Farmers urge support for agricultural area plans

In 1930, one North American farm fed 9.8 people. In 2000, the number was 145. By 2050, each farm will need to feed 350.

Producing food becomes more important daily.

At a recent tour of local dairy farms put on by Salmon Arm’s Economic Development Society, a report presented by Steve Saccomano, Bank of Montreal’s B.C. division agriculture manager, stated that in 1930, one North American farm fed 9.8 people. In 2000, the number was 145. By 2050, each farm will need to feed 350.

Saccomano said such statistics stress how important the dairy industry is to the local, provincial and national economy.

The number of dairy farms is decreasing year by year province-wide, but not so in this region. In 1993 in B.C., there were 943 dairy farms. In 2010 that number had dropped by 45 per cent to 529. However, the number of dairy farms in what’s called the Okanagan region has stayed at between 95 and 100 for the past 15 years, says dairy farmer Lorne Hunter.

Farms are getting more efficient. Hunter’s farm, for example, milks the same number of cows, but now ships 30 per cent more milk, simply through efficiencies.

City councillor Ken Jamieson asked what local governments can be doing to support agriculture.

Saccomano said they should support local agricultural area plans. He said such plans often contain many specifics regarding handling water, land, recycling, the agriculture industry and agri-tourism.

Salmon Arm adopted an Agricultural Area Plan in July 2004, which was created by a committee that included city staff, a city councillor, representatives of the farm community, the Agricultural Land Commission and the provincial ministry of Agriculture and Food. At that time, Coun. Kevin Flynn was alone in voting against it, questioning why the ALR island near the Mall at Piccadilly would be retained as agricultural land.

Dave Pringle of Sure Crop Feeds said it’s important to use a collective voice to lobby for transportation, pointing to the unwanted shutdown of the rail line between Sicamous and Armstrong.

Saccomano also presented a general and possibly surprising statistic. He said supply management agriculture – not just the dairy industry – provides more jobs in B.C. than the gas, oil and mining industries combined.

SEE RELATED STORY: Dairy keeps economy flowing

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