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Letnick sticking to replant pledge


OkanaganMLA back as agminister, says he’ll push to get funds for long-termprogram. By Judie Steeves


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stablishing a long-term orchard replant program, a commitment he made the last time he was agriculture minister, is still on the agenda according to recently- reappointed Norm Letnick. Premier Christy Clark showed her dedication to recycling in April by replacing ailing agriculture minister Pat Pimm with Letnick, the previous minister.


Pimm, who was appointed to serve as the 12th agriculture minister in the past 20 years last June, is battling colon cancer. Letnick is the MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country.


“I’m very excited about this,” he commented after the appointment. Asked about growers’ calls for continuation of a program to help orchardists replant to new varieties, he said, “I believe continuing a replant program is important beyond 2015. There’s nothing in the current budget, but I will review the request. “I am familiar with the issue and have already made a commitment to do what I can for a long-term replant program,” he said.


Letnick took on the cabinet post amidst swirling emotions and controversy surrounding the 30-year- old Agricultural Land Reserve legislation, after introduction of Bill 24, amending it to split the province into two zones with different requirements about removal of land from the ALR and making changes to allow the appointment of local panels for the commission.


Although, immediately upon his appointment, he contacted the B.C. Agriculture Council to set up a meeting to discuss the implications of Bill 24, the changes he made to the bill afterwards didn’t go nearly as far as the


22 BCAC had requested.


He said, “I’ve received hundreds of communications on all sides of the issue and I’m reading every one.” Letnick noted the meat would be in the regulations that are formulated around the new legislation, after its passage in the house, which took place May 30 after hours of debate. Despite the backlash from farmers against the legislation, Letnick commented, “Industry was very supportive last time around, and I was a first-time minister. It’s different this time because I’ve had more experience, but I’m even more pumped than ever.” His goal is to make sure that agriculture continues to do as well as it is right now and that its revenues of $11.5 billion increase to $14 billion annually by 2017.


“The farm sector is in the black; cherries are now being exported into China and maybe blueberries will be next,” he continued.


When Letnick was agriculture minister previously he did succeed in getting a 20 per cent lift in the agriculture budget. He attributed that in part to the fact there are a number of former agriculture ministers and lots of


JUDIE STEEVES Norm Letnick happy to be ‘recycled.’


industry experience around the cabinet table. “It was a team effort,” he said. The former associate professor in business calls himself a workaholic with a purpose, and sees farmers as small business people just as he is. “They’re great people,” he says. “I can think of lots of ministries I wouldn’t want to be in, but I’m really looking forward to this.”


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Letnick notes he is a strong advocate of B.C. agriculture and the eat-local movement.


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