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Fraser Valley & Metro Vancouver Flooding Preparation and Emergency Contacts

This Ministry of Agriculture has asked us to share this with our members…..

The province of BC has activated the Southwest Provincial Regional Operations Center (SW PREOC) to support the response to the 2018 lower Fraser River freshet and the potential for flooding.  Additional PREOCs have also been activated in other regions of the province due to the flooding situation and the following information is also applicable to those impacted regions.  The Ministry of Agriculture is providing support to Local Governments, First Nations, and agricultural producers through the PREOC.  Below we have attached a number of links to provide producers with key information and resources to assist them in preparing, responding and recovering from potential flooding and related impacts.

Producers requiring assistance should first contact their Local Government or First Nation Band Council.  Local Governments and First Nations can in turn seek any additional support they require by contacting the SW PREOC.

Key preparedness considerations:

  • Plan early for potential livestock relocations
  • Remove pesticides, fuels and other hazardous materials from areas at risk of flooding
  • Protect wells from flood water intrusion
  • Register with Premises ID program to ensure emergency planners and responders have critical information about your operation

1)      The River Forecast Center https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/water/drought-flooding-dikes-dams/river-forecast-centre posts key information regarding flood warnings and advisories, snow pack information and current flow models for some waterways.  Flood warnings can be accessed at: http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/warnings/index.htm

2)      During an emergency event, your local government or band council is a key source of information, here are some of our area regional district links.

3)      Some reminders of operational items to consider in preparing for an emergency  are available at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/agriculture-and-seafood/farm-management/emergency-management/factsheets/900_200-3_emergency_preparedness.pdf  Section 1.2 deals with flooding.  Other links including notes on well disinfection are available at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/business-market-development/emergency-preparedness/flood-preparedness

4)      Safety tips for floodwaters and how to sandbag effectively are available at https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018PSSG0021-000832

5)      Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) has been announced for some events in BC in relation to flooding.  For more information on DFA go to:https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/emergency-response-and-recovery/disaster-financial-assistance and for a list of eligible events please go to: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/emergency-response-and-recovery/disaster-financial-assistance/eligible-events .  If you and your operation have been impacted please take a moment to look at eligibility criteria to see if this program may apply to you.  There are also links to cleanup and recovery information on these pages.  Remember that whether you are dealing with a program or your private insurer, careful  document any impacts and costs is important and that photos are a great documenting tool.

Steve Meggait – Fresh Valley Farms

Owner of Fresh Valley Farms and treasurer of the SSMPA. 

Our farm, located in the township of Spallumcheen, 5 km from Armstrong, is primarily dedicated to producing hay and pasture, but our main business is selling our pasture-raised beef, pork, and chicken.  Since 2012 when I moved back to help on the family farm, I’ve been building up a marketing business around our meat to support the farming addiction.

I started Fresh Valley Farms as a cooperative marketing venture with another farm producing pork and lamb. My concept from the beginning was a meat only CSA box. 5 years later, after multiple incarnations and business partners,  my spouse, Annelise, and  I now run a successful CSA with over 120 monthly customers. We regularly use four different abattoirs, three different butchers, and sell our product from Kamloops to Salmon Arm, with the bulk of our customers in Kelowna.  The best part of our sales model is that we get it done in one week of the month, and I’m free to actually farm the rest of the time.

Learning the ins and outs of the slaughter/butcher industry has been a process to say the least. It’s taken a long time to figure it all out, not that I have, but I can say one thing for sure: if I’m not hauling 10 hogs, or 4 beef, when I drive to the Slaughter house, I’m not making enough money. The whole process takes a lot of time. Getting the animals loaded,  knowing what to order and how to order it, or hauling sides to the butcher who will actually make a product I can sell, then picking up, labeling and sorting, and storing it. All this labour and the requisite infrastructure eats heavily into our bottom line. I’ve learned that the price/lb that the butcher charges is only part of the equation. It’s all about getting a quality product that’s consistent, and packaged in a presentable way. I often pay more than $4,000 to process 10 hogs.  That’s too much of our margin, I’m aware, but it’s better than having a poor product that doesn’t sell.

