LETTER: Ministry here to support ranchers and farmers

A letter to the 100 Mile Free Press by Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture

To the editor,

I regret to inform readers that the MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin has again penned an op-ed that contains inaccurate and misleading information. It’s a disservice to the public, doubly so to farmers and ranchers.

Here are the facts.

Firstly, farmers and ranchers are allowed two, three, four or more residences in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), with permission from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). A core part of the ALC’s mandate is to protect farmland for farming and so it should come as no surprise that the Commission routinely approves additional residences for that exact reason. There are many examples, including approvals for additional residences for retiring farmers and new farmers. Every farm and ranch is different and each has its own residential needs that change over time. That’s why the Commissioners review each file separately and make a decision based on the specific facts, consistent with their mandate.

Secondly, the B.C. government is not planning to use satellite technology to spy on farmers. Invoking “big brother” is absurd on its face and harms her constituents by creating unnecessary anxiety.

Thirdly, MLA Barnett is completely wrong to write that there is a “controversial ban on any value-added business.” This has no basis in reality. In fact, the BC NDP government has already made changes to the rules (and reduced the red tape) put in place by the BC Liberals in order to create more value-added opportunities for farmers and ranchers in the ALR. In addition, we have just finished a public engagement process to get input on what more we can do. I look forward to having more to say on that in the months ahead.

I want Cariboo ranchers and farmers to know the B.C. government is here to support them, just as we did during the wildfires in 2017 and 2018, and for this year’s flooding.

People in Cariboo-Chilcotin deserve accurate information about the work being done by the Ministry of Agriculture. The BC NDP government has increased the ministry budget by 15 per cent, creating important new initiatives and valuable services that are available to help farmers farm and ranchers ranch. For example, since we formed government in 2017, we have increased the number of agrologists by 33 per cent, including a new agrologist based in Quesnel and another new one based in Williams Lake.

I encourage MLA Barnett to change her ways and start working to help her farming and ranching constituents instead of falsely stoking fear and reducing opportunity with inaccurate information.

Lana Popham

Minister of Agriculture

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