Call for small farm understanding

10 Feb, 2017 02:00 AM
Blythe Calnan.
Blythe Calnan.

BINNINGUP cattle producer Blythe Calnan is calling for a better understanding of small-scale farming as current planning approval guidelines are designed for large-scale poultry farms.

Ms Calnan is in the process of gaining approval from the Shire of Harvey to establish a 400-head free range egg farm on her 40 hectare property to complement her 120 cattle program.

A supporter of regenerative agriculture, Ms Calnan's plan is to rotate the chickens over the property to provide nutrients to the pasture for the cattle.

She has already invested in a 200-head poultry farm but is waiting on shire approval before selling eggs.

Ms Calnan said the planning approval process, which started in November, had been more challenging than anticipated for an enterprise of this size.

"For such a simple operation and the scale of operation I thought it would be relatively straightforward," she said.

"It is really discouraging and for a tiny business it has chewed up a lot of time and a lot of resources for us that is making it a struggle."

In order to be registered for a food business to sell the eggs, Ms Calnan's egg farm has to receive shire planning approval.

The application has to satisfy the poultry farming environmental code of conduct which Ms Calnan said was designed for large-scale egg farms.

"These guidelines were primarily written for intensive enterprise and that's clearly stated in their scope," she said.

"The average poultry farm in WA is for 12,000 chickens and so the guidelines are set up to deal with the environmental and community impact of that type of operation, which are probably excessive for our enterprise."

Ms Calnan contacted Water Minister Mia Davies, with Department of Water officials visiting the property.

"We have found that when we speak to an individual about our plans they are positive but when paperwork is just being shuffled among departments you don't get that face-to-face contact and it makes it really easy for people to say no without understanding what you're trying to do," Ms Calnan said.

"We weren't asked to be given a total free run - we understand management plans need to be in place but considering our operation as high risk by regulations specifically designed for intensive enterprise, puts us at a real disadvantage."

A Shire of Harvey spokesperson said there had been an increase in small-scale poultry farms and had already approved a similar business in 2015.

A decision about Ms Calnan's operation is expected on February 21.

A Department of Water spokesperson said while the final decision to grant approval for Ms Calnan's application was with the Shire of Harvey, all poultry and egg producers, whether backyard or commercial, small or large, were required to comply with the laws and regulations relevant to their business regardless of the type of production system.

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pig farmer
11/02/2017 8:05:25 PM, on Farm Weekly

I totally sympathise with you. We have a small scale pig farm in Victoria and have been trying to get common sense from our council for nearly 2 years. We did get a permit after 12 months with 60+ conditions that are not feasible or common sense. The word intensive which describes animals that are fed more than 50% of their diet from bought in pellets etc are being screwed by environmentalists and local governments. No other farmer has to comply with. Wake up Australia, farmers produce food in rural areas. Get out of your offices and spend a week on a farm with a farmer and see how hard it is.


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