Column: Supporting farm families

Summertime activities on our local farms and ranches are in full swing.

Summertime activities on our local farms and ranches are in full swing, filled with questions like: “when can I cut the hay?’ “Will there be enough time for it to dry before it is baled?” “Is it going to rain?” Indeed, summer days are filled with a tremendous amount of hard work. Our government recognizes this, and continues to bring forward supportive initiatives.

One example is our Loan Guarantee program which makes livestock financing available to farmers. Twenty-six years ago, my parents were part of the first feeders group — my dad was a director and my mom served as secretary for many years. Growing up, the meetings were held at our kitchen table and I heard firsthand how important the program is to local ranchers. If we can find ways to support our existing ranchers and help the next generation get into cow-calf operations, it would help diversify our economy and provide additional food security.

We’re also supporting that next generation by investing $154,000 in Thompson Rivers University’s Applied Sustainable Ranching Program for local students.

In addition, we’ve partnered with Ottawa to provide up to $144,000 in federal-provincial funding to the BC Cattlemen’s Association so it can develop a business plan in the hopes of getting a federally-inspected beef processing plant up and running in Prince George. This brings the potential of another economic driver to the North, including the Cariboo.

Meanwhile, our government has clarified permitted agri-tourism activities in the Agricultural Land Reserve, to help farmers grow their incomes. ALR land owners will not need a permit from the Agricultural Land Commission to host activities like weddings, concerts or non-agriculture related festivals if they meet a number of conditions — but will be required to make an application to the ALC if those aren’t being met. Finally, we’ve invested $8 million in the Buy Local Program which supports food security and helps B.C. farmers and processors promote their local agrifood and seafood products. I encourage you to visit the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market on Fridays at Boitanio Park and support our farm families.

Coralee Oakes is the MLA for Cariboo North and Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.