Century loses appeal on Southlands assessment Entire Tsawwassen property classified as residential  


The Delta Optimist
By Sandor Gyarmati

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Even though it's zoned agricultural and some people insist it remain as farmland, the entire Southlands property has been classified as residential by the B.C. Assessment Authority.

Concerned about a massive tax wallop, Century Group president Sean Hodgins said last week he's been put in a difficult position after losing an appeal of an earlier decision by the assessment authority.

Part of the property bordered by 56th Street and Boundary Bay Road had already been classified as residential but this year about 200 acres that had previously been classified as farmland lost that classification, said Hodgins.

"All the forested areas were being taxed residential and I kind of got over that, but we're farming some of it but lost the farm assessment. I am reeling from this right now," said Hodgins.

"Some people are telling me I should just farm it. Well, we are farming it and yet we're taxed residential," he said.

The Tsawwassen property has been zoned agriculture by Delta since the early 1990s and it's currently in Metro Vancouver's Green Zone, but it's long been out of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

"This is the dichotomy, this is the contradiction, that I have to work through in owning this property," said Hodgins.

The assessment authority's reclassifying the property as residential comes as the Tsawwassen Area Plan Committee considers the future of the site.

The Century Group is proposing to build 1,900 housing units on the Southlands following the modern concepts of new urbanism. Forty-two per cent (about 200 acres) of the land would be dedicated to urban agriculture. The agricultural land, which would undergo work to improve the soil quality, would be given to Delta.

The proposal also includes a post-secondary institute focused on sustainable agriculture, in partnership with Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

On another front regarding the property, a resident recently sent the Optimist several photos of a gravel road built on the Southlands, and asked whether it was a prelude to development. Reiterating that some farming activity does take place, Hodgins, who also lives on the Southlands, said he had a separate access road built so trucks and farming equipment would stop using his home's driveway.

© The Delta Optimist 2010

Letter To the Editor - Lana Popham  


The Okanagan is a place where people understand that food is an ingredient in the recipe of history, of culture, and of community. Food is the social glue that holds families and societies together.

Yet, despite the importance of local agriculture, orchardists are sounding the alarm. Like many other farmers, orchardists are having an increasingly hard time making ends meet. Without strong, decisive action from all partners, particularly our provincial government, we could lose this culturally significant and economically important industry.

It doesn't need to be this way. We could save money while helping local farmers if we allowed ourselves to think creatively.

For instance, if our health authorities bought as much food as possible directly from local producers at a fair price – cutting out the middle man -- we could save money on hospital food costs, while farmers could get a fair price for their product. Buying bulk, directly from producers of all products from fruit to pharmaceuticals is a common sense way to contain costs in our health system.

Here in British Columbia we produce less food than we consume. The fact that orchardists are getting ready to quit the industry shows that we are not maximizing opportunities in our own market.

It's not just orchardists -- ranchers are in a similar predicament. B.C. produces less beef than our population consumes, yet ranchers can't make a buck on the hoof.

The problem isn't with our local agri-food businesses -- they're run just as well run as those in other jurisdictions. They've made tough decisions, worked to contain costs, and consolidated operations; closed packing-houses are evidence of that. What is missing is a provincial government that works to maximize opportunities for local producers to connect with local consumers.

For nine years the B.C. Liberal government has been missing in action after mothballing Buy B.C., a successful provincial branding initiative that put B.C. produce front and centre in the places where consumers buy food.

Government dollars are not a cure all for any industry, but the Buy B.C. program is a perfect example of how small, smart investments can boost industry, create jobs and preserve the unique heritage that makes our province special.

On average, Buy B.C. cost less than 1.5 million dollars a year, which is pocket-change for a government that spent nearly a million dollars on Olympic tickets for B.C. Liberal MLAs and their friends. This branding program is just the sort of smart, targeted investment that can help our agriculture sector thrive. It was short-sighted to cut this efficient and popular program, especially when we need to produce more food.

Farmers in the Okanagan know first-hand about the devastating impact that lack of water has on food production, yet too much food on our dinner table comes from water-starved California. As gas prices go up and water becomes increasingly hard to find, producing local food for our families will only become more important.

