Ontario farmers who sell their own vegetables and fruits at the farm gate will get a seasonal exception to the province’s laws on highway signage.
In a very rare move for any Canadian legislature, the province’s MPPs on Thursday carried third reading of a private member’s bill brought forward by an opposition MPP — in this case, Ernie Hardeman, the MPP for Oxford and the Tory opposition’s agriculture critic.
Hardeman’s bill, which takes effect when it receives royal assent from Lt.-Gov. David Onley, amends the province’s Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act.
Currently, Hardeman said when he introduced his bill in June, the Act generally prevents signage within 400 metres of a provincial highway, unless it displays the name or owner of the premises, or is allowed under a ministerial permit.
The bill, having passed second reading in October and committee discussion Wednesday, allows farmers to post signage to promote their produce without applying for a ministerial permit.
Farmers are allowed to post two single-sided signs facing different directions to a maximum size of 1.22 by 1.22 metres, or one single-sided sign measuring 2.44 by 1.22 metres.
But the signs must be displayed on premises zoned for agricultural use — and not on public or Crown land. They must also display information about the sale of agricultural products, other than tobacco, that are grown and offered for sale on the farm premises where the signs are displayed.
The bill also only allows the signs to be displayed during the season when the ag products mentioned are for sale. Also, the owner of the signs must be the owner or tenant of the land where the products are produced.
“Many farms are located on side roads so farmers and consumers rely on directional signs to help people find out when crops are being harvested and where they are available,” Hardeman said in June.
In announcing the tabling of his bill, Hardeman cited the example of Chuck Emre, a Norfolk-area farmer who was ordered to take down a sign for his asparagus business. Without the sign, Emre said in Hardeman’s release, his asparagus sales dropped 50 per cent.
“I believe this is a positive step to support agriculture, Ontario farmers and the economy as well as making fresh produce more available to all Ontarians,” Emre said in Hardeman’s release in June.