Letnick: 2015 a record year for agriculture in B.C.

The $6-million Buy Local program has helped B.C. companies find new customers locally.

With the fall session of the Legislature now complete, I’d like to reflect on a top highlight for me as MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country and Minister of Agriculture. It’s an issue that pertains to both my constituency and my ministry—and most importantly, to the provincial economy that sustains the services that are most important to us, like health care and education.

I’m talking about the day in early November when I was joined at the Legislature by B.C. farmers and food producers to note a record year for B.C. food sales. We saw $12.3 billion in sales of B.C. food products in 2014, the highest ever— and up 5.9 per cent over 2013. That success comes from a combination of efforts on the part of industry, government and of course—you, the supporter.

The first set of contributions come from industry which includes primary production in agriculture, aquaculture and commercial fisheries, and processing of food and beverages. These operations are run by entrepreneurs and family businesses that pour their hearts and souls into ensuring B.C. products are of the highest-quality. We wouldn’t be celebrating these record sales if the products weren’t up to those high standards and continually driving more demand. These folks also keep issues of B.C. food security top of mind, ensuring the production of delicious, nutritious local food for generations to come.

On the government side, our job is to create a positive economic climate and help build domestic and export markets for B.C. foods. British Columbia has among the lowest income tax rates in Canada, and enjoys strategic investments in innovation and infrastructure that facilitate trade, opportunities and sales for our businesses.

What’s more, the $6-million Buy Local program has helped B.C. companies find new customers locally. Further afield we see a network of 13 international trade offices, trade missions, and innovation and market development funding that have all played roles in growing our province’s exports– which at $3 billion in 2014 set a record of their own.

The final partner in this success is you, the consumer. Supporting our local farm families puts food on your table as well as theirs. From mouth-watering Okanagan fruits and wines, to fresh Fraser Valley dairy and poultry, to Vancouver Island seafood and artisanal cheeses—you’ve shown your appreciation for our local bounty and helped support our economy at the very same time.

That’s why I can’t encourage you enough to keep up the good work by buying local this holiday season. From the Christmas meal you’ll be serving to loved ones, to the gifts you’ll be giving to co-workers and friends—there are lots of opportunities to support local farmers, growers and producers. And with more than 200 primary agriculture products and about 100 species of fish, shellfish and marine plants produced in our province, there’s certainly no shortage of items to choose from! Enjoy the best B.C. has to offer this holiday season.