BC Food Processors - Fall 2012 Tour  

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I recently did a two day tour of BC food processors with Robin Smith, President (now retired) of the BC Food Processors Association.

Food processing is a natural complement to the agricultural sector as it allows value to be added to our primary products. Together BC's producers and processors generate about 10 billion dollars annually in gross revenue! This sector is also a major job-producer. For example, in 2010 more than 27,000 people worked in food and beverage processing.

Our first stop was Freybe’s Gourmet food.  Freybe's has been making sausages for 167 years! The range of products is truly impressive.

They say making laws is like making sausages - well, the process is a lot prettier at Freybe's!


After this, we went to Rossdown Farms and Natural Foods in the Fraser Valley.

Thank you Pat Wiebe for showing me the "blood and guts" of the operation. I visited on "turkey slaughter day". An experience I will never forget!

Rossdown is very diversified. It is remarkable that it hatches chicks, raises layers, produces  eggs and does its own slaughtering and processing.

Our last stop of the day was at Pacific Coast Fruit Products. The process just about every fruit you can imagine!




The next day we visited Vega.

This impressive BC company is best known for a nutritional powder for making shakes.

Charles Chang, President and Founder, shared the history of his business and where he would like to take it in the future.

After that we went to Gardein Protein in Richmond. You've likely heard of Yves Veggie Hot Dogs.

Yves Potvin's latest business is Gardein Protein. It  make a wide variety of packaged vegetarian foods.

I really appreciated the opportunity to see the process ...although some areas were off-limits and top secret!

Thanks to Chief Operating Officer, Darrell Askey, for speaking to the challenges and opportunities in the industry.




Our last stop of this tour was Fresh Direct Produce. Partner Albert Lum walked us through their 55,000 square foot refrigerated warehouse right in downtown Vancouver.

Albert spoke proudly about the relationships he has with local farmers.

Fresh Direct is a vegetable distribution company that imports from all over BC and from overseas as well. Fresh Direct has more than one hundred employees and 16 trucks.


One of my goals as Agriculture Critic has been to learn as much about the agri-food industry as I can directly from the people who are doing the work on a daily basis. I really appreciate that people share their time and insights with me.
















GMOs  

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Over the last few years I’ve received hundreds of letters, calls and emails about genetically modified organisms.

I have a number of concerns about GMOs but in my view the bottom line is that people are entitled to know what they are consuming. I fully support legislation that requires food labels to disclose if the contents include GMOs. Governments must ensure food labels provide enough information so people can make informed decisions about what they are eating or feeding to their families.

Food labeling falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal government. Since 2001, New Democrat Parliamentarians have introduced Private Member’s Bills calling for mandatory labeling legislation of GMO foods eight times.

Currently, BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko’s Bill, C-257, has been introduced and read for the first time in the House of Commons. This Bill calls for an amendment to the Food and Drugs Act that requires the government to establish if food or a component of the food is genetically modified and if so, the Bill states that:

no person shall sell the food or a food product of which the food is a component in a package, unless a label in the prescribed form containing the following notice is affixed to the package: This product or one or more of its components have been genetically modified.
GMOs are of concern to many British Columbians. As the provincial Opposition Critic for Agriculture, I am actively working on this file.

For example, on November 16, 2011, I submitted the following Private Member’s motion in the BC Legislature:
Be it resolved that this House urges the Government to track GMO seed crops in British Columbia.
It is important that we have accurate and comprehensive information about GMO agricultural production in this province. It is a first step to understanding the ‘facts on the ground’ and it is very important to organic farmers who can lose their organic certification if their crops become ‘contaminated’ by GMOs.

I have also actively opposed the introduction of the genetically-modified “Arctic Apple.” On May 15 2012, I rose in the Legislature and pressed the Agriculture Minister to publicly reject genetically modified apples in BC.

I also drafted a petition about this issue that received over two thousand signatures in just two weeks.

