Agriculture still thrives in the region
By Lily Durham
Kootenay Livestock Association held its AGM on February 3 in Cranbrook, with a full house attendance. President Morgan Dilts opened the meeting thanking the day’s attendees and guests as well as the continued support of office staff, directors and volunteers that continue to make the agriculture industry a top of priority for the Kootenay region. Morgan spoke about the Jaffray Area OCP proposed plan pulled by the RDEK and the KLA’s support of having an ad-hoc committee for future OCPs and to be the clear voice for the local government processes.
Farm Credit Canada representative Wietsa Jagermisa gave an overview of what Farm Credit offers with recognition of the varied land prices, provincial differences between Alberta and B.C. and incentives for young ranchers and programs that can benefit them in their operations. Our Kootenay region is serviced by their Lethbridge branch.
A special thank you to Kevin Murphy (Regional Agrololgist) whom was unable to attend due to a road closure. High spirits dropped throughout the room as many were informed that a horrific accident had taken the life of Clayton Murrell and his wife Joan MacKinnon was in hospital in critical condition (she passed a few days later from her injuries). Both were avid enthusiasts in the equine community and Clayton was an esteemed firefighter for the Cranbrook Fire Department.
Stepping into Kevin’s spot was the Farm Advisory Committee Q&A with Mike Malmberg, Sharon Mielinchuk and Karen Barraclough. Mike spoke about Kevin’s position and Karen Barraclough gave a review of the meeting she attended in Creston the week previous asking questions regarding the programs that are good or bad for the area.
Topics of seeds that work best for the area, research for innovation, keeping the ‘right to farm’ and water infrastructure for ALR lands was very important. Sharon spoke about the services that are being proposed and that each regional district has agriculture plans with the benefit of looking at their weaknesses and strengths and the need to continue to provide resources that give resolutions for agriculture.
Committee reports were included for review of the membership with thanks given to; Land use (Morgan Dilts & Jordy Thibeault), Wildlife & Fencing (Faye Street), Noxious Weeds (Pam Turyk & Todd Larsen), AG in the Classroom (Karen Barraclough), Solar Power (Tim Ross), Animal Harassment/Cruelty (Logan Vansteinburg), GREP (Steve Byford) and Land Stewardship & Aboriginal Affairs Committee (Don Lancaster).
The highlight of the meeting this year was the Panel Discussion- ‘Future of Agriculture in the Kootenays’ with special guests: Arif Lalani (Assistant Deputy Minister of Agriculture), Tyler Morhart (Manger AGRI/Wildlife Program BMB) Jordy Thibeault (Rancher and advocate for KLA) and Tom Shypitka (MLA Kootenay East).
Sharon Mielinchuk hosted the panel with six questions: 1. What is your interest in Agriculture and what is your role in solving some of the issues facing Agriculture? 2. Agriculture Wildlife Program (extremely important program for our area), At your level of involvement what are your challenges and how can they be overcome? 3. Livestock Protection Program – Livestock is killed and carcasses are assessed but the program is not easy to access, and actual compensation given. How can we improve this? 4. Grizzly Bear Hunt – If our kills increase what steps can we take to protect our livestock? 5. Bill 6- Proportional representation – At present public consultation is in progress and how does it affect our area? 6. What steps can be taken to not lose Zone 2 and make sure we have a voice in the upcoming years within this region for the ALR?
Arif Lalani spoke to each of the questions and addressed the Livestock Protection Program and recognized that the demand is higher than the finances available and it is his goal to continue to work to meet the needs of our ranchers. The government is working to get out into the communities to learn the concerns of those affected by the ALR in upcoming community meetings and Arif continues to keep monthly contact with KLA regarding their concerns on all topics. He acknowledged that cows and wildlife can co-exist together and respects that the needs of both ranchers and wildlife groups are different. The current review for the ALC does not depict that they want to get rid of Zone 2 and Arif recommended that we voice our concerns through our MLA and encouraged us to wait until the review is complete.
Tyler Morhart is eager to help with government funding for agriculture in our region and feels there is a need to get everyone together working on the same page to continue to keep this industry vital.
The impacts on landscape are diverse and need to be looked at for each of their individual uniqueness’s and needs. The Wildlife Damage Mitigations program has recently completed three fencing projects in the Kootenay region and the contact locally for the area is Leanne Colombo. Tyler wants to see improvement on dealing with kills on Crown Range and probable losses with better training and standards, overall the current program model is strong and has been working.
Tom Shypitka is our MLA and although new to Victoria has already stood up for issues that face us and informed himself on these issues. Tom believes that working together with wildlife and agriculture is the best synopsis to resolve some of the issues that both entities face. The grizzly bear population has led to more human conflicts in the past years and where we live is not always where the decision makers reside. Science based facts are the only way to appease all the groups involved.
Bill 6 is concerning for rural B.C. and will affect how we vote and how we are represented in government for our area. We need regional representation due to our diverse province. Tom recognized that the ALC gives the local voice to Victoria and our ranchers are the best stewards of the land. “If we cannot sustain it we cannot maintain it.”
Jordy Thibeault is a local rancher that loves his livelihood and wants to continue to be a voice for our industry and to help maintain the industry for generations to come. Jordy has used the Ag Wildlife Program and feels is it extremely beneficial as it no longer leaves you to worry about your forage losses to elk.
The KLA office has done a great job of promoting and working with ranchers on compensation through this program. “No more wrecked fences and the elk are no longer creating havoc.” Jordy has experienced more dealings with grizzlies in the past six years on his property and range. There is mitigation for wolves and yet there is no mitigation for the grizzly kill and the problem is going to get worse. Jordy feels that the ALR needs a complete overhaul and fails to protect AG land effectively, with the ever-ending costs facing ranchers they should be given the opportunity to supplement their incomes within the ALR region and we need to keep agriculture land as agriculture for future generations.
The ranch panel was very informative, and many questions arose from the crowd with everyone having the same concerns and voicing the need to keep agriculture top of mind to the people that matter most.
Elections completed, and the new 2018 Directors appointed it was time to adjourn the meeting and to partake in the fabulous meal and atmosphere of the Heritage Inn. Music and PA services throughout the meeting were much appreciated by all ages and thank you to Steel Wheel (Bullet Band) and Steve Thibeault. Two amazing young ladies from the Highland Dancers preformed for the crowd and auction items were abundant to bid on.
Kootenay livestock was proud to give the Ag Producer of 2017 to Doug and Karen Barraclough.
Both avid ranchers and advocates for the industry, Karen is also the Director for AG in the Classroom and has been the driving force behind this program that continues to work with our youth, schools and the province to deliver and educate students on agriculture. Most recently AG in the Classroom received CBT, Cranbrook Rotary Auction Area C & EKCCU donations to put a greenhouse at Steeples Elementary School this March. Karen visits classrooms and works with teaching staff and other ranchers to deliver this amazing program. Congratulations to these two deserved individuals and thank you for all that you do for our industry.
Tom Shypitka made an announcement that the new leader for the BC Liberal Party is Andrew Wilkinson and the good news is that Andrew understands rural living.
Agriculture is still thriving in the East Kootenay and continually faces new challenges with just a few being; a new government, water sustainability, ALR & ALC, solar power applications that effect rangelands, Invasive species and local government processes.
The continual need to have a regional voice and seat in politics is a top priority for all associations and agriculture supporters. The road appears to continue to be uphill but due to the many people that keep the office open, attend the meetings on behalf of the association and give their time and efforts to keep agriculture alive we salute you and thank you.
Images are all e-KNOW file photos