Premier John Horgan unveiled his new cabinet on Nov. 26
By Diego Flammini
A familiar face will represent British Columbia farmers in the provincial legislature as Lana Popham will continue to serve as the province’s minister of agriculture.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and it’s exactly what I was hoping would happen,” Minister Popham told Farms.com. “I’m passionate about the agriculture file and the fish file, and it’s work that I absolutely love doing.”
Popham’s title received an upgrade to include food and fisheries.
“It’s an acknowledgement of the importance of the fisheries and food processing sectors here in B.C.,” she said.
Popham and the rest of Premier John Horgan’s cabinet were sworn in on Nov. 26.
The next morning. Popham joined her provincial and federal ag counterparts for the Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Ministers Meeting of Agriculture.
“The theme for every province is resilience and how we sustain ourselves through such a difficult event like the pandemic,” she said. “Food security is top of mind and always has been, but now even the term “food security” is more commonplace and I like that shift.”
One of the major discussion topics during the FPT meeting was changes to AgriStability.
The federal government proposed removing Reference Margin Limits and leaving the 70 per cent trigger unchanged but increasing payment levels from 70 per cent to 80 per cent.
These changes would be retroactive for 2020.
Minister Popham and her provincial counterparts will require a general consensus on how to shape the program and bring that template to Minister Bibeau, the federal ag minister.
“We’ve come to a point where we need to make these decisions quite quickly,” she said. “Our next FPT is in the summer (of 2021) but I’m fairly sure we’ll come to a resolution before then.”
While waiting for changes to the federal AgriStability program, the B.C. government implemented its own AgriStability Enhancement Program last year.
This program includes some of the same ideas the federal government proposed at the 2020 FPT, which B.C supports, Popham said.
Popham, like all ministers in Premier Horgan’s cabinet, received individual mandate letters.
Her responsibilities over the next four years include expanding the Grow, Feed and Buy BC programs and working with other ministries to create jobs and create local school meal programs.
Some of this work began during her first term as minister, she said.
“I feel like we were on the right path to being more resilient, and then of course the pandemic struck,” she said. “The pandemic emphasized a greater need for us to do the kind of work we’re doing.”
Premier John Horgan introduced his 25-person cabinet on Nov. 26. The makeup is divided between 20 ministers, four ministers of state and the premier.
Ministers of state assist cabinet ministers with responsibilities or sections of the specific department.
Thirteen parliamentary secretaries will also support Horgan’s cabinet.