Before I started managing the farm, my family used to get all the beef slaughtered right  on the farm. This was prior to the implementation of the current Meat Inspection Regulation (MIR). I didn’t have a lot to do with it back then, but I remember seeing how easy it was. It took about an hour for them to pull up to the farm with the mobile kill trailer, shoot it, gut it, skin it, and load it in their trailer. 3 weeks later you picked up your beef.  I’m not all that keen on doing the slaughtering myself, but I sure would be happy if we could just call someone up and have it done on the farm. It’s safe, clean, and my animals would get to live in peace right up until the end.

I helped form the SSMPA  because I think it’s time to re-evaluate how the current meat processing industry is regulated. Why is it hindering farmers from reaching their potential and feeding their community? We have a right to produce food, and to process food. We need to hold the government responsible for the negative effect the current MIR has had on our industry. We need to make sure that any new regulations that are written are based on sound scientific evidence, and not imagined “risk” that can’t be proven.  We need to get organized so that we can speak to government with the authority of an organization that knows the rights of those it represents. In the case of meat inspection regulation, we need to have our voices heard because we are the people it affects most. If we can’t afford to have animals on our land, what will happen to our land? How can we maintain an agricultural land reserve in a province where no one with a small to medium sized land holding can even afford to keep some cows on it?

If you’re thinking about joining, but can’t justify the $35 for one reason or another. Please join as a supporting member at the very least. Follow our progress through the newsletter and on Facebook, and help out when you feel you can. We’re currently member supported, with no outside funding, so please help out in any way you can.

Thanks,

Steve W Meggait

 

Response To Ministry of Agriculture’s Class D/E Survey/Consultation Process

PLEASE NOTE: UNTIL APRIL 30TH, THIS IS A LIVING DOCUMENT THAT MAY BE EDITED TO REFLECT FEEDBACK FROM OUR MEMBERSHIP

The current system is not robust enough to contribute significantly to the sustainability and growth of the small-scale meat industry in British Columbia.

Capacity at Class A & B facilities is an issue, with most of our members being unable to book animals in to be slaughtered and butchered reliably. But the Class D & E system is not a reasonable alternative.

LIMITS

The limits are too low and do not allow a producer to process enough animals to earn a living or to earn enough profit to justify the expense of setting up the infrastructure required to do so safely and efficiently. We propose that the limits for Class E be increased to the current Class D limit and that Class D limits be assigned on a case-by-case basis based on capacity/ability.

REGIONAL RESTRICTIONS

The regional restrictions are impractical. We believe that anyone in BC who wants to apply for a Class D or E licence, should be able to, regardless of their geographic location or their proximity to a Class A or B facility. They should also be able to sell their product anywhere in the province.  

Class D is currently limited to 10 designated regional districts. The majority of our membership is in non-designated regional districts and as such, do not qualify for a Class D license. Without a Class D license, you cannot sell to wholesale/resale buyers. These are the ideal client for someone doing on-farm slaughter, as these clients will most often take the whole animal with no further processing required. Assuming the limits for Class D could be increased, a farmer or rancher could reasonably expect to be able to earn a living doing on-farm slaughter and selling to these types of clients directly without having to deal with the further complication of cut and wrap. The easiest way to reduce the pressure on local abattoirs and increase the viability of small-scale meat producing businesses would be to open up the Class D designation to anyone in the province and increase the limits.

Class E is limited by proximity to a Class A or B facility and by the feasibility study process. We believe that no producer should be forced to use the services of an abattoir simply because of its geographic proximity to the producer. There are many other important considerations including animal-welfare, service and quality of work, which may influence a producer to wish to slaughter their animals on site. Furthermore, the requirement to “attach a letter from regional or municipal authority confirming no bylaws or restrictions would prevent slaughter on the farm/property” can stop an application in its tracks due entirely to bureaucratic inefficiency. Often, municipal government workers do not have any knowledge of the relevant bylaws or may not be forthcoming with the required documentation even if they are. It should be enough that the producer has checked and confirmed that there are no relevant bylaws. Furthermore, there is the question whether some municipal bylaws contravene a farm’s right to process their own animals which is protected under BC’s Farm Practices Protection Act which defines a farm operation as:

any of the following activities involved in carrying on a farm business:

(k) processing or direct marketing by a farmer of one or both of

(i)  the products of a farm owned or operated by the farmer, and
(ii)  within limits prescribed by the minister, products not of that farm, to the extent that the processing or marketing of those products is conducted on the farmer’s farm;

The “time-limited” condition on Class E licenses is also problematic and may result in a producer losing their license simply because a new facility has opened within two hours of their location. This is punitive and unfair as most producers would be required to invest considerable time/resources in order to be able to slaughter their own animals and it isn’t reasonable that once given, this license should not be renewed for this reason.

