One of my first acts as Agriculture Critic in 2014 was to attend and participate in the State and Rural Leaders (SARL) Summit in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma during the first week of January. Unfortunately my flight was cancelled. I was very disappointed I couldn’t be there, but I’ve been invited back next year.
SARL brings together legislators from states and provinces throughout North America to attend some or part of the Summit. I’d planned to attend a session called “Farm to School, Prison and Beyond” which dealt with the issue of localizing food production and distribution, and was presented by Julie Vanneste who works as the Sustainability Coordinator for the State of Washington’s Department of Corrections. Other sessions dealt with legislation around invasive species, the governance of water, responses to severe weather, and issues facing first responders in rural areas. For more information about the sessions, and to read the summaries of the presentations, see: http://www.agandruralleaders.org/LAC/2014/2014_LAC_Agenda.shtml
In January I attended the annual BC Agriculture Council banquet for the first time and had the pleasure of sitting at a table with the BC Association of Famers Markets. We heard from the Minister of Lands, Steve Thomson, who brought greetings from Minister of Agriculture Pat Pimm, who is recovering from cancer surgery, then from the 4H Club (Head, Heart, Hands and Health), which was celebrating its 100th anniversary; from Lydia Ryall, operator of Cropthorne Farms in Delta and winner of the BC/Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer Award; and of course, from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor, rancher Judith Guichon.
While the hearings into the Site C dam were taking place I took the opportunity to visit Fort St. John. Such an important decision with the Provincial interest at stake, I was disappointed and perturbed at the fact that hearings were only taking place in the north. The project has potentially huge implications on the cost of our power, the future of farmland, the importance of respecting First Nations’ heritage and traditional lands, and impact on wildlife, just to name a few areas of concern. The unabashed attitude of the current government towards the Agricultural Land Commission and Reserve makes many wonder if the playing field is being politically tilted towards oil and gas development to the detriment of preserving land for future generations’ agricultural needs.