Abbotsford council is entering the “war zone” of berry cannon controversy.
A draft municipal bylaw has been created by a farm bylaw committee – a group of city councillors, farm representatives and members of the public.
The legislation would put significant new restrictions on the cannons, which are currently regulated by the ministry of agriculture.
Blueberry farmers use the cannons to scare birds away from their crops.
Emitting loud blasts, which can be in the range of 100 decibels or higher, and potentially firing in excess of 100 times per hour, with multiple shots, the devices are considered extremely invasive by many people who live nearby.
Residential development has been allowed to expand up to agricultural land in this city, and others.
Meanwhile, the issue has dramatically increased in profile in recent years, as many farms have switched from other crops to the lucrative blueberry.
Once quiet residential neighourhoods are now inundated with cannon blasts for the duration of the growing season, which can stretch over three months or more.
While an entire ban on the devices would end the problem, it’s unlikely the provincial government would agree to that at this time.
That makes this draft bylaw an important tool for this city’s councillors to find some middle ground between berry growers and frustrated residents.
As it now reads, the legislation would stipulate that the devices do not exceed 60 decibels, and face away from neighbouring homes. Use would be prohibited on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and statutory holidays.
Little doubt some farmers will oppose any further restrictions, particularly those who rely entirely on cannons to protect their crops, rather than other available alternatives such as nets and reflectors.
Nevertheless, this draft bylaw suggests reasonable measures.
All that’s required now is a courageous council to support it.