The BCAC advocates for BC farmers and ranchers as well as the entire agricultural sector on a variety of federal, provincial and regional government issues. In doing so, we strive to ensure our actions and opinions always reflect the best interests of BC agriculture and local communities. Read the updates below to learn more about the latest results from government action that the BCAC has been involved with.
Harmonized Sales Tax (HST): Post-Referendum
The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) Referendum of August 2011 saw British Columbians voting in favour of returning to the old Provincial Sales Tax (PST) system. For several years prior to HST implementation, the BCAC had worked with the BC government to reform the PST system for agriculture. As the HST is phased out, the alternatives previously developed will now have to be explored again. Simply reintroducing the old PST system is a poor option for BC agriculture. Food production should not be taxed. The BCAC will continue to work with government to explore options.
British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in North America with an environmental tax policy known as the Carbon Tax. It has added about $45 million in direct annual costs to the production of food in BC. It will jump to $65 million annually following the proposed increase in 2012. As a result, many affected BC farm businesses are seriously considering relocation to more tax-friendly areas outside of the province. The BCAC met with the BC Minister of Agriculture in November 2011 to highlight the repercussions that the Carbon Tax has on farmers and local food production. The BCAC initiated discussions with the BC Ministry of Agriculture to move toward a more sustainable policy such as the elimination of the Carbon Tax on growing food.
Piece Rates (Labour)
A review of the proposed new piece rates is underway with the Ministry of Labour. The BCAC coordinated discussions with the Ministry to address the importance of piece rates for some commodities. Improvements in production techniques and varieties have, in some cases, allowed workers to earn significantly higher wages per hour and created employment opportunities where limited skills can generate a fair income.
The minimum wage rate for farm workers is increasing. While this is good news, the short time frame in which the agricultural industry is directed to implement this new policy does not give farmers, ranchers and agri-business operations enough time to adapt. Agriculture is mainly a price-taker, not a price-setter. This means agriculture cannot quickly adjust prices to consumers to make up for higher operation costs. This change exacerbates BC agriculture’s competitive disadvantage. The BCAC Labour Committee remains active in discussions to find ways to mitigate significant repercussions. Possible considerations may include incentives to hire students, amending the PST and/or revising the Carbon Tax.
Species At Risk
In August 2009, then Premier, Gordon Campbell called for the establishment of a task force on Species At Risk to provide fiscally responsible and practical recommendations for the conservation of species and ecosystems at risk in British Columbia. The Species at Risk Task Force provided their recommendations to the Environment and Land Use Cabinet Committee in May 2011. The Ministry of Environment called for public feedback on the proposed recommendations. The BCAC submitted its response in August 2011. In its response, the BCAC emphasized that private landowners, including BC farmers and ranchers, must be engaged in the process without the threat of losing control of their own land, especially productive agricultural land. The BCAC also proposed that the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) Program may provide the framework with which to facilitate environmental and ecosystem management.
Water Act Modernization (Proposed: Water Sustainability Act)
British Columbia’s Water Act, established in 1909, dictates the diversion, management and usage of provincial water resources. To address mounting pressures on water usage and provide a framework for sustainable future water management, the BC government is revising the Water Act by proposing a new Water Sustainability Act. Through stakeholder consultation, the BCAC submitted two responses and established a Water Working Group to develop the principles of Agricultural Water Reserves (AWR). The AWR principles will be finalized and submitted to the Ministry of Environment. While agriculture’s voice was integral during the stakeholder engagement period, the core of BCAC’s efforts will focus on the details in the draft legislation which is anticipated to be available in 2012.
Consultations: Ban On Cosmetic Pesticide Use
The BC government is exploring a province-wide ban of unnecessary use of pesticides. Through a stakeholder and public consultation process, the BCAC presented to the Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides in October 2011. A significant concern to the agriculture industry is invasive alien plant species which have the potential to pose significant hazards on humans, animals, natural ecosystems and agricultural production. Any proposal to limit or ban the use of pesticides for urban cosmetic purposes must fully consider the potential limitations imposed upon sectors such as agriculture and forestry to control weeds, pests and plant diseases. The federal Pest Control Products Act is perhaps the most modern and rigorous pesticide acts in the world. The Pest Control Products Act, the provincial Integrated Pest Management Act and Regulations and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation provide stringent regulatory frameworks for pest control product usage in the agriculture sector. The BCAC strongly encourages a science-based approach to any further provisions that may be considered regarding cosmetic pesticide issue with full consideration to the potentially serious repercussions for food-producing sectors.