Victoria could help agriculture more, says NDP

Provincial NDP Leader Adrian Dix and agriculture critic Lana Popham shared their ideas about supporting agriculture last week.

ADRIAN DIX LISTENS as Eatmore Sprouts owner Carmen Wakeling and Lana Popham discuss agriculture.

ADRIAN DIX LISTENS as Eatmore Sprouts owner Carmen Wakeling and Lana Popham discuss agriculture.

Standing in a greenhouse at Eatmore Sprouts and Greens Ltd. — which they described as a symbol of B.C. farmers meeting the demand for local, organic food — provincial NDP Leader Adrian Dix and agriculture critic Lana Popham shared their ideas about supporting agriculture last week.

Dix and Popham were at the Courtenay farm Thursday as part of a provincewide tour advocating measures to bolster B.C. agriculture.

“This business here is just an example of the opportunities that are available all over B.C.,” said Dix. “The government of B.C. provides less support to agriculture than any other government in Canada, and in the recent Jobs Plan report from the province, there was really nothing there of any significance for agriculture. I think we have a remarkable domestic market here, so we propose things that could make things better.”

Dix believes B.C.’s agriculture industry has a lot of potential, and he thinks the government could do more to support it.

“This is an extraordinary agricultural area, and this business is a symbol of what can be done to meet the growing demand for organic food,” he said. “People in farming aren’t asking for a lot, but I think there are some specific things we can do to make the industry better, to have the economy grow better and support young farmers … We want the government to make changes, and if they do so, we’ll be encouraging them, but if they don’t, this is going to be a key part of our economic plan as we go into the next election.”

Dix and Popham are proposing the government reinvest in the Buy BC marketing program, bring back support for organic farming within the Ministry of Agriculture and offer local foods in hospitals and schools through local purchasing by health authorities and public schools.

Dix believes the Buy BC program has “huge resonance” in B.C.

“There’s a lot of talk of export, but we have a domestic market that’s significant for agriculture, and we don’t essentially take advantage of that enough,” he said.

A focus for Popham has been helping get young people into farming.

“We have this opportunity where the communities are very engaged in local food  and local food production,” she said. “People are interested. We’re at a critical point — we have to protect our Agricultural Land Reserve and our prime agricultural land; at the same time, we don’t want to lose any of the skillsets of the farmers who are at retirement age.”

Popham would like to see the organic extension agent reinstated — something she believes would also help support young farmers.

“I think one of the biggest blows over the last couple years to the organic industry was losing the organic extension officer,” she said. “For the farmers in my area, it was a service they used a lot and the young farmers used a lot to try to find out more about crop planning and things like that that are the basics, but also, sometimes disease will take a hold on a farm and you really do need some outside advice. You need the advice of an agrologist, and the extension officer was doing that. So that’s something we’re really looking at because it’s very valuable for the investment.”

Agriculture Minister Don McRae, MLA for the Comox Valley, points out that the government’s Jobs Plan targets eight sectors, and agri-foods is one of those sectors.

“Agri-foods, if you look at the numbers for farming in B.C., it’s absolutely huge,” he said. “There are $2.4 billion in farm gate sales in B.C. We export $2.5 billion of agriculture products from the province, and farming, whether it’s the producing or processing, is worth $9.6 billion, employing 60,000 people. This industry is absolutely essential to B.C.”

In the organic sector, while the organic extension agent position has ended, the province still has a sector specialist, explained McRae.

The organic extension agent was a limited agreement with the Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia (COABC), as the province gave three years of funding so the CAOBC could make the position self-sustaining, he noted.

“I’ve met with the organic industry regularly, and I think it has huge growth potential in B.C.,” he said. “Everybody wants more obviously, but I think there’s a really good working relationship between the organic sector and the government.”

As for Buy BC, McRae agrees that promoting B.C. products is important, and he is looking at other ways to promote local products, such as using the Internet.

The Buy BC program is not dead, as it is now being run by the BC Agriculture Council, he noted.

As for using the government’s purchasing power to increase the use of locally-grown fruit and produce in hospitals and schools, McRae says Dix must have forgotten the $3-million expansion of the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program announced last spring right here in the Comox Valley.

“The hospitals do have a policy of buying local when possible,” he said. “Just like consumers, hospitals and institutions know it’s good quality and it’s fresh.”

Just Posted

NIC’s new president Lisa Domae assumed the role of president on April 12. Domae has worked at NIC since 2000, most recently as the executive vice president, academic and chief operating officer. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
New North Island College president launches draft strategic plan

Lisa Domae assumed the role of president on April 12, 2021

Capt. Jenn Casey died in a crash just outside of Kamloops, B.C., on May 17, 2020. (CF Snowbirds)
Snowbirds to honour Capt. Casey, who died in B.C. crash, in 2021 tour

Tour will kick off in Ontario in June before heading west

Artist's drawing of the proposed 52-unit affordable seniors housing project in Comox. File photo
Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society receives federal grant money

The Comox Valley Affordable Housing Society (CVAHS) has received $25,000 in grant… Continue reading

Mark Henderson’s exhibit, “Bikes and Barbies,” is now showing at Artful : The Gallery on Cumberland Road in Courtenay. Photo supplied.
New exhibit at Courtenay art gallery

Artful : The Gallery is showing art by Mark Henderson until Saturday,… Continue reading

Charles Hawkswell, Commander, of the Cape Lazo Power and Sail Squadron, presents a $1,000 cheque to the Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society. File photo
Comox removing moorage fees, hydro for Comox Valley Marine Rescue Society

Last year, the unit and society responded to more than 50 rescue missions in the past year

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

The only access to 5th Street bridge heading east (toward Lewis Park) is via Anderton Avenue. Photo by Terry Farrell.
Single lane alternating traffic controls on Courtenay bridge now in effect

Single lane alternating traffic on the 5th Street Bridge is now in… Continue reading

More “strings of lights” were seen on May 15, 2021, in night sky over Vancouver Island. (File photo)
Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Most Read