We have many laws in Canada which prevent small farmers from freely producing food. There are marketing boards which control the production of eggs, milk, frying chickens, ducks and duck eggs, potatoes, carrots, beets, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Which products are controlled varies from province to province.
In this article I'll concern myself mostly with chickens and eggs since I would need to write many volumes to demonstrate just how complicated it is for someone to be allowed to produce food in Canada.
Anyone wishing to grow these products must obtain the proper licensing from government and in some cases they must purchase the right to produce these products. When you're given this license you then purchase quota. The amount of quota you purchase determines the quantity which you are allowed to produce.
In checking government websites I found plenty of information which explains what a great idea this is.
The reason for controlling farm output cited most often is that supply is guaranteed. I suppose this one is listed first because they want to assure the public that no one is going to starve.
The next most commonly cited reason why these laws exist is so that farmers are guaranteed to cover their expenses and make a livable wage.
It's called supply management. A group of government employees calculate all of the various input costs in producing given commodities then they decide how much should be earned per pound of product produced. They set the price. Anytime there is a change in input costs the price is adjusted so that the farmers income remains stable. Sounds fair doesn't it ? They have various hearings and all stakeholders are allowed input. Stakeholders are those who are somehow involved in production of these food items. Regular citizens are not invited. Apparently the manner in which food is produced is none of our business.
The system was set up starting about 50 years ago in response to major consolidation in the US market accompanied by government subsidy for agribusiness. Instead of simply closing the border to American product, they set up a system which caused the same consolidation and effectively shut most citizens out of that branch of agriculture.
None of the several dozen government sites I visited explain that all of the rules regarding who may grow food and who may not, have the effect of causing a huge amount of consolidation in agriculture. Fewer and fewer small farms exist since they sell out to large farming corporations. The cost of purchasing quota is a major reason for this. For some foods such as eggs the quota can cost more than the cost of buying land, building barns and purchasing animals. If someone wanted to have a relatively small chicken operation with 1000 hens it's likely that the entire operation could be set up for $15,000. That will build a small barn leaving enough money to buy 1000 young chickens. But the price of quota is $250 per hen. So the farmer needs to shell out $250,000 to purchase quota. This cost, effectively puts most young farmers in a position where they are unable to enter the egg market.
1000 chickens is not nearly enough to make a viable full-time farming enterprise. This many chickens are likely to produce 70 dozen eggs per day. A business 10 times this large with 10,000 chickens could produce 700 dozen eggs per day. The profit per dozen is generally under one dollar so this is not a very large business in monetary terms. But the quota for this little egg business would cost $2.5 million.
There are exemptions for those producing small quantities for personal use or for farm gate sale. In British Columbia for laying hens that number is 99 birds. Those 99 birds will produce seven dozen eggs per day. Supposing that this person raises these hens in a manner suitable to be considered organic, they might get four dollars per dozen for a total of $28 per day gross income. Once all costs are factored in it might be possible to make $10 per day. There are different rates of exempt quantity for turkeys, frying chickens, hogs and other commodities. It's not legal to grow even one cranberry for personal use without purchasing quota.
I had to search around the Internet quite a bit in order to find out exactly what happens to those who produce agricultural products without quota. Penalties can range from a stern warning to seizure of all assets, fines and imprisonment. The only reference to a fine I was able to find was $270,000 for a licensed producer who went over the quota amount. Most other information on this concerns farm seizure and livestock seizure.
This regulation effectively keeps all but the wealthiest newcomers out of the market. The entire business of producing this food is thus reserved for big agribusiness. They have banking arrangements which allow these large corporations to borrow money for quota, barns and equipment. Anyone attempting to operate outside the quota system is denied access to capital.
Regulations state that each chicken must have .75 ft.² for frying chickens and laying hens are given a slightly larger allotment. This minimum has become standard practice. Animal-rights activists point out that the quota system is largely responsible for the standardization of conditions which many consider inhumane.
So that's how much control agribusiness has in British Columbia. Someone who owns a decent piece of farmland can't just start producing food. They must wade through all the information of what is legal and not legal and then choose what to produce. Of course the vast majority of small farmers are immediately put off by the huge costs involved. Thus we have a situation which prevents those who have agricultural land from becoming producers of our nations food.
Small farmers organizations have been able to make a few inroads into production of controlled crops. There is now a program which allows certified organic growers to have 399 layers. And personal allotments for some other products have been raised in the past 10 years. But each gain has been at great legal expense.
