Canada: Alberta greenhouse growers say farm safety bill could drive them away

Paul Hotchkiss doesn’t particularly want to move to New Zealand — or South America, for that matter.

But those are the options the Calgary native and owner of Hotchkiss Herb & Produce says he’s facing as a result of Bill 6.

“We have to harvest things when they’re ready to be harvested,” said Hotchkiss, who has been growing produce southeast of Calgary for more than 15 years.

“That’s just how it works. We’re in a business of pennies, we’re not in a business of dollars.

Bill 6, the province’s controversial farm safety bill, passed last Thursday, bringing with it the concern that operations like the Hotchkiss greenhouses will be crippled by Employment Standards legislation.

Businesses such as greenhouses, nurseries and landscaping operations, are already covered under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. But, like other agricultural operations, they’re not subject to the labour standards that govern things like overtime and vacation pay.

“What kills us is everything over eight hours is time and a half,” said Hotchkiss. “The plants grow 24 hours a day.”

Hotchkiss said he and his wife have started looking at moving out of the province — or even out of the country — in order to keep growing. He fears the regulations, combined with a carbon tax, will render his business unable to compete with producers from Mexico and California.

It’s a fear echoed by many in the greenhouse industry, said Joel Beatson, the managing director of the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association, who said increased labour costs for local producers could reduce the market for their produce.

Read the full article at Calgary Herald

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