Opinion: Farmers planted firmly against Bill 52

Well, tonight is the big night. The kids have been vibrating for days now and finally they will be able to head out and fill up their bags with candy.

There has been talk about moving Halloween to the last Saturday in October to attempt to quell the disruption the celebration has during the school week. It is not a bad idea but I think the power of the event is too strong to suppress the anticipation for a couple of days.

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Farmer Mike has been feeding the kids spinach the past little bit as part of our annual green teeth contest, and we are starting some food pairing lessons combing savoury and sweet flavours in an attempt to lessen the need for salad dressing. Small things that may have an impact down the road.

As I have mentioned in the past, it is hoped that some of these children will one day consider a career in agriculture, but again, the barriers are significant and it would appear that farmers are not terribly happy with the current state of affairs in this province.

On Monday, several dozen farmers from all over British Columbia stood in solidarity in front of the legislature in Victoria to protest Bill 52 which touts a “Farming First Focus” at the expense of housing opportunities to take care of family and farm worker housing needs.

Ministry of Agriculture staff were in town a few weeks back to highlight changes within Bill 52 and the event clearly demonstrated that the housing issue is a hot button and most of the four-hour meeting was spent by farmers giving ridiculous accounts of ALC requirements. Minister Lana Popham was tracked down on Monday and said that farmers could apply to the ALC to build two or three or more homes on their farms. The chances of winning the lottery are much better.

Additionally, Bill 52 makes it extremely difficult for farmers to generate additional revenue from the farm.

At the rally in Victoria and at the meeting here in Tsawwassen, Sunshine Coast pig and sheep farmer Raquel Kolof spoke about the frustrations of operating a small farm and trying to make ends meet. She wants to operate an eatery and sell wool at her farm but Bill 52 won’t allow it.

We have heard about eateries and various festivals being shut down by the legislation and it would now seem that the government will need to take a closer look at what it has done.

Our MLA and Liberal agricultural critic Ian Paton introduced a petition to the legislature signed by 26,000 farmers calling for the repeal of Bill 52.

He suggests that “Bill 52 has done nothing but tear communities apart and put farmers out of work” and that “farmers deserve to be protected by government, not persecuted by it.”

The B.C. Liberals plan to introduce a Home-Based Craft Food Act, which, if passed, would allow small farm sourced businesses to make and sell low-risk food products like jams, candy, honey and the like to consumers from their farms. That seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

In a word fraught with regulation and bureaucracy, it seems to me that farmers don’t want to be tricked and that they deserve a treat.

Mike Schneider is founder of Project Pickle and likes to write about growing, cooking and eating food. He is a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution ambassador.

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