Prior to the May 14 election, the Advance asked Nelson-Creston candidates, How do you plan to support local food systems?
Sjeng Derkx (Green Party): Greens believe that food and agriculture policy needs to be developed at the community level, supported by provincial and federal funding and legislation. Nelson-Creston, in spite of being one of the best food growing areas in B.C., produces only three per cent of the food we eat. That is both scary and unnecessary. Greens want to help existing and aspiring farmers by promoting policies that will make farming a viable living. Young farmers need access to affordable agricultural land, education and start-up capital. Regional food self-reliance can be promoted by establishing partnerships among all levels of government, farmers, the food processing industry and community groups. Schools and hospitals need to serve locally grown and produced foods. We will support local government to draft bylaws that support “backyard” food production, community and shared food gardens, as well as urban agriculture. The Agricultural Land Reserve should be used as a tool for expanding food production to meet the goal of 85 per cent food self-sufficiency. Greens support seed saving, genetic diversity of food crops and B.C. as a genetically modified organism-free agricultural zone.
Greg Garbula (Liberal Party): Local food systems are the lifeline of our region and need to be supported in ways that not only drive localized consumption but improve ways for small and mid-sized operators to become sustainable in surrounding markets. We must improve access to educational support and financing allowing opportunities for ingenuities in finding niche segments to help offset the inequity of small versus large scale production facilities. Advantages such as “organic” and “pure” products allow for smaller-scale farms to produce locally grown environmentally conscious products within their mid-ranged region competitively. We must work with the individual operators to be able to understand and support these initiatives, and as their representative, that is what I plan to do.
Michelle Mungall (New Democratic Party): The NDP platform on agriculture is built around a local focus. Many of the ideas discussed at my community forums in Creston and my report, Kootenay Lake Regional Food Systems, have directly influenced the platform.
•Renew the Agricultural Land Commission and protect the Agricultural Land Reserve; and
•Help orchardists with replanting and other input costs, and provide more direct support to organic and conventional farmers through enhanced extension and field services for marketing and operations.
•Help create a stable market for local growers through pilot programs to promote purchases of B.C. produce by B.C.’s hospitals and long-term care facilities. This measure will also improve diets and health outcomes.
•Strengthen support for the Buy BC marketing program for B.C. agricultural products; and
•Improve access to markets for B.C.’s award-winning craft distillery industry by reducing the Liquor Distribution Branch markup, and by allowing direct sales to restaurants and bars, and on-site.