B.C. budget good for agriculture: BCAC
Feb. 18, 2016, Abbotsford, B.C. — The provincial government has tabled its fourth consecutive balanced budget and it includes new provisions to support the growth and sustainability of agriculture in British Columbia.
B.C. Agriculture Council (BCAC) chair Stan Vander Waal says the provincial government’s renewed focus on agriculture is appreciated and appropriate.
“Investment in agriculture is a no-brainer,” says Vander Waal. “Agriculture is a sustainable economic pillar and it’s regarded by the United Nations as one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty and hunger, especially in rural communities.
“Investment in the resilience of B.C. agriculture is an investment in the health of British Columbians and the long-term success our provincial economy.”
BCAC is carefully reviewing the new budget to identify potential impacts to agriculture and new opportunities for B.C. farmers and ranchers.
Overall, Vander Waal describes the new budget as “a positive step in the right direction” but notes that several additional steps are needed to help B.C. farmers and ranchers overcome significant challenges related to farm succession planning, right to farm and industry competitiveness.
• As requested by BCAC, the provincial government will invest an additional three million dollars over the next three years (1.1 million in 2016/17) to help the Agriculture Land Commission (ALC) proactively monitor and enforce compliance on land located within the Agriculture Land Reserve to keep farmland for farming.
• As requested by BCAC, qualified farmers will enjoy new PST exemptions. Telescopic handlers (e.g. for handling forage/hay/manure/pallets), skid steers and polycarbonate greenhouses are now PST exempt for bonafide farmers.
BCAC has been requesting fundamental changes to PST for several years. While these new exemptions are appreciated, they do not go as far as BCAC would like to see. Going forward, the province is establishing a committee that will review PST to identify and address key factors impeding competitiveness. The terms of reference for this committee will exclude consideration of the HST.
• As requested by BCAC, the provincial government will continue to fund and facilitate rural connectivity to bring high speed internet to rural parts of the province. Connectivity is an important investment that supports the competitiveness of B.C. farmers and ranchers and it also helps improve safety of workers in remote locations.
• Farmers Food Tax Credit. Farmers can now obtain a non-refundable tax credit valued at 25 per cent of the fair market value of qualifying product donated to a registered charity.
• The province has allocated an additional two million dollars to B.C.’s Buy Local program to facilitate increased sales of B.C. grown, raised and processed agricultural products. Independent agrifood businesses and organizations can apply to IAF to access this cost shared funding. BCAC supports investment that builds preference for BC grown and raised agricultural products, but we continue to ask government to invest in a more strategic, long-term and inclusive approach to support the growth of the entire agriculture and agri-foods sector, not just individual operations.
• Continued Agriculture in the Classroom funding for fruits, vegetables and dairy.
• As requested by BCAC, funding for climate change adaptation, including funding for dikes and flood mitigation ($55 million), wild fire management and emergency response planning.
• Funding for small communities (<25 000) to assist in the adapting to changing opportunities (for example, responding to the closing of a major employer).