LETTERS: Commited to keeping agrifoods sector growing

Williams Lake Tribune readers are as passionate about local food as other British Columbians.

Editor:

Williams Lake Tribune readers are as passionate about local food as other British Columbians, and with recent articles focussing on growing our agrifoods sector, I wanted to ensure that readers were aware of the B.C. government’s collaborative efforts with farmers, ranchers, and the seafood and food manufacturing sectors to develop policies and programs that encourage agrifoods in B.C.

First off, our collective efforts are working. B.C. set a record for agrifood revenue in 2015 of $13 billion, that’s the highest ever.

That’s a 25 per cent increase since 2010, or put another way, $2.5 billion more in the hands of B.C. farmers and agrifood companies.

To build on that I hosted the B.C. Agrifood and Seafood Conference in November and led more than 300 delegates in discussions how B.C. can strengthen food supply security.

More than 35 experts, including entrepreneurs, tech leaders, distribution and retail company representatives, and research and policy leaders from around North America shared their knowledge how to help maximize productivity, minimize inputs and create greater value from B.C.’s farmland.

The B.C. government applauds the 20,000 B.C. family farms that cover 2.6 million hectares and produce more than 200 commodities, and are doing our best to make sure they operate in a business environment that supports their success.

With more land in the ALR today than when it was created in 1974, and with more than 32,000 net-new hectares added to the ALR since 2001, we recognize the ALR is key to supporting and sustaining food production in B.C., our farming sector, and those who work in it. That’s why the province provides the ALC with $4.5 million in annual funding, and that’s why we modernized the ALC Act and its regulations to ensure the commission has the tools and resources it needs to continue making independent land decisions, help farmers grow their businesses, and support food production for future generations.

I recognize that agricultural impacts were included in the decision making process around Site C, and though 2,774 hectares of Class 1-5 land were removed from the ALR, and another 941 were temporarily removed, I want to assure Tribune readers the Peace will continue to be a key agricultural region in our province. More than 99 per cent of Class 1-5 agricultural land in the Peace region will not be affected by the project, and BC Hydro will take appropriate action to address the ALR lands that are affected, including a $20 million agricultural compensation fund.

Site C will provide more than a century of affordable, reliable and clean power that will keep rates low, support our quality of life, and enable increased investment and a growing economy, including local food production.

British Columbians recognize the importance of local food production and the B.C. Government shares this passion.

Through programs that support local products like our $8 million Buy Local program, to the soon to be running Grow Local program that encourages communities to work directly with their residents in helping grow their own food, to multi-million dollar investments to encourage innovation, stewardship and market growth for B.C. agrifood producers, we are seeing results. 2015 brought record revenues for the sector, and an interest and entrepreneurial spirit around local foods that is the highest ever, and it’s my commitment to keep that spirit, and our agrifoods sector growing.

Norm Letnick

B.C. Minister of Agriculture