Friday, 16 August 2013

Q&A: Minister of Agriculture Pat Pimm talks the future of farming in B.C.

Second term Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm entered into politics as the president of a local golf club, and has now progressed all the way to becoming the province’s Minister of Agriculture. He sat down with
The Vancouver Sun to discuss the opportunity presented by Liquefied Natural Gas in his riding, what he sees for agriculture in the province and how he wants to make farming cool.
Q: I’m told you were an electrician before becoming an MLA.
A: I’d been an instrument mechanic, actually. I have an electrical instrumentation firm, but it’s a lot easier to say electrician than instrument mechanic, because nobody knows what an instrument mechanic is.
Q: What is that?
A: They deal with instrumentation, they deal with operational aspects of different plants, control systems for cooling systems or whatever. All that kind of stuff. You’re kind of a repairman.
Q: Why did you decide to run for provincial office?
A: It’s kind of a progression. Probably the first place where I got a taste of politics was being president of the local golf club for four years, and then that progressed into the municipal council and I was there for 12 years. I think it gets into your blood and you want to keep giving back to your community.
Q: You were president of the local golf club. Are you any good? What’s your handicap?
A: Ten. I can play — a little bit. Hit and miss.
Q: Do you think with this last election campaign, and the focus on LNG, that the province is starting to understand and appreciate your area of the world a little more?
A: Absolutely. You wouldn’t have an LNG opportunity if you didn’t have the natural gas that comes out of the northeast. You have to have that gas. That’s the driver. You can’t put an LNG plant in and then turn a tap on in Surrey and think you’re going to get gas. That’s not going to happen. It’s got to come from an area, and our area is that. Certainly it’s nice to be noticed and our area definitely is a huge contributor to the provincial well being. That helps with your health care service, it helps with your education, it helps with all your social programs, and I think we’re very happy to be contributors.
Q: The NDP, during the campaign, was talking about increasing ‘buy local,’ and trying to get hospitals to buy local food. Is that an idea you think is worth looking at?
A: We have the ‘buy local’ program that we’ve been working with as well and it’s certainly part of our agrifoods strategy and it’s something that’s been well received around the province. It’s an advertising campaign that promotes the ‘buy local’ aspect. A lot of the health authorities now are buying local where they can. So we’re going to continue to promote that. We’re not going to go down the avenue of completely tying them to making them buy in that particular area, because what if we can’t supply them? So we’re not going to handcuff anybody at all, but we’re going to be promoting it to health authorities. In fact, we’re going to be promoting it in other government areas as well.
Q: You’ve been asked to find new markets for B.C. wines. How do you start to do that and what do you think some of the barriers are?
A: We’ve already started that process. The federal government has lifted the regulations so you’re allowed to bring wine from other jurisdictions across boundaries now, and that was a good first step. British Columbia, we’ve taken the next step. We’ve now said that our borders are basically open so if our folks want to go over and bring something back, we’re allowing that to happen. We think that’s a good initiative on our part. We’re now going to be looking out to some of the other provinces and ask if they’ll follow B.C.’s lead and work toward making that an interchange that’s going to be provincewide.
Q: I’m trying to get you in trouble now. What’s your favourite B.C. wine?
A: I don’t drink a lot of wine, personally. I actually have a bit of an allergy to wine, in fact. If I have more than about two or three glasses, I can wake up with a fever of 102 or 103 degrees. Maybe that’s a good thing; I’m not sure. Certainly we have an awful lot of great B.C. wines that have been recognized on the world scale so putting one ahead of another would be something that I wouldn’t do even if I was a wine drinker.
Q: What do you think needs to happen with the Agricultural Land Reserve, and what do you see for the future of farmland in British Columbia?
A: There’s more land in the ALR now than when it was first brought into play in 1974. I think there’s an additional 39,000 or 40,000 hectares of lands that are in the ALR now. We’re going to continue to make sure we have a strong ALR. We’ve got to make sure we have a place for our food security. But the other thing is we’ve got to make sure we have farming families that are going to be able to continue on. We want to make sure that we’re adapting so we have succession planning.
Q: Do you think we’re in an environment now where if a family decides they want to become farmers, they can do that and go up against some of the bigger competitors and make a good living out of farming?
A: I think there is a way to make a living out of farming. Unfortunately in our region a lot of the smaller farmers have to subsidize their operations — they might have to go and work in the oilfields in the winter months — that’s commonplace in some of the farming communities. I think there’s good opportunities for the farming community. I think we have to make sure farming is attractive for the younger folks. I think we haven’t done a good enough job of keeping those young folks on the farm, getting them ready to take over from grandpa or whatever. I think that’s something we have to look at a little closer. It’s one thing to have the agriculture land and save the land, but if you don’t have the farmers to move onto that land you’ve got to look after that piece of it as well. I wouldn’t even mind seeing a piece of farming even be put into the school curriculum and get a little higher profile. I think we need to make it cool to be part of the farming community, to be part of the folks that are building the future and making our province self sustainable. I think we can do that.
Original Article Here

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