The petition stated:
To the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, in Legislature Assembled:  
1. We, the undersigned petitioners, do hereby register our opposition to the unconfined environmental release of genetically modified apples in British Columbia.  
2. We join with the BC Fruit Tree Association to oppose the commercial release of the “Arctic Apple”, which has been genetically modified to prevent its flesh from browning.
3. We respectfully request that the BC Minister of Agriculture take all steps possible to prevent the commercial planting of this crop.
I will continue to speak out on this issue.

Please share your thoughts and concerns with me: lana.popham.mla@leg.bc.ca

Kind regards,

Lana

Lana Popham
MLA for Saanich South and Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture



GMO Forum  

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Do you support the call for mandatory labeling of food that contains GMOs? I do!

Hope to see you at the GMO forum tomorrow evening with CBAN's Lucy Sharratt and MP Elizabeth May. All the details are on the poster.


Why won't local hospitals buy local food?  

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The Fraser Valley contains much of the most fertile agricultural land in British Columbia and has long been a major agricultural region in the province. And yet this region's own hospitals don't buy local food.

Check out this Nov 2012 Global News Story:



Other jurisdictions require their hospitals to buy local. Why is BC so far behind? I'm really proud that Adrian Dix, the leader of the Official Opposition in BC, is focused on changing this. We can do better!

BCNDP Finance & Ag Critic speak up for BC Food Innovation Centre  

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I've spent a lot of time with BC Food Processors over the last six months. One priority that has become clear is the value of a "Food Innovation Centre".

The BC FIC could be a hub to the agri-food sector, providing skill development and knowledge resources to food entrepreneurs around the province.

Ontario and Manitoba are good examples of provinces that support food processing and agriculture with innovation centres.

Unfortunately the BC Liberals don't see it that way and are turning their back on this idea and on an industry that could be a dominant economic driver in our province.

In fact, the BC Liberals are cutting funds for this effort by 42% for the 2012/2013 fiscal year.

In response, The BC Food Processors fired back last week:
Passed around with no champion, it appears the Centre will be forced to lay off all of its five staff members as early as Nov. 16th, 2012 and perhaps even be forced to shut down. If this happens, BC’s food processing industry, part of the number one economic driver of the economy, will be the loser. While the Ag Minister and the Premier continue to make speeches featuring the $ 3.5 billion in new sales and the 20,000 new jobs to be created through innovation in the agrifood sector by 2017 it seems meeting these targets is now even farther away.  
Click here to read the BCFPA's entire release.

Finance Critic Bruce Ralston and myself as Agriculture Critic are in full support of the Food Innovation Centre here in British Columbia. There must be a way to make this work! Click here to read our support letter.




Changes to promote BC's artisan distillery industry  

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Here is a press release that went out today. Cheers, Lana
New Democrats are proposing the same measures used to promote the wine sector be extended to grow B.C.'s burgeoning artisan distillery industry.
 
“There is a viable business case that the same provisions that past governments put in place to build the wine industry can help artisan distilleries flourish, boosting agriculture, tourism and Liquor Distribution Branch sales in the process. These boutique spirits are already earning B.C. international acclaim and awards, and represent a new opportunity in value-added manufacturing for B.C.," said New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix.
New Democrats recommend extending the following measures to B.C. artisan distillers:     
  • Direct sales to restaurants and licensees, in addition to sales through the Liquor Distribution Branch;
  • On-site lounges and event areas;
  • Adjusting the Liquor Distribution Branch mark up to 129 per cent from 170, and exempting storefront sales from commission.
A specialized manufacturing agreement would extend these provisions to producers that fit the “craft artisan distillery” designation. This classification entails producing less than 50,000 litres annually in an artisan pot still, using at least 50 per cent local agriculture products.
New Democrat agriculture critic Lana Popham elaborated more on how these measures would benefit B.C. agriculture, tourism and value added manufacturing.
“Growth in craft distilling will create a new secondary market for B.C. farmers and fruit growers. This is especially important, given the struggles the latter have faced in recent years,” said Popham.
“Distillers in the Interior use apples, cherries and other berries for their eaux de voie, liqueurs and absinthe. These crops might otherwise go to waste.
“Furthermore, interest in spirits is growing - Washington State and Oregon, regions that compete with B.C. for culinary tourism and agritourism, are already taking advantage of the growing appeal of artisan distilleries,” noted Popham.
The revenue implications for the Liquor Distribution Branch would be negligible in the short term, and more than offset by gains in agriculture, tourism and higher sales over the mid and long term.
“Last year, local boutique distillers produced less than one fifth of one percent of the volume of spirits consumed in B.C. – fewer than 100,000 bottles of the 50,000,000 bottles of spirits. The B.C. Chamber of Commerce, points out that thanks to these same measures, B.C. wines today have a dominant presence In Liquor Distribution Branch stores,” noted Popham.

