Gateway Gazette

NDP Agriculture Bill means Tough Times Ahead for Family Farms

 

Fresh off implementing a slate of policies hurting our energy sector, the NDP government is introducing a new bill that sets its sights on our agricultural industry.

Last week, the NDP government announced plans to overhaul legislation applying to 43,000 farms and ranches across Alberta.

The bill marks a staggering departure from nearly 100-years of policy, imposing reams of regulation on farms and expanding the Occupational Health and Safety and Workers Compensation to farm and ranch workers on every single farm in the province. Couched in terms of farm safety, it will add dramatic new burdens to families across the province as they deal with the added costs and new regulations.

And the shocking part is the government expects farms to adapt to these changes before Jan. 1.

Yes, there is room to add new regulations for large commercial operations. But for the majority of farm families, this bill will mean tough times ahead. Unlike in other provinces like British Columbia, no exemptions exist to recognize the unique nature of family farms.

Let’s be honest: no one cares more about safety and fair treatment on farms than the moms and dads who run them. No program would be more effective on improving safety than education.

However, if this was really about farm safety, farmers would have been the first people the government would have consulted about this bill. Instead, consultation with farmers was intentionally put off until after the legislation was written and announced.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of farmers and ranchers have real problems with this bill.

Not only does it impose new regulations on farms, but it clearly crosses the line into private life.

For example, a farm kid raising chickens, planning to sell eggs or raising money for the class trip to Europe, will now be subject to the Employment Standards Code. OHS regulations will be imposed on neighbours volunteering to help tag some calves. And beginning in 2017, this bill sets OHS inspectors loose to enforce regulations designed for commercial and industrial operations on family farms across Alberta.

One farmer put it this way: “More than 20 members of my family have called our farm home. I represent the fourth generation to live and work here. My kids, if they so choose, will be the fifth. However, under these new rules, only the house will be considered their home. Not the pond where they caught their first fish. Not the hitching post where they learned to saddle a horse. Not the barn where they treated their first calf back to health. Not the machine shop where they learned to change the oil on a tractor. I understand governments love regulation, this government more than most. But government has no place imposing its ideology on where a person calls home.”

Wildrose will ask the NDP government to slow down this bill and send it back to committee so the concerns of farmers and Albertans will be properly heard in Edmonton.

Grant Hunter is the Shadow Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour Minister for the Wildrose

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