Warwick inspired farm protection bill clears first hurdle

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Warwick Township’s fight to protect farm families, employees and animals is gaining traction at Queen’s Park.

Legislation aimed at protecting farmers from aggressive animal rights activists passed first reading in the Ontario legislature Monday.

Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman said the Security from Trespass and Animal Safety Act would increase fines for trespassing on farms and food-processing facilities up to $25,000, up from the current maximum trespassing fines of $10,000. The act would also make it illegal to obstruct trucks carrying farm animals.

Warwick Mayor Jackie Rombouts was at Queen’s Park Monday. She said there’s been a steady increase recently in harassment of farmers and livestock transporters by activists opposed to animal agriculture and consumption.

“The reason why I was invited was because our council began a resolution that has circulated across Ontario, requesting that the provincial government work with farm groups to improve the protections for our farmers,” said Rombouts. “We don’t have anything against people having an opinion, but when they start breaking the law, that’s when we want to stand up and start protecting our farmers. Our farmers do a fantastic job at producing food here for everyone in Ontario and we just really wanted to show them the support that they deserve.”

Rombouts said Monday’s result was a good first step.

“I am very encouraged by the bill. We also had a consultation to kind of break down what all of the act entails, and I think most, if not all of the leaders in the farming industry were happy with what they were hearing, so we’re very optimistic that this will pass and that it will really make an improvement for family farms. I think every little bit helps and [the increased fines are] definitely a good deterrent.”

The County of Lambton, Chatham-Kent and South Huron are among the municipalities that have endorsed Warwick’s resolution.