Alberta farmers and government may finally be reaching common ground

Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier met with representatives of the Alberta Agriculture Farm and Ranch Safety Coalition to discuss the forthcoming consultations regarding the controversial Bill 6.

'Today was a good day,' says co-chair of AgCoalition

Ranchers and farmers angry at Bill 6 at a protest held at the Alberta legislature. (CBC)

After much uproar, it seems that Albertan agriculture groups and the provincial government may finally be reaching some common ground.

On Wednesday afternoon, Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier met with representatives of the Alberta Agriculture Farm and Ranch Safety Coalition (AgCoalition) at the legislature to discuss the forthcoming consultations regarding the controversial Farm and Ranch Workers Act, Bill 6.

Kent Erickson, a co-chair of AgCoalition, felt the talks were successful. 

"Today was a good day, I think today was a positive step in the fact that we were really recognized as an organization that has some value," said Erickson. "We were able to show to them the strong support that we have in the community of the agriculture sector.

"I think they were listening, and hopefully, we can have some good outcomes in the short term." 
Oneil Carlier, agriculture minister, said that he feels optimistic after speaking with the co-chairs of AgCoalition. (CBC)

Bill 6 was passed last year but critics say consultations were limited and drew the ire from the farming community causing protests on the legislature grounds. Earlier this month the provincial government opened nominations for individuals to take part in consultations for the bill. Nominations close friday and applicants are to be vetted by the agriculture and labour departments.

AgCoalition criticized the process saying that it lacked transparency and the province may cherry pick representatives. Carlier held the meeting today in an attempt to quell some of the anxiety about the process.

"I think I alleviated some of those fears that we need those voices, we need those folks whose recommendations are coming from the commodity groups, and it sounds like a lot of them are coming through this coalition group as well. 

"That those are the folks that are going to be populating these tables because I need to hear their voices," Carlier said. 

Family farmers are upset with Bill 6 and the implications the Bill has for agriculture in the province. 1:28

The coalition, created only one month ago, is made up of 30 organizations representing the commodity industry in Alberta including the Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Beekeepers Commission, and Alberta Canola Producers Commission.

Erickson said it was important for these groups to have a voice in the discussion.

"We just felt that we had some solutions and some ideas that potentially could be positive for not only us but for the government so we could work together and try to find a positive outcome for farm safety and a positive outcome for the other parts of this bill," he said.

"Whether we're going to have some changes in actual legislation or we're going to have to work within the confines of the regulation is something we're going to have to deal with down the road."

The meetings are planned to begin in March before taking a break until June.

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