B.C. Liberal leadership candidate George Abbott promises $15 million in new commitments for agriculture should he be elected premier by fellow Liberal members at the end of February.
He said the commitments draw on the recommendations of the agriculture plan completed in 2005, the report of the Ranching Task Force released in 2009 and the work of the Select Standing Committee on Finance last fall.
Abbott’s team of supporters includes former agriculture ministers Steve Thomson and John van Dongen as well as former Parliamentary Secretary for Agricultural Planning Val Roddick, who headed up the task force to gather input and prepare the agriculture plan.
Specifically, he commits to funding:
• a multi-year agricultural branding and marketing program to increase awareness of B.C. products;
• the School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program;
• enhanced income support and business expansion programs, in partnership with the federal government through Growing Forward;
• expanded farming extension services;
• 4-H programs for youth and community agricultural fairs; and
• enhancing the Agricultural Land Commission.
The Shuswap MLA said he also commits to ensuring the province fully participates in emergency support programs for farmers through AgriRecovery and he promised to initiate an internal review of the triggering policies for access to those funds to ensure B.C. programs remain competitive with those of other provinces.
For the cattle ranching sector, he said he would provide annual funding toward a permanent predator control program to protect stock and rangelands and a range development fund to partner with tenure holders and non-governmental agencies for essential infrastructure enhancements on range lands.
Abbott was first elected in 1996 and has been a five-time cabinet minister for health, environment and resource management, aboriginal affairs and communities.
Prior to his election, he was a college instructor, regional district chairman and he ran a berry farm in Sicamous.