A food-secure BC

A food-secure BC

British Columbia is fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources. We have access to fertile agricultural land, clean water and renewable sources of energy.
 
However, many British Columbians might be surprised to learn that we source 70 percent of our vegetables from the United States. Half of that comes from California, where the agricultural sector is under strain from extreme weather events like droughts and, more recently, flooding.
 
Across the world, as the effects of climate change take hold, food security is projected to become a major issue. To ensure the long-term food security of the people of BC, we must develop an agricultural sector that can provide for us all.
 
However, the agricultural sector in BC has not been getting the support that it needs. Total farm area in British Columbia decreased 7.9% between 2006 and 2011 to 6.5 million acres.
 
BC agriculture also faces labour issues. There were nearly 30,000 farm operators in B.C. in 2011. But, worryingly, the average age of farm operators was over 55, and less than 6% were under the age of 35.
 
On top of this, valuable B.C. farmland is under threat from developers, speculators and the wealthy who wish to appropriate it to construct elaborate country estates.  
 
The BC Green Party’s plan is to make a significant investment in B.C.’s agricultural sector:
  1. To enhance access to farmland and develop new models of farm tenure;

  2. To increase production of food in B.C., and enhance food security;

  3. To increase the number of British Columbians choosing farming as a career option;

  4. To address labour shortages; and

  5. To build strong communities. 

A strong agricultural sector is a key part of the B.C. Greens’ approach:
  • Economic security — Because government has one job above all else — to promote the wellbeing of all British Columbians. That starts with a sustainable economy and a sustainable agricultural sector that make communities across B.C. food secure.

  • Sustainability and intergenerational equity — Because government should not be giving away our agricultural land for short-term profit at the expense of our children’s food security. We too should be a generation that leaves a better world for our children, like our parents did for us.

  • Responsible government — Because after decades of broken promises and political self-interest, British Columbians have lost trust in their government. We have a duty to make wise investments on behalf of British Columbians that demonstrate, through action, that their government is working for them.

A B.C. Green Government will introduce policies that will support our agricultural sector so that all British Columbians can enjoy food security.
  • B.C. produces less than half of its own food needs. A 2006 study by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands estimated that to produce a healthy diet for British Columbians by 2025, the farmland with access to irrigation will need to increase by 49% over 2005 levels. Further, to maintain the current level of self-reliance, farmers will need to increase production by 30% over 2001 levels.
  • A 2016 Conference Board of Canada study found that Canada’s agriculture industry is short more than 59,000 farm workers, expected to rise to 114,000 by 2025.
  • This investment will promote the production of B.C.-grown food to be consumed by British Columbians.
  • This investment would promote farming as a career option and provide apprenticeships and training, as well as a liveable wage.
  • This investment would support sustainable farming practices.

Budget implications: Use existing resources to support task force.

  • B.C. produces less than half of its own food needs. A 2006 study by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands estimated that to produce a healthy diet for British Columbians by 2025, the farmland with access to irrigation will need to increase by 49% over 2005 levels. Further, to maintain the current level of self-reliance, farmers will need to increase production by 30% over 2001 levels.
  • A 2016 Conference Board of Canada study found that Canada’s agriculture industry is short more than 59,000 farm workers, expected to rise to 114,000 by 2025.
  • This investment will promote the production of B.C.-grown food to be consumed by British Columbians.
  • This investment would promote farming as a career option and provide apprenticeships and training, as well as a liveable wage.
  • This investment would support sustainable farming practices.

Budget implications: Not applicable.

  • The common assumption that a warming climate will be a boon for agriculture production in northern climes is now recognized to be false — the full suite of projected changes indicates that risks to agricultural viability are substantial. The scope, scale and pace of climate change are expected to exceed anything previously experienced.
  • The agriculture sector in B.C. is characterized by unique circumstances: a high level of product diversity, an unusually limited land base, the prevalence of small, family-owned farms and an aging producer population. In 2010, 65% of farms in the province were under 70 acres in size, and 29% were less than ten acres.
  • This funding will, among other things, go towards:
    1. Supporting long-term and strategic planning to deal proactively with climate change and plan for future food production and security;
    2. Conducting research into the impacts of climate change regionally, and on specific crops, diseases and pests;
    3. Developing technologies and practices that will improve climate resilience;
    4. Implementing initiatives to protect water supplies for agriculture.
  • This investment will help farmers adopt strategies, make investments and choose to grow crops that will enhance BC’s food security.
  • This investment will facilitate enhanced access to mentorship, information and expertise for farmers.
  • This investment will improve income stability for farmers.

Budget implications: $40 million over four years.

  • A 2015 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives identified access to farmland as one of the main barriers to entry into farming.
  • Alternatives to traditional individual land ownership include incubator farms, cooperatives, farmland trusts, farming on public land, backyard farming and informal land-sharing structures.
  • This measure would remove access to land as a barrier of entry to farming.
  • This measure would increase the number of new entrants into farming as a career.

Budget implications: None at this time.

  • Seasonality is one factor that makes it unusually difficult for agricultural producers to attract and retain domestic workers. Many potential workers have negative perceptions of the sector, such as that it is too physical or that it requires long hours.
  • Other factors inhibiting employment in the sector is below-average pay and the fact that agricultural operations are located in urban areas, where populations are experiencing no growth and aging rapidly.
  • Measures may include training programs for farming, improving access to land and ensuring the agricultural industry has access to temporary foreign workers when local labour is unavailable.
  • This measure will reduce labour shortages in agriculture.
  • This measure will improve the attractiveness of farming as a career and increase the number of new farmers.
  • This measure will result in a reduction in the average age of farmers.

Budget implications: To be revealed in a further portion of the BC Green Party platform focused on income security.

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