KELOWNA – In sharp contrast to the BC Liberal government, Adrian Dix and the New Democrats are prepared to revitalize BC’s agricultural sector through comprehensive measures including grants to fruit growers, the purchase of BC foods by BC’s health care system , and the renewal of Buy BC.
“Grow BC, Feed BC and Buy BC – this is how a New Democrat government will
boost our agricultural industry,” said NDP leader Adrian Dix today in Kelowna. He was joined by NDP Agriculture Critic Lana Popham and local fruit growers and farmers.
“British Columbia, particularly regions such as the Okanagan and Kootenays,
can no longer afford a Liberal government that is pessimistic about the future of fruit growers and farmers. New Democrats are offering real solutions that can help the BC fruit growing industry regain its footing after consecutive years of declining revenue,” said Dix.
“Similarly, we are proposing programs that can realize BC farmers’ and food processors’ full potential, making agriculture a more viable and dynamic part of the provincial economy,” said Popham, who manages a family farm herself.
“This will in turn benefit our local food security, and the future of the Agricultural Land Reserve- The survival of farming in BC determines the survival of the ALR and vice versa,” underscored the NDP agriculture critic.
Popham and Dix noted that the BC Liberals, and the current Premier, are not working on renewing and leveraging the potential of our agricultural sector.
“Premier Christy Clark during her leadership bid did not offer any proposals focused on farming and the fruit industry, and continues to be silent on these critical issues. It is time to end the Liberals’ decade of neglect,” said Dix.
Some of the agriculture proposals a New Democrat government will implement directly benefit Okanagan orchardists who are currently struggling to overcome years of reduced earnings:
- A $7.5 million Growers’ Production Program to provide fruit producers non-repayable grants to purchase the equipment and inputs they need to grow a quality harvest.
“Under recent conditions the cost of growing apples is nearly twice what growers currently earn – 22 cents compared to 12.6 cents a pound. As a result, many orchardists are strained to purchase the resources required to grow quality crops this season and next. The Growers’ Production Program would effectively provide growers’ grants to purchase needed equipment and inputs. ” explained Popham.
- Use hospital procurement policies to expand the revenue base for growers.
“Our hospitals do not, as a standard practice, offer patients and visitors locally grown foods, despite being located in one of the world’s best agricultural regions” said Dix.
During a February emergency meeting, the BC Fruit Growers’ Association called for procurement policies that include health care facilities buying from local growers. The association expressed that, for example, BC apples are not regularly featured in provincial hospitals.
- Renewing Buy BC
In 2001 the BC Liberals ended government support for the popular Buy BC program, an initiative founded by the previous New Democrat government to promote and market locally grown produce and fruit. It has been heralded by the BC Agriculture Council as one of the most successful food and beverage initiatives undertaken by government and the sector.
“New Democrats knew that Buy BC would benefit farmers and orchardists when we first established it over a decade ago. Renewing Buy BC is particularly prudent during a time when food security and buying locally is increasingly important to British Columbians, “ said Popham.
Despite the province’s rich land base and marketplace, BC’s agriculture industry has been stagnant in terms of growth and productivity. “Using powers within our provincial jurisdiction to support local growers, farmers and food production is sound economic policy. Unlike the BC Liberals, New Democrats are optimistic about our ability to capitalize on the potential of
farming and food processing to create jobs, and to increase our local food security,” said Dix.