Minister promises action on meat processing rules

Norm Letnick has been instructed by Premier Christy Clark to address concerns about lack of farm-based slaughtering

A firm timeline hasn’t been established, but B.C.’s agriculture minister insists meat processing regulations will evolve.

Norm Letnick told The Morning Star he has been instructed by Premier Christy Clark to address the concerns about the lack of farm-based slaughtering.

“It’s a top priority for me,” said the Kelowna-Lake Country MLA.

“I’ve put my staff already on to it.”

He has asked for possible options to be presented to him by late fall, but he would not commit to when amendments to the rules may happen.

“If there was easy solutions, our colleagues would have found it by now,” he said, adding that the needs of farmers must be balanced with public safety.

“We must also respect the investment made by abattoirs (for processing).”

It’s anticipated most of the meat processing file will shift from the health portfolio to agriculture, but those details have not been determined yet.

Letnick met with Regional District of North Okanagan officials Thursday to discuss the matter.

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

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

“He wants to be measured on results and he has a good team to work with the Ministry of Health,” said Patrick Nicol, RDNO chairperson, of Letnick.

The number of North Okanagan producers has gone from 1,200 to 300 since the regulations came into force in 2007.

“It’s hard to have a buy local policy if you don’t have any licenses,” said Nicol.

Letnick plans to meet with meat producers this fall.

“We want a strong agricultural sector in our province. It plays a big role in our job strategy,” he said.