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Bring on the good news

“O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,” runs the old poem. “O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

With all eyes turned to the election drama unfolding south of the border, it’s easy to forget that in just eight months, BC voters themselves head to the polls to pass judgment on the work of our own legislators.

The harvest of forest, field and range is still taking place, but the past month has seen a number of good-news announcements that show that the folks in Victoria have been working as hard as the rest of us to support agriculture – or, in the province’s words, help “grow their businesses through farming, food production and activities like agritourism.”

Those words framed agriculture minister Norm Letnick’s announcement that the province would allow a limited number of weddings, concerts, and similar commercial events on protected farmland – something that couldn’t help but play well after the rash of tear-jerker stories about cancelled weddings. It didn’t matter that some organizers hadn’t sought the necessary provincial or civic approvals; clarifying the rules helped everyone understand what was allowed, and what was required.

A few days later, Letnick trumped up another round of good news as he told farmers in Dawson Creek that BC Hydro was seeking approval to proceed with a $20 million strategy announced in 2014 to mitigate the effects of the Site C project.

BC Hydro stepped back to let the minister enjoy the limelight, allowing the story – which will hit the news again in January when the final plan is announced – to tout the project’s “greater good … to farmers, and ranchers and fishers.”

There’s nothing wrong with good news – farmers and the public need clarity to operate their businesses and mark life-changing moments like marriages and the obliteration of landscapes.

With an election in the offing, it’s fair to expect the government to deliver more good news in the coming months. Announcements will likely tout government support for BC agriculture, and that’s important.

But equally important is a long-term strategy that gives agriculture a share of government funding that reflects its contribution to the economy.

BC has long lagged behind other provinces in this regard, a fact that lurks in the shadow of the good news.

Clarifying the ground rules helps farmers know what they can do; fresh investment in research and support staff will ensure that windy pronouncements put wind the sails of producers looking to a new season.

1 Final 916.pdf

Vol.102 Issue 9