I am concerned with the negative reaction that seems to be catching most of the press interest in the proposed changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve. I am also a fourth generation rancher and am very proud of our Agriculture Industry. I am also the President of the Kootenay Livestock Association which is a Regional Association representing most of the ranchers in the East Kootenay Region. I want to go on record and be perfectly clear that these changes to the A.L.R. were requested of our M.L.A. The Honourable Bill Bennett, several years ago. We felt then and still feel that unless changes are made to the A.L.R. there will be no agriculture industry in the future simply because very few young people are willing to put in the hours and capital necessary to operate a farm or ranch under the economic and operation pressures we are facing. The truth is that most of those involved in farming and ranching operations are over 50 years old with few of their children prepared to continue the operation unless changes are made.
The current A.L.R. legislation is too restrictive in terms of supplemental activities that can be conducted on A.L.R. land which could add needed revenue to support the ranching operation. The real truth is that the vast majority of farms and ranches are being supported or sustained by off-farm income. The absolute best way to ensure we will have a successful agriculture industry in the future is to make it profitable.
There is no doubt that food is important and being self- sufficient in providing food for our Province is certainly ideal but it is not real until the ordinary citizens and government understand it takes more than talk to sustain an agriculture industry.
Mr. Bennett is only doing what he was asked to do and I know that there was a great deal of consultation with our ranching industry in the East Kootenay over the past couple years. Certainly there are individuals who will not agree and there are also ranchers who aren’t involved in local organizations who are quite vocal about what they want but our industry has had a great deal of input into the proposed changes.
What I find especially troubling is when cities like Nelson pass a motion opposing the changes to the A.L.R. because they want to support local food supply. Such total ignorance of what it takes to have a successful Agriculture Industry should disqualify such responses.
If you really want a sustainable agriculture industry you must listen to those involved in the day to day work and challenges of this great and important industry.
Trying to score political points will not feed anyone.