B.C. legislation promotes local food systems

Proposed BC Local Food Act welcomed by the BC Food Systems Network.

The BC Food Systems Network joins local food advocates and farmers across B.C. on April 3, in welcoming a legislative bill that promotes local food systems, support farmers and ensures the availability of farmland for the next generation of new young farmers throughout the province.

Such an act has already been passed in Ontario in the fall of 2013.

The bill aims to increase awareness, access to, and demand for local food in the province, and support local food procurement in public sector institutions (schools, municipalities, hospitals, etc.).  The proposed BC Bill has similar objectives, hoping to grow the local food economy.

The Local Food Act was tabled by Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich in the B.C. Legislature on Thursday, April 3. Unlike Bill 24, the Bill to downgrade the Agricultural Land Reserve Act, which currently sits in the house awaiting second reading, the Local Food Act recognizes the need to boost local agriculture and ranching to ensure food security for B.C. in the face of the increasing vulnerability of food systems in regions from which B.C. imports (such as California), and climate change.

As well, the Act proposed to invest in B.C. agriculture, a vital and growing industry contributing 62,000 jobs and over 11 billion to local economies.

“The Local Food Act is a step in the right direction,” says BCFSN rep Linda Geggie, BCFSN food policy chair . “We have been working for many years towards something like this for B.C.  This is an exciting development.  We support any action by provincial decision makers which strategically contributes to healthy food systems and ensures B.C. can feed its growing population in coming years, especially in the face of an unpredictable changing climate.”

BCFSN has been vocal in raising concerns about changes to the Agriculture Land Reserve proposed in Bill 24, presented by Minister Bill Bennett on March 27. The BCFSN stands beside farmers and ranchers from across B.C. in bewilderment that such an act could be brought forward without proper consultation.  In an earlier press release, BCFSN co-chair Brent Mansfield commented about Bill 24: “This is potentially disastrous: it could leave just one-half of one per cent (0.5%) of B.C.’s land base with the present standard of farmland protection. That is not enough!”

BC Food Systems Network’s complete analysis of the changes proposed by Bill 24 can be found on the BCFSN website at BCFSN.org.

Background

The BC Food Systems Network (www.bcfsn.org) includes 300 members in over 20 organizations representing farmers, food producers, health promoters, and community food organizations around British Columbia who are concerned with farming and food security in the province.