Summer Tour Update  

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Here is the run-down on Ag Critic work over the last few weeks.

On July 25th, I visited the much-loved Natural Pastures Cheese company and met with the owner, Doug Smith. It was very interesting to learn about the process of making cheese. Did you know that they make Buffalo mozzarella? Buffalo! Buffalo milk is not part of the supply management system. The Canadian Milk Board only regulates cow milk.

I carried on from there to the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market where I met with members of the Executive and toured the market. I had many conversations about provincial food policy and the meat regulation debacle came up over and over again. I heard many times that these regulations don't work for small-scale producers.

(Coincidentally, I ran into two fellow residents of Saanich South, Judy and Bill Gaylord - these two are always where the action is!)

After that I met with the indomitable agrologist Arzeena Hamir who recently stared Amara Farm in Comox. We talked about all things agriculture.

Later in the day, I went to ViewField Farm for a long discussion about the BC dairy industry with Dave and Lisa Taylor. They were voted "Canadian Outstanding Young Farmers" in 2008. Dave and Lisa are very open and knowledgeable about agricultural policy and were very generous with their time that day...even though they were incredibly busy.







This week I headed to Burnaby. First stop: BC Food Processors Association. I met with bcfpa to discuss how its members contribute to BC's economy and the relationship between food processing and agriculture. This relationship is incredibly important and must be considered as a vital economic driver.

Later that day I went to Avalon Dairy where I met with Gay Hahn and toured this high-tech operation. This dairy has been operating since 1912 and is BC's first certified organic dairy. They sell many different organic and conventional products. It was a real treat to drink their delicious chocolate milk from a glass bottle!

I look forward to continuing my agricultural tour over the summer. I'm off to Kamloops, Penticton and Kelowna over the next few weeks.

Best, Lana.

We say NO to GMO apples in BC!  

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In just two weeks, over two thousand people have signed the following petition:

To the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, in Legislature Assembled:

1. We, the undersigned petitioners, do hereby register our opposition to the unconfined environmental release of genetically modified apples in British Columbia.

2. We join with the BC Fruit Tree Association to oppose the commercial release of the “Arctic Apple”, which has been genetically modified to prevent its flesh from browning.

3. We respectfully request that the BC Minister of Agriculture take all steps possible to prevent the commercial planting of this crop.

Thank you to everyone who signed!

Today I will deliver this petition to the BC Legislature, as well as directly to the Minister of Agriculture. I’ve also formally submitted a redacted version (names removed for privacy) to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Over fifteen hundred of those signatories also left comments, many of them very thoughtful and passionate explanations of why they oppose genetically engineered apples. I’ve included a few examples below and you can read them all here.

--
I own a certified organic farm and I know the introduction of GMO crops puts organic farmers at risk from contamination. There is substantial, growing opposition to all GM crops and products. Health risks to humans, animals and the environment are also a major concern. GM industries know a growing number of people don't want to eat GMO, so they refuse to label their products. BC will destroy its markets for non-GMO apples, as well as the organic apple industry. There will be no benefits that can outweigh the damage you will do to your apple industry, if you allow the introduction of GM apples.
--
The position of the tree fruit sector should be respected.
--
There are serious consequences to GMO and we have no proof of the safety for future generations with these tampered with foods. Keep them out of our agriculture at all costs!!
--
There are apples varieties which do not brown so there is no need to use a GMO apple for this reason.
--
They claim there is little chance of genetic drift. Even a little chance is too much. Apples are pollinated by bees and bees have about a four mile foraging range, so there is the potential for cross-pollination to occur with any orchards planted within four miles of Arctic Apples. Unlikely, maybe. Impossible, no. What is impossible is removing genetic pollution once it's out there. There is no recalling genetically modified organisms once they've made they're way into the gene pool. Apples are awesome. Why mess with them?