British Columbians are increasingly looking for B.C. food, for its environmental and health benefits. In the province that birthed the 100 mile diet, the demand for local food has never been higher.

Yet our government cut investment in agriculture by 27 per cent last year, despite evidence that eating locally is good for the environment and good for the economy.

We still have the opportunity to protect local agriculture by making common sense decisions – reducing red tape where it exists, and finding ways to open up new opportunities for farmers to sell directly to consumers. Farmers deserve to get paid more than $6 for a box of apples that we buy for $40.

It’s time for the B.C. Liberal government to stop taking local agriculture for granted, and start building bridges between farmers and consumers. It’s the right thing to do for our communities, our economy and our environment.

Apple growers state case to minister  


Black Press

Growers state case to minister

Published: March 16, 2010 6:00 PM
Okanagan orchardists have outlined a game plan to try and escape financial disaster.

During a meeting last week with Agriculture Minister Steve Thomson, the B.C. Fruit Growers demanded Victoria provide apple growers with $10 million and initiate a claim to a provincial/federal insurance program because of extraordinary conditions.

“We laid out the case of where the industry is at,” said Joe Sardinha, BCFGA president.

The average price for all apple varieties is 13 cents a pound while the cost of production is 22.5 cents.

“While there is the AgriStability program, it will only cover 15 to 30 per cent of the grower losses for the 2009 crop,” said Sardinha. “And from 2008, there are growers who still haven’t received anything from the program.”

Sardinha says some growers are already unable to cover their expenses.

“It will be difficult for growers to find the resources to grow this year’s crop which will just compound the problem.”

While it’s possible the Ministry of Agriculture will apply to the provincial/federal AgriRecovery program for assistance, it’s unknown whether the $10 million will materialize.

“The minister made it clear that things are very challenging. His ministry received a $5 million reduction in the budget and next year, they’re proposing a $7 million cut,” said Sardinha. “It doesn’t bode well, but the question to ask is: is the industry important enough in the Okanagan for the government to support?”

Sardinha and Thomson also spoke about long-term initiatives that could be taken to improve the plight of orchardists including possible trade action against counties that dump apples in Canada and establishing a marketing board to retrieve the cost of production.

The BCFGA has asked Thomson to respond to its requests within a week to 10 days.

“They have several things in front of them to consider and we’ll have to wait and see what happens,” said Sardinha.

NDP support future Northwest Meat Co-op plans  


Houston Today

By Rikki Schierer - Houston Today

Published: March 15, 2010 5:00 AM

Future plans for the Northwest Premium Meat Co-operative (Co-op) will have NDP support as they seek to refinance to move forward, Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson said.

Donaldson was quick to arrange a meeting with Co-op board member Harold Kerr to discuss the Co-op, which was also attended by Carole James, Leader of the Official Opposition and Lana Popham, agriculture critic.

“I was happy that that took place because it gave Carol and Lana a good briefing and are up to speed on the meat Co-op,” Donaldson said. “We’ve heard from Harold the optimism around the potential support.”

Particularly, Donaldson added, in the form of a $900,000 loan from Farm Credit Canada. However this loan has certain contingencies, one of which is the conversion of a loan from Northern Develop Initiative (NDI) Trust provided into an equity position.

“Preferred shares in the Co-op in other words,” Donaldson said. “So I’ll be actively supporting [that] and and I’ll be writing letters and phoning NDI to see if we can encourage them to do that.”

Keeping the Co-op is vitally important for the Northwest, he added.

“The Co-op facilities are very important for local livestock producers from Vanderhoof to the Queen Charlottes,” Donaldson said. “It’s about supporting a local economy and providing more choice for consumers in the area — the option to purchase locally produced and slaughtered meats in retail outlets processed by a licensed facility.”

Regulations are killing small farmers' profits.  


Lambs to Slaughter

Salt Spring Island lamb is legendary. And has never been more threatened.
By: By Joanne Will, 11 March 2010, TheTyee.ca
View full article and comments: http://thetyee.ca/Life/2010/03/11/LambsToSlaughter/

Regulations are killing small farmers' profits.

