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The issue of regional representation on the BCAC Board

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The concept of regional representation on the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) has been receiving a lot of attention of late. The editor of Country Life, in the most recent edition, mentioned it. It was a topic of strong interest to the audience at Cobble Hill. It is a topic of interest, from the looks of it, to folks in the Kootenays.

The concept begs looking at the way the BCAC is structured and why. Because, therein lies the response.

The BCAC Board of Directors comprises Directors representing groups of commodity organizations, primarily, with the Community Agriculture sector being the exception. Outside of that difference, what is more important for our purposes here is to see how each organization that comprises the groups is structured. Each group of organizations that Directors represent are, in essence, provincial organizations in their own right. The BC Cattlemenís Association is a provincial organization. So is the dairy group, the poultry groups, the organic sector, and so on.

In each case, it is probably fair to say that the BCAC Board presumes that if there are regional differences, the groups themselves work them out prior to bringing their perspectives to Board meetings. In any case, at BCAC Board meetings, regional interests are brought forward just as examples, not as positions on matters. The advantage to the BCAC Board of that approach is that it can then focus on topics of common concern without being distracted or held up by the specific interests of any specific community.

It has to be that way.

Iím told that one of the reasons the BC Federation of Agriculture, the predecessor of the BCAC, failed was because of internal differences among its member groups. It was structured such that there was representation from commodity as well as regional groups. Meetings were crowded with representatives. It became inefficient and dysfunctional as a result. Finally, it crumbled.

The BCAC, which succeeded the BC Federation of Agriculture, was set up mindful of the need for greater efficiency and better objectivity and in a way that would avoid having to deal directly with the specific self-interest perspectives of any single regional group, or have Board members occupying seats who were potentially disinterested in any matter than did not directly affect them.

The potential for that is strong. When the first comment I hear from groups when the topic of stable funding is raised is ďwhatís in it for me?Ē instead of a question about how it would help build a better provincial organization, it tells me that it is better for the self-interest question to be dealt with and settled among the regional groups which comprise the BCAC membership rather than in BCAC meetings. Itís enough for the BCAC to have to address that question between sector groups. It would be too much to ask it to have to additionally cater to regional positions on top of that.

It would be an error on the BCAC part to now bend to pressure to start to specifically allowing regional representation on the Board for one part of one sector, when it does not occur in any part of any other sector.

So, what is the answer to the regional representation issue if representation through one representative is not enough? Clearly, it is in doing what all the rest do, which is for all of the regional groups to either link with existing provincial organizations, such as the FARM Community Council, provincial agriculture societies, provincial farmerís market organizations, the COABC, and the like, or create a new provincial organization if one does not exist for oneís specific agricultural approach.

If the number and depth of provincial organizations are such that one person cannot adequately represent them all, then there is a case to be made to increase the number of seats for the sector on the Council. That was done for the horticulture sector. It could be done for the Community Agriculture sector. But, so far, the need for that has yet to be demonstrated.
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