Minister Dreeshen with family members and workers at Tri M Farms. Photo Submitted

Minister Dreeshen with family members and workers at Tri M Farms. Photo Submitted

Small farms would not need work place insurance under proposed bill

Bill 26, Farm Freedom and Safety Act, was introduced by Minister Devin Dreeshen Wednesday

The Alberta Government has proposed a new bill which would see small farms and ranches, with fewer than five employees, no longer required to have workplace insurance.

Bill 26 the Farm Freedom and Safety Act, introduced by Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen Wednesday, will repeal Bill 6 which was brought forward by the former NDP Government.

At the time, the NDP said Bill 6 will update farm safety rules and bring them in line with other provinces.

Repealing Bill 6, which caused protests and unrest among Albertan farmers and ranchers, was an election promise by the United Conservative Party this past spring.

The proposed legislation aims to consult with farmers and ranchers to build farm workplace legislation based on their needs.

“We promised Albertans we would consult first and legislate second — and that’s exactly what we did. We’ve taken this feedback and built common-sense farm workplace legislation that works for people, not against them,” Dreeshen said in a press release.

According to a press release issued by the Alberta Government, Bill 26 “recognizes that a farm is unlike other businesses, and that farmers and ranchers require flexibility in meeting labour and employment standards.”

Under the new legislation, farmers and ranchers will have to comply with occupational health and safety standards, however they will be exempt from safety standard initiated by the former government for the industry.

Small farms and ranches, which five or fewer people employed, will be exempt from employment standards rules and the requirement to have workplace insurance. However, larger farms and ranches will have to follow the rules for non-family, waged employees and will have to have workplace insurance.

Bill 26 will also bar workers from forming unions.

“Farmers asked for these changes to give us the flexibility to run our businesses and build a program collectively that works for everybody. This government has really listened to and responded to our concerns. Modern farms are highly safety-conscious operations and we take care of our farm workers like they are family,” Rhonda Mulligan, of Tri M Farms, said.

The new bill, which will replace Bill 6 in legislature, also includes nursery, greenhouse, mushroom and sod operations in the farm and ranch employment standards exemptions.

Cannabis operations, however, are not included.

Albert Cramer, president, Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association, said being included in Farm Freedom and Safety Act will help nursery and greenhouse workers and owners in Alberta.

“Being excluded from the definition of farms under the Employment Standards Code was a huge challenge for our industry and we are grateful that this has been rectified in the Farm Freedom and Safety Act,” Cramer said.

It is estimated there are roughly 32,000 small farms and ranches in Alberta this piece of legislature will effect.

If passed, the remainder of Bill 26 will come into effect on Jan. 31, 2020.