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NDP critic finds BC agriculture plan empty

The British Columbia government's plans for agriculture are meaningless without money to pay for them, said New Democratic Party Agriculture Critic Lana Popham.

Agriculture Minister Don McRae today released a 36-page document, B.C. Agrifoods: A Strategy for Growth, pitched as part of Premier Christy Clark's jobs plan.

"There's no money in the budget," said Popham. "All these things they're claiming they're going to do, I don't know where the money's going to come from."

The 2012/13 to 2014/15 Budget and Fiscal Plan released in February shows $66 million a year for the agriculture ministry for the next three years.

The plan calls for a focus on "high quality and high value products," an expansion of domestic and international markets, and initiatives to enhance the industry’s competitiveness, according to a statement from McRae included in the plan.

"By encouraging innovation and enhancing food safety protocols, we will help producers and processors turn their hard work into profitable and sustainable operations," it said.

Popham pointed out the plan calls for an increase in exports of B.C. beef to China, even though the province doesn't have the facilities to inspect beef for export. Any such beef would have to find its way to China via Alberta, adding large distances and transportation expense, she said.

At the same time the plan, which references the 100-Mile Diet concept launched on The Tyee, says the government will promote local consumption through a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. Popham said it would be better to bring back the Buy B.C. program, which included clearly marking B.C. produce in grocery stores.

Popham also questioned the unclear language of some of the plan's goals, giving as an example, "Increase organic sector capacity in value chains in order to capitalize on market opportunities."

"The whole thing is ridiculous," she said. "It's just emptiness as usual. Especially since there's no money."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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