Agriculture deserves more support  

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My BC agricultural tour with Opposition Leader Adrian Dix continues. See the CTV news coverage by following the link below.



Also, the Comox Valley Record released the following article.

A8dix4x4.jpg


If there is a transportation or food supply crisis - One day of food on Vancouver Island is NOT food security.

Lana

To the BC Liberals: Release the ALR report & Protect ALR land now!  

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Yesterday in the BC Legislature, I asked a key question to the Minister of Agriculture....





L. Popham: Yesterday I raised the issue about the Agricultural Land Commission report that the minister has had on his desk for almost a year. This week I stood on a farm that has had over 10,000 loads of construction fill dumped on it. This farm is now unfarmable. While the Minister of Agriculture spends his time shuffling his papers on his desk, farm after farm in British Columbia is being covered in construction fill.


Will the minister commit today to putting a hold on fill dumping in the agricultural land reserve until the ALC report has been released and a provincial fill dumping strategy is in place?

L. Popham: I can tell you it's very disappointing for me to watch the Minister of Agriculture joke his way through question period. I am the critic for Agriculture, and I take this issue very seriously.
This minister has kept the ALC report hidden for almost a year. We know — we both know, Mr. Speaker — that the ALC is underfunded. We know that. The enforcement agency is doing the best it can, but it doesn't have the money to do the job. We know that. The public would know that if he released the report. From what I have heard from stakeholders, I estimate that over the years this report has been hidden, as many as one million dump truck loads of fill have been deposited on to British Columbia farms.
This minister needs to get to work. While he's sitting on his hands, farmlands are turning into wastelands. Will the minister commit today to a moratorium on fill dumping on ALR land until that report is released and a provincial fill dumping strategy is in place?


Question Period - October 19 & 20, 2011  

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Dear Agricultural Community,


Today, during Question Period, I put two (2) questions to the Minister of Agriculture.

Below, I have posted the text of each question. You can go to the Hansard website to view a video clip, if you wish to witness the full exchange, recorded by Hansard Services.

1. L. Popham: Yesterday I raised the issue about the Agricultural Land Commission report that the minister has had on his desk for almost a year. This week I stood on a farm that has had over 10,000 loads of construction fill dumped on it. This farm is now unfarmable. While the Minister of Agriculture spends his time shuffling his papers on his desk, farm after farm in British Columbia is being covered in construction fill. Will the minister commit today to putting a hold on fill dumping in the agricultural land reserve until the ALC report has been released and a provincial fill dumping strategy is in place?

2. L. Popham: I can tell you it's very disappointing for me to watch the Minister of Agriculture joke his way through question period. I am the critic for Agriculture, and I take this issue very seriously. This minister has kept the ALC report hidden for almost a year. We know — we both know, Mr. Speaker — that the ALC is underfunded. We know that. The enforcement agency is doing the best it can, but it doesn't have the money to do the job. We know that. The public would know that if he released the report. From what I have heard from stakeholders, I estimate that over the years this report has been hidden, as many as one million dump truck loads of fill have been deposited on to British Columbia farms. This minister needs to get to work. While he's sitting on his hands, farmlands are turning into wastelands. Will the minister commit today to a moratorium on fill dumping on ALR land until that report is released and a provincial fill dumping strategy is in place?




Critic makes case for farm support  

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By Richard Rolke - Vernon Morning Star
Published: October 16, 2011 1:00 AM

Agriculture was vital to the early development of the Okanagan, but some politicians believe bureaucracy is placing the industry’s future at risk.

Lana Popham, the NDP’s agriculture critic, says farmers are struggling largely because Liberal government policies have made it difficult to operate.

“There are lots of promises of supporting agriculture but there was no mention of it in the throne speech or the jobs plan,” said the Saanich MLA during a stop in Vernon Wednesday.

“Agriculture has been cut as far as the ministry goes. We’re at a critical stage and it can’t be cut more.”
Popham says programs for farmers are not a case of taxpayers subsidizing private business and points out that farmers are tied to their property because of the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve.