My dad and I are travelling the 13-kilometre road that winds from Fulford Harbour to Ganges on Salt Spring Island. He's telling me about the summer of 1970, when he first arrived to work as a mate on the island ferry system. He soon found that living anywhere outside Ganges village meant considering the choir of island sheep. It was a stark contrast from his downtown Toronto life. While he talks, my eyes are scouring the pastoral landscape, but I can't spot a single ewe.
In 2004, the island produced 2,342 lambs, and longtime residents were already worrying about the low numbers. By 2008, the tally was 44 per cent lower -- a drop of more than 1,000 lambs in five years.
Every islander has a different theory about what makes Salt Spring lamb special: pampered care, salt air, gentle climate, heritage breeds, or wild forage such as ferns, salal, Oregon-grape and blackberries. Some say it has an unusually hard fat consistency, making for meat that is firm and yet rich, lean and yet full of flavour. What it all seems to come down to is terroir, or the unique landscape and culture of a place.
"Salt Spring lamb is a really good example," says Brian Brett, the author of the award-winning Trauma Farm, a memoir of his 18 years of Salt Spring farming. "It's built into its environment, keeps the land moving and alive and fertilized, and creates that circular, local, living community. And what they're doing is taking the community out of our food and turning it into an industrial focus."
Small-scale farms, large-scale rules
Sheep arrived on Salt Spring soon after the first European settlers. Sheep were an obvious choice to early farmers, given that much of the island is better for ranging animals than it is for producing crops. An 1874 agricultural survey recorded the Pimbury brothers as the first sheep ranch, with 350 lambs. By 1895, Rev. E.F. Wilson could report a number of acreages with large herds. "A farm on the Pacific coast may, perhaps, not yield its owner a fortune," Wilson writes, "but it will at any rate enable him to make a living and bring up his family with comparative ease and comfort."
For at least a century, locals and visitors have made a tradition of hitting the farm stands and gathering their groceries as they go. While island farmland has been steadily eroded by housing developments and new generations of property owners uninterested in agriculture, the biggest hit against Salt Spring lamb came in 2004, when changes in provincial meat regulations began to bring farm-gate sales under the same rules as large agri-business producers. For years, islanders slaughtered their own animals or took them to local farmers who specialized in butchering. Since 2007, farmers in rural B.C. who wish to sell meat to their neighbours, as they've always done, now must have those animals slaughtered at a government-inspected facility. Places like Salt Spring and Haida Gwaii are among the hardest hit because they have no easy access to provincially approved facilities. The nearest abattoir for Salt Spring farmers is a ferry ride and well over 100 kilometres' drive away -- in Metchosin, on Vancouver Island.
As I talk to Sandy Robley, who has been farming on Salt Spring for 26 years, she's bottle-feeding a black sheep born the night before and rejected, so far, by its mother. Another long-legged lamb is following her around, bleating at the top of its baby lungs. Out in the front yard, two sheep stand together. One of them, named Nya, is a former PNE queen. Both are now in their teens, well into sheep retirement, and have been spared from the dinner plate. "When they give you that much good service, you want to look after them in their old age," says Robley.
"The problem is time and cost," she says, turning to the issue of the new regulations. The farmer has to make two trips off the island -- one to deliver the livestock and another to pick up the cut and wrapped meat. Another problem kicks in at the abattoir. "Lamb is seasonal. What happens is the plants are overbooked, and because there's not enough of them, and everyone wants their lambs done at the same time, they're looking after them longer and waiting for a spot, so costs are up there, too."
Robley now ships lambs from her 100- to 150-head Sunset Farm to a Vancouver Island slaughterhouse every two weeks in the summer. She still sells 100 per cent of her lamb meat at her farm-gate store or to island restaurants, but adds that it's now her sheep's-wool products -- not the famous lamb -- that keep her operation afloat. She's making a living, but sees the regulations as an unnecessary hardship.
"Psychologically, maybe it's helped people to say their meat is inspected," says Robley. "But no one ever got sick from eating [Salt Spring] lamb."
Many smaller-scale sheep farmers have given up altogether. Brian Brett keeps anywhere from six to a dozen lambs, and, with no truck of his own for hauling, must send his animals to slaughter with other farmers. At roughly $140 per animal in transportation and processing fees, he says, there's no profit in it. Others simply do not want their lovingly cared-for animals to suffer the stress of long-distance travel and industrial slaughter.
"They'll tell you how they're doing the best scientific things and saving everybody. What they're doing is destroying food by narrowing its range," says Brett. "They're increasing the large-scale dangers in order to defeat the small-scale dangers."
