Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ran Pillai unveiled the 42-page Cultivating Our Future Agriculture Policy highlighting the goal of supporting local food production and availability in the territory during a press conference at Yukon Gardens in Whitehorse on July 15, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Agriculture policy released

Document will guide food production over next decade

An updated Yukon agriculture policy will be used to help guide local food production into the next decade.

Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai unveiled the 42-page Cultivating Our Future Agriculture Policy July 15, highlighting the goal of supporting local food production and availability in the territory.

“This updated policy supports all communities and aspects of agriculture and local food stores, including food for people, feed for livestock and food distribution and environmental impacts,” Pillai stated during a press conference for the release held at Yukon Gardens.

The document is the fourth agriculture policy for the territory since the first was published in 1982 and comes after three years of work with the Yukon Agricultural Association, First Nations, farmers and the general public.

The opposition Yukon Party took issue with the length of time it took to produce the document, arguing it was orginally expected to be finished last summer.

“While we are happy an updated policy has finally been announced and we will review and discuss it with Yukoners, once again, the Liberal government has failed to meet their own timelines,” Brad Cathers, critic for agriculture, said in a statement.

There are currently 142 farms in the territory. It’s estimated local food production represents about one per cent of food consumption in the territory.

With the new policy over the next 10 years, Pillai sees that one per cent potentially growing to 10 per cent.

“It’s a visionary document,” agricultural association president Sonny Gray said. “What an achievement.”

The goals of the policy focus on identifying and improving land for agriculture, prioritizing agriculture infrastructure, reducing operating costs and offering services to farmers and increasing farming opportunities.

Pillai pointed to giving farmers options to lease land rather than having to buy it as one potential opportunity outlined in the plan in offering more options for farmers.

“It’s about reducing the energy we use as, of course, so much of our food continues comes up the highway,” Pillai said. “But it’s also going to enable individuals who want to get into this sector, policy items that will help us.”

Gray told reporters the agricultural association does not have one set priority outlined in the plan that association members want to see focused on first as efforts to implement the plan begins, but rather noted there’s a balance of initiatives to work on that will move agriculture forward in the territory.

“It’s a broad document,” he said, noting the policy addresses many areas of farming and food production.

“It’s definitely a document that’s going to make most people happy,” he said.

Yukon Gardens owner Lorne Metropolit reflected on his own experience of more than 40 years in food production, noting that Yukon Gardens has seen demand grow in recent years, doubling since the COVID-19 pandemic has it.

“We have never seen such local consumption and demand for locally-grown (goods),” he said.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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