Keep Fighting the Farm Fight!

Cowboy under OHS

A satirical, if perhaps accurate, view of ranching after OHS implementation

I am extremely proud of the Alberta farmers and ranchers who have flooded the Alberta Legislature with loud cried for fairness and consideration. It is essential that we keep the pressure on the government at this time to ensure that our voices are not drowned out or forgotten.

It is crucial that we do not become complacent and rely on the actions taken today to maintain the impetus we have garnered. Continuing to be vocal about the fashion this bill is written in is essential, until it is either cancelled or amended to provide for family farms. The NDP can try to convince us that this legislation will bring Alberta out of some sort of “Medieval” type of farming, and on par with other provinces. While this is true when concerning large, corporately owned agricultural operations, other provinces across Canada have recognized that family farms just don’t fit under standard OHS regulation. 98 years, Alberta has farmed without OHS. 98 years, we have not asked for this legislation. 98 years, and we don’t want it now.

Bill 6 is invasive and inappropriate legislation which does not take into account the special situations of family farms. I believe the bill is genuine and well-intentioned, as farms are definitely dangerous places. Protecting the people who live and work on them is a noble cause, no doubt, but safety cannot be legislated. Safety is a mindset, a way of thinking critically, a pattern of awareness and alertness that can be taught, not enforced.

Much of the concern farmers and ranchers have around the bill involves its overtly invasive nature. Under Bill 6, as it is written, OHS inspectors would have the right to investigate any building, office, farm or family records. As the bill does not expressly limit these powers, this means that an OHS officer could potentially stroll into your yard, comb through your barn, equipment shed, and garages, as well as demand to see health records for the farm labour (which is the family), income statements for the business, expense records, medical bills, etc. There is no line between farm business and family matters in many cases, and the inspectors would have the legal right to look through pretty much everything. This is a major issue for all families involved.

Further, the bill could impact where children can be on their own property, what they can carry in their hands, and how long they can be outside for. Farm children, of which I am one, don’t abide by the “home before the street lights come on” rules which govern urban kids. We frequently spend entire days and sometimes nights at the side of our parents, watching, learning, and doing as we are able. This is an integral part of being a farm kid, and living a farm life, and there is no provision in Bill 6 to protect the rights of farming parents in raising and teaching their children.

Farmers and ranchers of Alberta, we cannot sit idly by and allow the NDP government to infringe on the rights of the family, no matter the reason. Safety must come first in all decisions made on  the farm, no argument. This cannot be an excuse to implement government control of agricultural families and our way of life, which is also a business. Don’t let up the pressure on the government! The demonstrations today at the legislature can’t be the last the NDP hear from farmers in this province.

KEEP FIGHTING THE FARM FIGHT!!

CTV Calgary Report on Bill 6

PDF File of Bill 6

Congratulations to all of you who have stood up for Alberta farmers and ranchers, today at demonstrations and across the province at town hall meetings with MLA’s and their representatives. Keep up the good work.

 

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How to Fight for Amendments to Bill 6

Yesterday, I posted about the intrusive, bureaucratic nature of Bill 6, a bill which the provincial NDP feel is necessary- even though they don’t know why. Today, I want to encourage everyone who reads this, no matter how you feel about the bill, to exercise their democratic rights and tell their Member of the Legislative Assembly what their thoughts are about Bill 6 (and while you’re doing that, throw in your comment on the Carbon Tax initiative as well).

This link lists, alphabetically, the names and emails of every MLA in Alberta. Even if your MLA is NDP (ESPECIALLY if your MLA is a member of the NDP), please send them something stating the importance of making amendments for farms and ranches in Bill 6.

Members of the Legislative Assembly Contacts

Additionally, I would encourage you to contact the Premier, Rachel Notley, with the same concerns:

premier@gov.ab.ca

Finally, this survey has been posted to the Alberta Government website. Please take 20 minutes of your day and fill it out to tell the MLA’s that Bill 6 is not appropriate as it is written and it must be amended.

Government Survey

When writing emails or making calls, be sure to have talking points about what you do and do not like about Bill 6. Perhaps, if enough of us participate and contact our MLA’s, we may be able to make the appropriate amendments to protect the privacy and autonomy of farming and ranching families all across the province. Please, ensure your children can learn how to move cattle, drive tractor, and combine before they need to take over the farm. Educating the next generation of farmers is essential to the perpetuity of farming and ranching in Alberta.

