Westward Independent

CVRD – Farmers Institute

by Westward Independent
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Westward Independent attended the Agricultural Town Hall hosted by the CVRD at the Cobble Hill Farmers Institute on Sept. 26th. Initially, the hall was sparsely populated, possibly due to its midday timing during a farmer’s workday from 1-4. However, it gradually filled up, with attendees comprising both farmers and concerned residents.


The event was expected to focus on the initial draft of the Agricultural Plan presented to the CVRD by UPLand Consulting, as suggested by the link found in the Plan Your Cowichan section. Unfortunately, the presentations did not touch on any aspect of this plan.


The presentations included a representative from the Agricultural Land Commission discussing its history and jurisdiction, followed by a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture who also discussed their jurisdiction. The final presenter initially assumed to be from the CVRD but later revealed to be from UPLand Consulting, wrapped up the event. The recurring theme was the District’s jurisdiction through bylaws, which aligned with the Agricultural Plan’s emphasis on more bylaws and bureaucracy.


Notably absent was the Ministry of Forests, which has caused frustration among farmers by restricting their access to water.
The tensions grew in the room as the presentations wore on and farmers were not being presented with any of the “plan” but more so a who’s who of bureaucracy that most farmers are well aware of. Many great questions were asked of the panel. One frustrated farmer spoke on how she can’t get answers, as every level of government has different interpretations of rules and regulations, and how she is passed around in circles constantly as she and her husband try to follow the rules. Another older farmer at the back was given the microphone and he instantly teared up and said he didn’t think there would be farms for his grandchildren. Another gentleman spoke on the flooding of the estuary, and the 70 hectares of farmland that will be lost. The representative from the ALC said that they would have to apply to do that and had not at this point, after which the representative from The Ministry of Agriculture stated, almost bewildered, that he had not even heard about this plan until a week or two ago, and presented as shocked.


When asked why the Agricultural Plan, which farmers were supposed to be consulted on, was not covered in the presentations, there was initially a denial of its existence. This led to confusion between the UpLand representative and the CVRD. When the possibility of breakout groups to discuss the plan was raised, attendees expressed there was no plan they had been presented with TO discuss. ‘Breakout’ groups are part of the Delphi Technique where representatives write down thoughts and concerns to give the impression of public consultation.


One of the more humourful moments arose when some man from an unknown agency jumped up to the front and with a big grin stated the water restrictions of forage crops were “over!”, to which he was met with laughs and moans, as any farmer of these crops knows, it is long past time to be able to make up for their third or fourth crop this year. And as one farmer noted, there was hardly any rain at all to make any difference, “I think they are playing games with us”.
In summary, attendees left the Town Hall with more questions than answers and a sense of impending bureaucracy and red tape, which could hinder their ability to farm in the future.


For a breakdown of the more concerning plan you can watch a Town Hall COAP presented specifically on the more worrisome parts at www.coap.ca

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