Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tractors, Trucks and Horses: Farmers Sound off at Consult on Alberta Farm Bill

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tractors, Trucks and Horses: Farmers Sound off at Consult on Alberta Farm Bill

Article excerpt

'Send it back:' Farmers sound off on farm bill


OKOTOKS, Alta. - About 250 farmers attending a consultation on Alberta's farm safety bill Wednesday said they want the province to send it back to the drawing board.

Larry Sears, who rode a horse into Okotoks from his farm near Stavely, said farmers are feeling slighted by Premier Rachel Notley's government.

He said the New Democrats have little agricultural bench strength and don't understand farm life.

The proposed legislation would make it mandatory for farm workers to be covered under occupational health and safety regulations. Workers would also be able to join unions and bargain for wages.

Sears said unionizing farms would foist an "unproductive mindset onto a productive sector of society."

"We've had entrepreneurship. We've had opportunities to be successful as far as finances go," he said. "We don't need any more regulation to eat away the opportunity for profits."

Notley has acknowledged that confusion over the bill is partly due to some of her own officials giving out misinformation when they explained the legislation to farmers and ranchers.

The government has promised to clarify the intent of the bill and bring in amendments to preserve family farms and ensure children and neighbours will still be able to help out.

Notley has said the bill, introduced two weeks ago, will pass this month.

Protests have included demonstrations and lineups of farm equipment along highways. A rally on Monday brought 1,000 farmers and their families to the steps of the legislature.

Heated debate over the bill continued in the house Wednesday afternoon.

Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said while the amendments may be designed to help preserve the family farm, the issue is not black and white. Many family farms are run as sophisticated business operations, he said.

"That's just one of the many reasons why this government's amendments won't work," Jean said during question period. …

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