SBA/SBDC talks to the Federal Minister of Agriculture

Report on the Meeting with the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Minister MacAulay:

On February 8, 2016, Simon Lalonde, President of the SBDC and I, Sara Comerford, Vice President of the SBA, along with about 25 other stake holders in agriculture, had the opportunity to meet with the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Minister MacAulay in Saskatoon. Each person in attendance was invited to present issues of interest to their association. The following are excerpts from our briefs to the minister:

“Together with the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association, the Commission represents beekeepers operating approximately 94% of the 100,000 honey bee hives in Saskatchewan.

Beekeeping is physically demanding and has a short, labour-intensive season that lasts for only 7 months, which makes this a job that very few Canadians want.  The Temporary Foreign Worker program is an excellent solution and beekeepers are using this program as truly intended.

Changes to the TFWP will make it more difficult to bring in experienced workers.  Our greatest challenge is known as the ‘four-in-four-out ruling’, formally known as Operational Bulletin 523.  As a result of this ruling, many beekeepers bring their workers in for 6 months, to provide them 8 years of work.  However, we are going to lose these experienced workers with many becoming ineligible at the end of the 2018 honey season.

The SBA, SBDC, Canadian Honey Council, and other Provincial beekeeping associations have proposed to amend the TFWP Program such that workers who are approved through Ag-Stream be exempted from the ‘4-in-4-out ruling’ as long as they are in Canada for a predetermined length of time, for example, no more than eight months per calendar year.  This would allow many in the agriculture industry to continue to use this valuable program as it is intended.

Not having access to reliable dependable, experienced labour will severely limit our ability to grow the beekeeping industry within Saskatchewan.  More important than increasing honey production, additional hives provide an increase of pollination of agricultural crops such as Canola.  Unless Saskatchewan beekeepers are able to secure labourers for a short period during the year, we face postponing investment in new facilities, delays in growth of our operations, and very likely significant downsizing in the future.” (Simon Lalonde)

  • “Saskatchewan Beekeepers need to have ready access to the veterinary drugs needed to control America Foul Brood.  To this end we urge you, Minister MacAulay, to support the Canadian Honey Council’s recommendation to Health Canada to enable provincial apiculturists, bee tech team members and registered beekeepers to become certified to issue prescriptions for the veterinary drugs used for the treatment and control of American Foul brood
  •  Saskatchewan beekeepers support maintaining the boarder closed to the importation of bees from the USA where the Small Hive Beetle, Africanized Honey Bee and Amitraz resistant varroa mite is well established.  Additionally we support restricting the movement of bees through our Provence from areas where the Small Hive Beetle is present except through the implementation of strict transport protocols.
  • Finally, in light of the low honey prices being offered for domestic bulk honey, and in light of the large quantities of Chinese honey that has entered the Canadian  market in the last year that has deflated our domestic honey prices to below our cost of production, we would like assurance that all honey being imported into Canada is being held to the same rigorous standards of sanitation, traceability and excellence that Canadian honey is held to and that Canadian consumers have come to expect from honey produced and sold in Canada.” (Sara Comerford)

Post meeting note: We are delighted to report that several of the other presenters at the table echoed our concerns with the TFWP to the minister. Hopefully if the minister and his aids continue to hear the concerns raised by multiple industry representatives, our common concerns will be addressed. This was just one more opportunity for us to bring our issues of concern to the minister.

The need for ready access to drugs to treat our various pests and pathogens was also echoed in the comments of other presenters. This lends strength to this request as well.

Simon and I were very glad for the opportunity to meet with the minister and to represent the concerns of the Saskatchewan Beekeeping industry to the minister as well.