PLEASE TELL THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT TO STAY OUT OF OUR FAMILIES!

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Bill 6 and the End of the Family Farm

 

The provincial NDP government in Alberta is taking serious steps to implementing Occupational Health and Safety laws on family farms in Alberta. This is a disastrous decision that affects 98% of all farms in the province.

 

Farms do not fall under the umbrella of small businesses, large business, corporations, partnerships or any other business type. They fall under the category of lifestyle. Unfortunately for the farmers of Alberta, this lifestyle also happens to be a business. Bill 6, which will end the exemption of farms and ranches in Alberta from OHS, will also impact the lifestyle of thousands of Alberta’s families.

The premier does not seem to understand that farms operate under very, very different conditions than any other business, small or large. There is no such thing as an 8 hour work day or a 40 hour work week. There is no such thing as “do it tomorrow, wait for the snow to stop, the rain to dry up.”

Farming and Ranching in Alberta is dependent on weather, to an extent which is almost incomparable in any other industry. Almost all of the work done in agriculture revolves around weather. Farmers cannot quit planting, spraying, haying, baling, combining, stacking, fencing, calving, lambing, milking or feeding when their OHS 8 hour workday is over. The weather is coming, and the work needs to be done. It is not unheard of for farmers to put in 20, 25, and 30 hour days during peak times of the year so that their crops and their livestock are safely planted, safely harvested, safely fed, safely born, to ensure that the farm will have an income. OHS does not take into account the exceptional conditions that farmers work under, and farmers cannot be expected to adhere to arbitrary rules when the profits of their farm may be laying in a field or freezing in a snowbank.

The premier also does not seem to understand that 98% of farms are owned and operated by families, who also live on the land they use for their income. Family is perhaps the greatest and most sacred area of life for any person. OHS would enact laws that dictate how, when, and where children of farmers can be taught to work on the farm. This is, at the surface, an attempt to keep children safe on the farm, a noble cause, no argument. However, in reality, it affects the manner in which the family can prepare the next generation to take over the keys to the farm. Children may not know how or have been allowed to operate equipment before it becomes necessary for them to do it, under OHS law. The motto of 4-H Alberta, a youth agricultural program which encourages agricultural education, is “Learn to do by doing.” How can children learn to drive tractor, move cows, birth calves, plant seed, bale hay, or do any other farm chore, if the Alberta government won’t allow their parents to teach them?  Again, at its most basic, this portion of the law is respectable, but the implications interfere with the family unit, which is an untouchable area for governments for a multitude of reasons.

OHS does not take into account that a great deal of the work that is done in agriculture is done in a community-oriented fashion. My neighbour, under OHS law, would need to be compensated for any time they might spend helping me move cattle, fix fence, or bring in the barley. In return, they would need to provide coverage for me when I reciprocate the favour. How does this work? Who is going to pay for it? The farmer certainly cannot afford to cover community volunteerism! The culture of agricultural communities has been completely overlooked by the provincial NDP, and it is liable to be completely destroyed if Bill 6 passes un-amended.

Finally, as with all legislation passed by NDP governments across the country, who will pay for the new government workers required to process several tens of thousands of new OHS files that this bill will create? Who will compensate the additional inspectors required to cover literally every square mile of Alberta, looking for violations, on those several tens of thousands of new OHS sites? The taxpayer, the farmer, the rancher. Not only will Bill 6 severely damage a culture, thousands of farming families, and the agricultural industry in Alberta, it will cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, every year in wages, travel costs (farms are very far apart) and vacation time for these new government employees.

Premier Notley, this Bill is a disaster in the making. Rather than rushing it through legislature with no industry consultation, ask the families of the farms and ranches in Alberta who will be severely affected what they would like to see. I know we all want safer farms, fewer accidents, and no deaths, but help us achieve that with educational programs in rural schools, and programs to help farmers cope with demanding hours. Don’t subject an entire industry, which literally feeds the rest of Alberta, to rules which will effectively destroy family structures and businesses all over the province.

Cowspiracy

At least they got the title correct: It is a cowspiracy, one to remove animal agriculture from the world.

