Instead of a Christmas card from the Township of Spallumcheen, agriculture minister Norm Letnick can expect handwritten letters.
The letters will hopefully be from Spallumcheen residents as upset as council over the lack of government action on changing meat inspection regulations.
One councillor wants to make the lack of action an election issue in the spring vote.
“A handwritten letter is the same as getting 1,000 E-mails,” said Christine Fraser, who has been outspoken in her criticism of the provincial agriculture ministry’s lack of response to North Okanagan concerns over the meat inspection rules.
“We have to make this an election issue. People need to write and say ‘I may not be voting for this government in the new year if something is not done about this.”
Changes to provincial rules have devastated farmers in the North Okanagan, particularly in Spallumcheen.
One of the changes is the non-issuing of D and E meat inspection licences in the North Okanagan so on-farm slaughtering can happen.
No such licences have ever been issued in the region, and the number of North Okanagan producers has dropped to 300 from 1,200 in 2007.
Letnick sent a letter to Spallumcheen council, thanking them for the opportunity to meet at September’s UBCM convention in Victoria.
He expressed gratitude for council raising concerns over meat inspection, then outlined four conditions for consideration of such changes:
- To continue to put health and safety as a priority;
- To consider if there is flexibility to providing more options for rural communities so they can go back to producing the meat that they were doing before;
- To no increased costs to the taxpayers, and;
- To not harm the investment that people have made in A and B facilities (where slaughtering is done), bringing their facilities up to a certain standard.
It was the last condition that further rankled Fraser.
“I think that’s a bunch of crap,” she said. “It’s two completely different markets. You have farm gate sales, where people are going to the farm, buying their meat, knowing that it’s not inspected. It’s stamped ‘not inspected’ and they’re quite happy with that.
“It’s a totally different market than the big poultry and beef producers who are mass producing for the big stores outside the region. It’s completely different.”
Mayor Janice Brown suggested the township install a drop box at the township office so people can write – by hand – letters that council will pass along to Letnick.
“We can put those together with our letter and we can go to his office, lay them on his desk and say, ‘Here you go, here’s what our residents are telling you about the situation,’” said Brown.