Open Letter by Corky Evans [dated Thursday, 8 May]

Open Letter to Almost Everybody,

My name is Corky Evans. I garden and farm in the Kootenays of B.C. Many years ago I was the Minister of Agriculture.

I do not understand popular culture or electronic communication. I have not learned to do Facebook. What I have been told is that when people find something interesting from someone they trust, they send it on to other people and in this way it is possible to engage more people, faster, than ever before.

I have decided that this technology that I do not understand may be the last chance we have to influence the Government of B. C. not to dismantle the historical protection of farmland where we live.

I am not going to try to explain the issue or the history or the legislation that is being debated in Victoria as I write. You do not have to know that stuff to know that food is important and that land to grow food on needs to be protected from being paved over. That is all you need to know. For forty years we have had rules in B.C. that protected farm land pretty well. This week the Government is trying to pass a law that will destroy the protection of farmland.

The Government didn’t think up this idea. They got it from the Fraser Institute. You may have heard of those people. They represent the largest Corporations and Banks in the Province. They are not known for caring a great deal about public policy. They will get richer paving farmland than by leaving it alone.

I think lots of the MLAs in Victoria know this law they are debating is a bad law. The law is opposed by Greens, New Democrats and Independents. They are, as I write, trying to delay passage to give citizens a chance to learn what is happening and react. I think it also opposed by some Liberal members who are too afraid to speak publicly.

You can research everything I am saying if you have time. If you don’t have time, and if you got this letter from someone you trust, I beg you to take 5 minutes to try and stop this law. I do not care, by the way, if it is stopped forever. I just want it stopped until citizens understand what is happening and get to have a say before the Government wrecks something of great importance for our shared future.

If you have 5 minutes here is what you do: You look in the phone book for the number of your MLA and call them and say you don’t want them to pass Bill 24. Or you send them an e-mail by looking here to find their address. Then you send this request to the people who trust your judgement enough to read it.

This probably won’t work. I am asking, though, because nothing else will. In a week or so we will all know how it turned out.

Thank you for reading this.

Sincerely,

Corky Evans

Winlaw

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Council votes to remove 200 acres, send application to Land Commission

Monday, 28 April 2014

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SUMMERLAND COUNCIL VOTES IN FAVOUR OF ALR LAND SWAP PROPOSAL

LAND SWAP TO COME BEFORE ALC FOR FINAL DECISION

Summerland, BC — In front of a packed Council Chamber, Summerland Mayor and Council made its final vote in favour of the controversial land swap proposal that would remove over 80 hectares of some of the town’s best farming land from the Agricultural Land Reserve Monday night.

The swap is part of the District of Summerland’s proposed new Urban Growth Plan. Under the plan, just over 80 hectares of prime flat, arable farmland would be removed from the ALR to be replaced by just over 90 hectares of much lower quality, hilly land.

Councillor Peter Waterman was the only one to vote against the plan.

By any measure, the Summerland community has shown overwhelming opposition to the land swap. At the public hearing held last Tuesday, 22 April, 38 of 39 speakers spoke against the proposal. To date over 3,000 people, including over 1,500 Summerlanders, have signed a petition against the swap.

The petition was organized by the grassroots group Stop the Swap, formed in December 2013 by Erin Carlson.

“Unfortunately, Council chose not to listen to us” said Carlson. “Thankfully, we have a Land Commission entrusted to make the right decision for agriculture. The facts are on our side. This is a bad deal for farmland and we are confident the Land Commission will make the right decision for agriculture.”

Over sixty members of the public filled the Chamber to standing room only.

Should the ALC rule in favour of the bylaw, it will come before Council one more time for final adoption.

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Overwhelming support for saving Summerland’s farmland

April 22 Public Hearing full audio

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It’s all about the land!

Summerland resident and song writer Allan Crossley has created a great song in support of farmland. You can hear it on YouTube or download a free mp3 version: https://gumroad.com/l/JcurA

 

 

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From the Founders of Stop the Swap

 

We are all Summerlanders aged 30 and under, having either grown up here or moved here in our twenties, and all of us have worked in the local agricultural economy.
We understand the need for growth and development.
We understand our community’s increasing infrastructure costs.
We understand the threat of climate change and the need for food security.
We understand and believe in smart growth principles that allow for growth and development while preserving and enhancing agricultural lands.
We support the Agricultural Land Commission and its mandate to preserve farmland.
Above all, we are in favour of a fact-based, improved dialogue within the community and believe that it is essential for a future that represents all of our shared interests.

 

Regards,

Erin Carlson, Anastasia Ivanusic, Anissa McAlpine, Katie Sardinha, Alexander Thistlewood, and Dru Yates.

 

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On BC ALR changes

On March 27th, the BC Government proposed changes the Agricultural Land Reserve. In essence, 90% of the province’s currently protected ALR land would be made available for resource extraction and development. The other 10% shouldn’t see many changes. The bill that will break the ALR into two zones and restructure the Agricultural Land Commission. The first 2 links below present the proposed Bill and a newly compiled map of what the future of the ALR looks like if this becomes law. It is not a good direction for BC and it is time to stand up for our land, our farms, and our food.

The bill

Maps and taking action

CBC first story

BC NDP response

NEWS RELEASE – Losing Ground – Soil scientists raise concerns about potential loss of agricultural land at recent workshop

Garden City blog: when it’s being fixed, don’t break it

BC Iconoclast blog

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THE PILLARS OF CHEAP FOOD ARE CRACKING

By Wayne Roberts (Toronto, 2010)

The worldwide price level of food is taking a great leap upward for the second time in less than five years.

