Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Private Member's Motion in the Legislature: We need a food security plan for BC!

We need a made-in-B.C. food security plan right now.

Private Member's Motion, April 19, 2010.

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Private Members' Motions
L. Popham: I move: 

Be it resolved that this House debate and discuss a made in BC food security and production plan.

What is a food security plan? A food security plan refers to the availability of food, one's access to it and a comprehensive plan to make sure these things are addressed. The necessity of having such a plan is becoming more crucial year by year, as we understand the effects of climate change on agricultural capacity around the world. 

In B.C. we have been neglecting our food security plan because we have had easy access to imported food. As a result, up to this point we have almost abandoned our potential for self-sufficiency. We are becoming more and more reliant on imports. 

The places we are importing from are regions that will be first affected by the devastating impacts of climate change. In fact, we see this happening already. We see California facing water shortages, the salinity issue. We see Florida wrestling with temperature fluctuations that destroy their crops. In other areas of the world we are seeing extreme weather as well. 

B.C. is not immune to climate change effects, but we have resilience, given our diverse topographies. This doesn't mean, however, that we have the luxury of sitting back and doing nothing. We should be taking the time to develop a made-in-B.C. food security and production plan. 

The government released a study in 2006 called B.C.'s Food Self-Reliance. The goal of this study was to get a perspective on total food production and food self-reliance using farm-gate production values. There was an interesting disclaimer at the beginning of this report which states that this "report is an information piece and does not necessarily represent current or future policy direction." 

It continues to establish that "the statistical data in the report is factual and will be used to develop benchmarks for further research and study." This disclaimer is relevant to my motion, because there is information in this report that leads me to question why the B.C. government is not fully committed to making sure B.C. has a food security plan in place. 

Sustainable B.C. is a vision of our province. As B.C. politicians, we need to be dedicated to building a sustainable society that nurtures us, and food security is a large part of that vision. Healthful food for consumers and increased local and provincial food self-sufficiency are essential for a sustainable society. This requires a protected agricultural land base, environmentally sustainable farm practices and economic viability for B.C. food producers. 

To produce a healthy diet for the projected B.C. population in 2025, B.C. farmers will need to have 2.78 million hectares in production, of which 281,000 will need access to irrigation. This means that to produce a healthy diet for B.C. in 2025, given existing production technology, the farmland with access to irrigation will have to increase by 92,000 hectares, or 49 percent over the 2005 levels. That's one of the undisputed facts from the report that this government released. 

Where should we look for leadership, and what ministry should we work with in order to make a food security plan a reality here in B.C.? We could look at our communities, we could look at our grass-roots organizations, and we could look at our consumers for leadership. They are demanding more priority be put on local food production. 

It seems we cannot look at the current government. This government fails to make food production a priority, even though they commissioned a study to prove it was critical for British Columbia. The budget for agriculture in B.C. has dropped year after year, and it's at a level now that I believe makes the Ministry of Agriculture ineffective. When we look at a massive decision in our province that we are facing right now — all decisions — we need to continually visit our food security situation as a province. A decision to take away most fertile land at a time when the facts tell us we need to add to our land base works against the idea of food security. 

When will food security be a priority? Sadly, food security around the world becomes important when food supplies are not secure and access to food is threatened. The B.C. government has an opportunity to plan for our future, and this should be a future where food security is not in doubt. We need a made-in-B.C. food security plan right now.