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District farmers propose interim solutions for meat processing Frustrated by no response

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FORT FRANCES—Members of the Local Food for Local People (LFLP) committee spoke with Pat Johnson, director of food safety for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, via a teleconference last week to propose interim solutions to processing district livestock locally until an abattoir can be built here.

“She was to prepare a list and give it to her superiors,” noted committee chair Amos Brielmann. “And [she] promised to e-mail us or call us back by the latest Monday and we haven’t received anything, so we’re a little frustrated.”

Early last month, OMAFRA reinforced the regulations surrounding the processing of uninspected meat.

Sunrise Meat and Sausage in Barwick and Greensides General Store in Devlin were specifically targeted—and all uninspected meat on their premises was condemned.

With the help of Rainy River First Nations and a two-day protest, farmers with meat at the Barwick plant were able to save it from being rendered.

But now with government eyes upon them, they are searching for an interim solution and asking OMAFRA for assistance.

“And we are looking for a solution for the district—not just Sunrise Meats,” member Kim Jo Bliss stressed.

The LFLP committee put five proposals on the table:

•that inspected meat could be processed at facilities only on Monday and Tuesday of each week, and then uninspected meat and wild game would be processed there Wednesday through Saturday (the facility would be inspected by a licensed health inspector before the processing began each week);

•that the farm animals could be dealt with in the same way as wild game;

•that animals could be transported to Thunder Bay or Dryden abattoirs and brought back in a trailer unit, with OMAFRA subsidizing the costs;

•that OMAFRA consider all the farm-slaughtered animals as emergency kill where an on-farm inspector could inspect the meat; and

•that OMAFRA consider the potential of licensing a mobile abattoir.

“We suggested everything that applies to wild game could apply to the meat that comes in from the farm,” said Brielmann, adding the ministry said no to that because they would have to change the act.

“You can transport the deer you shot, drag in through the mud for two miles, bring it in, and it can be processed on the food premises,” he noted.

“I can pick it up and obtain a special permit to take the meat and have a wild game supper. What’s the difference between that meat and the meat that comes from the farm?” Brielmann added.

He noted the proposal about subsidizing the costs of transporting the animals to Thunder Bay or Dryden got the most positive reaction from Johnson and those from the ministry who were in on the teleconference. “They thought this was the greatest idea, but we aren’t really willing to do that because first of all there is no room until February now because they can’t handle the amount of animals there,” Brielmann indicated.

“The other thing, in my eyes, it is a total waste to take money and burn it up in fossil fuels—it’s ridiculous.”

And OMAFRA seemed to turn down the remaining proposals. Regarding treating the animals as emergency kill, they need to be taken to a slaughter house within two hours.

Since there isn’t an abattoir close enough, the LFLP committee asked for a veterinarian inspector to inspect the meat before transporting to a processing plant.

“They said we can’t do it because has to be moved to a kill facility,” Brielmann explained. “So they got as there.”

OMAFRA also refused licensing of a mobile abattoir.

“If the ministry refuses to do it, then it makes no sense to even look at it,” he said. “I think a mobile abattoir could be a solution. We could obey the law, although it’s inefficient. But it would be a good solution for the interim.”

Brielmann indicated the teleconference wasn’t as positive as he had hoped. Although OMAFRA’s reactions were unofficial, they still are waiting to hear word of their superiors’ comments.

“It has to go through the whole bureaucratic process, which is very frustrating,” he stressed. “And we can’t do it—time is of the essence here.”

Many local farmers gathered together last Thursday night for a potluck and discussed the situation. Brielmann noted they wanted to make sure everyone knows where things stand.

“We want everyone to be clear of the law,” he said, stressing it is illegal to sell their uninspected meat. “And when an animal is butchered on the property, it has to be consumed on the premises.”

He added once slaughtered, the animal is not allowed to be transported, meaning farmers are not allowed to take this in their lunch, to their neighbours, or to a church potluck.

He also explained it is illegal to have someone slaughter the animal for you.

“We are all breaking the law and we will have to continue to break the law unless the government comes up with a reasonable solution for us,” he warned.

Brielmann also stressed he doesn’t want to see an abattoir hurriedly built in the district as a solution.

“The [abattoir] committee has a mandate to find the best solution for an abattoir which will work the best for the district,” he remarked. “It has to be a business. It has to be sustainable.

“I’m afraid they will push for something that is not in our best interest—just a quick fix—which I really don’t want.

“The best thing would be for the ministry to provide us with a workable interim solution and leave the abattoir committee on the side until they find something that really works for the district,” Brielmann concluded.

The LFLP committee has written a letter to the OMAFRA minister and are encouraging others to do the same.

A portion of the letter states: “Although it is illegal, we will continue to share meals, which include farm-raised meat, with family and friends.

“We will continue to pack our own, and our school children’s, lunches, with hearty home-grown food, and when we send them off to college, we will continue to send our own produce to ensure they have affordable and nutritious food.

“If you would have us comply with regulations, you must provide us with the means to do so.”

“We’re hoping to get a response from this,” Brielmann noted.

(Fort Frances Times)

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