Agriculture and Food Security

A draft document for discussion

Food security or a sustainable food supply involves two basic principals:
1. Sufficient, diverse, and nutritious food that is produced close to urban centers;
2. Food grown in a sustainable manner both economically and environmentally.

Why is food security important?

· BC’s farmers contribute to the well being of British Columbians by providing a safe and nutritious source of food;
· Food is the basis of many of our communities’ economy and viability
o For every local farm, there are up to 10 related jobs in processing, distribution, sales, and food preparation;
o The total value of the agri-food industry from farmer to consumer is over $19 billion and provides total employment to over 267,000 British Columbians.

We take our food supply for granted.
· Consumers spend around 10% of their disposable income on food;
o Food-free day is now February 6th;
· Population growth puts pressure on switching land from growing food to providing housing.

Food security does not rely on imports.
· We only produce 48% of our required food;
· Lower priced imports’ market price does not always adequately reflect the full environmental and social costs associated with their production;
· We have no control over imported food’s quality or food safety attributes – for example the situation when Chinese wheat and rice gluten was contaminated with melamine;
· Traditional food exporting countries may become net importers of food – climate change may reduce food production capacity and countries may switch to producing bio-fuels crops rather than food crops in an attempt to reduce carbon loading.

What does agriculture need for food security?

Agriculture needs progressive provincial agricultural policies that focus on farm viability and food sustainability; it should involve all levels of government, producers, and consumers.

Policy areas that need to be addressed:
1. The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)
· Food, farms and the ALR are closely linked;
· Only 5% of BC’s land is suitable for agriculture. BC needs to maintain the land base for food production capacity. The ALR should be farmed, not held for speculative purposes.

2. Affordable, adequate, and assured amounts of water for ALR lands must be a priority.
3. Research to improve and protect food supply must be enhanced.
4. National and international trade agreements should be revised to allow for specific measures aimed at securing a sustained food supply for the population which includes ongoing support for regulated marketing as well as some import restrictions on selected commodities.
5. Develop programs to show the value of buying BC-grown food at a price that makes farming viable. Farm viability is the foundation of food production and thus security.

BC farmers, consumers, and government all have key roles to play in food security for BC. Preservation of the ALR production base and ensuring the land has access to water is essential. Farm land is the starting point of growing food and food security. We need to value farmland for its food production capacity rather than its tax base or housing potential. We need to place values on agriculture’s role in producing food and agriculture’s contribution to the health of British Columbians.