Rule & Principles article

Morning everyone,

Just a quick post before I head out on morning errands – and into the garden, it’s SUNNY!!

I belong to a list-serve called “beyond factory farming” which fills my inbox with tons of interesting material on the issue of factory farming in Canada. Not always breakfast reading, but interesting nonetheless.  If you want to get more involved, please sign up on their website: beyond factory farming .

Check out this great article from the National Farmers Union. (I’ve joined them recently and will post about that later – You’ve never see a girl so excited to get a union card in the mail.)

Common sense is going out of style; thank god for farmers.

“Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.”

A commentary on behalf of the National Farmers Union Ontario

By Grant Robertson

In the wake of the news of a Listeriosis outbreak at Maple Leaf Foods I observed in a 2008 commentary that it was likely that governments would bring in a whole new set of rules, claim it was thus doing something about food safety, yet most of those rules would actually have almost nothing to do with producing safer food.  I went on to predict that a goodly number of those rules would hit small, local processors the hardest, when ironically they have not been the source of most problems.

It was not much of a prediction as it only takes a cursory knowledge of the history of our regulatory regime to know that this is exactly what happens time and time again.   Now this is not some “all regulations are bad” rant.  Frankly that belief, peddled by some is just foolish.  Good and smart regulations not only protect the processor, they protect the farm and the consumer.  Smart regulations make sense.  However, far too often the regulations around food safety are meant to give the appearance of doing something instead of actually addressing some fundamental questions about the way we now process food in an industrial-scale setting.

According to a column in the St. Marys Journal Argus, by intrepid columnist Stew Slater, and an article in the Stratford Beacon Herald by Donal O’Connor, the prediction of ‘tighter’ rules is coming true.  A long-standing business with a good reputation, Mogk’s Custom Killing and Butcher Shop, is facing rules that make little sense.  According to the article one of the things the shop is in violation of is having painted steel rather than stainless steel shelving to house the wrapped and packaged meat in their freezers.  Apparently the wood panelling in the office area is a major threat to health as well; how seems hard to figure, but that is one of the issues they face.  A smoke-house would be required to switch to all stainless steel, which of course then requires harsh chemical cleansers, which would cause problems for their certified organic farm customers.  Now in case you think this is an unusual case let me tell you that these sorts of stories abound in rural Ontario.

Let’s look at this stainless steel shelving in the freezer requirement.  Here’s how these things likely happen.  Government people get together, in good faith, and say we need to make a standard.  Someone says – ‘okay let’s make the standard stainless steel.’   Not because stainless steel is inherently safer than say a painted metal surface for wrapped and packaged meats, but because now we have a single standard.  So inspectors are sent out to enforce this standard- and they do- and voila you have a completely non-sensical rule that has no real appreciable impact on food safety, but you do have an enforced standard you can point to as being kept stringently.

And it is small processors left to pick up the tab.  These processors are the lynch pin in local food being available.  Without them there simply is not local meat available.  They are a precious resource that needs to be strengthened and enhanced, not driven out of business.

The excellent Stratford Beacon Herald article by Donal O’Connor quotes an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs official.  If you want to understand the pressures small local processors and butcher shops and their farmer customers, who then sell to the public, have you need only put the two quotes together.  They speak louder than anything I could say.  The article first quotes the official speaking about a program that was meant to help local processors and butchers- notice the term “up to” which probably means most applicants would have received far less –

Funding of up to $25,000 to help with bringing facilities up to code was made available to small facilities through the OIMP.

Later the same official states;

that the average cost to operators for upgrades has been about $165,000.

So on average, local, small processors are being asked to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet standards and government is only prepared to assist to a level of up to $25,000.  A cost created by government, but for which the local processor or butchers will have no extra income to speak of to pay that cost from.  No wonder some believe that government is only paying lip service to the importance of local food and farmers being able to make a living growing that food.

You can view a copy of the entire Stratford Beacon Herald article here;  http://www.stratfordbeaconherald.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2285478

The title is a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States of America

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