The sudden closure of the region’s only abattoir earlier this year had farmers scrambling and trying to come up with new ideas.  

One ranching family stepped up to reopen that abattoir on Donaldson Road near Telkwa recently, but are only starting with red meats, with no start date for poultry.

Another Bulkley Valley farm has decided to open a poultry processing plant. However, cutting through all the red tape is proving to be difficult.

Paul Murphy and Marlene Thimer of Happy Pig Organic Farm in Telkwa have applied for a Farm Gate Plus Licence, which Murphy said has strict limits on how many birds can be slaughtered at 25,000 pounds live weight.

But their farm is currently in the Agriculture Land Reserve and there is a restriction of 10,000 pounds per year, which he said isn’t a lot of birds.

They have also applied to the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako and the Agricultural Land Commission to have their property rezoned and get permission for a non-farm use. Slaughtering is classified as non-farm use.

They also had to get permission from the Ministry of Transportation because if the farm is rezoned, they have to prove road access is suitable.

Murphy said the number of hoops they have to jump through is a lot and isn’t necessary.

“I understand all these people are essential to the process,” he said. “I think what they do is they design applications that are great, if you work in that ministry. We just need to ask for this, this and this.

“But I think what they should do, is they should take people from other ministries, and get them to do the applications for ministries they’re not familiar with. And then they realize how horrible some of these applications are. And that there’s a lot of synergies, perhaps, that they could bring together to make it a lot easier, so that you just apply in one place.

“And then all the respective people that need their information, get it, rather than somebody like me trying to navigate all these different ministries and groups.”

Murphy added there is a huge demand to have poultry processed locally and it continues to grow with other plant operators looking at retirement or closing along with a trend toward people wanting locally-raised food.

“A lot of people are going to be very negatively affected this year, just with poultry, because there’s lots of people that we know that are not raising any birds this year, because they don’t know if there’s going to be a plant available for them,” he added. “It’s affected everybody from the hatcheries right down to the consumer.”

Meanwhile, Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen said he is lobbying for a more streamlined process.

“We’ve been creating more options, getting more flexibility from the provincial side of things,” he said. “I brought this right to the top of the food chain, so to speak, the minister and her staff, as well as, folks at the commission. And they have their rules to follow, but food security is a really important part of BC’s plan.

“And we’ve been putting money and support into it. We also need to make sure that the rules encourage and not discourage people from producing and processing, which is the conversation here.”

Murphy said there is one FarmGate plus license holder for poultry in Fraser Lake, but that’s it in the North.