My bet is that this food price hike will match a rise in oil prices for wrenching impact on geopolitics, especially as the two are intimately connected. Food cannot be fertilized and shipped without imports of cheap fossil fuels, and impoverished people in areas near the oil-rich Mid-East cannot eat without imports of cheap food. As fossil oil prices climb, fuel and fertilizers used on farms go up, and so do opportunities to use farmland to grow fuel crops instead of food, creating a double whammy effect.

The empires that cheap oil and food built are in for a shakedown. What’s happening along the Mediterranean shores of Africa, where the world’s first agricultural revolution happened some 10,000 years ago, is an inspiring beginning.

What is now referred to as the world food price crisis of 2007-8 was arguably the first worldwide price hike in history. Causing mass outbreaks of rioting in some 40 countries, it was a reminder that a hike in the price of oil brings out anger from affluent people around the world, but creates desperation for some three billion people who earn less than two dollars a day.

The full impact of 2007-8 price hikes for food and oil was cut short by its sidekick, the world recession of 2007-8, which captured attention as well as dampened prices.

As a result, few noticed that nothing was done by any major government to deal with the structural fundamentals behind this rise in food prices – deep-going shifts such as the surge in population growth, urbanization , climate chaos, destruction of major fishing grounds, meat-eating and other resource-intensive Americanizations of world foodways, not to mention a significant shift of farmland from production of food to production of car fuel, and the rise of financial speculation in food commodities (sorry for that mouthful of factors at work). There are so many factors at work, it’s safe to refer to price hikes as “over-determined,” to use a weird phrase from 1970s leftist liturgy.

Despite urgings from such bodies as the World Bank, for example, no major government has spent serious money on research or programs to increase agricultural production – that’s been left entirely to the private sector and dubious inventions by the chemical-seed giants such as Monsanto. As well, few governments have lifted a finger to preserve the world’s fisheries, the major source of protein for the world’s poor.

Odd as it might seem to the narcissistic, ignoring a crisis does not make it go away. A second rising of food prices was inevitable.

This round, almost certainly to be followed by several more, food prices are three times the inflation rate in Canada and many other countries as well. In Canada, according to a February report by Capital Economics consultant David Madani, groceries will go up a sticker-shocking 5 per cent this year.

In countries where the low-income majority spends half their income on imports of basic staples of rice, wheat and corn that keep body and soul together – this describes Arabic regions of Africa to a T – minor shifts in food prices can wreak havoc on livelihoods.

In North America, where plentiful and convenient foods cost as little as ten per cent of most family budgets, the impact is less jarring, except for people on low and fixed incomes. Nevertheless, official estimates indicate that 40 million Americans are now food-insecure, dependent on charity, food stamps and other aid for a full stomach. In Canada, where both charities and government pay less heed to food access than south of the border, I’m not aware that any officials have even attempted to calculate impacts – an omission that screams out how unprepared Canadian government social safety nets and social organizations are on this issue. No-one has so much as suggested that this might become an issue in federal, Ontario or British Columbia politics, where elections are expected.

In countries where there’s a bit more savvy about the essentials of life and perhaps more wisdom and wariness about happens when governments neglect these essentials — who can forget what happened to Queen Marie Antoinette’s head during the 1790s when she got tagged with saying the starving masses who couldn’t afford bread should eat cake?

Other than in the Anglo-American bubble, where food access is not deemed an issue worthy of public policy and the poor are largely left to their own devices to deal with food and rent, leading nations get it. The G-20 group of most wealthy nations has put food security at the top of its to-do list for this year, ensuring an over-supply of gratuitous advice.

Other than war and mass drought, food is as close as it gets to the real bottom line. The bottom line is that the foundation stones of relatively cheap food — which has been the international norm since the 1970s, when the U.S. government of Richard Nixon (would you buy a used food system from him?) subsidized US flooding of export markets with basic grains, beans and meat – are cracked.

We now need to think in dramatically different ways about new pillars of steady food supplies and access.

First comes conservation, an obvious priority when as much as a half the world’s food production is currently wasted according to estimates by Vaclav Smil, Canadian geographer and lead global expert on this issue. To date, despite rants by Smil and me, no government has taken serious action to increase food access by reducing waste, the obvious first line of defence.

Second comes a switch to diets and infrastructure that are more regional and sustainable. It was once thought that a global system would allow a shortage in one area to be met by a surplus in another. What’s happened instead is that a shortage in countries as big as China or as small as Australia can create price shocks around the world. People need to eat more in keeping with principles of self-reliance – forget that tasteless California lettuce, and start sprouting greens from grains and beans or enjoying cold-tolerant greens that flourish in unheated greenhouses. Governments need to rebuild the basics of a local food economy – local slaughterhouses, to be blunt, egg smashers (Ontario’s smashed eggs, used in all mass-service institutions, come from Manitoba) and fruit and veggie processing – that have been blitz-krieged by multinational food corporations.

Third comes public policy which ensures food access along similar lines as other essentials — medical care, education, roads, public broadcasting and so on – are guaranteed. Governments will have to step up to the plate, or, as the once-stable governments of northern Africa indicate, be sent packing.

Adapted from NOW Magazine, March 3-9, 2010 (see http://www.nowtoronto.com for charts and great graphics).

(This entire entry is directly from a .pdf file, created in 2010 for a University of Guelph seminar)

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