Safety in (low) numbers
Last fall, Nicholas Simons, the MLA for Powell River and the Sunshine Coast, submitted a private member's bill to amend the slaughter regulations, but it was never debated in legislature. Neither, in fact, were the controversial new rules themselves -- because they are regulations added under existing legislation, they didn't have to be.
"People I talk to feel the safest, feel the healthiest, and feel they're supporting their community when they're buying local food, and being told they're not allowed to and that supply will no longer be available -- people are rightfully upset about that," says Simons.
Government officials and agri-business advocates cite outbreaks of illnesses such as mad cow disease and listeria as a major instigator of the change in regulations. Rory McAlpine was B.C.'s deputy minister of agriculture when the regulations were introduced and is now vice-president of government and industry relations for Maple Leaf Foods; his own son became ill from eating bologna his company produced in 2008, when listeria spread through Maple Leaf's processing facilities in Toronto. He has since argued in favour of similar regulatory changes in Manitoba, stating that "pathogens do not respect jurisdictional boundaries."
This may be true in large plants (Maple Leaf's weekly limit at their Brandon, Manitoba, pork-processing facility was raised from 75,000 to 86,000 hogs last year), but it's precisely the reason small farmers say that their meat is safer. Of the seven Salt Spring farmers interviewed for this story, none could recall a single case of food-borne illness from local lamb. If disease had struck, they say, the number of people affected would have been small and the problem easy to trace to its source. In the factory farm system, as one farmer put it, "Instead of a half dozen people getting sick at a family picnic, you now have 7 million pounds of meat go out in one day."
Local, organic, and inspection-free?
Over on Saturna Island, which has just 300 permanent residents, Jacques (pronounced "Jackie") Campbell has found a way to live with the new rules. Her family managed to upgrade their existing slaughter facility at a cost of approximately $120,000, but she isn't complaining. She says government officials were helpful, even kicking in a $50,000 reimbursement.
Campbell's parents settled on Saturna in the 1940s and built their slaughterhouse the following decade. "They both had agriculture degrees from UBC, and when it came time to build a slaughterhouse, they made sure they did it right," she says, adding that the upgrade was fairly straightforward. Still, Campbell now has to book in advance to have an inspector from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency present for all slaughters at her facility, which happen almost weekly from the end of June to December. Since the upgrade, Campbell has begun to slaughter lambs from neighbouring islands Pender and Prevost.
"It's too bad on Salt Spring they weren't able to seize the opportunity," she says.
A study commissioned by several Gulf Islands farmers' groups found that it would take $500,000 to build a government-approved slaughterhouse on Salt Spring, though others put the figure at closer to $1 million once the cost of acquiring the land base is factored in. An alternative solution is a mobile abattoir, estimated at $300,000. (One such operation exists in the province -- Gate To Plate Food Services, based in Fort St. John.) Others propose a two-tier system with more monitoring of traditional slaughter facilities, perhaps even by camera, without the need to change the essence of small farming in the ways demanded by the industrial system.
"I think we can have a system that at least allows both varieties to go," says Brett. "There's got to be a kind of buyer-beware that can happen, but it's up to you to make the decisions with the food that you eat. If you want to buy meat off one of the local farmers who's got a little butchery in his basement and a cooler, you should have the right to do that, fully knowing it's uninspected meat."
There's already a celebrated example, he adds, after a clash between locals and government health inspectors over eggs at the Ganges farmers' market. "Since the big Salt Spring egg wars, we put a sign on them telling people these are organic, home range, not inspected by any government bureaucrat -- you make the decision if you want to buy those eggs," says Brett, laughing. "I tell you, they line up a mile deep for those eggs."
Good to the last bite
Back in Vancouver, I cook the lamb chops I bought at Sandy Robley's farm under the broiler, just as she instructed when we talked next to the pot-bellied fireplace in her farm-gate store.
I'm thinking about the way she handled her herd, the way she talked with and doted on her sheep. The meat is so succulent, I drop my knife and fork and pick up a chop with my hands. I'm not sure whether I'm detecting salal, fern, or Oregon-grape in the flavour -- but I'm certain I can taste the salt air, and a century of Salt Spring tradition.
Vancouver-based journalist Joanne Will co-wrote the Eat Your History series with Jeff Nield. The series, guest edited by 100-Mile Diet co-creator James MacKinnon and made possible with support from FarmFolk/CityFolk, ends (for now at least) with this article.

