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Crop cannons to fire
last volley in the valley?

Last week’s decision by Abbotsford City councillors to have their lawyers and staff work with the blueberry growers, agriculture ministry and residents on the “ultimate” elimination of crop cannon use has been greeted by praise from the rural residents who’ve been negatively affected by the repeated blasts of the propane-powered bird scare devices.

“It was an unanimous vote by council, to develop strategies to eventually ban the use of cannons,” said Roger Clapham. “We are very grateful.” Clapham has farmed his south Lefeuvre Road acreage for the past 30 years, and says that in the ten years since a neighbour installed a crop cannon his family has been subjected to some 800,000 explosions. The neighbouring farmer does not reside at the property where the blueberries are grown.

“Every summer means continuous detonations,” said Clapham. “The key concern is that they can’t make them quieter or reduce the frequency. It does not lend itself to mitigation, and we are on a collision course.”

However, the decision was greeted with alacrity by the B.C. Blueberry Council, which has written council to ask for more consultation with the grrowers. In the letter, chair Wilhelmina de Jager said more than 3,500 hectares are used in the industry, valued at over $40-million in farm gate receipts, and “A large portion of this production is in Abbotsford.

” De Jager questioned whether councillors had read a recent ministry report on the issue, and said that mayor George Ferguson had appointed an advisory committee only last year to investigate the cannons.

“The meetings were very unproductive as the sole desired outcome of the Ban the Cannons group is no surprise – the complete banning of cannons. There was not compromise,” said de Jager. “This is unacceptable to the blueberry industry.”

De Jager also reminded council that, “The BC Blueberry Council adopted new (agriculture ministry) guidelines and hired a grower liaison, Rick Dulat, to work with growers to develop bird management plans and to investigate complaints of farmers not following the guidelines.”

“I believe that our program for addressing complaints was very successful in obtaining greater compliance with the new guidelines. The greater compliance and the revised guidelines together have provided significant relief to some residents who have complained about noise from propane cannons over many years,” said de Jager. However, it does not appear that city council will accept the compromise proposed by the blueberry growers. Faced with many complaints from rural residents, many of them also farmers, mayor Ferguson brought the matter to council’s table last week.

“I think the vision for protecting bluberries in our community and others will most certainly preclude the cannons,” said coun. Simon Gibson. “I would also like the appropriate agencies to investigate a more liberal approach to ‘harvest’ the objectionable birds, particularly the starlings.”

© Copyright 2002 Aldergrove Star

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