I will continue to press the BC Minister of Agriculture to show leadership on this issue and do all I can in opposition. Thank you very much for your support.

Lana

Lana Popham
MLA Saanich South and Opposition Critic for Agriculture

Public Outrage led to demise of flawed "Animal Health Act"  

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Breaking News!

Public outrage over the proposed “Animal Health Act” has forced the BC Liberals to shelve the Bill.

Over the last few weeks, the Minister of Agriculture and the BC Liberals received a very public dressing-down because of this flawed legislation and I hope they learn a few lessons.

First, British Columbians refuse to turn a blind eye to government attempts to rush through deeply-flawed legislation.

Second, British Columbians are very concerned about potential animal disease outbreaks and how the government responds to them.

Third, British Columbians expect their government to follow our Freedom of Information law, and not to try and hide animal disease information from the public.

Fourth, British Columbians prize free speech and will not accept attempts to muzzle journalists and independent scientists.

Our success in stopping Bill 37 is a victory for those who spoke out against its draconian powers and indeed for everyone who values free speech and open government.
 
Lana

Lana Popham
MLA Saanich South and Opposition Critic for Agriculture

'Animal Health Act' should not become law  

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Screen-shot of amendment proposed
by the Minister of Agriculture on May 29, 2012
Two weeks ago the BC Minister of Agriculture called me “alarmist” when I said his Animal Health Act contained a gag clause that would prevent journalists, independent scientists and indeed all “persons” from communicating information about animal disease outbreaks. 

I was the first person to raise this issue and I suppose the Minister thought my concerns could simply be dismissed.

Fortunately, I was not alone. Today, after hundreds of letters from outraged citizens and dozens of highly-critical media stories, the Minister finally backed down and agreed to amend this clause.

Animal Health Act amendment to clarify who is meant by 'a person'  

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By Andrew MacLeod May 29, 2012 10:13 am

Non-browning Arctic Apple gets chilly reception from B.C. fruit growers  

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The Arctic Apple, a GMO Fruit that has a trait
preventing the fruit from browning when cut.
Okanagan Specialty Fruit photo
VANCOUVER— Globe and Mail Update

Neal Carter was recently at a party in which cut-up apples were served. The problem? The apples sat out for too long and turned brown.
The orchardist and president of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. has proposed a solution to this dilemma.
The Summerland-based company has filed an application with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that could see the introduction of genetically modified apples that don’t turn brown.


It will be months, if not years, before a decision on the so-called Arctic Apples is made. However, the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association is already voicing its concern that the genetically modified apples will hurt the market.

Animal Health Act  

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The BC Liberals are in the middle of rushing through a new Bill called the Animal Health Act.

This Bill would create fundamental changes to how BC responds to animal disease outbreaks.

In my view the Animal Health Act fails to strike the appropriate balance between empowering the Chief Veterinarian to take the extreme actions that may be necessary in an emergency, with societal obligations to protect the public interest, ensure due process and be transparent and open with information.

With respect to that last point, it is worth emphasizing that the BC Liberals have promised an "open government".

Genetically modified apples grown in BC?  

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The BC Minister of Agriculture will not speak out against an application to commercially plant genetically modified apple trees in BC. Here is a clip from Question Period today in the BC Legislature



Help me change his mind! Take 30 seconds to sign this petition. Thank you!

Gov't Moving to Keep Farm Disease Outbreaks Secret  

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Changes to Animal Health Act, said to protect public, slammed by NDP, privacy commissioner. 
By Andrew MacLeod, Tyee, May 15, 2012


Making information about diseases on British Columbia farms secret will better protect the public, said Agriculture Minister Don McRae.
 The NDP's critic on the file, Lana Popham, said that approach is unfair to consumers and to other farmers.


