As 2020 comes to an end I have been asked what I see from the RDOS & Area “C” perspective as difficulties, projects and opportunities as we move forward into 2021.
Why not start with the good stuff, opportunities and projects. I view these as the same; an opportunity is nothing if you don’t make a project out of it.
The B.C. Fruit Growers has closed the Packing house in Osoyoos and had looked to sell off the property for development. The Agricultural Land Commission has in what I consider a wise decision nixed that idea and held the land as agricultural. This property has a large facility on it complete with cold storage and process layout and logistics docks. It is my hope that local interests will come forward with a business plan for local food processing for fruit and vegetables. Canning, packaging and freezing or whatever can be made to fit.
Recently the Provincially sponsored Kwantlen Polytechnic University study on food sustainability has stated that local food processing is needed in this area and both the Federal and Provincial Governments have also stated this as a goal. Maybe it is time to see if they will put money and support where they say it is needed. I would be proud to champion this cause.
Agricultural burning is a long standing problem in this narrow valley. Good venting days are the only time that open burning is allowed and are few and far between. That creates the situation where all the needed burning is being done in those few days creating intense smoke issues.
Last year we included Air Curtain and Air Curtain Trench burning in the agricultural subsidy program. This equipment minimizes the release of smoke and particles into the air and has been used successfully in many other areas of Canada, North America and elsewhere in the world. Further to that the Province has recognized this and has allowed burning on days listed as fair with the use of this equipment which would spread the allowed burning days out.
Agricultural chipping programs were introduced but have failed miserably in that it provides no protection from parasites or pathogens, is extremely expensive, serves no purpose other than to repackage the waste for shipment elsewhere, requires a number of large pieces of equipment that burn a tremendous amount of fossil fuels, and has been proven to be polluting also. At the end the chips must be removed and composted away from the site. There is a misconception that the chips can be tilled back into the soil but this robs the nutrients from the soil and requires large amounts of fertilizer to build the soil back up. This process takes a number of years and produces large amounts of greenhouse gasses one of the worst being methane.
Some other projects are in progress like the channel hike and bike path, the proposal to allow small farms the expansion of temporary non-farm use. There is still need for flood mitigation work.
Other opportunities/projects will appear and the challenge will without a doubt be how to implement and how to fund; in short it may look good but how bad do we need it and can we afford it.
One of the most difficult of projects will be to curtail the ever increasing spending at the local government level. This is a tremendously difficult task most services are shared and with nine other area Directors and ten Municipal Directors consensus on cutting any one thing becomes difficult if not futile. I hope that we will see a citizen’s movement here, something like the B.C. Taxpayers federation or a local rate payers association as that would help to bridge the differences between the various areas and municipalities. This would have to be RDOS wide in order to function.
Now for the big difficulty, and of course the elephant in the room, that is now and will be for a while yet Covid-19 and its variants. Besides the ongoing financial hardships this disease will change forever many of our behaviors. It will change how we work, visit, shop, travel, worship, and holiday. It will change from where and how we choose to acquire our food supply, our supply of energy and vital goods such as medicines and medical supplies. I believe that many of these changes were inevitable in a world that was changing with technology and getting there has only been accelerated. Other changes will be more philosophical but our challenge will be to take advantage of these changes and adapt as is needed. This is a new book that is just starting to be written.
These are some of the projects and issues going forward and I feel we are in a good place to face the future.
I wish you all a safe healthy and prosperous New Year.
RDOS Area “C” Director