Farmer takes aim at government regulations

Spallumcheen farmer struggling to make a living amidst regulations on meat sales

Bev Torrens remembers a time when, as a small farmer, he’d have people coming up to his Eagle Rock Road property gate in Spallumcheen looking for steers and chickens.

If you wanted to buy a steer for meat, people would go see Torrens, who used to raise 12 to 26 head.

If you wanted white meat, no problem. Torrens could sell you a chicken right out of his farm gate.

But regulations to the red meat and chicken industry have hit Torrens, and other small farmers in the township, hard.

He no longer raises cattle and he said he had to fight with chicken regulators to get a permit to raise 2,000 free range birds and sell them from his property.

“Who would think in 2012, on a family farm, you can raise 99 birds without a permit but if you raised 104, they could come and euthanize the difference,” said Torrens in a presentation to Spallumcheen council Monday, outlining how regulations are hurting his livelihood.

“It’s just disgusting.”

On the topic of chickens, Torrens said there used to be five mobile processing units – MPUs – in the Armstrong area, and now there is only one, a woman who operates a stationary unit in Kelowna.

Instead of slaughtering the birds on his own property or with one of the local MPUs, Torrens must now head to Kelowna.

“I raise birds in 500 increments, others do them in 800 increments, and the woman in Kelowna can only process between 250 and 270 birds a day,” said Torrens.

“That means two trips for me, or I have my wife follow me in a cube van. These are the regulations that are frustrating me to death.”

Torrens also told council that he’s heard of another regulation coming that will farmers to build a waste shed with a cement floor and a roof to cover all of their farm waste and store it for one year.

A former councillor himself, Torrens asked for help from the current Spallumcheen council.

“Assist us in setting up a meeting with the agriculture minister and various people,” urged Torrens. “Just give us a hand here.”

Sympathetic to his plight, Coun. Todd York suggested to Torrens that he gather “more than a single voice,” and suggested taking the problem to the township’s agricultural advisory committee, which is made up of people in the industry.

“If you have more than one voice, that would a huge asset to the committee and they can sit down and look at some of these regulatory problems,” said York.

“We as a group need the people in the industry that recognize what the problems are to speak to a common voice, and that voice, we hope, will be the agricultural advisory committee who will assist us in identifying what the problems are, then be the voice it needs to be in your defence.”

Council unanimously agreed to send Torrens’ concerns to the agricultural advisory committee for its comments.

Then, once the comments are received from the committee, township council will proceed with sharing the concerns and feedback with the ministry of agriculture.