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Vol.102 Issue 12

CLBC Dec16 1.pdf

Province asked to ante up  [David Schmidt]

ABBOTSFORD – The BC Agriculture Council is asking the provincial government for $15 million over the next three years to help agriculture producers and processors adapt to changing consumer demands. Although the request is part of its election strategy, BCAC executive director Reg Ens hopes government will cough up before the May election is called.

He says the money is needed to harmonize traceability, biosecurity and environmental programs across the sector and to “engage society in a meaningful way.”

The council has identified maintaining and enhancing public trust in farmers as a priority. That trust has been declining steadily in recent years and the council is working on ways to rebuild it.

Ens calls the funding “an opportunity for government to invest some of its surplus in agriculture,” claiming “too many opportunities have been stalled” because of a lack of co-ordination among programs.

While $15 million is a large ask, he notes that with almost 30 commodity organizations under the BCAC umbrella, “the money will go quickly.”

Speaking of going quickly, Ens told Mainland Milk Producers that this year’s Best Management Practices funding under the Environmental Farm Plan is long gone but another round of funding will be available in April 2017, the final year in BCAC’s contract to deliver the EFP program. He therefore urged producers to look at and/or complete their EFPs over the winter so they will be ready to apply for the new funding in the spring.

One area they should focus on is nutrient management as that is expected to be a cornerstone of the new agriculture waste management regulation.

“We expect a new regulation by Christmas,” Ens told the MMP meeting on November 2.

BC Dairy Association financial officer Paul Hargreaves, who has been involved in BC Ministry of the Environment consultations on the proposed new regulations, says MoE is looking at a risk-based approach. As part of that effort, it has mapped out areas where applications of phosphorus and/or nitrogen pose a high risk to the environment. It has also mapped sensitive aquifers and other watercourses which will need special attention.

“If you are in a high-risk area, you will have to balance nutrient loading with crop usage of those nutrients so there is no negative impact on the environment,” Hargreaves told producers.

The new regulations will require farmers to “prove that manure is a resource and not a waste,” Ens added.

Although the industry is not likely to see a draft of the regulation before it is passed, he told producers he hopes the input the sector has provided during the consultation will result in rules they can live with. To that end, both he and Hargreaves complimented Ministry of Agriculture staff, saying they have been extremely supportive during development of the regulation.