"We want the producers to make sure they are submitting samples voluntarily," McRae said in a May 10 interview. "We'd hate to have a scenario where farmers are fearful that the data they give government would be used in a way that's out of their control."
 The measures are included in the Animal Health Act, which got second reading in the Legislature on May 2 and is expected to pass by the end of the month.


Farmers may choose to hide disease outbreaks if they believe the information will become public, McRae said. "The reality is we don't want a scenario where farmers are going to take a potentially ill animal, deal with it themselves, and not make sure we have that information for the safety of the general public and the safety of animals in British Columbia."

I'd want to know: Popham
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act already includes sections that allow the government to keep information secret if its release could harm a businesses interests, said the NDP's Popham.

Rushed 'Animal Health Act' is seriously flawed  

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What a week in the Legislature! Just in the last few days the BC Liberals began rushing through eight different pieces of legislation.

The problem with such haste is that legislators don't have time to do their job properly.

Take, for example, the "Animal Health" Bill introduced and pushed through to second reading just this week. This is an important piece of Legislation that is in my sights as the Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture.

This large and complex bill repeals or replaces four existing Acts. It's primary purpose is to give the Chief Veterinarian extraordinary powers in times of animal disease outbreaks or related emergencies.

I'm sure we can all agree that the government requires wide-ranging powers during such a crisis.

However, in rushing this bill through the Liberals are creating a set of new problems.

One of those is created by this Bill's provisions to exempt animal disease reporting from Freedom of Information requests.

It is very important that the media, scientists and other concerned individuals have access to information about animal disease outbreaks in this province. British Columbians have a right to know - our own health is at stake. And of course there are serious concerns for the welfare of animals, the economic impact of disease outbreak and food security.

And yet, the Liberals have explicitly excluded the information collected through the authority of the Chief Vet from the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act.

For a government that claims to put openness and accountability at the forefront, it is outrageous that they would unnecessarily embed language that is specifically designed to override FIPPA.

And don't just take my word for it. Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham today released a long and scathing letter making exactly this point.

The government will argue that commercial interests require this gag clause. But FIPPA already accommodates the legitimate requests of private business to limit the release of commercially damaging information.

And I'd be the first person to come forward and defend the rights of farmers, but this legislation gives the government sweeping powers to shirk the public interest, and that’s way over the line.

As my colleague and Opposition House Leader John Horgan has noted, the spring legislative session has seen 28 bills tabled to date, including eight this week. To quote MLA Horgan: "the Liberals are showing once again they have a total disrespect for the legislative process.”

There are a number of other significant problems with the Animal Health Bill.  I look forward to challenging the Liberal MLAs on their flawed process of developing legislation and the flawed legislation that is the result.

BC deserves better.

Lana Popham
MLA Saanich South and Opposition Critic for Agriculture

Do you support the ALR?  

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Do you support the Agricultural Land Reserve in British Columbia?

A plan is afoot to pave over almost 600 acres of the most high-quality and best-located agricultural land in the province.

We need your help to stop this.

Our provincial and federal politicians must publicly commit to protect farmland in Delta. In particular, the prime agricultural land close to Deltaport is in peril.

It is true that farming this fertile soil will create far less profits in the short-term than using the land as a transfer station for port container traffic.

But of course that is not the point.

We expect our elected representatives to work for the long-term good.

Protecting the small amount of precious delta farmland that remains is profoundly important to our long-term food security. We need to balance competing interests. There are other locations for port development and other ways to strengthen international trade. There is no need to sell off our farmland.

Watch this short video for my perspective of what is going on and what needs to happen.


What can you do?

  1. Email your MLA with a simple request: show you will preserve the ALR by protecting the farmland near the Deltaport.
  2. Sign the petition created by Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington.
Thank you!

Lana.

Lana Popham
Saanich South MLA & Opposition Critic for Agriculture, BC New Democrats

PS. Only five per cent of British Columbia's land base is productive farmland and British Columbia produces only about half as much food as we consume, with fruits and vegetables being in particularly short supply. According to the latest report from the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, if we continue business as usual, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food by 2030, which is why it is so important to safeguard the province's food supply.

Delta Farmland must be protected! Question Period Apr 16/2012  

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Here is a short video clip of Question Period today in the BC Legislature. I challenged the Minister of Agriculture to do whats necessary to protect the irreplaceable farmland in Delta.