Media Monitoring.....CHNL Kamloops  


Media Monitoring – Radio

Lana Popham wants Steve Thomson to bring back the Buy BC program – CHNL –10:00 AM February 11th, 2010

Announcer: The NDP Agriculture critic Lana Popham has a message of harsh criticism for the Liberal government over what she calls a lack of action to save the B.C. ranching business. At a meeting of Kamloops ranchers Popham says the government should bring back the Buy BC program to help those who are struggling.

Lana Popham: The self-sufficiency reports that the government put out in 2006 that show we are consuming way more beef than we are producing here. So that to me is the start of the equation. Why are we not marketing this product to our own consumers? The lower mainland is growing at an alarming rate. There’s eaters down there that we need to marry with these ranchers.

Announcer: Popham says even the Minister of Agriculture admits the Buy BC program is one of the tools available to save the industry.

Local MLAs lock horns over budget  


Published: March 06, 2010 10:00 PM
Updated: March 08, 2010 6:51 AM

Saanich's provincial politicians are predictably playing ping-pong.

In the wake of last week's provincial budget, Saanich's oppoition NDP MLAs were quick to take aim at the government's cost-cutting measures.

Rob Fleming, NDP MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake and his party's environment critic, worries about further cuts to the Environment Ministry budget. After 2010-11, the budget will drop by three per cent in each of the following two years and that will have an effect in the Capital Region.

"When the ministry is so bare bones and understaffed already, anything that requires MOE signoff, including real estate developments and clean site certificates, (further cuts) can slow things down even more," Fleming said.

He added that B.C. Parks continues to take a hit.

"The parks budget has never been lower," he said. "We've never had fewer park rangers and conservation officers in B.C. parks. It's amazing that they're still cutting (that budget) …"

Saanich South NDP MLA Lana Popham also stepped into her critic's role, blasting cuts at the ministry of agriculture.

"The ministry budget is decreasing by about four per cent annually, some programs by more than this, reflecting a slow, but steady decline in Liberal commitment to agriculture in B.C.," she said.

Popham said the cuts are ironic given the government's frequent use of the phrase"'the cupboard is bare" to describe its finances.

"All of that translates for me as: what about our food system in B.C.? Why is that never a consideration?"

While her political rivals were critical of the cuts, Oak Bay-Gordon Head Liberal MLA Ida Chong said the government isn't going to try to spend its way out of the recession.

"It's easy to increase deficits and keep spending more but that's not gong to be very good for your children or grandchildren."

She pinpointed all day kindergarten and benefits to grandparents looking after their children as specific benefits for families.

"It's a way to keep families together because at the end of the day it's not about the incentives or dollars as much as it is about that the program will provide the opportunity for families and extended families to be together as opposed to (having people) in the care of government."

She doesn't agree with those who say this year's budget is a "gimmick" budget.

"Clearly they're not looking at it from the perspective of the fact that we've come through this global economic recession, that we need to stay the course in terms of fiscal discipline and that we have targets that we are going to meet."

