Election issue: agriculture policies

Relief from carbon tax on farms and promotion of B.C.-grown agricultural products are key in the campaign.

By Tom Fletcher, Black Press

Relief from carbon tax on farms and promotion of B.C.-grown agricultural products are key promises in the campaign for the May 14 provincial election.

The B.C. Liberal Party and the B.C. NDP have argued for a decade about the best way to promote local food consumption. The NDP platform promises to reinstate the “Buy B.C.” program that identifies products grown anywhere in the province.

The B.C. Liberal government ended that program, and in 2012 it committed $2 million to regional “Buy Local” promotions that they say are more adaptable to local needs. The party’s current platform promises to double that funding to “promote 50- and 100-mile diets.”

Neither party is specific about assistance for tree fruit growers. The NDP pledges to “help orchardists with replanting and other costs,” while the B.C. Liberals offer to “begin work on a permanent and sustainable tree fruit replant program, to be implemented following the current three-year, $2 million program.”

In its pre-election budget, the B.C. Liberal government has offered $20 million in carbon tax relief for greenhouse and flower growers, in addition to an exemption for coloured gasoline and diesel used on farms.

The B.C. Green Party proposes major reforms, including phasing out synthetic chemical pesticides, banning genetically modified crops such as canola and removing taxes on value-added B.C. products such as juices and wines.

Platform highlights:

  • The B.C. Liberals promise a new meat inspection system by 2014, including a new “Certified B.C. Beef” brand. The party also wants to create a “Centre of Excellence for Agriculture” at the University of the Fraser Valley.
  • The B.C. NDP promises $8 million per year starting in 2014 for agriculture programs. Plans include pilot programs to use B.C.  produce in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
  • The B.C. Conservative platform promises only to “introduce policies that support, farmers, ranchers and others.” The party emphasizes its pledge to phase out the carbon tax on all fossil fuels, citing its role in poor financial performance by B.C. agriculture relative to the rest of the country.
  • The B.C. Green Party would prohibit further release of top-rated land from the Agricultural Land Reserve, and “provide small grants to support municipalities and school boards that wish to maintain and expand community gardens and urban agriculture.”