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Kelowna council tackles farm worker housing problem

Proposed changes would limit number of foreign workers allowed any one farm.
Kelowna council is looking to make changes to its Temporary Farm Worker Housing Policy.

Kelowna city hall wants to limit the number of foreign farm workers employed on city farms.

City council took the first steps towards limiting the number to 40 workers per farm earlier this week when it gave initial approval to plan that changes its Temporary Farm Worker Housing policy.

According to the city, most of the foreign farm workers here are from Mexico and Jamaica. Last year a reported 2,100 Mexican farms workers were employed by local farms on a seasonal basis, with another 700 from Jamaica.

After consulting with the Mexican and Jamaican consulates, as well as talking to the B.C. Fruit Growers Association and the Ministry of Agriculture, the city has opted to reduce the number of workers a given farm can have on site at any one time, a move it says has already been made in several other B.C. municipalities where farm worker housing is an issue.

At times in the past, Kelowna council has struggled with the issue of farm worker housing because it does not want to see large amounts of isolated, temporary housing set upon farmland.

But some large-scale farmers have argued that they need the worker to help bring inter crops and need provide proper housing for them.

In addition tot limiting the number of foreign workers a single farm can employ, the city is also proposing change to its season window for their employment.

Instead of set dates,the city is proposing an flexible eight-month window to allow for employment at different times of the year.

The city says while the plan is still proposed, it will need to have public consultation and a public hearing before being adopted.