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Getting down to business

Letnick looking to forge alliances with industry as province’s latest agminister.

By Judie Steeves

eating organic, and he’s hopeful that having so many former agriculture ministers now in cabinet will be helpful in gaining support for the industry in the legislature. Okanagan-Lake CountryMLA


Norm Letnick feels his business background is a good match for the portfolio because all farmers are in business as well. He has 20 years of experience in

business and 10 years teaching it at UBC. However, he is the seventhMLA to

be named agriculture minister in the past four years in B.C. and the 11th in the past 20 years. Former agriculture ministers who

sit with him around the cabinet table include Steve Thomson, Ben Stewart, DonMcRae and Pat Bell. “They all know what I’mtalking about,” commented Letnick. To highlight his enthusiasm for the

new post, the rookie cabinet minister invited industry to use his mug to promote their products. “I’m game,” he laughed. “I’m

willing to do blind taste tests on any B.C. agricultural product out there. I’ll do what I can to educate people about all the great products we have here,” he offered. On a more serious note, Letnick

said he’s very supportive of industry co-operating to fund initiatives such as research and promotion. “Industry should be allies to

expand markets elsewhere. Growers have way more marketing strength working together than individually. Rising water raises all ships.” On the issue of national councils, Letnick expressed support for

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.C.’s newest agriculture minister is a supporter of the concept of buying local and

industry’s efforts to work with commodity groups across the country to expand research and promotion funding with a grower levy that will attract a similar levy on imports to B.C. A panel made up of


industry and representatives from government is being set up to look at issues in B.C. that are hindering the agri-food sector from being competitive, with a goal of expanding markets for our products, he said. “We need to innovate to grow our

markets and ensure we comply with our customers’ needs. It’s important we look at new models and varieties and a range of maturity dates.” Letnick said he is committed to

preventing any further budget cutbacks in the agriculture ministry, although he realizes the province’s next financial plan must be a ‘hold- the-line’ budget. At September’s meeting of

provincial agriculture ministers and federal minister Gerry Ritz, Letnick said he talked to the latter about

Strawberry sundae brings a smile to the face of Norm Letnick, the seventh British Columbia agriculture minister in the past four years.

trade barriers to exporting cherries to China, and Ritz said Ottawa is working hard to open up that market. The issue with cherries must be

resolved first, then blueberries will be discussed with Chinese officials, because they will only negotiate one commodity at a time. Letnick said he loves being

minister of agriculture and hopes to continue in the post for some time to come. Since being named to the post in

early September, he said he’s been touring the province meeting with farmers and processors and learning about the agriculture sector in B.C. He noted there are 300 commodities in this province, which makes his role both interesting and challenging.

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Email: British Columbia Berry Grower • Winter 2012-13 11

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