The “seasonal slaughter” condition is problematic for similar reasons. It takes the same amount of capital to get set up to slaughter safely once a year as it does to slaughter safely year round. It’s either safe or it isn’t. It doesn’t suddenly become unsafe for part of the year just because the local abattoir has capacity at a given time.

REGULATORY OVERSIGHT

The current system of regulatory oversight provided by the Regional Health Authorities sets up a two-tiered system whereby Class A & B facilities are under Provincial and/or Federal jurisdiction but Class D & E licensees are under their Regional Health Authority.  We would like to see ALL classes overseen by the same authority. We would support more regulatory oversight, particularly with regards to Class D and especially if the limits are increased/eliminated.

We would also be in favour or greater traceability and more ongoing support for licensees including online resources/training, on-site visits, phone and online support and funding.

TRAINING

The current Slaughter Safe training is sufficient but could benefit greatly from putting the whole course online where multimedia resources could be used for educational purposes and address timing and geographical constraints. It could also dramatically reduce the cost of implementation.

Additional  online databases of common parasites, their presentations and actions required, with links to more information, for example, would be very beneficial. Videos, animations, even interactive content could enrich the course and offer information that is difficult to present in the current format. It would also make the course more accessible to a larger number of people, especially those in more remote areas. An online platform would also act as an ongoing resource for licensees which would be valuable, particularly for those who may slaughter only infrequently and benefit from a refresher.

One area of concern is the lack of education and oversight with regards to the actual slaughter process. An online platform would better allow for the demonstration of proper slaughter techniques but demonstration of good technique should be a requirement before issuing a license. This could be accomplished by having an inspector on site at the licensees first kill, or perhaps by having the licensee participate in a kill at another licensed facility with sign off from another licensee or even someone from our Association.

CONNECTIONS

An online platform would also be a way to connect licensees all across the province which would be the start of a valuable support network. Our Association would be happy to take on a leadership role in establishing, administering and maintaining this network if funding were provided. We can bridge the divide between governance and administration and the licensees, disseminate information, offer support, information and resources as well as collecting useful data that may be useful to the Ministry.

FUNDING

Adjustments to the current Class D and E license systems could help to relieve some of the issues we currently face with regards to capacity at A and B facilities and contribute to food security in BC. There is precedent for significant funding being provided to A & B facilities to help cover setup costs in the past. Directing some funding towards programs, training, and even helping to offset some of the setup and ongoing costs, particularly for Class D licensees seems appropriate.

Columbia Shuswap Regional Report

Just a quick note to let everyone know what we are up to in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District of BC.

A little history before we get into the update for our region. Gary and I have 9.67 acres just south of Golden BC. We are an Agri-tourism based ALR piece of property. We have 20 year round RV Lots on our property that we sell and rent. We have a small orchard with about 30 fruit trees started. We raise 10-12 pigs per year for our family and friends. We also have a Licensed Cut and Wrap Facility, mostly to cut our own product. We supply our friends and neighbours with home grown pork that is raised stress free and finished with apples. We grow gardens and sell from the farm fresh produce as well as canned goods.

We had a Class “E” Lic from 2012 until 2017 when it had expired. During that time an Abattoir had been built in Invermere BC which is about 1 and 1/2 hours south of us. Because of this new facility, we were not granted a renewal on our Class “E” license. The government now wants us to transport our 10 or so pigs to Invermere to be slaughtered. We would then have to pick up the carcass to bring to our facility for processing. For us, this would mean many trips to and from Invermere to deliver and pick up pigs or carcasses. Our cut and wrap facility can only handle 2 pigs per day as we do this ourselves. It would just not be feasible for us to do this. Not to mention the stress on the animals, the carbon footprint we would be leaving, and the shop local initiative. Needless to say, this is what is driving us to be a part of the newly formed Small Scale Meat Producers Association.