Last week we learned that a prominent land developer - who also happens to be a supporter and generous donor to the BC Liberal party - has quietly signed options to buy 600 acres of ALR land near Deltaport.

His goal is to pave it all over as part of a massive port expansion.

We cannot continue sacrificing our most productive farmland. We need a Minister of Agriculture who appreciates the value of farming and is prepared to fight to protect our best farmlands. Today we got more evidence that we have nothing of the sort.

-L.

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Have wine, will travel  

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Re: Okanagan MP wants to see wine flow more freely between provinces, April 4

Supporting the burgeoning wine industry is an issue that transcends partisan lines in the House of Commons. The work of Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla, is an important step forward in increasing exposure and sales for boutique vintners from B.C. and other parts of the country.

However, changing federal legislation is one step of two. Amending the national statute creates room for provincial governments to set exemptions. Such exemptions would allow consumers to return back to their home province with wine for personal enjoyment after a trip to a vineyard in the Okanagan, Vancouver Island, the Niagara region or P.E.I., or to order online.

On this front, regional vintners need provincial legislatures to relax rules around purchasing directly from vintners. Experience in other jurisdictions shows that broadening the market for small wineries transfers revenue from provincial liquor boards in the range of one per cent, which can be recovered with growth in tourism and agriculture.

Adrian Dix Leader of the B.C. New Democrat official Opposition

Lana Popham Provincial NDP agriculture critic

http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Have+wine+will+travel/6420631/story.html

A few clips from Hansard  

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Last week in the Legislature I debated Minister McRae during the Budget Estimates for the Ministry of Agriculture.


Here are a few clips. The videos are from Hansard and the only editing done was to remove the long pauses between question and answers.

Lana.










Time to stand up for the ALR and protect Delta farmland!  

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In light of revelations that developers have options to purchase agreements on 600 acres of prime farmland in Delta, it is time for the B.C. Liberals to make it clear that the land won't be removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

As Agriculture Critic I have repeatedly spoken out against BC Liberal efforts to weaken the Agriculture Land Commission and strip out prime land from the ALR.

The BC Liberals must walk their talk: if they truly support the ALR, they need to make it clear that this 600 acre parcel will remain in the reserve.

The BC government has yet to take significant action to address raised by the Auditor General in a 2010 report about the ALC. The report noted that “the commission is challenged to effectively preserve agricultural land and encourage farming in British Columbia,” and has showed a disturbing pattern of excluding prime agricultural land from the reserve in the south of the province, replacing it with less fertile land in the North.

Delta North MLA Guy Gentner recently said that this is some of the best farmland in the country and if the Liberals allow it to be taken from the reserve it will strike a concrete arrow into the heart of Delta.

The Delta has already suffered from a wave of exclusions from the ALR that have undermined the ability of the community to retain its agricultural character and support farmers.

British Columbians overwhelmingly support the ALR and want the government to ensure the province maintains the ability to produce local food.

The Liberals have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue, saying they support the ALR while allowing illegal fill dumping and approving exclusions of some of the best agricultural land in the province. An unambiguous commitment to protect these 600 acres in the Delta would be a step in the right direction.

For more information, take a look at the excellent work on this issue done by Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington: http://www.vickihuntington.ca/content/bc-transportation-strategy-supports-industrial-buyout-plans-south-delta-farmland

Lana Popham, Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture and Saanich South MLA


Adrian Dix and the BC NDP Support Organic Farmers  

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Dear Organic Farmers, Producers, and Eaters,

The BC New Democrats are committed as a political party to agriculture in BC. But it can only be made a reality because of folks like you who are committed to local agriculture. We want to support what you are doing because we believe in what you are doing.

We believe that a strong and vibrant agricultural sector needs support from the provincial government, support that has been reduced considerably under the Liberals.

