The Regional District of North Okanagan board is right to question the Ministry of Agriculture over staffing levels at the local office.
And particularly because of the importance of agriculture, not only for putting food on our plates but by creating jobs and helping drive the economy in Vernon and the surrounding rural areas.
But achieving the industry’s full potential is challenging if civic leaders, businesses and producers don’t have direct access to relevant advice and information from ministry personnel on the ground.
Case in point, no one has been attending RDNO’s agricultural advisory committee meetings since the regional manager retired.
“He brought information to our committee and it was valuable. We could make decisions without full knowledge,” said director Mike Macnabb.
Obviously it takes time to fill positions, but we would hope the ministry would consider the regional manager’s job a priority, particularly as that individual plays a key role in assisting RDNO and other jurisdictions with long-term land use strategies and economic development initiatives.
The ministry has stated that RDNO can contact staff at other ministry offices and while that is true, first-hand knowledge of the region is far more beneficial than what you may receive via e-mail or over the phone.
The bottom line is that while the provincial government is focused on liquefied natural gas as an economic panacea, communities in the Okanagan rely on other sectors, including agriculture.
Proper resources are required so the industry can continue to move ahead.