Survey seeks direction for local agriculture

Complete a survey online to influence the first stages of the EK Agricultural Plan before March 31

Agricultural producers, consumers, retailers and suppliers can take part in surveys for the East Kootenay Agricultural Plan.

Dave Struthers, consultant for the agricultural plan, gave Cranbrook city council a run-down of the broad process at the Monday, March 18 meeting.

“The purpose of the plan here in the East Kootenay is really focused on action oriented, practical recommendations that are things the regional district can feasibly implement,” said Struthers. “It has some pie-in-the-sky elements, but the real focus of it is to try and come up with some practical things that are within the purview of the regional district – policies, regulations, initiatives they could undertake that would have a meaningful, positive influence on agriculture and the agricultural economy of the East Kootenay,” said Struthers.

A steering committee for the plan was struck 18 months ago. Since then, it has completed an agricultural land use inventory of around 7,000 parcels inside the Agricultural Land Reserve in the East Kootenay – what, if anything, is growing on those parcels, and a description of the land, for example whether it is forested, sloped, grassland etc.

At the moment, the steering committee is seeking public input before it finalizes a background report which will contribute to the final agricultural plan.

There have been eight public meetings across the East Kootenay, with 170 people taking part, Struthers said.

“The key themes that came out of that discussion are not unique to the East Kootenay and are prominent in agriculture communities throughout B.C. and the rest of Canada,” said Struthers.

People raised concerns about the economic viability of existing farms and ranches, the growing disconnect between producers and consumers, agricultural extension and support services, marketing and branding, farm demographics and succession planning, government policies and regulations, diversification and value-added processing, and land access and utilization.

Surveys are online at www.ekag.ca until the end of March for everyone who has a connection to agriculture – which is really everyone.