RDEK plan details boosting local agriculture

The RDEK had a chance to review a draft report for an agricultural plan on Thursday.

Agriculture is very much a part of the East Kootenay region, and with that in mind, the RDEK had a chance to review a draft report for an agricultural plan on Thursday.

Presented by Dave Struthers of VAST Resource Solutions Inc, the report detailed  recommendations that included enhancing institutional support for agriculture, improving the economic viability of agriculture, encouraging agriculture on Agriculture Land, increasing public knowledge and support of agriculture and setting up a regional agri-food system strategy.

“There’s some very solid recommendations in the plan and it’ll move now to the public and come back to the board in probably a month,” said Area C director Rob Gay.

“…I don’t know if there’s many surprises in it. I think we all realize that that industry struggled over the last few years. The largest portion of producers in our area are beef-operators and I think the last two years — and I’m hoping this year — that prices have finally come up, but for a long time, prices were low. So low, in fact, that many people cut back on the size of their herds and the crown land leases were vacant for a few years.”

Hiring a agricultural liaison officer — someone who can navigate regulations and support agricultural initiatives in the region — was also one of the recommendations.

“One of the big recommendations was a agriculture advisory person, because many people like to try a different crop or a different way to raise animals or the latest in the technology around it and they don’t have access to that information,” Gay said.

“In the past, the Ministry of Agriculture used to have these liaison officers that would work one-on-one with a rancher or farmer, but they don’t exist any more, so the report is suggesting that we find some funds and hire someone to do the work, so that’s something we’ll have to take very seriously.”

Other issues identified in the report include succession plans, as Gay added that young people are leaving family ranching and farming operations because of the uncertain financial returns and the economic instability around the agriculture industry.

Farmers are also getting creative in growing different kinds of crops, which can run into restrictive regulatory problems, Gay continued.

The agriculture plan is not intended to result in new regulations or review boundaries of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The public has up to September 24 to provide comment or feedback on the plan. A public meeting will be held at the Jaffray Community Hall on Monday, Sept. 8 from 7-9 p.m. to present the plan.

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