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Walking the talk

Rules and standards are great but only if you follow and enforce them.

Some rules are easy to keep; others require the fear of enforcement to make us obey. Most people don’t need to be told not to murder, but many of us have parked illegally while hoping no one would notice.

It’s the same story on our farms. Most of us don’t need to be told to respect the animals and people who help us make a living. Keeping accurate records – well, that’s another story. Biosecurity, as the BC Poultry Association heard last fall, is easy to relax without a clear and present threat.

But when we let down our guard, trouble has a chance to happen. Heightened public interest in where food comes from means the legal and social consequences are often enormous when things go wrong.

That’s the sad situation the Kooyman family found itself in when workers at its dairy farm were filmed abusing the family’s cattle. The family was as shocked as the rest of us, but that didn’t stop Chilliwack Cattle Sales from being pilloried in the media and online, briefly losing its ability to ship milk and, this past December, being assessed hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Chilliwack Cattle Sales had a staff manual, but not everyone received it. Staff training fell far short of the farm’s best intentions and interests. And when no one was looking, workers broke the law.

It didn’t have to be that way. Robust staff training and monitoring are now part of how BC’s largest dairy farm does business.

Governments are also getting the message that rules – and clear interpretations of them – matter.

As this issue went to press, Richmond was working to define what people can and can’t do on farm land. With no set limits, property owners have been proposing houses of more than 40,000 square feet.

Meanwhile, the province’s support of BC’s wine industry has triggered an international trade challenge from an increasingly protectionist US. Despite repeated warnings, Victoria insisted that licenses giving BC wineries exclusive access to grocery store shelves was okay – a stance that’s put Ottawa on the hot seat.

Contrary to popular belief, rules weren’t meant to be broken.

Clear rules create a stable business environment; following them boosts public confidence.

Good rules aren’t about limiting success – they’re about making it happen.

CLBC March 2017

Vol.103 Issue 1

CLBC February 2017