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REPORTING · 27th April 2010
BC NDP Caucus
New rules too little, too late

The B.C. Liberals’ decision to allow people in some communities to buy meat from local farmers while still outlawing farm gate sales in most of the province is arbitrary and illogical, say the New Democrats.

“New Democrats have been saying farm gate sales can be done safely ever since the B.C. Liberals took away our right to buy meat directly from farmers,” said healthy living and sport critic Jagrup Brar. “Now, after six years of dithering and misinformation they have admitted that farm-gate sales of meat can be done safely, but the B.C. Liberals are still restricting consumers' right to buy local meat.”

On Friday, the government announced new classes of meat license which will allow farm gate sales, but these licenses will only be available in Bella Coola, the Powell River Regional District and Haida Gwaii. New class D Retail Sales licenses will permit farmers to make direct sales to local consumers and to retail establishments, while Class E Direct Sales licenses will permit farmers to make direct sales to local consumers. Both licenses restrict the amount of meat farmers are allowed to produce annually.

Opposition agriculture critic Lana Popham says the new licenses are a step in the right direction, but restricting farm gate sales to certain areas of the province is arbitrary and illogical.

“If the B.C. Liberals are willing to admit that it's safe to buy meat from local farmers on Haida Gwaii or in Powell River, then why isn't it safe in Saanich or Kamloops?” said Popham. “The B.C. Liberals’ decision to restrict farm gate sales licenses to only three regions of the province doesn’t make any sense.”

Popham said the lack of consultation has been especially appalling. She noted this is just one more instance of a government making one-off decisions instead of coming up with a plan that supports small farmers.

“The B.C. Liberals are creating even more chaos with this decision,” said Popham. “People spent money on a transition plan that was never designed to work.”

Brar noted that countless small farmers went out of business after the B.C. Liberals brought in regulations that restrict consumer choice.

“After six years of failed agricultural policy, the B.C. Liberals are still refusing to give consumers across the province what they want – the right to buy meat directly from a farmer they trust," said Brar.

Carole James and the New Democrats are advocating for positive environmental solutions, including a Green Fund which would see $150 million a year for climate change solutions and transit improvements in communities across the province.