“They don’t want handouts. They want policies that support the industry,” she said.
“We’re the least supportive of any province in Canada in terms of agriculture.”

The NDP is pushing for the government to reinstate the Buy B.C. program which urges the public to buy food items grown or processed in B.C.

“That was really helpful and people have been calling for it to come back since it was cut in 2001,” said Popham.

Popham also wants regulations that prevent farm-gate meat processing sales to be eased. “There is less meat being produced because of Liberal policy,” she said.

The NDP also wants government agencies, such as school boards and health authorities, to buy B.C. food items and launch direct support programs for farmers.

“There are market opportunities and incredible land to cultivate,” said Adrian Dix, NDP leader.
Dix says the other issue the government must address is the high cost of land which prevents young people from entering the sector.

“We don’t want the ALR to be a museum,” he said. “We want active farmers, young farmers. There’s a generational issue in farming.”

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, insists the Liberal government considers agriculture important economically and socially.

“Last month, the rural members of the caucus met with the agriculture minister four or five times on issues. The tree fruit industry is a big issue,” he said.

Foster says it is time for the NDP to be constructive and reduce the rhetoric.

“It’s easy to be in opposition. What kind of agricultural plan have they come up with except to criticize?” he said.
 
http://www.bclocalnews.com/okanagan_similkameen/vernonmorningstar/community/131928553.html

BC Farmers take another slap in the face  

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Once again the BC Liberals are demonstrating their disregard of BC agriculture.

Just look at the facts. In the last two years, three different Ministers have been shuffled in and out of the portfolio and the budget gets cut every year. There have been five Auditor General recommendations with “no action taken”. And the icing on the cake: the throne speech this week did not even mention agriculture once!

With more than 20,000 farms and over 1100 food processing businesses, the agriculture and agrifood sector provides direct employment for over 54,000 people and generates over $2.3 billion in farm cash receipts.

Agriculture contributes greatly to the provincial economy and provides solid local jobs, yet it was completely passed over in the throne speech. And just a day after the throne speech, the Auditor General issued a follow-up report that shows the Liberals have failed to make any progress addressing significant problems with the Agricultural Land Commission.

The reason why progress has stalled on addressing issues with the Agricultural Land Commission is because the government has been keeping a solutions-based report from their Agricultural Land Commissioner under wraps for more than a year. The public has a right to see the document but the Liberals have refused to release it and dismissed my FOI request for the document earlier this year.

The provincial cattle herd continues to shrink, apple growers are struggling because they get just pennies a pound for their product, young farmers can’t afford access to land even as older farmers retire, many processing facilities have disappeared, and the Liberals made a mess of meat regulations. This government has had a decade to work with farmers to strengthen our agriculture industry and has failed in every way possible.

All too often B.C. families go to the grocery store and see nothing but apples from Washington and beef from Alberta, when we produce a fantastic product right here in our province. Yet, instead of working with farmers to highlight their products and help get them on grocery store shelves, the Liberals cancelled the all-inclusive Buy B.C. program, made life harder for B.C. farmers, and took choices away from B.C. families.

Agriculture is an important contributor to the B.C. economy, yet we see the Liberals cutting extension services and successful marketing initiatives like Buy B.C. which helped create jobs, and made it easier for B.C. families to purchase healthy local food. Unfortunately, the Liberals seem more interested in hiding their failures from the public than in taking real action to develop this industry.

New Democrat leader Adrian Dix and I have been traveling the province, talking to farmers about how we can work together to strengthen agriculture through initiatives like sourcing local food for our public institutions. We will continue to listen to farmers and push for investments in this green, sustainable industry.

I will continue to call on the government to work with the agriculture industry to market local food and create more opportunities for B.C. food to supply the B.C. market. And I won't rest until the BC government takes on its responsibility to strengthen agriculture and improve food security.

Lana Popham