QUALICUM BEACH — Saving seeds and promoting sustainable agricultural practices is a good start, but those efforts are of only limited value without a strong agricultural policy in the province, says Parksville-Qualicum NDP nominee Barry Avis.
To this end, Avis this week announced plans for a visit by Lana Popham, the opposition critic for agriculture in Qualicum Beach on Feb. 4.
“We’re excited to have Lana visit us on Seedy Saturday and are inviting the public to participate in a public policy conversation at the Rotary Hall in Qualicum Beach from 3:30 until 5 p.m.” Avis said. “Lana is the former chair of the Certification Board for the Islands Organic Producers Association and a leading agricultural activist in our province.”
The theme of the event is Grow B.C., Feed B.C., Buy B.C.
“We have a proud and diverse agricultural history in Parksville-Qualicum and we are grateful for the opportunity to discuss its preservation with Lana Popham,” Avis said. “I’m always delighted to find our local pork on the menus of restaurants in Vancouver and cheese in the grocery stores all over B.C. and ladybugs for aphid control in garden shops all over Vancouver Island. These are only a few of our agricultural enterprises.”
Popham, said farmers are struggling largely because Liberal government policies have made it difficult to operate.
“There are lots of promises of supporting agriculture but there was no mention of it in the throne speech or the jobs plan,” said the Saanich MLA. “Agriculture has been cut as far as the ministry goes. We’re at a critical stage and it can’t be cut more.”
Popham said programs for farmers are not a case of taxpayers subsidizing private business, noting farmers are tied to their property because of the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve.
“They don’t want handouts. They want policies that support the industry,” she said. “We’re the least supportive of any province in Canada in terms of agriculture.”
British Columbia has more than 20,000 farms and over 1,100 food processing businesses. The agriculture and agrifood sector provides direct employment for over 54,000 people and generates over $2.3 billion in farm cash receipts.
“There is no question that agriculture contributes greatly to the provincial economy and can provide solid local jobs”, Avis said. “I look forward to an interesting discussion between our local growers and producers.”
The Rotary Hall is at 211 Fern Road West, at the corner of Beach Road in Qualicum Beach. The Conversation with Lana Popham begins at 3:30 p.m. Coffee will be served.