The Farm Freedom and Safety Act ensures basic safety standards on all farms
By Diego Flammini
Alberta’s provincial government has published its revamped version of farm safety legislation.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen introduced Bill 26, known as the Farm Freedom and Safety Act, on Nov. 20.
The ag ministry held 25 consultations between July and August to give farmers a chance to weigh in on the bill.
“We promised Albertans we would consult first and legislate second – and that’s exactly what we did,” Dreeshen said in a statement. “We’ve taken this feedback and built common-sense farm workplace legislation that works for people, not against them.”
The bill outlines multiple changes designed to give farmers more flexibility with respect to insurance and reduce red tape.
Farms and ranches with more than five waged non-family employees, for example, must have workplace insurance but can choose between purchasing the insurance from the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) of Alberta or from a private provider.
For comparison, Bill 6 mandated that all insurance for paid ag workers came from the WCB.
Industry organizations are optimistic the bill accounts for the nuances of a family farm operation.
“We appreciate the government’s recognition that operating a farm business is unique, and with that comes its own unique needs,” Hannah Konschuh, co-chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission, said in a statement on Nov. 21. “The new legislation will allow for more flexibility while maintaining safety standards.”
If passed, the bill would fulfill one of Premier Jason Kenney’s campaign promises of repealing Bill 6, which Rachel Notley’s NDP government passed in 2015.
Farms.com has reached out to Minister Dreeshen, industry groups and Lorne Dach, the NDP’s agriculture critic, for comment.