In 2005, one of my first public policy challenges as an MLA was the provincial government’s decision to regulate BC’s “farm gate” sales of meat products. This past weekend, seven years later, I hosted a town hall with our agriculture community to try and figure out where the BC Liberals are going on this issue.
Farm gate sales (on-farm meat slaughter, local processing, and direct sales to customers) have contributed to our regional economy for a very long time and there has never been documentation presented to the Legislature to justify the government’s decision to regulate this activity as significantly as it initially attempted to do.
To add insult to injury, the Liberal government’s efforts to regulate and establish an inspection regime for farm gate sales have been an unmitigated disaster from the start. The continued confusion and uncertainty surrounding the implementation and future of this legislation, along with the incremental costs imposed on this sector as a result of the regulations, has forced many local meat producers and processors out of business.
The tragic result of this incompetence is that people now have significantly fewer opportunities to buy locally grown and processed meat. This is especially unfortunate during this recent, largest ever, recall of tainted beef from an Alberta mega-processing plant.
Sadly, we’ve only avoided an even more complete collapse of local BC meat production in some regions because otherwise law-abiding producers have quietly gone “underground” with their farm gate sales.
We need this issue addressed immediately, before more local meat producers and processors decide to call it quits. I’m heartened by the fact that the new Minister of Agriculture has publicly stated fixing this mess is one of his priorities and I will gladly work with him.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.