Sept 26th – Meeting with Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, at Union of BC Municipalities
Each year, all the civic leaders in the province meet to workshop, network and talk with various ministers in the province. Myself and other CVRD elected officials met with Ms. Bond to discuss job/training opportunities in the valley. I spoke last and tried to ephisize the potential economic benefits of a well supported and funded AG sector in the valley. Here is the document I gave to her and her staff (as well as the AG ministry).
Report to Ministry of Agriculture
Matteus Clement – CVRD
Electoral Area C – Cobble Hill
The Cowichan Valley has:
LAND– lots of Vacant farm land (9000 hectares)
LABOUR– high youth unemployment (3-5% higher than provincial average)
LEARNING– post secondary education campus (Vancouver island university)
MARKET– situated between two urban cores (Victoria & Nanaimo)
These factors leave the Cowichan Valley in a perfect position to be ground zero on Agricultural Innovation and pilot projects. With the right policies in place, the CVRD could be a pivotal player in making the valley an Agricultural Powerhouse. Some provincial policies and ideas include:
- Island AG study
What AG commodities is Vancouver island are in shortage and what’s in surplus?
In speaking with supply managed boards, all admit they are in the dark to this question. They are “taking a best guess”. From an economic standpoint, we may expose large opportunities on the island. Take for example Vancouver island’s total lack of mushroom facilities.
While I am speaking for the Cowichan Valley farms, just like a farm, we need to identify the island as a WHOLE and see where certain industries are best suited according to infrastructure and soil types.
This would allow all local governments on Vancouver island to collaborate on food security and Agricultural economic growth.
- Water storage
The drought in the valley went to stage 3. The pulp mill almost shut down and fish were almost at fatal levels in the river.
Larger dairy operations growing forage were watering around the clock at the same time.
Is there a way for local government, provincial government and the Agropour dairy coop to invest in water storage as a shared venture or as grants? IE- ponds
Class A processors are sparse and overbooked. The single CLASS A poultry processing facility has to be booked months in advance. The existing lower class processors have been asked by the province and farmers to “upgrade” to class A but have declined citing other facilities that “upgraded” only to go bankrupt. The costs, the inspections and requirements were too much.
It seems that policy is based on 1980’s science. With new technology online, processing of livestock and milk can be done safely with checks and balances.
New “micro pasteurization” units can be on a truck trailer and pasteurize 10,000 gallons of milk a day. Bacterial tests could be conducted at abattoirs that are automatically uploaded to the ministry of health for records and follow up.
- Specified Risk material Disposal
Currently all waste product from processing animals has to be shipped to Alberta. This cost hits the farmer as a processing fee. We need either composting (OMRR), incinerating or other disposal options if we wish to raise more livestock in an economically feasible way.
Composting seems to be the most feasible but the Cowichan Valley is experiencing serious odour issues with the existing composting facilities that currently exist. We need higher standards for odour control with in OMRR as well as a clearer role in what local government can do when approving expansions of these facilities.
- Farm Project/Training Grants
The CVRD is fortunate to have a strong nonprofit sector that we can leverage funds with to help initiate farm projects and farmer training.
Grants/Funds from the province can be leveraged with other existing federal grants and CVRD funds giving extra mileage to provinces dollars.
Projects could include:
- Incubator farms
- Farmer workshops & job shadowing
- Video training library
- Land purchase to lease to new farmers
- New farmer microfinance programs (Loans of $5000 or less)
The Cowichan Valley Regional District and the non profit sector have conducted enough studies, research groups and consultations. Farmers are feeling “consultation fatigue”. We KNOW what needs to be done.
With some reasonable funding and policy changes from the province, we can train farmers, source processing facilities and make Agriculture a cornerstone of the valley’s economy.
PS- I also meet with the Opposition Standing Committee on Agriculture and Food. The committee, chaired by Lana Popham, is also looking for solutions to the problems that BC farmers are facing. You can visit their site here: http://bcagcom.blogspot.ca/