The documentary (if one could use that term- it seems extremely ill-fitting) explores (poorly) the impact of beef cattle- and all animal agriculture- on the environment, basing their thoughts on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s “Livestock’s Long Shadow” (2006) report.

The show starts with an exploration of why environmentalists and groups like Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, and other major NGO environmental watch groups appear to ignore the impact of livestock on the environment. Aside from a few mentions of deforestation in Brazil and some runoff issues associated more with lawn fertilizer than livestock production, major groups have been largely silent on the issue of livestock polluting the world. Why?

Well, the producer wants the public to believe that this is a result of politicking, that the farmers and ranchers of the United States (where most environmental groups are headquartered) petition the government to cover up negative information on the industry as a whole. First, if I may, this is one of the most hypocritical stances in existence: The producer is accusing the lobbyists for animal ag of doing exactly the same thing as lobbyists do for the environment. In western democracies functioning under a capitalistic economy, lobbying for the interests of industry is a given. No surprises there. We all do it: Oil and Gas, Animal Ag, Crop Production, Forestry, Auto Industry, the list is as long as the number of companies in the world. Why he would chose to showcase this is beyond me.

Perhaps the most glaring issue I see with this documentary, apart from sheer fear-mongering among consumers, is the fact that the filmmaker decided to cite old and inaccurate FAO statistics. The bulk of the information presented is cited from the 2006 FAO publication, “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” Admittedly, a black mark on an essential industry. However, a few years later, the FAO admitted that the information used to extrapolate their findings was “like comparing apples to oranges.” Evidently, the 2006 report took into account all emissions associated with livestock, their transportation, housing, and production of their feed. Fair enough. However, the error comes when the report did not account for the same information in the transportation industry, and only reported emissions caused by the use of vehicles, not their manufacture, or the production of fossil fuels, mining of ores or procurement of the myriad other elements that go into making cars, moving cars, and running cars. Thus, the ratios in the report were drastically skewed. In the 2006 report, the numbers looked far worse for Ag than they did for transport, and so it was easier for the producer to use this information, rather than the revised, updated information the FAO put out later.

Finally,  the filmmaker makes no attempt whatsoever to address the technological advances this industry has made in the last 50 years. We are producing the same amount of beef, using substantially fewer animals, much less feed, much less water, and, logically, much less land than we were even 20 years ago. Not only does the producer not talk about any of these items, he discounts the benefit that Genetically Modified Organisms (most used for animal feed or biofuel) have provided to the environment. Ignoring these facts is akin to saying cars are bad, never mind the economic, social and technological advancements that have occurred since their invention.

Cowspiracy is a conspiracy to instill fear of technology and advancement in agriculture among the moderate consumers of the world, by painting the animal agricultural industry with one environmentally destructive brush, and ignoring the leaps and bounds the industry has made over the last decades. Is environment an issue that the industry must address? Absolutely. Are we addressing it? Yes.

Beef Cattle Links

These are some of my favourite links to find information and stay up to date on the Beef industry:

Agricultural Institute of Canada

Alberta Beef Producers

Alberta Cattle Feeders Association

Beef Improvement Federation

Canadian Beef Breeds Council

Canadian Beef Research Council

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Statistics

Journal of Animal Science

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Lest We Forget

In Canada, perhaps there is no prouder, more patriotic, more sobering date than November 11. Remembrance Day is the one day of the year, it seems, that Canadians across the country set aside their differences, pick up  their poppies, and proudly stand for a minute of silence.

Armistice was declared on the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month of 1918, effectively ending the bloodiest war the world had seen to that date. Europe was in shambles, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers in both Allied and Axis countries would never return home. It was the worst tragedy the world had witnessed. Alas that it was not the last. Only a  short time later, mounting tension between Germany and the West launched the globe into another, even bloodier theatre of war, World War II. Altogether the 20th century was one of the bloodiest and most tense 100 years the world had ever witnessed, and Canada came together as a nation through it all.

