As Canadians we have to be careful about agricultural issues because some federal laws automatically override local laws and ordinances, and provincial statutes. The Egg Farmers of Canada, formerly the Egg Marketing Board, has been instrumental in altering federal law which at this time affects those selling chicken. I'm not sure what the future stages are in the laws, but they will affect all Canadian poultry producers in time. The first one to be implemented affects meat from free-range producers, for sale. http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/Front/1067848.html GLEN COVEYs darkened farmhouse keeps the blistering heat at bay while he sits at the kitchen table sipping a cold glass of water. Its a Wednesday afternoon, which means he has been cooped up in the abattoir butchering about 180 of his free-range chickens. He will butcher another batch the next day. "Farming is a difficult way to make a living in the best of times," he says. And right now, times could be better for him. His wife, Kimberly Tilsley, has marked up a three-ring binder filled with pages of new rules that Glenryan Farms could have to follow to sell chickens next year. The Chicken Farmers of Canada has rolled out a program to monitor free-range chicken farms across the country. The Nova Scotia arm of the chicken marketing board is in charge of making sure the 20 free-range chicken farmers in this province play by the new rules, which are being billed as bio-security measures to improve food safety. But several Nova Scotia free-range chicken farmers are concerned the new program might be a covert way to put smaller, alternative producers out of business. "I truly believe its not about food safety its about profits," said Silvia Lange. Ms. Lange and her husband run Langes Rock Farm in Maplewood, Lunenburg County, and had raised free-range chickens until this year. "Every time someone raises their own chickens, somebody else cant sell it," she said, referring to commercial farms. "Bio-security is not always what it seems. . . . It can be one of those things that gives consumers the idea that something has been done." The general manager of the Nova Scotia chicken marketing board says the new rules are meant to protect the birds and consumers from disease, especially with the threat of avian influenza. "The producers have known this was coming and have been given a year to look at their operations and evaluate any changes that they may need to make," said Shelley Acker of the Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia. "We are working with those producers (and) are exploring the program and . . . how it relates to their farm." She denied charges the program was a bid by commercial chicken farmers to shut out free-range producers. Some of the new rules include putting up netting around smaller range areas to keep out wild birds, and limiting contact with visitors. Livestock cannot come into contact with any of the chickens, so some farmers may have to build separate areas to house their animals. Chicken Farmers of Canada launched a food safety program geared toward industrial farms about 10 years ago. The free-range program is now in what Ms. Acker calls its introductory year. Each free-range farmer in Nova Scotia has been supplied with the same binder sitting in Mr. Coveys Margaree-area farmhouse. The paperwork inside must be returned to show how each farm has complied with the rules. Once thats been proven, the board will decide whether the farm is up to code. Theres some concern among free-range chicken farmers that the program could actually hurt safety standards in the industry. By making it more difficult to get a licence, the chicken marketing board could force producers to go underground. The owners of Glenryan Farms say they are extremely careful with their poultry, because any hint of illness could scare away the customer base they have built up. Each chicken they butcher is checked over by a provincial inspector before it leaves the farm. And Mr. Covey said his chickens may have stronger immune systems. "You have problems when birds are totally divorced from nature, when birds are raised under stress and without sunshine." Sheep and cows graze on the same range that the chickens pasture in. Ms. Tilsley said the other animals keep the grass short, which is how the chickens like to eat it. But under the new program, chickens can have no contact with any other livestock. Ian Duncan is the chairman of the animal welfare program at the University of Guelph and a professor emeritus with the department of animal and poultry science. Avian influenza is a risk for farmers in Canada, despite the fact there have been only a handful of reported cases in the country, he said. There were several reported cases in Asia this year and with modern travel it is surprisingly easy for viruses to cross the globe. But some of the guidelines in the food safety program "seem a little over the top," he said, especially separating livestock from the chickens. "I really dont see what transference of disease there could be between poultry and cattle. These are completely different species (and) there are no diseases common to both." Other guidelines, like monitoring visitors from other farms, are good practices, he said. Those visitors could bring traces of disease from their own flocks. Restricting all visitors, however, could conflict with the educational beliefs of some free-range farmers. They often encourage their customers to better understand what they are eating and how it got to their plate, Ms. Lange said. She said she decided not to raise chickens this year partly because of the new program, and because of other costs of raising poultry. The Agriculture Department has not yet been heavily involved with the discussions between the free-range farmers and the marketing board, a spokeswoman said. Susan Mader Zinck said she believed the farmers were trying to work through any issues with the program at the board level first. Mr. Covey and Ms. Tilsley said they would like to see a separate board created for free-range farmers, because of the differences between industrial and free-range farming. But at this point they are not even sure they will stay in the business next year. They may focus on their organic vegetable crop instead. "But the chickens pretty much rule here in summertime," Mr. Covey said, before walking through a field of chirping chicks. "So itd be really different around here.