Over the past year, we have outlined a number of measures that we believe ought to be central to that effort:
  • Restore the BuyBC program that was proven effective in marketing BC produce.
  • Harness the purchasing power of the Province to ensure that health authorities purchase local fruit and produce to prepare patient and other hospital food.
  • Removal of interprovincial trade barriers that hurt BC's world class wine industry.
In addition, we would restore an organic extension officer to help support organic farming. Elimination of this position by the Liberals left BC as one of only two provinces with no formal support for organic farming. This decision was decried by organic and non organic agriculturalists, a group of BC Agrologists, as well as academics, wholesalers, and retailers.

Our agriculture plan, which we call "Grow BC, Feed BC, Buy BC" includes smart, prudent measures that will help give the sector the support it needs to thrive.

We value your input immensely and hope you will keep in touch with us over any concerns or comments you may have.

Thank-you very much for your time and we wish you the very best for this growing season.

Adrian Dix and Lana Popham

Grow BC, Buy BC & Feed BC  

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It was a real pleasure for me to pen the "Guest Column" of the March 2012 issue of "Beef in BC", the monthly publication of the British Columbia Cattlemen's Association

The Association has been around since 1929 and currently counts over 1000 ranchers as members. They raise over 70% of the provincial cattle herd and are a critically important part of food security in the province. 

In my guest column I wrote about the positive vision that New Democrats are proposing for agriculture in general and the beef industry in particular. In my view, this means a renewed focus on the four million eaters in BC. While we need international trade to have a thriving food industry, the best way to approach the international marketplace with confidence is by first building on the reputation of our incredible BC beef in the domestic marketplace, and expanding the market outward from there. As we have seen in the past, borders can be a big impediment to our beef. That's why we need to expand local demand to ensure that ranchers aren't left in the lurch by international policies outside of our control.

You can read the column below or by clicking here.

Best, Lana.



Hollow Agriculture Report Nothing but ‘Keyword Soup’  

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After 11 years of mismanaging agriculture the Liberals need to do more than issue a hollow report. But that is what they've done with a new glossy publication called 'BC Agrifoods: A Strategy for Growth'.
It’s disappointing that after 11 years of inaction, the best the Liberals can do is issue a report taking credit for all the work that food producers and manufacturers have done without support from the Liberal government.
The Official Opposition is calling for simple and concrete steps such as the reinstatement of an organic extension officer and an increase in procurement of locally produced foods in institutions such as hospitals.
The Liberals have reduced the Ministry of Agriculture's budget by almost 40% in the last decade. There are neither the resources nor the capacity for the Ministry to live up to its latest round of promises. 
The strategy document contains lots of commitments like this: "increase organic sector capacity in value chains in order to capitalize on market opportunities.” This is keyword soup - they don’t say how, or when, or what success would look like. That’s not a plan, it's meaningless spin.”
Most of the concrete goals in the report are related to work being done by other jurisdictions or farmers and manufacturers themselves.
One of the only concrete measures in the report has to do with removing inter-provincial trade barriers on wine. This initiative has been championed by New Democrat leader Adrian Dix. While it’s good to see the Liberals finally on board supporting this policy change, it is a little misleading for them to take credit for an initiative that they only offered half-hearted support for at best.
In some cases the commitments outlined in the report are nothing but ineffective attempts to reinvent the wheel.
The BuyBC program was an effective branding program that was widely recognized by B.C. consumers and impacted buying choices.. Adrian Dix and the New Democrats have been calling for the provincial government to put resources in to revive this proven marketing initiative but instead all they are offering the agrifood industry is a twitter account and a facebook page; it's not enough.
I will continue consulting with stakeholders about the report and working with them to fight for real action to improve the business climate for the B.C. agrifood industry. 
Lana

Deer, deer and more deer  

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Dear Friends,

One issue that affects both farmers and non-farmers in the Capital Regional District is the rapidly growing population of Black Tail deer.

As the MLA for Saanich South, I hear from people with very different perspectives on this issue: from residents who enjoy daily encounters with wildlife, to seniors who are afraid to drive at night because of fear they will collide with a deer on the road; from those who believe it is morally wrong to kill animals and argue we should co-exist; to those who see deer as venison and a potential boon to local food security.

And of course this is of very significant concern to many farmers. A few deer can kill crops worth thousands of dollars in a few hours. Several farmers in Saanich have told me in no uncertain terms that damage done by deer may put them out of business.

