RDBN Growing Opportunities Agricultural Update - July 2021

October 2021 - Issue 5


Happy B.C. Ag Day! Did you know that October 26 is B.C. Ag Day? This day recognizes the importance of agriculture in our local, regional and BC-wide food security and economy. Read the official statement.

This past month was a busy one for our Ag Coordinators. In addition to fielding calls from producers, Megan and Michelle attended RDBN Board meetings, took part in a Regional Agriculture Support initiative, and attended the virtual RegenBC Conference on September 27-29. They also learned more about the outcomes of Director Mark Parker’s UBCM call with the Minister of Agriculture and have been having many conversations about different regional slaughter options for livestock producers. Read below to learn more about what our Ag Team has been up to this month!

RDBN Slaughter License Survey Results

In September the RDBN Ag Team issued a survey regarding the new Provincial Slaughter Regulations that came into effect October 1. Thank you to all those that responded to the survey!

In total, 31 producers responded to the survey, with 69% coming from the West (Burns Lake/Southside to Smithers), and 31% from the East (Fraser Lake, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James). No survey results were recorded from Areas C-Fort St. James and B-Burns Lake. Some of the key findings from the survey include:


Of the producers that responded, 46% said they ‘would’ or ‘definitely would’ consider obtaining either a Farmgate or Farmgate Plus license.

Producers in Vanderhoof and Fraser Lake areas were more likely to consider obtaining a new license than producers in other parts of the region.

Of the producers that would consider getting a license, 73% would apply for the Farmgate Plus license. Farmgate Plus enables the license holder to slaughter up to 25 animal units (i.e., 25,000 lb); animals can be their own or they can do custom slaughter. Note - meat needs to be labelled “Not Government Inspected”.

Across the RDBN, small- and medium-sized operations were most likely to consider obtaining a slaughter license. Larger operations (described as greater than 300 animals, not animal units) were less likely to consider obtaining a Farmgate or Farmgate Plus license.

Infrastructure, overall expense, and access to skilled labour were identified as the predominant obstacles to getting a slaughter license. Although insurance and grey water were considered by fewer producers to be limiting overall, these factors were more of a concern to producers living in the western part of the RDBN.


These results are helping to inform next steps for the RDBN Ag Team as we look to support regional producers access meat slaughter and cut/wrap services (cut/wrap is outside the scope of the BC Slaughter License system). Slaughter and subsequent meat processing services are critical to maintaining current levels of production and supporting the region’s economy and food security. If you are considering a licence, we encourage you to call the RDBN to hear more about the process. License applications may require communication regarding RDBN bylaws, and we are here to assist you with those steps. 

Clean up the farm with Cleanfarms!

Cleaning up the farmyard and fields before the snow flies – or getting ready to feed wrapped hay and silage this winter?

Be sure to head to your local Transfer Station and pick up recycle bags for your twine, hay wrap, silage bags and bunker covers.

  Producer Organization Spotlight!  

Smithers Farmers' Institute

Each month we hope to feature an agriculture organization in the RDBN. To start if off, here is your introduction to the Smithers Farmers’ Institute.

The Smithers Farmers’ Institute (SFI) has been around for over 100 years. Originally formed to serve farmers and ranchers residing in the Glentanna and Driftwood areas, the SFI has expanded to support a much broader geographic area. The Smithers Farmers’ Institute is an umbrella agriculture organization and is thus open to all producers. They currently have members who own and operate dairy operations, vegetable and flower farms, cow/calf operations as well as small mixed farm producers and apiarists.

Over the years, and primarily pre-Covid, the SFI has held an annual Gala as well as several conferences and workshops. From topics like grass-finished beef to how to build a northern greenhouse, the SFI has brought in experts from across the continent to speak with local producers and ranchers on topics that impact their operations. As well, the SFI has built relationships with research institutes and organizations like UNBC, Young Agrarians, the BC Climate and Agriculture Initiative and the BC Agriculture Council. The SFI has contributed to the local agriculture community by collaborating on research and demonstration projects within our region.

Being a member of the SFI gives you connection to the farming and ranching community in the Smithers and Telkwa areas. The Board of Directors meet on a regular basis and host an AGM for the members in the spring of each year (although this year it will be in November). Members get to be part of a proactive organization that works hard to support and grow the agriculture industry in our part of the northwest. Members get a subscription to Country Life magazine and have access to farm machinery and equipment rentals! Go to the Smithers Farmers' Institute website to learn more!


On Monday, September 13, 2021 Rural Committee Chair Mark Parker spoke with Minister of Agriculture Hon. Lana Popham as part of the Union of BC Municipalities Annual Convention. Chair Parker had 20 minutes to speak with the Minister about some of the key topics concerning producers within the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako – the new slaughter licenses, lack of vets and the SPCA unannounced visits to producer farms.

