Recent History – 2001
April 10, 2001
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
There won’t be any new money coming from the provincial government to help out financially ailing farmers.
B.C. Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson John Barry said Monday that the province has already spent enough on farm-related ventures to trigger a $25 million commitment from Ottawa through the federal Agriculture Income Disaster Assistance program.
“We’ve already kicked in many millions of dollars into farm safety net programs…we’ve spent this money already or announced it,” Barry said.
Farmers had been hoping that the province would contribute a further $16 million to safety net programs for the coming year — about 40 per cent of the $41 million they were expecting.
B.C. Grain Producers president Jim Smolik was dismayed. “We’re pretty concerned that this is the way that they’re going to deal with it,” he said.
That’s especially in light of province-generated numbers that indicate that in 2000 grain producers are $11 million behind the five year average and that farmers across the province face another $35 million in extra costs next year.
“They understand that this problem is out there, and yet in one news release the minister will come out and say that the ag industry creates $18 billion worth of economy and that it fully employs 250,000 people,” Smolik said. “The scenario goes on and yet they don’t have any money for it.
“I mean, they can spend a half-billion dollars on fast ferries and that’s fine. I guess as farmers we’re pretty concerned with the lack of importance that we hold with them right now.”
Smolik is waiting to get the entire break down on where the $16 million has been spent, but he suspects that about half is for loan guarantees — money he said won’t necessarily be spent.
Adding to the woes, Smolik said that other sectors are hurting. “There are 200 plus commodities in the province and every one of them thinks they deserve the lion’s share of it,” he said. “The dilution factor is going to be tremendous.”
Barry said that even the stackyard fencing initiative was included as credit towards the province’s commitment because of Ottawa’s environmental imperatives.