All indications are that the trend for increasing food prices will continue in the coming year.
University of Guelph researchers found the average Canadian household spent an additional $325 on food in 2015 and will spend an additional $345 in 2016.
Some of this has to do with the low Canadian dollar — 81 per cent of all fruit and vegetables are imported in Canada. But climate change is also having an impact with meat prices rising 5 per cent last year and expected to increase another 4.5 per cent in 2016 with drought conditions causing feed and other inputs to skyrocket.
In B.C., we had the Select Standing Committee on Agriculture composed of Government and Official Opposition MLAs as one forum in the legislature to address topics associated with food production in the province.
Unfortunately the standing committee was disbanded 14 years ago by the BC Liberals.
In response to public interest in having a bipartisan forum to discuss agriculture policy in the province, the Official Opposition initiated the re-establishment of the committee through our agriculture spokesperson Lana Popham.
Although the BC Liberals refused the offer to join the committee or officially reinstate it, we formed the committee anyway with five BC NDP members and one independent MLA appointed.
The committee toured the province in 2015 and delivered their first report on the last day of the fall session.
Based on the written and oral presentations they received, committee members focused their recommendations in two broad categories: existing policy in need of improvement and policy in need of new direction.
Among the recommendations are ones to reduce transportation costs for food produced in B.C., to increase food production capacity in the province, to support new farmers and to strengthen applied research and education programming for agriculture and food systems.
The full report can be found on the Official Opposition website and if you would like a hardcopy you can contact the Stikine MLA offices in Smithers or Hazelton.
It is well worth the read as we enter 2016 knowing that BC food production will become even more important if we want reasonably priced, healthy, provincially-grown food available at our local stores.
Doug Donaldson is MLA for Stikine.