the attitude of government to agriculture, which he feels is partly because of the electorate’s move farther away from their agrarian roots.
There’s an urban/rural divide that has caused a lack of understanding from those in urban areas such as Vancouver of how important agriculture is. He admits it’s frustrating to see the lack of government commitment to agriculture. “Farming is the only job out there where you need a second job to support the farm. There’s something basically wrong with that.” Lalli believes government priorities are all wrong. “Once we lose our farmers we’ll lose our farmland. Then who will produce our food?” he says.
“Government must support farmers with programs and legislation or get rid of the Agricultural Land Reserve–and I’m a supporter of the ALR. They just don’t know what to do with the vision.”
When the ALR was created in 1972 there were programs to ensure farmers on that land were supported. “B.C. became green before it became a fad, but that turned into lip service. Now, we’re no longer receiving support to protect farmers and farmland,” he comments.
He points out that the province supplied some funds for an independent industry strategy to be hammered out. “That was supposed to shut farmers up,” he comments. But, now they need funds to help accomplish the transition from a fragmented industry to one that is working together within a leaner infrastructure to compete in the international marketplace.
There’s not even a replant program any more, yet farmers are told to be innovative, he notes.
The Agri-Stability program doesn’t work for tree fruit
growers because negative margins aren’t considered, and growers are labouring under successive difficult years where little money has come in. Without considering negative margins, that program is useless.
“We do a lot of kicking and wave our hands, but the
government has to define what farming is and how important it is.
“Free trade is all very well, but it needs to be on a level playing field. Perhaps we should come to an agreement about the regulations governing the industry in the different countries that are part of a free trade agreement,” he suggests.
“They tie our hands and they tell us to compete on a global stage,” he adds.
“We’re losing young farmers because they’re not able to make money. Land prices are too high for new farmers to enter the business. So, who’s going to farm?” he notes. The decline in orchard acreage in the valley is a concern. It takes four or five years for a tree to begin to produce, and Lalli says he’d like to see the BCFGA work with government on long-term programs like that–programs to ensure farming is sustainable.
“Farmers have been made beggars,” he adds. He is also concerned that growers change their attitudes. “Growers need to realize they have to be business people first. They need to make changes to how they do things if they’re not making money,” he says.
As well, he believes the BCFGA must be run like a business. Changes are happening, but they won’t happen overnight, he warns. Change will take time.
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2011
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