by Peter Mitham
VICTORIA – Keeping farm operations environmentally and financially sustainable were key to the case farm leaders made for the industry when they met with government officials in Victoria at the beginning of November.
Big enough now to span two days, BC Agriculture Day is a biennial networking event that attracted close to 80 participants from the farm sector this year for meetings with Premier John Horgan, agriculture minister Lana Popham and six of their cabinet colleagues among other government members. The formal meetings took place November 7, but many agriculture representatives arranged meetings the day before to make the most of their trip to Victoria.
Organized by the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) with the support of proceeds from the annual gala dinner that precedes the Pacific Agriculture Show each January, the event – like the gala – is about networking.
“Ag Days is really a foundational way to meet up with ministers and people in government regarding the specific things that agriculture has near to its heart,” says greenhouse grower Stan Vander Waal, chair of the BCAC. “I think we’ve made some very good connections in that way and, overall, the meetings went exceptionally well – I heard that from both the industry side as well as the government side.”
Appropriately for agriculture, land was a fundamental element in the conversations.
“It’s something that’s always being discussed: how do we better utilize land?” Vander Waal says.
While government’s promise to consult on appropriate uses within the Agricultural Land Reserve didn’t figure into the conversations, initiatives to keep farmland affordable and limit speculation did.
Any intervention in the market that limits the price of farmland doesn’t sit well with Vander Waal, who says the focus should be on ensuring that farm properties are used for farming. Rising farmland values aren’t necessarily bad if a farmer can leverage the value to expand a viable farm operation.
Government’s role is to ensure legitimate farms are using the properties in the first place.
“We’re looking to increase land usefulness, but also to make sure that the benefits are not extended to non-
While the federal agriculture census counts anyone who grows food for sale as a farmer, BC Assessment grants farm status to owners of agricultural properties generating revenue of least $2,500 a year. Vander Waal wants government to review that threshold.
“We don’t think $2,500 is viable. No one can make a living off $2,500,” Vander Waal says. “We think it’s something that needs to have a solid review.”
Tenure is another hot topic that cropped up, which Vander Waal said would be a bellwether for how the NDP might handle other files impacting agriculture, such as new agricultural waste regulations and the high-
Access to labour, particularly skilled labour, was another key issue farm organizations raised in Victoria. The cost of labour also figured into the discussions, particularly since agriculture wasn’t included in the Fair Wage Commission the government established in October to explore ways to boost BC’s minimum wage to $15.
“We were a little disappointed to find agriculture didn’t have a seat at the table,” Vander Waal says. “It’s not so much the $15 an hour that’s really the issue, it’s the ripple effect throughout your full staff when you actually have the minimum wage going up. The expectation in general is, ‘Hey, what about me?’”
The ongoing challenge of finding skilled workers was high on the agenda of Nova Woodbury, executive director of the BC Association of Abattoirs, who travelled to Victoria with her board to raise the concerns her sector faces, which have an impact on livestock producers.
Association members met with the BC Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology to discuss the need for abattoir workers and skilled meat cutters in the province.
The meetings on BC Agriculture Day – last held in 2015 – seldom bear immediate fruit, but Vander Waal is optimistic.
“We’ve been very happy with the engagement so far with the government, but we have no results to really show at this point,” he says. “We need to see where the rubber is going to meet the road here.”
Vol. 103 Issue 12
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
What on earth?
Opposition slams ALC bill
Sidebar: Protection & pushback
Editorial: Truth in labelling
Back Forty: So you don’t believe in climate change
Viewpoint: Don’t blame the cows for global warming
Ag council’s lobbying efforts produce results
Learning a new skill
Foundation’s nest egg for funding projects increases
Province will hold the line on piece rates
New CEO aims to kindle team spirit at co-op
FIRB decision prompts rethink of pricing scheme
Beekeepers see potential in technology transfer
AgSafe markes quarter century
Raspberries hit hard by harsh February
Blueberry growers anxious for new varieties
Biological controls for pests in demand
Sidebar: Pesticides in play
Growers urged to focus on fresh
Westgen celebrates 75 years of excellence
Top seller was no-show at Holstein sale
Spring show attracts exhibitors from Quebec
Cheesemakers unite to grow niche market
Range use permits under greater scrutiny
Sidebar: Range use plans go digital
Market Musings: Top bulls sell for top dollar at spring sales
Grapegrowers share sustainability objectives
Grape specialist honoured for dedication
Hazelnut production expands across BC
Sidebar: Pest pressures
Supporters take to AITC’s Sips & Sprouts
Research: Cultured meat fails to impress researchers
UAVs undergo testing for pesticide delivery
Sustainability goes beyond saving farmland
Father and daughter roll with the last of the steel wheels
Woodshed: Susan Henderson is warming to country life
Wannabe: Farming is more than just a job
Surplus, cull fruit finds new purpose as tasty snacks
Jude’s Kitchen: Special food for special moms