Partnership Committee on Agriculture and the Environment
The following article is an excerpt from Growing Together newsletter – Winter 2000 issue……
The Partnership Committee on Agriculture and the Environment was established in April, 1998 to provide a single-window approach for consultation on environmental issues that affect farmers and agriculture.
The idea was to assemble a senior group of decision-makers from industry and government who could begin to resolve the often-difficult issues that impact both agriculture and the environment. Staff from the provincial and federal ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, together with representatives of the Union of BC Municipalities, meet with representatives of the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) 4 times a year.
The work of the Partnership Committee and the progress they’ve made in resolving practical, everyday issues such as ditch maintenance, nutrient management and limiting the damage done to crops by wildlife, are outlined in this newsletter.
“For years, we had been frustrated by the duplication, redtape and the inconsistencies in policies between various governments and their agencies,” commented Niels Holbek, Co-Chair of the Partnership Committee and a Director of the BC Agriculture Council. “The Partnership Committee has provided an opportunity to bring all agencies to the table to work out practical solutions in the best interests of both agriculture and the environment.”
“This partnership is a major achievement and an important opportunity for British Columbia. It opens the door for us to bring together two components of a sustainable provincial economy: a thriving agriculture industry, and a clean, healthy, naturally diverse environment,” said Joan Sawicki, BC’s Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks.
The involvement of the Union of BC Municipalities underscores the importance of including local governments,and the support of local communities, in the resolution to many of these issues.
“The Partnership Committee provides an opportunity for local government representatives to meet face to face with the people who initiate policies and legislation that directly affect farmers,” commented Gary Wickam of the District of Chilliwack and a member of the committee.
For example, The Partnership Committee provided input to the committee on mushroom production chaired by MLA John van Dongen. With the adoption of a Farm Bylaw by the Township of Langley last June, a model is now in place that provides clear standards for mushroom composting facilities.
“The Partnership Committee has provided an opportunity to bring all agencies to the table to work out practical solutions in the best interests of both agriculture and the environment,” commented Niels Holbek, Co-Chair of the Partnership Committee and a director of the BC Agriculture Council.
“The Partnership Committee must continue to be supported, both by producers and the government, as they tackle some of the really tough issues,” says BC Agriculture and Food Minister Corky Evans. ” The committee’s singlewindow approach to dealing with environmental issues is helping to reduce red tape and regulations for B.C. farmers. By bringing down barriers, our farmers can gain the confidence they need to do their business well and enable the agri-food sector to grow in a way that is both environmentally and economically sustainable. I thank all the partners for their efforts to work co-operatively to solve these important issues”.