up front By Bryden Winsby
Opinions of Bill 24 far from an even split N
ot everyone was (or is) opposed to the provincial government’s proposed
changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve and the legislation that governs it. Some folks see merit in them, while many others haven’t a clue what the fuss is about. And so it is with a great many
However, the alarm bells sounded by those outraged by Bill 24 rang loud in government ears, to the point where changes to the changes were announced by agriculture minister Norm Letnick.
A generation ago, protests against Bill 24 would have taken the form of typewritten letters to politicians and newspapers, and noisy—or solemn— demonstrations whose impact depended largely on the extent of coverage provided by mainstream news media.
Not so today. The evolution of information technology has led to the likes of Facebook and Twitter and other ‘social media’ conduits that have become hugely popular, particularly among the young. As our cover story explains, the use of ‘felfie’ photos posted online was a favored way for young farmers to spread the word and register their opposition to Bill 24.
Did their Internet campaign have a significant impact? Maybe, maybe not, but as this was written, shortly after Letnick’s announcement, acceptance of the bill was still very much in doubt.
Not surprisingly, the opposition New Democrats weren’t impressed, and probably never will be. Bill 24 is the first major overhaul of the land reserve since it was created by an NDP government more than 40 years ago.
When Letnick introduced his changes, he acknowledged the feedback he had collected, claiming the comments expressed were “as diverse as the province itself.” Well, maybe, maybe not. My take is that opposition was by far the predominant view. Letnick had promised consultation on Bill 24 after he was sworn in to replace Pat Pimm, but found himself at odds with Bill Bennett, the minister responsible for a “core review” of
4 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2014
government who had crafted the bill. Bennett added fuel to the fire when he dismissed the possibility of any fundamental changes or delays to the law. As the old saying goes, the devil will be
in the details of the amendments, which hadn’t been revealed fully when this issue went to press. Elsewhere on these pages, we have an update on efforts to form a national strawberry council, which has run into opposition from American interests, whose arguments seem to ring hollow, at least to my ears.
As Contributing Editor Tamara Leigh explains, those arguments have come from formidable sources, including state grower associations, corporations and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On the research side of things, a situation known as raspberry yield decline, or RYD, is the subject of work being done by Eric Gerbrandt, whose field trials are aimed at improving establishment of plantings in the first year and helping them
maintain vigour for a longer period of time.
You’ll also learn about a fundamental change in the province’s berry breeding program, control of which has shifted more toward the industry. Many details of the transition are still being worked out, and the man whose position is most affected, Dr. Michael Dossett, is no longer a government employee, but he will still have access to technician support and facilities at the Pacific Agri- food Research Centre.
If you’ve ever wondered what ‘minor use’ pesticide registration is all about, we’ve got all the dirt, so to speak. Meanwhile, with another season upon us to worry about Spotted Wing Drosophila, it’s time to share lessons learned during 2013, the worst year so far for this particular pest.
And finally, much has been in the news recently about abuses of the country’s temporary foreign worker program. The abusers probably won’t pay attention, but for growers who might appreciate it, we have some tips on how to deal with language and cultural problems that so often arise when they hire foreign workers.
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