Minister may ease up on farm regulations

Local politicians urge Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid Thursday to scrap provincial meat processing rules

North Okanagan farmers could be thrown a lifeline.

Local politicians urged Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid Thursday to ease up on provincial meat processing regulations.

“She indicated it is a top priority,” said Patrick Nicol, Regional District of North Okanagan chairperson.

During the session at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Victoria, MacDiarmid was updated on the current plight of farmers.

“The policy has devastated the single-family farm in our region,” said Nicol of the processing rules which came into place in 2007.

“If we’re going to feed our people, we won’t be able to do it because once the farms are gone, they are gone.”

RDNO wants the government to issue class D and E meat inspection licences so on-farm slaughtering can occur.

There has been previous suggestions that such licenses could be issued to North Okanagan farmers but that never occurred.

Responsibility for licensing may shift from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Agriculture.

It’s also been suggested that slaughtering for farm-gate sales could eventually be exempt.

The number of North Okanagan producers has gone from 1,200 to 300 since 2007.

“The social and economic impact is devastating,” said Rick Fairbairn, rural Lumby director.

The local poultry industry, alone, has lost about $1.4 million.

“That’s a lot of money in our region,” said Nicol.

RDNO directors were joined by Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster during their meeting with MacDiarmid.

“He’s done a tremendous amount of work on our behalf,” said Fairbairn of Foster.

RDNO directors also discussed meat regulations with Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick Thursday.