Township lends support to bill to protect farmers and food supply

KENILWORTH – Wellington North agrees with the Wellington Federation of Agriculture (WFA), which sought municipal support for Bill 156, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act.

On Feb. 10, councillors reviewed a letter from WFA president Janet Harrop.

In her letter, Harrop stated, “The Wellington Federation of Agriculture (WFA) represents the voice of agriculture of our over 1,400 members in the County of Wellington, and advocates on behalf of our farm family members.

“Along with our commodity partners in Wellington County and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), WFA is committed to a sustainable and profitable future for farm families.”

Harrop added, “Ontario farms have increasingly come under threat of unwanted trespassers and activists who are illegally entering property, barns and buildings, seizing private property and threatening the health and safety of the farm, employees, livestock and crops.”

She added, “On Dec. 2, 2019, the province introduced Bill 156, which is intended to protect Ontario farm animals, farms, farmers and their families, and the safety of the food supply by addressing the ongoing threat of unwanted trespassing and from unauthorized interactions with farm animals.

“The risks of these actions include exposing farm animals to stress and potential diseases, as well as the introducing contaminants into the food supply.”

Harrop continued, “WFA appreciates the support from the provincial government for taking a strong stance to protect our farms and food safety, and introducing more significant consequences for illegal trespassing activities.”

Further, Harrop stated, “WFA is calling on all municipal councils in the province to reassure their citizens that the safety of Ontario farm animals, farmers and farm families, and the safety of the entire food system matters.”

Councillor Lisa Hern said she brought the issue forward for council discussion because it is an issue affecting rural communities.

She noted there has been a lot of discussion recently about chambers of commerce and BIAs, “but agriculture here (and the WFA) is the largest chamber of commerce we have in Wellington North.”

Hern said there have been numerous instances of unwarranted and unlawful entries onto farm properties.

She stressed “this act is about protecting our food  supplies and our families.

“This is not a change to the Trespass to Property Act – this is separate and relates to biosecurity issues.”

Hern said the bill had reached second reading and is expected to reach third reading shortly.

She agreed there have been concerns raised by the groups who take part in farm protests about the increased level of fines.

However, Hern said there should be no interaction  between livestock and the protestors.

‘Just not safe’

She pointed to instances of protestors apparently giving water to animals – but there is no proof it is water in the bottle.

“It’s just not safe,” said Hern.

Councillor Sherry Burke offered her support, noting she understood the act not only applies to livestock, but to crops as well.

“Food is important, and we need to protect the farmers’ livelihoods,” she said.

Hern said the act does not restrict a person’s ability to protest, “But there is no need for someone to go onto someone’s farm.”

She explained there is a 24-hour line available to call in an expert to determine the condition of livestock.

“They are not sending in someone who just looks after dogs; they will, for example, send in someone who knows about dairy cows,” said Hern.

In addition to supporting the WFA request, council agreed to show support for Bill 156 by sending a letter of support to Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ernie Hardeman.

The letter reads: “Ontario farms have come under increasing threat from trespassers and activists who illegally enter property, barns and buildings, causing significant disruptions to the entire agri-food sector. These activists are trespassing under false pretenses to gain entry onto farm properties. They have seized private property and threatened the health and safety of Ontario farms, employees, livestock and crops.

“These individuals and organizations are causing health and safety concerns and undue stress to Ontario farmers, their families and their businesses.

“Once peaceful protests have escalated to trespassing, invading, barn break-ins and harassment. These incidents distress farmers, their families and employees, and threaten the health of livestock and crops when activists breach biosecurity protocols, ultimately putting the entire food system at risk.

“We strongly support the new proposed legislation, Bill 156: Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act.

“This new legislation is an important way to keep our farm and food supply safe for all Ontarians. Bill 156 provides a balanced approach to protecting farms while recognizing a citizen’s right to protest. This new legislation will ensure farm businesses have a legal standing to protect their farm, family and employees, livestock and ultimately, the entire food system.

“[The bill] is good news for Ontario’s agri-food industry.”

North Wellington Community News