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We need regulatory changes that encourage our farmers to produce, package here at home: Councillor Mike Bose

Surrey, B.C. (May 13, 2024): Surrey First Councillor Mike Bose, a fourth-generation farmer, says calls by the agricultural industry to encourage more food processing at local farms is an important part of securing BC’s food security in the years ahead.

“For instance, droughts in California will result in that state pulling back exports so they can feed themselves, and that puts British Columbia at risk,” said Bose, a former Land Commissioner. “If we learned anything from COVID, it was the importance of being able to grow your own food to feed your community. Right now, we are relying too much on imported produce and products, because we have inflexible rules at the Agricultural Land Commission regarding food production and processing. Even city hall here in Surrey needs to cut red tape that discourages innovation and entrepreneurship in our agricultural sector and its capacity to grow and process our food. Our farmers are smart and innovative, but they are feeling sidelined and stifled.

Bose said places such as the Netherlands and Israel, which have limited farmland, have made “incredible investments in technology and innovation” to become major exporters.

“About one third of our city is farmland, which is an incredible resource, but we need to do more to get added value and more food security from our land,” said Bose. “If we don’t grow our agricultural sector, we will definitely see higher food prices and food shortages down the road. When you don’t have manufacturing and processing alongside our farms it becomes harder to support and grow the industry. We need to make common sense changes to regulations that discourage innovation. We need to give our farmers a fighting chance at success, and that includes adopting regulations that make farming attractive as a career or business.”

Bose said a task force looked at revitalizing the Agricultural Land Commission Act in 2018, but little has changed.

The Agricultural Land Reserve was never meant to stifle the industry, but there needs to be a shift in focus if we are going to grow this important sector that allows us to feed ourselves. Just imagine the processing and manufacturing jobs that could be created if we develop the production and export potential of our Surrey Farms.

“Places like the Netherlands would give their right arm for the kind of land and potential we have here. Now, imagine if we made our agricultural industry a real priority, tapped into the innovation of our own local farmers. Surrey would become an agricultural and food mecca, with the capacity to feed ourselves, while growing local exports and good jobs.

Bose said he is bringing a notice of motion to the next council meeting that would have the City of Surrey call on the provincial government to work with the agricultural industry and farming communities such as Surrey through the Agricultural Land Commission, to make regulatory changes that would open up more opportunities for processing and food production and build a stronger more resilient food security supply chain for the province.