It has been stated that, prior to the Great War, Canadians were a rather shambled, unified and squabbling bunch of people. The country wasn’t even complete, as we know it today. Alberta and other provinces had joined the Confederation only 9 years ago (1905). Nunavut was not even a glimmer of an idea, and Newfoundland and Labrador belonged to Britain. All in all, no one yet knew or recognized what Canada could become. When Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, Canada was slightly unwillingly dragged into a fight on a continent many people had only just left a few years ago. Although conscription was fiercely denied, it eventually became a necessity in both World Wars. These men and women fought and died on soil they had never seen, in countries that they had never visited, for a cause they didn’t always believe in. But, help was needed by the Allies and Canadians and Australians and South Africans, Indians and Americans all eventually joined the Allied effort. Germany and the Axis Powers were twice defeated and, arguably, the world itself was saved by the deaths of thousands of Canadian soldiers.

We are forever indebted to them for their sacrifice and their selflessness. Canada is a wonderful, free and strong place to call home, and men and women continue to enlist to preserve that security. Tomorrow, on November 11th, at 11 in the morning, please remember to pause and silently stand in thanks and tribute to those who have given their lives, their effort and their safety that we may continue to live ours as free Canadians.

Lest We Forget

The Evil Potential of Antibiotic-Free

You can be antibiotic free. You can be certified humane. Can you realistically be both? I would like to think so, but unfortunately I think the two topics are antagonistic.

Unfortunately, not every animal used for food in this country is given the absolute best care. It is a tragic thing to abuse the power that humans have over animals, and though I am not yet a parent, I feel the same pains and anger when I see needless animal suffering as when I see needless child suffering. Abuse happens in this world. There are people who abuse other people. There are people who abuse their spouses, their children, their pets. As much trouble as I might get in for even saying, there are also people responsible for abuse of farmed animals. Human abuse of power is a disease which we have been sick with for generations and generations. As much as it pains me to say, there are occasions where animals destined for food use have been abused. This abuse is not necessarily intentional, and frequently it stems from ignorance. However, as with anything, ignorance of the law is no excuse to break the law.

Please do not misunderstand me: I am in no way, shape or form claiming or saying that even a single percent of animals raised for food are abused. I am only pointing out that there are people who make mistakes and abuse their power over animals occasionally, and its a problem whenever and wherever it happens. Bad people exist in every industry, in every company. It’s up to the industry to root them out and make sure they cannot damage the reputation any more.

Regardless, however, of the vetting we do, the firewalls we put up and the training we enforce, there will always be one bad apple. That’s the bad apple which could ruin the whole bushel. Recently, and as previously discussed, Subway has joined a growing number of companies which aim to remove animals treated with antibiotics from their protein sources. This is a niche market, but one that Subway will have to pay a premium to access. Producers who commit to antibiotic free will continue to see an increase in premiums paid for their animals. This is wherein lies the problem: Greed.

For every 10,000 honest ranchers, there will be one greedy individual who will see the rise in the premiums for antibiotic-free and want to capitalize on it. This individual will purchase or raise their calves and get them to the feedyard, usually with no real issues as far as bacterial infections are concerned. Once the cattle mix with other cattle and are exposed to other pathogens, and transport stress temporarily suppresses their immune system, a high percentage will get ill. Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) can infect as many as 45 out of 100 in some outbreaks, and it can kill as many as 10/100. Its an extremely common, extremely treatable disease that lowers feed intake, lowers animal growth and hurts the bottom lines of all producers involved.

This animal is suffering from severe Bovine Respiratory Disease, a bacterial infection of the lungs which is very common and treatable.

Our bad apple sees that they have a significant number of animals which are showing clinical signs of BRD. But, because they know what those cattle are worth, even sick, they refuse to treat the cattle with antibiotics to clear the animal’s lungs and rescue them from a long, painful recovery or death. Those cattle are worth more per pound sick and untreated and suffering than they are healthy and eating and happy. Now, I am not a smart man. But I know there is a problem with that equation. the other 9,999 producers are taking the financial hit, treating the ill animals and removing them from a meaningless program, but one that pays premiums nonetheless. Our bad apple allows their cattle to suffer, die and be in extended periods of sickness simply to make themselves a bit more money. That is wrong. That is despicable. That is what companies like Subway and A&W are setting themselves up for with their premiums on antibiotic free.

Again, it might only be 1 in 10,000 producers who sees the dollar signs instead of the animals, but it only takes one incident for an animal activist group to paint the whole industry with a bloody, animal abusing brush. The actions of Subway and A&W do nothing to solve any sort of real threat to human health or product safety or quality. Instead, they open the doors to potential animal abuse. For an opinion from the American Association of Humane Societies, click here.