process for the MDS Formulae began in December 2012. In addition, following the approval of the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 (PPS), OMAFRA committed to updating PPS guidance materials in order to support the directives laid out in the PPS, to reflect updated information and knowledge and to meet the needs of the agricultural community. The release of the most recent update of the MDS Formulae, found in Publication 853, The Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) Document Formulae and Guidelines for Livestock Facility and Anaerobic Digester Odour Setbacks, Publication 853, represents part of this commitment.
In order to develop Publication 853, OMAFRA staff undertook targeted consultations in order to inform specific changes to the guidance material. The consultations indicated that both stakeholders and technical users of the document generally supported the MDS as presented in Publication 707, but identified a number of minor revisions and clarifications for consideration.
A draft revised MDS document was posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry on February 19, 2015, for a 90-day public review and comment period. Many of the submissions were supportive of the proposed changes to the MDS, but identified a number of minor and editorial comments. Many of these stakeholder comments are reflected in Publication 853.
The revised version of the MDS found in Publication 853 is in effect as of March 1, 2017, and replaces all former versions of the formulae. OMAFRA has committed to reviewing the Minimum Distance Separation Formulae on a periodic basis, aligned with future provincial reviews of the PPS and the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, or as needed. The reviews will ensure the document continues to reflect current land use planning practices and technological innovation within the livestock industry.
In many instances, the changes found in the 2017 version of the MDS Formulae are not much different from the 2006. Mostly, the changes to the MDS Formulae are minor and technical in nature. They help to align the document with the updated PPS and clarify or elaborate on existing MDS guidelines and provisions through improved language and text. In many instances, the 2017 revisions effect when and how MDS is applied, and from where it is measured. The 2017 revisions to the values associated with the various factors in MDS are relatively minor, and the changes in the calculated MDS setbacks required between most land uses and livestock facilities are not extensive. The one significant exception to this statement is changes to MDS I setbacks related to the elimination of tillable hectares as an input to calculated setbacks and its replacement with a percentage increase based on livestock operation size and lot size.
Below is a summary of changes made to the MDS Formulae.
Municipalities are responsible for ensuring that MDS setbacks are met when reviewing land use planning applications (e.g. lot creation applications) or building permits. Contact your local municipality for questions regarding the implementation of the MDS in your area if you are proposing to construct a new livestock facility, anaerobic digester or other building, or you are pursuing a land use planning application, such as an official plan amendment, zoning by-law amendment, or an application to create a new lot.
While municipalities are responsible for ensuring that the requirements of MDS are met when reviewing land use planning applications or building permits, municipalities may implement this requirement in different ways. Some municipalities will ask an applicant to provide the information necessary for the municipality to complete the calculation of MDS. In other cases, a municipality may request that an applicant provide a calculated MDS setback. In this instance, it may be helpful for an applicant to hire a land use planning consultant or a nutrient management consultant to undertake the MDS calculation. In all cases, a municipality must review any MDS calculations to ensure they are accurate.
The revised MDS comes into effect on March 1, 2017. Under the Planning Act, land use planning decisions must be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). After March 1, 2017, in order to demonstrate consistency with the PPS, land use planning decisions made by municipal planning authorities will need to comply with the revised MDS. Where a building permit application triggers the requirement to meet MDS, the version of MDS that will be applied will depend on the provisions of the local municipal zoning by-law. Farmers are encouraged to check with their local municipality for information pertaining to MDS setbacks prior to building on their farm. If necessary, municipalities are encouraged to update local zoning by-laws and official plans.
OMAFRA has developed computer software to help municipalities, farmers and consultants calculate MDS setbacks, and determine if a proposed land use application can meet MDS I and if a proposed building permit can meet MDS II. The software is found in Ontario's Agricultural Planning Tools Suite, or AgriSuite.
Visit the AgriSuite web page for information on accessing AgriSuite and for help with using the MDS software. The version of the software in AgriSuite is considered the official version of the MDS software by OMAFRA for calculating setbacks in accordance with Publication 853. The previous versions of the MDS software to support MDS Publication 707 (i.e. MDS software version 1.0.0, 1.0.1 and 1.0.2) cannot be used for undertaking MDS calculations related to MDS Publication 853.
When using the MDS application, OMAFRA is not responsible for:
All data and calculations should be verified before acting on them. Make sure you are using the most current version of AgriSuite prior to doing MDS calculations.
For help with MDS and AgriSuite, contact the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you work for a municipality, a land use planning firm or a nutrient management consulting firm and are interested in training opportunities related to MDS, contact the OMAFRA Rural Planner in your area.
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300