In saying all this, Gary and I had written a letter to the Minister of Agriculture back in February of this year asking for a change to the Meat Regulatory Regulations. The regulations states that if you are within a 2 hour travel time to a licensed Abattoir, that you will not be issued a Class “E” License. Gary and I are asking for the 2 hour restriction to be removed from the Feasibility Study which is the first step in applying for a Class “E” License. Since our initial letter, we have joined the Small Scale Meat Producers Association and see that there are many folks out there in the same or similar situations regarding on farm slaughtering. Now is a perfect time to pursue lobbying the government to make the required changes to permit a self sustaining small scale farmers within BC. The Minister herself, Lana Pophams’ key objectives are: “to make life more affordable and build a strong, sustainable and  innovative economy.”

The following is where we are at in our region at this time.

 Karen Cathcart, our Area A Rep of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District has supported our letter addressed to the Minister regarding exclusion of the 2 hour travel time within the Meat Regulatory Regulations.  Karen has taken our letter to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District head office in Salmon Arm and talked to all the Regional District Reps for CSRD. They all agreed to support our letter and write a letter to the Minister in support of our request. CSRD has also agreed to write every Regional District in the Province asking for their support as well. We also have a letter of support from the Kootenay Livestock Association based out of Cranbrook BC. We have support letters from Golden Agricultural Society and the  Golden Rod and Gun Club. We sent a letter to our local MLA, Doug Clovechok.
Our local newspaper did an article in  last weeks paper. To follow up with this  we are  planning to hold a public meeting in Golden to follow up on the topic and enlighten anyone who is not familiar with the Class “E” Lic issue. We will gather signatures from the public at this meeting as well to add to our list of supporters.
I encourage all to solicit your local Regional District Reps as well, they will all be getting letters regarding the issue from the CSRD. Lets spread the word and get the entire province on board with support to make the necessary changes within the Meat Regulatory Regulations to enable Small Scale Meat Producers to continue supplying good quality meat and continue their way of life.
Karen Persson
SSMPA Regional Representative – Columbia Shuswap
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Gary & Karen Persson

And So It Begins…

I haven’t been a farmer for very long but in the 5 or 6 years that I have been working in this business, there is one thing that almost every small-scale meat producer has in common. We’re almost all having a heck of a time finding reliable, affordable good quality meat processing. You might be able to find one of these qualities. If you’re lucky, you might even be two for two occasionally. But hitting all three of these requirements is the stuff of fairy tales.

More and more abattoirs are closing their doors to small-scale producers. Some are closing their doors for good. Consumer demand for higher welfare, sustainable meat is growing but when BC farmers & ranchers scale up their businesses to meet demand, they are faced with a bottleneck at the abattoir.

This has been my personal experience and the experience of virtually every farmer/rancher I know. In the fall of 2017, I found myself selling off our herd because I knew there was no way I was going to be able to book as many animals as we had raised in at our local abattoir. It was then that we faced the grim reality that there is no room for our business to grow within the current framework. I decided to scale back our family farm and focus my efforts on bringing together like-minded producers to see if together, we can get this industry working better for us.

I started a Facebook group and the next thing I knew we had an active group of almost 60 members. I reached out to the group for help taking the group to the next level and pretty soon we had the beginnings of a board and some great momentum. Together, we began reaching out to key players in the industry including the Ministry of Agriculture and the BC Abattoirs Association and established some great contacts.

JWe were thrust into high gear this month when the Ministry of Agriculture suddenly announced that they were undertaking a consultation process with regards to Class D & E licensing. So the past few weeks have been a flurry of activity as we hurry to get our legal paperwork and governance structure squared away while frantically trying to reach out to as many producers as possible to ensure maximum participation in the upcoming survey.

So we have certainly hit the ground running and are excited to be moving forward. It is high time small-scale meat producers in British Columbia had a real voice. But we can’t do this without YOU! Please join us. Visit our membership page for more information about how you can get involved and ensure that your voice is heard.

Julia Smith, President
Small-Scale Meat Producers Association

 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

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