New Democrats outline legislation to support local food production and strengthen agriculture and ALR

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VANCOUVER – New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix plans to introduce the British Columbia Local Food Act, 2014, legislation that would increase the economic and environmental value British Columbians derive from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

“Simply put, this is the kind of agricultural legislation our province needs,” said Dix, at a media event at Fable, a Vancouver restaurant emphasizing the use of local food. “Right now, our province lacks a strategy that ensures we are fully capitalizing on our agricultural land base in a way that grows our economy, improves population health outcomes, and food security.

“Meanwhile, other jurisdictions are ahead of B.C. in terms of encouraging farming and food processing to support, expand, and sustain their agriculture sector for environmental, health and economic purposes,” said Dix. “Ontario, which has a greenbelt, has legislation that supports increasing local food production from its land base through establishing targets that their minister of agriculture needs to report on annually. Washington state, one of our main competitors, uses government procurement policies to promote its agriculture sector.”

In announcing the Local Food Act, Dix was joined by New Democrat agriculture critic Nicholas Simons, small business critic Lana Popham, Farm to Cafeteria Canada national manager Joanne Bays, FarmFolk CityFolk executive director Nicholas Scapillati, and local farmers.

Simons and Popham expanded on how the Christy Clark Liberals’ do not have a plan for agriculture, but a plan to undermine it.

“The Christy Clark Liberals are trying erode the ALR through Bill 24, though they have no mandate to proceed with it, much less introduce it. They never once campaigned on weakening the ALR, nor did they ever consult with British Columbians on dismantling the land trust in the months since the campaign,” said Simons.

“In contrast, the British Columbia Local Food Act‘s primary purpose is to increase agriculture production in our public land trust, which is in the best interests of our economy and of our food security during a time of advancing climate change.”

The main elements of the legislation include implementing a comprehensive strategy on government purchasing locally grown food; reintroducing the successful Buy BC program; mandating a legislative Committee on Food and Agriculture to prepare, in consort with the agriculture minister, a plan to increase local food production, marketing, and processing. The plan would set targets and implement policies to meet those targets which would reported on annually in the legislature.

“When it was founded, the ALR was envisioned to be a source of sustainable economic activity, and a means to protect British Columbians against food scarcity. But this government has, throughout its term in office, lacked vision to realize its underlying purpose and potential, “ said Popham, who, prior to becoming an MLA, was a farmer and vineyard operator.