New Rules Require Permits For Small Potato Growers

New provincial regulations require small potato growers who sell to farmers’ markets and roadside stands to have permits, although the rules won’t be enforced for the next three years.

However, growers who supply seasonal vegetable retailers will require permits, beginning this year.

The new regulation under the Farm Products Marketing Act means all potato growers in Manitoba, big or small, will be under the authority of Peak of the Market, the provincial vegetable-marketing board.

But exemptions apply to farmers who do not participate in the orderly marketing system for Manitoba table potatoes. Small growers are exempted from marketing through Peak, as long as they grow no more than five acres of potatoes.

However, producers contracting with seasonal retailers, who do not operate during the winter, will require permits starting in 2010. They may only sell in bulk form. Pre-weighed and pre-packaged potatoes are not allowed.

The rules apply to “freshly dug” potatoes sold on or before October 31 in the year they were grown.

The regulations come into effect March 31.

Their announcement Monday ends a legal limbo for Manitoba small potato growers stretching back nearly a year.

Previously, Peak had an unofficial policy of exempting small growers selling to farmers’ markets and roadside stands if they had fewer than four acres.

But the four-acre rule was eliminated in 2009, along with a definition for direct consumer sales.

That left small growers wondering where they stood in relation to the law and to Peak.

The issue created a major controversy between Peak and small producers over why they suddenly had to be regulated after operating unregulated for years.

The controversy came to the fore after Trevor Schreimer, a small specialty potato grower, was caught selling directly to Sobey’s supermarkets in violation of the existing rules. That set the stage for the new regulations announced this week.

Larry McIntosh, Peak’s president and CEO, indicated the marketing board will take a soft approach in not enforcing the new permit system for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 crop years.

“We’re going to go on the honesty system for the first three years and assume people will follow the regulation,” said McIntosh.

“Part of the reason we’re making it voluntary is because people are always worried about paperwork and how intensive it’s going to be. So we thought if some growers do it on a voluntary basis, the word will get out that it’s not that big a deal,” he said.

“We’re assuming most growers will be following the five acres because, for the most part, people wanted a four-acre exemption. We’ve gone higher than that.”

But McIntosh warned Peak, despite going easy on permits, will still enforce the five-acre rule.

“If there’s something out there that we don’t think falls within the five acres, we’ll be asking questions about it.”

McIntosh said small growers, despite being regulated, will not be members of Peak. Therefore, they will not be able to attend annual meetings or elect directors, as commercial producers can do. [email protected]

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