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GNWT releases agriculture plan
No new money announced to support first ever strategy

Jessica Davey-Quantick
Northern News Services
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The GNWT released its first ever agriculture strategy earlier this month, but it provides no new money for the 47 recommendations within it.

NNSL photo/graphic

People pack the Yellowknife Farmers Market in September 2013. The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment has released its first ever strategy to grow the territory's agriculture industry. The strategy includes 47 recommendations, but no new funding. - NNSL file photo

No costs have been estimated in the action plan either, which includes initiatives such as planning and regulatory measures, training and food production.

The five-year strategy includes timelines that begin as early as this year. No new funds have been set aside in the 2017-18 territorial budget to support its recommendations.

Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann said his department is "working on" finding money as well as working on funding with the federal government. Currently, the department provides $1.2 million annually for the agriculture sector through the Growing Forward partnership with the federal government.

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly criticized the plan in legislative assembly on March 9.

"I still have some carrots in my fridge, and I am happy to share them with the minister, and he can pass them onto the federal minister as well," he said.

His main concern was the lack of specific targets, goals and resources to carry out the work. He told the minister he wanted to see specific goals to increase food production and a focus on food security.

"The focus of the document is largely on food production and agriculture as a business rather than food security," he said. "In fact, the only occurrence of the phrase "food security" are in the minister's message and in the glossary."

The plan has been in the works since 2015, when the GNWT started community engagements to develop the strategy.

It sets out goals to build a viable agricultural industry, contribute to the sustainability of NWT communities, increase the availability of local food and reduce food costs for Northern residents.

The plan states there are approximately two million hectares of potential land that could be used for agriculture in the territory - especially in the floodplains of the Hay, Liard and Mackenzie Rivers.

"We see it as an economic development agenda," said Schumann in the legislative assembly.

"This is a blueprint of what the communities, the growers, the farm people in the Northwest Territories have said they want."

Schumann added the department is "learning" from the agriculture industry in the Yukon, which he described as being "quite a bit ahead of us."

"The one thing we've got to remember: this is our very first agricultural strategy in the Northwest Territories," said Schumann. "What we are trying to do with this strategy, what other people have done in 20 years, we are trying to do it in 10 years."

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