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  

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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.