Chong said the budget -- with a $2.8-billion deficit -- will allow the government to reduce future deficits and reach a balanced budget by 2013.

Liberals Abandon Farmers  


NDP: Liberals abandon farmers
Thu, 2010-03-04 10:58.
Local News
The provincial NDP says this week's provincial budget is proof that the government has turned it's back on farmers.

Agriculture Critic Lana Popham says even though orchardists and ranchers have sounded the alarm, the budget promises no new investment in farming.

Popham says with the budget for agriculture cut 25% last year and 4% this year, BC invests less in the industry than any other province.

Critic Response to the Budget - Hansard Official Report  


I would like to address agriculture in our province. I am astounded by this government's lack of support for agriculture in a time when we need food security in B.C. This is not fluff and glitter. This is critical to our survival.

We have had the Premier's pal Arnold Schwarzenegger telling us that the world, as far as agriculture goes in California, is in really big trouble. Their groundwater is mixing with salt water, making it poisonous to irrigate the crops. No crops, no food and no exports into B.C.

The lack of support for agriculture is irresponsible. Not only is it abandoning our potentially strong economic driver in our province, it is also setting us up for

failure when we must turn to our province for sustenance. With another 4 percent cut to agriculture in this budget, it's obvious that this government has no plan for our future. They are setting us up to starve.

For the past decade this government has been chipping away at the agricultural land reserve. We see 14 percent cuts to the Agricultural Land Commission coming down the pipe over the next two years. Acre by acre, we've seen one of the most successful land use planning initiatives in the history of our province become relegated to the status of a dwindling bank account to be drawn upon at a whim yet never replenished. At the same time, they have pulled support for farmers — two more strikes against this government.

This government has failed to support agriculture time and time again. I'm not alone in my thinking. Just ask the fruit growers in this province or the cattle ranchers. Time and time again they have warned us about their demise, and the government's response is to cut the budget.

No better example demonstrates this government's agricultural malaise than the halting of the Buy B.C. program in 2001. Shortly before its demise there were over 1,200 companies and associations using the Buy B.C. logo in their advertising and promotional materials — over 5,000 Buy B.C. products identified at major grocery retailers throughout the province. Buy B.C. supported a critical industry that directly served the economic and physical health and well-being of our province.

The Minister of Agriculture has confirmed his belief that this government ought to bring back Buy B.C. Yet there was not one single mention of this program in the budget speech. In fact, it might as well be called the goodbye B.C. program.

2010 Budget Says Goodbye to BC Agriculture  


March 3, 2010

VICTORIA- Yesterday's provincial budget is yet more proof that B.C. Liberal MLAs from places like 100 Mile, Kelowna, Kamloops and the Kootenays continue to fail farming communities, says New Democrat agriculture critic Lana Popham.

"The B.C. Liberal agriculture minister claimed he wanted to reintroduce Buy B.C., but all I see is goodbye B.C. agriculture in this budget," said Popham. "Orchardists and ranchers have sounded the alarm, businesses are shutting down and the B.C. Liberals offered nothing, not even an apology, for a budget that promises no new investment in this vital industry."

The Ministry of Agriculture was cut by more than 25 per cent last year and it is being cut by a further four per cent this year and next. British Columbia already invests less in agriculture than any other province in Canada.

"Yesterday's budget offered nothing new for the farming community in British Columbia," said Popham. "There is nothing, no fresh ideas, no solutions for an industry on the brink."

This year's B.C. Liberal budget and throne speech didn't offer any new or expanded initiatives for the agriculture industry, noted Popham, despite the fact that a focus on farming would generate green jobs for the province.

Popham added that the budget proved that the government doesn't have a long-term strategy for economic growth as B.C. starts to emerge from the downturn.

"Yesterday's budget proved that the B.C. Liberals don't have any post-Olympics strategy to help create good-paying jobs and business opportunities. All they have to offer is cuts to economic drivers like tourism and agriculture, and a multi-billion dollar tax shift in the HST," said Popham.

Carole James and the New Democrats are committed to reinstating Buy B.C. and giving British Columbians the right to buy food directly from farmers.