BC Farmers take another slap in the face  

Posted

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