The problem is not that there are deer on the peninsula, this their home too - and we are fortunate to live in a place that can still support wildlife. The concern is the growing population on the peninsula and the increasing deer/human interactions. In the wild deer populations are kept in check by predators and limits in forage. But in our community, neither of these factors exist. In populated areas, there are numerous restrictions on what farmers can to deter deer and deer-fencing is often completely cost prohibitive.

What should be done?

In November 2011, the Capital Regional District directed its staff to develop terms of reference for a Deer Management Strategy. At that time, I wrote to the CRD and offered to help them reach out to the community.

The CRD has now completed this work. (You can see that document here.) A Citizen’s Advisory Group is being created and it will develop the strategy with the assistance of a group of experts.

It’s my understanding that the terms of reference have been adopted, “with provisions that at least three members of the citizen’s advisory group be commercial farmers and that agricultural issues be addressed as a first priority”.

I support this approach and I note that the CRD expects the work of the Group to be done by
July 2012.

I look forward to a debate that is informed and sensitive to the range of perspectives on this
issue. There are no quick solutions… but we do need to decide on a strategy and move forward.

Lana

PS.If you are interested in being on this Citizen’s Advisory Group you can apply here. The deadline is March 30th.

Question Period, March 13 2012  

Posted

In Question Period today I again raised the BC Liberal's failure to act in the interests of cattlemen in the Cariboo.



And a correction. Minister McRae responded to my question in part by saying when I raised this issue earlier I did not direct the question at him. Well he is wrong about that, as the record clearly shows:

L. Popham: So the Forests Minister decided to dodge responsibility for my question. The Premier decided to showboat in the House because she's got an audience. Let's hope that the Minister of Agriculture has an answer for B.C. ranchers and farmers.
For more than a century a creek ran through the lands of Big Creek ranch, until last year, when the creek ran dry. Now the rancher is forced to truck in 1,500 gallons of water a day for his 150 head of cattle. It's not hard to see that the water needs of farmers and ranchers come last with the B.C. Liberals.

Will the Minister of Agriculture stand up for ranchers in B.C. and comply with the Forest Practices Board recommendation to bring a dispute resolution mechanism in place so that ranchers have somewhere to turn when this government abandons them yet again?
Feb. 21 2012,  http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/39th4th/H20221y.htm or video clip.

Who's your farmer?  

Posted






Question Period, 21 Feb 2012  

Posted

Today in the Legislature I asked two questions. There is an obligation on the government to provide answers to the people of BC during Question Period. Instead, there was just evasion and posturing from the Premier. Question 1 is about the forests and question 2 is about agriculture.

NDP Agriculture Critic Lana Popham Visits Qualicum Beach  

Posted


Thanks Skye Donald for the thoughtful review of my talk last week! I appreciate your insights.

I really enjoyed meeting so many farmers and local-food activists. Qualicum has great energy and it was a privelege to spend the day there.

Sky has an excellent blog, the Arrowsmith Star ...check it out!

Lana.





Food Security Keeps on Growing!  

Posted

It was a great treat for me to join my colleague, MLA John Horgan, and other friends at the Sooke Region Food Chi's AGM on January 30, 2012. This group is doing great work!

The indomitable Mary Alice Johnson,
Board Member, Sooke Region Food Chi AGM
It was wonderful to see a room full of people actively working towards a strong local food system - farmers, gardeners and consumers alike!

 Among the tasty potluck dishes, the exciting year in review and the ambitious planning for another successful year it is hard to pick a favourite part of the evening.

 Having said that, I want to publicly congratulate the T'Sou-ke Nation - represented by their Chief Gordon Planes - on their announcement last night.

With a contribution from the provincial government, the T'Sou-ke Nation is moving forward with an ambitious agricultural green-house project. The plan is to cover several acres in green houses that would be heated and cooled with renewable energy! More details are here

The evening renewed my optimism that food security can be improved on Vancouver Island.

 My heartfelt congratulations to everyone involved!

 Lana

 PS. You can find out more about the Sooke Region Chi Food Society by clicking here.