Regional District North Okanagan adds agriculture group

A blueprint for addressing North Okanagan agricultural issues is being hammered out.

A blueprint for addressing agricultural issues is being hammered out.

Terms of reference have been established for a new agricultural advisory committee at the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“Everyone is yelling about the need for economic development but agriculture puts $100 million into the North Okanagan (annually),” said director Mike Macnabb.

“It’s a sleeper. People don’t realize how significant it is.”

The committee will provide recommendations to the RDNO board on land use applications, plans or policies that impact agricultural operations.

It will also advise on agricultural and food system issues and review specific development proposals from an agricultural perspective.

The committee could also lend its support to value-added initiatives.

“There is an indication that Okanagan College is looking at agricultural courses,” said Macnabb.

“If we can bring it into focus, we can encourage people to go into agriculture as a business.”

The committee will also play a role in ensuring public access to locally grown food continues.

Members of the committee will be appointed by RDNO.

“It will include people with an agricultural background and some political people,” said Macnabb.

Macnabb wants to ensure the committee is action oriented and not just adding another layer of bureaucracy.

“This has to be something that’s appropriate and timely,” he said.

The North Okanagan contains 39 per cent of all Agricultural land Reserve properties in the valley.

“Although nine per cent, or about 70,000 hectares, of the regional district is within the ALR, most of these lands are located in the valley bottoms where development pressure is greatest,” said Anthony Kittel, regional growth strategy co-ordinator, in a report.

“Since 1974, we have lost more than 6.3 per cent, almost 6,000 hectares, of our ALR lands.”

The committee’s terms of reference must still be approved by the RDNO board.