I think ultimately trying to chip away at the armor of agribusiness through incremental gains will be futile. It may make more sense to challenge the entire system under the charter of rights. The charter would need to be changed to state that any citizen may freely produce food for personal consumption or for sale. After that, all other laws concerning food should simply be a matter of protecting public safety.
Almost any new system would serve the public interest better than what now exists. The current system criminalizes the simple act of producing food. If I were to raise 1000 chickens without purchasing quota the legal and financial ramifications are likely to be be greater than if I were to walk out into the street and assault the next person I see. That makes no sense to me and I doubt that it would make sense to most people. So the question becomes should the punishment fit the crime. And to be a crime, shouldn't there be an identifiable victim. The only possible victim here is large agribusiness as each new private producer would take out a little chunk of their monopoly.
The real victim in this is every citizen since we are denied food choices. We are denied the ability to grow food for profit. And for those who choose to not grow food ,we are denied freedom of choice. Since new farmers are kept out of the business most consumers end up consuming products produced under the quota system every day.
Most Canadians remain blissfully unaware that agriculture is controlled to this degree by government and corporate interests. Only well-publicized legal challenges could possibly change the current state of affairs.
Thank you: Dale Hodgins
If I have sufficient surplus capital, I can effectively halt all competition from anybody who has less than I do.
nancy sutton wrote:
Has the glaring inequity of this system been explained to any of your legislative representatives? And their response is? Do they admit to the strangle hold that the super-successful 1% has on the political process?
Dale here.(For some reason I can't write inside one of these boxes without everything turning blue) problem solved. Thanks Pam
The problem is that agribusiness has convinced government that this is a good idea. Apparently the fact that no one is starving is evidence of a well-managed system. They constantly bring up the idea of supply management. Everything is geared to market stability. But it's also geared to keeping the vast majority out of us out of the farming business. There's also bureaucratic infrastructure. Hundreds of useless people feed at the public trough in order to manage the quota system. They would not enjoy the prospect of having to produce something other than inefficiency and inequity of opportunity.
In many rural areas a large number of suicides are related to farm debt. Obviously the cost of all of this quota increases the chances of someone becoming overwhelmed.
Although this should be dealt with simply as a rights issue I suspect it would be easier to get some mileage out of the next unfortunate personal event related to the excessive cost.
Although the law prescribes all manner of punishment, in practice people don't end up going to jail for breaching the quota system. Instead they are punished financially. If we had hundreds of innocent people rotting in jail that could become a hot political potato. But people who have become bankrupted because they broke the law just don't have the same media appeal.
I would like to propose that a coalition of Canadian farmers get together and rent a patch of land to break these rules on. That way the chicken police or potato police could only seize the crops and not the land. I think if enough people decided to openly flaunt the law during a properly conducted media campaign the entire system could be brought down.
Remember when Gandhi led all those people to the ocean to make salt? We are being denied the ability to grow food. Food is every bit as important as salt.(I've deleted all that stuff about unguarded assets in order to avoid deletion). If enough of us protested this state of affairs we could overwhelm their ability to respond.
Thank you: where is Gandhi when you need him? I'd even settle for Rambo.
Dale Hodgins wrote:
The blue box thingy is because you are replying INSIDE the quote. You have to start your reply after the "
" bit at the end and then it won't be blue
Your comment about market quotas.. my father belonged to the potato marketting board years and years ago until he realized that not only could he get three times as much for his potatoes selling them directly, but his customers were much happier as then they could get the quality of potatoes they wanted..he sold mostly to fish/chip shops.
Not sure how it all went down, but he got caught and charged with selling 9 sacks of potatoes. He knew he was going to lose anyway (not much chance of denying it and he had never particularly tried to hide what he was doing ) but he acted as his own lawyer and managed to keep the MB lawyers in court for almost a week before he was found guilty, at which point he said he wouldn't pay the fine so would take jail instead, so off they sent him for two weeks..to OKALLA would you believe? He got out after 10 days..4 days off for good behaviour and went right back to selling potaoes..one day coming back from Victoria after delivering a load there he passed the then head of the marketting board - who happened to live about 15 miles from us at the time - heading INTO Victoria with a load of his own.
This was before the Charter had been brought back and I was quite young so not sure of the basis on which he was challenging the charges, although I THINK it had to do with some sort of freedom. Now with the Charter it might have had a better chance. All I DO know was that he had cost them so much money and a little bad publicity so they never bothered him again, which is what he had counted on.
