OPINION: Ranchers deserve better

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett’s regular column for the 100 Mile Free Press

The approach of spring on March 19 this year marks one of the earliest arrivals of the new season in almost 100 years.

For ranchers, this can also be the most exhaustive time of year because spring marks calving season.

Ranchers have to check on their cow herd every few hours — day and night.

This can be an exhausting and taxing part of the year even at the best of times.

We have more than 4,000 cattle ranchers in the province, sitting on almost five million acres of privately held land.

As a matter of fact, two-thirds of the Agricultural Land Reserve in B.C. is owned by ranchers.

Given those statistics and the importance of the ranching industry to help feed the people of this province, one would think ranching would be a priority for government.

Unfortunately, though, we have not seen much from the Agriculture Minister, Lana Popham, over the past three years to help the industry through some pretty tough times.

Wildfires in 2017 and 2018 and flooding in 2019 have made a challenging industry even more difficult to manage.

Yet we saw nothing in the NDP’s latest provincial budget except cuts to individual ministries. The Agriculture ministry was no exception, with the largest cut of 17 per cent coming from agricultural science and policy programs.

Last year we witnessed how ranchers in Big Creek had to rely on neighbours, friends and even strangers to help shore up against the flooding.

This later led to a shortage of feed, making 2019 one of the more challenging years in recent memory.

I hope that by now, most ranchers will have received some assistance from government, but if you have not, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

I will continue to stand up for ranching until people in Victoria start listening.

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