NDP puts on hold spy satellites on farmers

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett’s regular column for the 100 Mile Free Press

When news broke that Agriculture Minister Lana Popham was planning to use satellites to spy on farmers and ranchers, it sounded like more science fiction than a sincere policy announcement.

The thought of Big Brother looking over the shoulder of every member of the agricultural community drew outrage from across the province and against the NDP minority government in particular.

It’s hard to believe that Popham is still planning to use the sophisticated Radarsat 2 satellite to monitor the activities of unsuspecting farmers and ranchers day and night, seven days a week, in order to enforce heavy-handed legislation.

At stake are new rules prohibiting the construction of secondary residences on private property contained within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), and Popham’s even more controversial ban on any value-added business on farms that are designed to earn a little extra income.

There are many in the agriculture industry who hold down full time jobs off-site just to make ends meet. Blocking any extra earning potential, such as the ability to set up a farm product retail outlet, like a corn stand, is a slap in the face. It seems the NDP is more concerned with protecting the land than supporting the people who grow our food.

Just a few weeks ago dozens farmers and ranchers showed up the Legislature to protest the new rules, including the construction ban on new residences for the next generation – sons, daughters, grandchildren – wanting to carry on the family business after their parents retire.

So when word got out that the agricultural community would be subject to satellite surveillance, Popham and the NDP received a wave of online outrage against their police-state mentality.

Within twenty-four hours, Popham was forced to back down temporarily, saying her pilot project would be “delayed.”

I can assure you Minister Popham, this fight is not over yet.

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