MLA challenges fur farming in Victoria

A wild mink swimming.
A wild mink swimming. Photo by Jillian Cooper / Getty Images

The official opposition’s agriculture critic called on Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Lana Popham to speak to mink farming and the COVID-19 risks associated with it in British Columbia.

The Fur-Bearers and our supporters thank the member for raising this issue on numerous occasions in the legislature.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Ian Paton, Liberal MLA for Delta South and Agriculture Critic questions Hon. Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture regarding fur farming during proceedings of the Committee of Supply.

Click for Hansard transcript (4:35 pm)

I. Paton: Moving on to another topic, there have been several COVID-19 outbreaks linked to the ten fur farms located across this province. The Farm Practices Protection Act stipulates that the farm operation must meet the Public Health Act, Integrated Pest Management Act, Environmental Management Act and the regulations under those acts. There has also been a large level of concern expressed to me over the government subsidy of fur farms in this province.

Can the minister confirm how much funding has been allocated towards the fur farming industry in the ’20-21 fiscal year and whether her government will continue to support this industry for years to come?

Hon. L. Popham: I’m going to give a brief answer. We can definitely get into more detail, if the member wants.

Just to be clear, we don’t subsidize fur farming in British Columbia. Licensed fur farms have access to AgriStability programs, just like any other licensed and regulated agricultural operation. But we don’t directly subsidize fur farms.

There have been some concerns that have come with COVID, as COVID-19 can transfer from mink to human and human to mink. We have had some positive test results that have come back from some fur farms in the Fraser Valley. We’ve been working with the Ministry of Health on that. It’s definitely something that, of course, we’re interested in.

There has been a decline in the price for fur over the past years. So the fur farming industry has used AgriStability insurance programs for that.

We could go into more detail, but I have to say that around the COVID-19 concerns, the Ministry of Health is working with us side by side.

I. Paton: Thank you, Minister.

What we’re seeing in the media…. We’re seeing a figure of $6.5 million a year, I believe. It is being suggested that $6.5 million per year is being provided through the Ministry of Agriculture to the fur industry in British Columbia. Is that true?

Hon. L. Popham: That figure is an AgriStability number.

I. Paton: Would the NDP party, then…? Could they say…? Are you in favour of moving forward with fur farming in British Columbia, or is this something you would possibly see that we would remove from British Columbia?

[4:40 p.m.]

Hon. L. Popham: I think the member’s question is related to mink and COVID, but I’m not sure. He can clarify. As far as making decisions around mink operations and COVID and shutting farms down or not, we take our guidance from the public health officer on that.

I. Paton: So where do you see, from the Ministry of Agriculture’s point of view, the future of mink farming in British Columbia?

Hon. L. Popham: Thanks for the question. Currently we’re focused on mink in relation to COVID. We will continue to take direction from the public health officer, but there are no other discussions at this time.

I. Paton: The question, once again, was that…. We look at the future of all sorts of different agricultural commodities in the province. Where’s the future of beef cattle? Where’s the future of dairy cattle? Where’s the future of salmon farming in B.C.?

Once again, what does the Ministry of Agriculture see as a future for the mink industry in British Columbia?

Hon. L. Popham: I hope that I can demonstrate that the concern right now is specifically around mink and COVID and the ease of transmission. It’s a concern, and we’re taking direction from the public health officer. That’s as far as we’re looking right now. We’re making sure that that is being mitigated, but I really can’t say any more than that.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Ian Paton, Liberal MLA for Delta South and Agriculture Critic questions Hon. Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture regarding fur farming during proceedings of the Committee of Supply.

Click for Hansard transcript (6:10 pm)

I. Paton: On a different topic, unfortunately for the minister’s sake, there were some unfortunate posters put up around Victoria this past weekend.

[6:10 p.m.]

The minister mentioned that mink farmers will have the support of AgriStability. I understand our insurance risk management projects with AgriStability and production insurance. AgriStability is obviously offered to mink farms, as with all farms. It finds that there’s a depression in their average income over the years. And from what I’ve seen with AgriStability and production insurance.

AgriStability is, obviously, offered to mink farms as with all farms that find that there’s a depression in their average income over the years. From what I’ve seen here, the mink industry was granted with AgriStability payouts of $6.5 million over the past six years.

My question is: will the mink-farming industry continue to have the comprehensive support of AgriStability programs once the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, and where does the minister see the industry of mink farming going post-pandemic?

Hon. L. Popham: I will try my best to be quick.

The member will know…. The federal government decides what farm commodities are, and in doing so, they decide who is eligible to receive AgriStability payments. Mink farming is one of those parts of the industry that has been identified by the federal government as a farm commodity.

The member is correct. Over the last seven years, the AgriStability program has paid out about $6.5 million to the mink industry, and 2.6 million of those dollars were from British Columbia. I can give an example of how that looks. Last year $52,000 was paid out through AgriStability to mink farmers.

What the mink-farming industry looks like after the pandemic…. I can’t tell the member what it would look like. Currently there are concerns around COVID-19 and mink farming. That is being looked at by our public health officer.

I can’t foresee the future of mink farming. We’re still in the pandemic, and that’s our concern right now.

I. Paton: Thank you for the answer but not actually getting the answer I was hoping for.

What I’m asking is: does the minister see the future of mink farming being the same as raising baby chicks up to become poultry which we eat, raising young steer calves up to be two years of age and going to Cargill to become steaks on our grocery store shelves and young baby pigs being raised up? Does she see the future of mink farming on the same level as these other livestock producing businesses?

The Chair: Minister, if you could maybe formulate an answer to that question for tomorrow morning.

Hon. L. Popham: I’m just going to…. I have one sentence.

The Chair: Yes. Perfect.

Hon. L. Popham: My previous answer holds.

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