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We're choking on new rules, say Island farmers

by 5m Editor
9 July 2007, at 7:37am

CANADA - Columnist Jack Knox and photographer Debra Brash take a look at farms close to home. Small farmers face many hurdles from fuel costs to an aging workforce.

Lori Gillis, owner of The Cluck Stops Here chicken farm in Coombs, is worried that new livestock-processing rules are driving Island farms and slaughterhouses out of business. “Agriculture itself is being slaughtered,” says Gillis.

Don't get Lori Gillis wrong. She believes in health regulation.

What drives her crazy is overkill.

A funny thought coming from a woman who runs a poultry abattoir called The Cluck Stops Here, but she's deadly serious: At a time when Vancouver Island's agriculture industry is fighting to survive, she says new livestock-processing rules are pushing farms and slaughterhouses out of business.

All over the Island, small-scale farmers are calling it quits rather than deal with the higher costs associated with new provincial meat-inspection regulations that take effect Oct. 1. "Agriculture itself is being slaughtered," says Gillis -- Chicken Lori to her friends.

But B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Bell argues the new rules, which replace a patchwork of regulations, are needed to protect public health. "Walkerton was a wake-up call for governments across Canada."

It's a matter of setting basic sanitary standards, ensuring that, for example, meat is cooled quickly enough or animals are killed humanely. Individuals are eligible for grants of up to $50,000 to make the upgrades. The government is working with around 55 B.C. abattoirs, has licensed about 20 so far.

Source: Times Colonist

5m Editor