Starting with the new slaughter regulations (Farmgate and Farmgate Plus), Chair Parker stressed the fact that the new regulations do not directly address the processing issues – access to slaughter and cut & wrap services – experienced by producers in the RDBN. Chair Parker stressed that the focus needs to be on the Class A and B abattoirs in our area as these facilities manage the volume of animals grown in the north. We as a region are at risk of losing the Abattoirs due in large part to the lack of skilled labour. The lack of both trained staff and local access to training jeopardizes the year-round operation of the Abattoirs. Chair Parker’s goal was to make the Minister aware that support is needed for the Abattoirs and that support can come from creating new opportunities for education and training in the north as well as removing current barriers to that training.

Next, Chair Parker spoke about the unannounced site visits that are being conducted by the BCSPCA and producer group recommendations that producers have a vet onsite during those visits. The tremendous shortage of veterinarians in the region leaves little to no veterinarian availability to support producers if they were to have an on-

farm visit from SPCA. It is a case of the cart before the horse – if ranchers are not able to access regular vet care for their animals leading up to an inspection, how will they be able to access a vet on short notice for an SPCA unannounced inspection?Chair Parker made the point that the issue around access to vets should be addressed before the region should expect unannounced visits from the SPCA.

Following closely on the BCSPCA discussion, Chair Parker stressed again the lack of vets in the region and asked the Ministry to lobby strongly with the Ministry of Advanced Education to double the number of seats available to BC students at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan (there are currently only 20 seats per year subsidized for applicants from BC). He stressed that this issue is a priority. The RDBN is asking the Ministry of Agriculture to work with the Ministry of Advanced Education to double the number of seats to BC students so there is a better chance to address our provincial vet shortage. In addition, the RDBN is advocating that the Ministries explore the option of establishing a local/BC-based veterinary college to address shortages over the long term.

The concerns and comments from Chair Parker were well received and the Minister’s office has requested a follow-up meeting with the RDBN and Chair Parker to further discuss these issues. Chair Parker will be meeting with one of the Assistant Deputy Ministers of Agriculture on November 5.

More to follow in an upcoming GO Newsletter!



The RegenBC conference featured speakers/experts from all parts of the province, and included government officials, researchers, producers, consultants, and innovators. The three evenings of the conference were split into main topic areas: climate change and agriculture, regenerative agriculture, and innovations and technology and agriculture.

So what is Regenerative Agriculture? It is a set of principles that work together to restore and maintain soil health to produce better crops, healthier animals, and more sustainable land. The five key principles of regenerative agriculture include:

  1. Minimize soil disturbance to maintain and grow soil microbial and fungal communities.
  2. Keep the soil covered to reduce erosion and the impacts of rain, and to sequester carbon.
  3. Keep living roots in the soil to support soil stability.
  4. Grow a diverse range of crops to increase biodiversity of beneficial plants and insects and reduce the risk of disease and pests, and the need for chemical sprays.
  5. Graze the land with animals to add nutrients back to the soil and stimulate growth in the plants.

Regenerative Agriculture principles serve to address climate change. In combination, the principles of regenerative agriculture result in an overall increase of soil organic matter, which then increases the amount of carbon sequestered or stored in the soil. This reduces losses to the atmosphere. Significant increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (as well as other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide) over the last few decades have enhanced the greenhouse effect so that more heat is being trapped and subsequently average temperatures across the globe have increased, including noticeable changes here in the RDBN.

Regenerative Agriculture principles also help reduce the reliance on chemical inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides or pesticides. Reducing inputs can be cost-effective and may reduce the overall impact that the farm/ranch has on the environment (e.g., risk of contamination to water systems). Regenerative principles can lead to higher quality forage and crops, as well as providing a more diverse plant community for livestock to graze. Overall, regenerative agriculture practices can have a significant positive impact at multiple scales.

If you have questions about the conference speakers or topics and innovations that were discussed, give Megan or Michelle a call!

Funding Opportunities for Infrastructure

On-Farm Infrastructure

This is a cost-sharing granting program for farmers, growers, ranchers, or packers to fund food safety improvements to their operations. This includes equipment purchase and facility, and food safety improvements. The last day to submit an application is December 31, 2022.

Go to Provincial Grant

United Way BC Food Infrastructure 

This funding opportunity is open to community food-based organizations and groups located in remote, rural, and Indigenous communities. The grant is for projects between $5,000 and $20,000 ($30,000 for co-operatives) for new or existing projects or programs. Due December 15, 2021.

Go to UW Grant

Please let us know what you'd like to see in the next Growing Opportunities eNewsletter!

Megan D'Arcy 
(West - Areas A, B, E, G; Smithers, Telkwa, Houston, Granisle, Burns Lake, South Side)

Michelle Roberge
(East - Areas C, D, F; Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Fort Fraser, Fraser Lake, Endako)