Over these past months, COVID-19 has impacted all our lives in one way or another. This includes significant challenges for farmers and the agricultural sector here in Delta, and across the province.
Since the pandemic began, both myself and my staff at the Ministry of Agriculture have been meeting virtually with as many people as possible. We’re listening to concerns but also hearing stories of innovation as we do our best to support those in need.
We have provided funding to help B.C. businesses and farmers markets reach new and existing customers online and worked with B.C.’s food and beverage sector to ensure those making our food have access to quality, personal protective equipment.
We have made progress on labour supply, ensuring thousands of temporary foreign workers were able to safely self-isolate and travel to B.C. farms.
We also launched the BC Farm, Fish and Food job connector, a website profiling all the opportunities in B.C. food, to help connect employers with the local workforce.
For the past three years, our government has been focused on helping farmers farm and strengthening food security and it’s paying off.
We’ve worked hard on our three pillars: Grow BC, Feed BC and Buy BC. We’re helping more people get into farming, expanding local food production through the BC Food Hub Network and ensuring our hospitals and other public institutions have fresh, local food made in B.C.
As we restart our economy, I am encouraged by 2019’s record economic growth in the farming sector which saw $3.9 billion in sales, a 13 per cent increase over 2018.
This shows we have a firm foundation on which to build a path to economic recovery.
As we continue to focus on creating a strong, resilient food system, the growth in traditional agriculture sectors is what’s most promising.
This includes significant increases in sales of dairy, field vegetables, chicken, eggs and blueberries, just to name a few.
Through the pandemic we’ve seen the trend of buying locally sourced food increase and I continue to urge people to Buy BC to support their local economy, support their neighbour and support regional food security.
Delta is a perfect example of a vibrant farming community that’s contributing to our local food system and we want to keep it that way.
It takes a lot of people to run a farm and there are many multi-generational families that take great pride in working as family units to put food on the tables of British Columbians.
This is precisely why we made changes to enhance food security and encourage farming on ALR land. Improvements can always be made and that’s why we publicly released an intentions paper to outline how we can increase residential flexibility in the ALR while still protecting farmland and encouraging farming.
That feedback led to a series of options put forth for consultation earlier this year to ensure there is residential flexibility.
I’d also like to remind people there is no limit to the number of applications that can be made to build homes that will support a family farm.
While the pandemic has put the immediate focus on providing B.C. farmers with necessary support, we will be moving forward with our efforts to revitalize the ALR.
The ALR is B.C.’s best food producing land and it’s so important to a successful provincial food system. We want British Columbians to enjoy locally grown or processed food now, and for generations to come.
Lana Popham is B.C.'s Minister of Agriculture