That said, I have a niece in BC who is selling tons of carrots through farmer's markets and apparently doing quite well, I'm pretty sure there's nothing about quotas being done there (but not positive).
There is a large organic gardening and farming presence in many areas of Canada and I would say it is strongest in coastal British Columbia where I live. They are well organized and they have had some success in lobbying government and have thus received the occasional scrap from the corporate table.
Have you found any precedence for exception/loopholes to these regulations? Sounds like the little fish seem to be overlooked but what about a large community of little fish?
These gains have been in the form of increases in personal use exemptions and other minor changes which don't really address the idea that food production has been criminalized.
They work for change within a system which is morally bankrupt, and anyone who goes out on their own to break the rules will find themselves financially bankrupt.
That's why I believe that ultimately this needs to be dealt with as a rights issue complete with whatever upheaval and chaos that may entail.
Even when heavy fines are not imposed, the illegality of the business leads to huge inefficiency since the farmer can't openly conduct his business with signs and other advertising. Instead they must operate in the shadows like a drug dealer while being careful about deliveries.
The heaviest enforcement seems to be in poultry which makes sense because poultry quota can cost many times more than the land used for these operations. The egg marketing board has people employed to investigate those at farmers markets and roadside stands. So not only do we have ridiculous rules being enforced we have otherwise useful citizens frittering their careers away at this utterly worthless endeavor.
The family run dairy that services the country from which I hail in Nova Scotia, deals with a pretty broad range of products and supplies all of its own milk. In order to make sure they have enough milk output to always cover their needs, they have a fairly large herd (in case of death or illness). When their cows are doing well they end up with extra milk, but as they can only legally produce so much milk the rest has to be dumped directly down the drain. No selling to consumers, they can't even sell it for supplimentary pig feed, it legally has to be discarded.
I don't know how much this applies to other industries ( I know milk is really tightly controlled) but I shudder to think of eggs, meat, honey or even crops wasted because a farmer had a particularly good year.
You know things habe gone too far if you have "Peach Police" , "Egg Police", "Tomato Police" or "Milk Police."
Daniel Morse wrote:Thats sucks in Canada. So, why don't you all run for office and change the system? Its a hold over from ideology of rationing and corps know what is good for you. Run for office and change. If 10 people from each locality ran for office you could change this.
I'm not a good bet for political office due to my outspoken nature and a tendancy to break rules. No local member of parliment could change this. It would have to come from higher up if it's to be done by government decree. I think the current state of affairs is so entrenched that only massive covert action involving destruction and violence would get this matter the attention it deserves and even then the attention would centre on crimes comitted more than on the issue at hand. This is highly unlikely since the majority of consumers is unaware, apathetic and willfully ignorant on most matters of food production.
Incremental gains are more likely. I would like to see all costs to society concerning food inspection and recalls bourne by the producers. This would effectively remove a subsidy.
New Member from Québec.
I have a question about loopholes in quotas.
(I got the idea from Salatin)
In Quebec, we can have up to 100 broilers for personal consumption, our immediate family and our customers. 100 won't make me rich, but can feed me.
What if I were to sell the chicks to my costumers as I order them for myself.
Let's say I order 100 chicks for myself, 100 for Joe (who pays for them) 73 for Jack and 25 for Mathis.
I could charge them a markup for handling the purchase, or not.
I would then charge them for raising the chicks for them. When they are big enough, i would charge for the processing.
If I am careful with the pricing, I could make it so that the price would be the same as if i sold by the pound.
Cost of feed and care of the chick: $10
processing fee: 5 to $10, depending on the weight.
Total: $18-23 for the bird. The same i would sell if I were to sell it by the pound at $3 the pound.
Do you think this could work around the quotas. Of course, I would consult a lawyer first but it seems that since I do not own the birds, it should work.
(The US ones keep me busy enough trying to figure out.)
Perhaps "they" would question "Which ones are yours?"
So get a packet of each colored leg band available.
Just put them on randomly if you wish. Or actually designate the colors to individual owners.
"Oh, those with red bands are mine. The green ones are Joe's, and the yellow ones are Mathis'."
Perhaps that wouldn't work. It may be a limit of 100 birds total.
Is your season long enough to do several flocks?
You might be able to get away with 100 just going into the field, and another 100 'day-olds' in the brood house.
By the time they are ready to move outside, the older ones will be on the chopping block.
Apparently it is also 100 chicken per year.