Politicians divided over fate of meat rules

North Okanagan officials waiting to see what agriculture minister will do

There are differences of opinion on the future of provincial meat regulations.

While some local politicians are optimistic about changes after meeting with Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick, others are less confident and suggest onerous policies for farmers won’t change any time soon.

“We’ve taken a step backwards,” said Christine Fraser, a Spallumcheen councillor.

Fraser is particularly concerned with comments from Letnick that further discussions and research are required before he will consider allowing slaughtering on farms.

“It’s been analyzed and looked at already,” she said.

“I know others came out of the meeting feeling positive but I didn’t.”

Rick Fairbairn, an RDNO director, is willing to provide Letnick, who is new to his portfolio duties, with some leeway.

“There were reassurances that they’re working hard to accommodate us,” said Fairbairn.

That view is also supported by Patrick Nicol, RDNO chairperson.

“He (Letnick) said he wants to be measured on results and we will hold him to that,” said Nicol.

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.

Director Janice Brown suggests the ministry may be reluctant to allow farm-based slaughtering because it could hurt slaughtering facilities already approved.

“The agriculture minister seems to be more concerned about class A and B license people and that’s not the issue,” she said.

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

“We got across how desperate we all are,” said Fairbairn, who is a rancher.

It was also pointed out that a provincial election is set for May 2013 and the meat regulations are not helping the Liberals’ popularity in the North Okanagan.

“It’s in their best interest to accommodate what we’re trying to achieve here,” said Fairbairn.