A Manitoba Conservative MLA says it’s time to inject “some common sense” into the rules that govern direct-to-consumer sales by farmers.
Blaine Pedersen, (PC-Midland) has gone to bat for a small group of farmers recently outed for using a web-based ordering system and delivering uninspected chicken and ungraded eggs to customers in Winnipeg and other points in rural Manitoba.
The group was told by provincial inspectors those transactions must be done at farm gate only. They’re also not supposed to share transportation of farm products when they deliver to customers.
Pedersen said he’s baffled by what these young farmers are up against, especially that their transactions are in any way compromising food safety.
“I understand food safety, don’t get me wrong. But how does selling your product on a website make it unsafe?” he said.
“I have lots of questions about it.”
He said he took the matter up after getting several calls and emails expressing concern about the kinds of regulatory hurdles the province is imposing on direct marketers.
- More from the Manitoba Co-operator: Direct-farm-marketing initiative suffers growing pains
The problem seems to boil down to government not knowing how to deal with an ever-expanding niche market trade, he said.
“My cynical nature says this particular government started out promoting local food and farm gates sales, but government’s problem with this is it’s become so popular that it feels it has lost control of this.”
“We’ve got a good thing going here with these local producers dealing directly with their consumers. I see this as rural development. It’s creating jobs and creating commerce in the rural areas. So how do we enhance that?”
Pedersen has asked questions of Manitoba Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD) Ron Kostyshyn during question period in the Manitoba legislature about the matter. He was hoping to meet with the farmers’ group over this past weekend.
Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative’s Brad Anderson, who farms at Cypress River said a letter to Kostyshyn about their predicament in mid-April had not been acknowledged at the end of last week.
Anderson added that their group “just can’t get a straight answer” when they talk to provincial inspectors. “We keep getting all kinds of answers from all kinds of people.”
They now have their hopes pinned on a meeting with Manitoba Health officials, expected to take place in the next couple of weeks, to tell them what they need to do, he said.