B.C. Minister of Agriculture Steven Thomson was in Prince George, on Wednesday to open the Prince George Exhibition and meet with local farmers.
Thomson has been touring the province and said he’s hearing many of the same concerns throughout B.C.
“One of our challenges is we have such a diverse industry, but it’s also one of our strengths,” he said. “Many of the challenges are the same… rural-urban interface, an aging farm population.”
Making sure farmers and ranchers are able to operate on a viable, profitable basis is one of the issues facing all sectors of the industry, he said.
Currently a ranching task force is working to prepare recommendations on issues facing that industry, Thomson said. Some of the issues which have been identified include dealing with the impact of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), rising input costs, and lower returns because of the rising value of the Canadian dollar.
“We’re working very close with the cattlemen,” he said. “We’ve given it a very short timeline because we recognize the importance of getting regulations changed. We need to get the policies in place.”
Thomson said he and ministry staff have reviewed the recommendations in the agriculture strategy report released last month by the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition.
He supports the recommendations, which call for stronger local food production systems.
Thomson wouldn’t comment on what specific changes the ministry is considering, but said changes will be focused on increasing the agriculture industry in B.C.
“We need to make sure we have business-first management in place,” he said. “What we have to look for is key opportunities to grow the industry. We’ll be looking at a range of policies and programs that may do that.”