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Meat rule changes sought
North Okanagan politicians opposing meat regulations are garnering support from within the B.C. government itself.
Donna Barnett, parliamentary secretary for rural communities, told the Regional District of North Okanagan board Wednesday that she is frustrated with the meat processing rules and the hardships they have created for farmers.
“We’re putting people out of business and in rural communities, this hurts a lot of people,” said the Cariboo-Chilcotin Liberal MLA.
RDNO wants the government to issue class D and E meat inspection licences so on-farm slaughtering can occur.
The number of local producers has gone from 1,200 to 300 since the regulations came into force in 2007.
“Small farms are hemorrhaging and there are huge social problems,” said Rick Fairbairn, rural Lumby director, who has been frustrated with the government response to date.
‘We’ve been stonewalled with every opportunity to move this file forward.”
However, Barnett is hopeful meaningful changes will come soon because of the interest from Norm Letnick, B.C.’s new agriculture minister.
“I am positive the minister will come up with some kind of solution,” she said.
That is also the view coming from Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, who points out that responsibility for meat regulations has shifted from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Agriculture.
“The architects of this fiasco (bureaucrats) are no longer involved. They stayed in health,” he said.
Beyond economics, there is a concern the rules have restricted consumers from accessing products they want.
“Food security is a huge issue,” said Jackie Pearase, rural Enderby director.
RDNO has been told there may be a new process unveiled by Christmas and chairperson Patrick Nicol insists it can’t come soon enough.
“Why put the public through that much stupidity?” he said of the current regulations.
“If we lose the small farmers, you don’t get them back.”