Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall said a study she initiated last year could become a template to promote food security and production in and around the Creston Valley.
“In a nutshell, this is a kind of clearing house of information,” she said at the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce on Friday. “This report breaks information down in a way that we can get some action items to move forward.”
The report, entitled Kootenay Lake Regional Food Systems, was produced by Paris Marshall Smith, a University of Columbia master of arts student who worked as an intern with Mungall’s constituency office last year.
“We needed something that would give us a map for future direction,” the MLA told a small crowd of about a dozen, explaining why she commissioned the report. “These are grassroots items to support the agricultural sector.”
According to Mungall, Smith talked to more than 100 people in creating the report, which is broken down into seven sections: people (to consume produce and do everything in between), policy and education, land and housing, storage, processing and distribution points, transportation routes to get from A to B, marketing and vending opportunities (stores, markets, community supported agriculture programs), and integrated resource management.
“In each section she looks at infrastructure and networks,” Mungall said.
One issue, she said, is the need for Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) buffer zones that insulate populated areas from the sights, sounds and smells of agricultural activity.
“This is an issue I hear about all the time,” she said. “And sometimes we need reminders of where we are on the right track and she (Smith) did that.”
Mungall said that the B.C. government continues to be “dead last” among all Canadian provinces in its financial support of agriculture and that there some quick, simple actions that could help immediately.
“Reinstate the Buy BC program (funding for which was eliminated when the Liberals assumed power) — it worked. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
Promising to share the report with her NDP caucus members, Mungall hopes it will help guide NDP agricultural policy.
“It should be integrated into what we do after we win the next election, which we fully intend to do,” she said. “I will also give this report to the agriculture minister, and we’re going to have a good conversation.”
Lister farmer Randy Meyer asked Mungall about the awareness of NDP leadership candidates on food and agriculture issues. She admitted they are all urban dwellers, but promised to work with each to raise their awareness.
“What happens if the price of gas goes up to $5 a litre?” asked Meyer. “It could happen. It would change the price of food dramatically.”
Erickson cherry grower and Ministry of Agriculture manager Don Low concurred.
“There are some big issues — transportation costs make local agriculture more important,” he said. “There are lots of issues and no easy answers.”
Creston Valley Food Action Coalition activist Gail Southall said the provincial government produced an agriculture plan in 2008.
“It was a wonderful thing,” she said. “What happened to it?”
Mungall announced to the group that she will use her wedding this summer to promote local agriculture. She plans to use as much food produced in the Creston Valley as possible.
Kootenay Lake Regional Food Systems is available on line at Mungall’s website, www.michellemungall.com/news.