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PENTICTON –Promoting the Okanagan’s agricultural sector through local purchasing needs to be a priority under the government’s jobs plan, said leader Adrian Dix today.

“Okanagan municipalities and growers agree that the Premier can boost the Okanagan’s agriculture and food processing sector by encouraging local purchasing. At the recent UBCM, the Southern Interior Local Government Association called for the B.C. government to implement a ‘Buy Local’ program that supports the region’s farmers and tree fruit industry.

“However, Christy Clark's jobs plan not only bypassed local purchasing, it completely overlooked agriculture,” said Dix today during a stop in Penticton.

Dix and New Democrat agriculture critic Lana Popham are touring the Interior this week. They are meeting with local growers and municipal leaders to discuss proposals the government should adopt to increase local sourcing from Okanagan farmers and orchardists, and to help the region's wine industry expand its sales.

These specific measures include:

  • New Democrats' proposal for a $7.5 million Growers’ Production Program to assist local orchardists;
  • Restoration of Buy BC;
  • Regional health authorities increasing the use of locally grown fruit and produce for patient meals and other hospital food;
  • B.C. leading a national effort to eliminate inter-provincial trade barriers on wine so small Okanagan vineyards – who cannot get shelf space in provincial liquor stores – can increase sales through on-line orders to out-of-province customers

Dix pointed out that Christy Clark's jobs plan did not include measures to help fruit tree growers who are struggling to stay in business due to low crop prices and insufficient marketing support from the B.C. government.

“New Democrats continue to advocate for the Premier to adopt our proposal for a Growers’ Production Program. Under this program, local orchardists would receive grants to purchase new equipment and inputs to harvest quality crops and improve yields in the coming season.

“Reinstating Buy B.C. will benefit the region's fruit growers as well. Before the current government cut its funding in 2001, Buy BC was very successful in increasing public awareness of locally grown food. There is now even more interest in purchasing B.C. produce and fruit due to the 100 mile diet, and rising awareness of food security issues. Resurrecting Buy BC would help our growers and farmers to capitalize on this market demand.”

When expanding on the proposal linking regional hospitals to B.C. growers, Popham pointed out that “currently, 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. Orchardists have pointed out that B.C. apples are not a regular staple in B.C. hospitals.”

Popham added that the Liberal government could borrow from a successful Ontario program that has improved the nutrition of hospital patents and visitors while increasing sales for local farmers and growers.

Dix and Popham are also continuing to advocate for the elimination of inter-provincial trade barriers on wine so small Okanagan vineyards, who cannot get shelf space at provincial liquor stores, can increase sales through on-line orders to out-of-province customers.

“We have contacted the Ontario government to press the case that it support a personal exemption limit under the federal liquor law so boutique wineries can directly ship to consumers,” said Popham.

The Ontario Liquor Board is reportedly opposed to consumers directly ordering a limited quantity of wine for personal enjoyment from vineyards.