The BC Liberals are going around the province, talking to farmers about Bill 24, legislation aimed at supporting those who work in the agricultural sector.
The Ministry of Agriculture has given farmers and ranchers until Friday, August 22 to weigh in on what changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve can benefit British Columbians the most.
Minister of Agriculture, Norm Letnick says he’s racking up the kilometres to gain input with regard to this legislation.
“I’ve taken to the road myself to meet with farmers and ranchers and I was in Cranbrook a few days ago,” says Letnick. “I’m listening to their ideas and also reminding them to submit their thoughts on the regulations by August 22.”
Along with two workshops in Cranbrook and Invermere, the BC Liberals are holding six other workshops throughout the province, getting feedback from those who work in the agricultural sector.
“We have eight full-day workshops led by my staff and I’m taking three and a half weeks, going around in my camper van,” says Letnick. “I’m going from community to community and having little coffee sessions, listening to what people believe we should do in British Columbia to increase profitability for our agrifoods sector, in particular, our farmers and ranchers and other people associated with that.”
However, while NDP Agriculture Spokesperson, Lana Popham has no problem with making things easier for food producers, her problem lies with the length of the consultation process and the time of year the BC Liberals chose to do these consultations.
“It was a promise by the Minister of Agriculture and the BC Liberals that there would be an extensive consultation process after that legislation was passed, which is actually backwards to what it should be but regardless, there was a promise of extensive consultation.”
Popham continues, “What that’s equated too is one month, in the dead of summer, when farmers are farming.”
She says farmers and ranchers have come to her and told her that they can’t attend these workshops and their voices aren’t going to be heard.
She suggests Minister Letnick extend the consultation process until the end of 2014.
Popham says these consultations include eleven questions that centre on other activities that should be allowed on the land without applying to the Agricultural Land Commission.
Popham says this type of question should sound alarm bells among British Columbians.
“If this consultation decides to change the regulations so, maybe oil and gas could set up on agricultural land by regulation that means the Agricultural Land Commission would never see an application for that activity on the ALR.”
On the contrary, Letnick says this process is meant to help food producers.
“Our government is committed to establishing a business environment that helps farmers succeed and continue to see their land farmed for generations to come,” says Letnick. “That’s the primary purpose that we’re consulting right now, to hear ideas from local governments, from farmers and ranchers and the public as to what those regulations should look like.”
Popham says another problem with this legislation is breaking up the ALC into two zones.
The Kootenays’ are in the second zone and that area produces 15 percent of all the food in BC.
To weigh in on Bill 24, British Columbians can go to the Ministry of Agriculture website and click on the ALC Act Regulation Engagement button on or before August 22.
Picture Courtesy: www.pembertonchamber.com