Photo: Agriculture Minister Ben Stewart gets a tour of the grain elevator in Fort St. John purchased by the North Pine Farmer’s Institute./Adam Reaburn


The newly appointed B.C. Minister of Agriculture has been in the Peace River Region speaking with farmers about their concerns on the continuing drought-like conditions.

Ben Stewart was appointed to the ministry on Oct. 25 when Premier Gordon Campbell performed a cabinet shuffle. Stewart says he has been focused on visiting different areas of the province to find out producer groups’ various concerns.

He says the various challenges different producer groups are facing include flooding in the lower mainland and fire damage to rangeland in the Cariboo region.

In an area like the Peace, drought-like conditions have been persisting for several years and producers have concerns about crop insurance, which is often based on previous year’s yields. So, if unfavourable conditions persist, their potential insurance amount can diminish.

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Stewart says one option that has been discussed between western agriculture ministers and the federal government involves AgriRecovery. Although he admits it is usually only available for areas that have faced a natural disaster, it is being considered for regions that have seen significant problems over several years.

The Minister also stressed the importance of buying locally grown products, including fruits and vegetables, but says there is a large onus on the consumer for getting local products into a store.

He says often buying locally grown products can be more expensive when shopping at a grocery store. However, Stewart adds that educating both consumers and retailers about the benefits of buying local is important.

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The Minister was in Fort St. John on Monday, visiting the newly acquired grain elevator purchased by the North Pine Farmer’s Institute, and was in Dawson Creek on Tuesday visiting Critcher Farm.