Two years of funding increases for the province’s agriculture ministry have come to an end, as the BC NDP introduced a budget this week that proposes tax increases for the rich but plays it safe in terms of program spending.
BC finance minister Carole James tabled the budget with a speech that touted the government’s pledge to create opportunities for businesses to succeed, calling out crop protection company Semios and plans for food hubs among the success of the province’s agriculture sector.
But the budget itself cuts nearly $3 million in funding for the BC Ministry of Agriculture’s operating expenses, with the biggest hit – ironically, given the praise for Semios – being taken by the agriculture science and policy budget, which will fall by $2.3 million. The budget for the ministry’s executive and support services is set to lose $72,000.
Offsetting the losses are two funding boosts: $70,000 for the Agricultural Land Commission and $16,000 for the BC Farm Industry Review Board.
The net result is a budget of $95.4 million, down from $98.2 million in the current fiscal year. The budget for the coming year remains above where the $93.1 million allotted in 2018.
BC agriculture minister Lana Popham has long relished having the biggest budget of any agriculture minister in the province’s history, funding that allowed her to undertake several initiatives, such as relaunching Buy BC as well as projects associated with Feed BC as well as Grow BC. The past two years have seen funding for a land matching program, a revamp of the Agricultural Land Commission and regulations governing the lands it oversees, and an annual conference for the province’s farmers institutes.
“I feel like I’ve been able to connect urban BC and rural BC in a way that hasn’t happened for a really long time,” she said at one point.
With less funding, most projects will likely proceed, but with more modest budgets. This is not a positive step, said Stan Vander Waal, president of the BC Agriculture Council.
“Agriculture has significant potential to grow Canada’s economy. We believe this is also possible in B.C., however, our province still invests less money into the agriculture sector, relative to its size, than any other province in Canada,” he told Country Life in BC. “We need to invest in this sector if we want realize the potential that it can bring.”