Local food protection bill tabled

New Democrats legislation supports farmers, farmlands

Food advocates and farmers, both locally and across the province, echo the BC Food Systems Network (BCFSN) in welcoming a legislative bill that promotes local food systems.

The Local Food Act, tabled by NDP Saanich MLA Lana Popham, includes supports intended to grow the local food economy, and is similar to legislation passed in Ontario last fall.

The BCFSN states the NDP’s bill supports farmers and would ensure both food security and the availability of farmland for the current and next generation.

Noting the bill was introduced by the Opposition, South Cariboo Agri-Culture Enterprise Centre chair Rod Hennecker says he doesn’t believe it stands much chance in passing into law.

“If it did come out into the light, it would be a good thing because it supports local food production [especially] if hospitals, schools and different institutions were mandated to buy a certain percentage of their food.”

A key to food security is to provide a ready market for local producers, he explains.

“A lot of the focus with B.C. agriculture is to export it and rely on other sources – California, Chile or wherever. It is important that we should strive toward food self-sufficiency.”

Hennecker says it is a “little ridiculous” that some local institutions buy food, such as applesauce, from China.

The importance of a consistent local food supply is “pretty obvious” with the current drought in California, which will use its water for people first, he adds.

“I’ve heard there are tens of thousands of acres they are not going to put into production this year, just simply because they don’t have the water.”

Even the greenhouse gas skeptics are beginning to recognize that climate change “is upon us, Hennecker notes.”

However, he says the Cariboo can be positioned for increased food production, with inherent strengths such as the proximity of the Fraser River.

As it is, a wildfire, other natural disaster or even wide-spread strike action were to close down transportation, it would leave local communities “hooped” with only a few days food supply, he notes.

Hennecker adds buying food from local producers also helps ensure they will be there when they are most needed.

He also supports the bill’s proposal for further government investment in the British Columbia agriculture sector, and looks forward to the possible return of farm-friendly Buy BC promotions.

“It was open to any B.C. producers, and you could read it right there on the supermarket shelves.”

Howie McMillan is the moderator for the 100milefood@bcfsnlistserve-mail group, which consists of more local folks also concerned about food security.

“As a representative of a local food movement in the South Cariboo, I wish to express our enthusiastic support of the recently tabled Local Food Act,” says McMillan.

“This proposed act effectively addresses local concerns around food security and initiatives to assist and encourage local farming and food production.”

100 Mile House Free Press