Day in and day out over 55,000 farmers, ranchers, fishers, and food processors work around the many unique regions in our province to grow, catch, process, and deliver some of the best tasting, highest quality food to British Columbians.
I know, I’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of them over the past three years during my travels throughout the province and speak with them about their passion for the land, their products, and their contribution to our way of life. Together, with the support of over 300 men and women who work in the agriculture ministry, they achieved a milestone in agrifood receipts last year topping a record $12.3 billion. That was almost six per cent more than the year before which was also a record year.
Many farmers are making more money, with net cash income for this last year rising over 33 per cent above the year before. We’ve seen records shattered in total honey production yield to nearly 4 million pounds, sweet cherries 22 per cent higher than the year previous at nearly 14,000 tonnes, record years in hectares harvested of asparagus, beets, cauliflower, field tomatoes, greenhouse peppers and cucumbers, and more including records in cattle, milk, and chicken.
In 2014, B.C. producers led the nation in sales of blueberries, cranberries, sweet cherries, raspberries, apricots, with 17 of B.C.’s crops ranked second in national sales including floriculture products, nursery products, grapes, and more. And with our long shoreline we’ve also led the nation in sales of salmon, halibut, rockfish, skate, dogfish, hake, tuna, wild crabs, farmed clams, oysters and scallops.
All this in an environmental and sustainable manner that not only meet and exceed standards but also attract buyers from around the world who are hungry for clean, safe,
nutritious, high quality food and drink to consume and feed their children. This growing demand has propelled our exports to record levels of nearly $3 billion with the USA consuming two-thirds of that and China coming in at number two at $264 million. Through the recent throne speech and budget our government has communicated its intent to continue to support and expand this important industry for the benefit of those men and women working in agrifoods, for all British Columbians who enjoy the over 300 commodities harvested and hundreds more food and drink products manufactured here, and many in over 150 countries who import our products.
Whether it’s more money for our highly successful Buy Local program, more resources to help the Agriculture Land Commission enhance its oversight of the over 4 million hectares in the ALR (32,000 more than 2001), a new non-refundable farmers’ food tax credit to those in the farming sector who donate produce and products to people in need or school meal programs, funding for the B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation to ensure the continuance of the school fruits, vegetable and dairy program, which now serves fresh B.C. agricultural products to 549,000 students in more than 1,400 First Nations and public schools, or many other program area investments you can rest assured that our government is fully committed to see agriculture’s success continue now and for years to come.
– Norm Letnick is B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture