BY LANA POPHAM
Minister of Agriculture
VICTORIA – Recently, the B.C. government marked an important milestone with the second phase of our commitment to revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
Last week, I introduced Bill 15, the agricultural land commission act 2019. It will strengthen the governance and independence of the ALC so it can better encourage farming and protect our most valuable farmland in B.C.
The ALR was a game changer when it was implemented 45 years ago. Unfortunately, the old government allowed pressures to weaken the protection and purpose of our farmland, encouraging non-farm use and speculation on the less than five per cent of B.C.’s land that is reserved specifically for farming and ranching in B.C.
I am proud to be part of a government with a clear message – British Columbia’s ALR is for farming. Last year, we introduced changes to put a stop to the illegal dumping of garbage and construction waste on farmland, to address speculation and mega-mansions, while supporting multi-generational farming families and to unify the ALR, bringing back one zone to make it clear that the whole ALR benefits from the same strong protections.
With our new bill, we are proposing further changes that will give the ALC the tools it needs so it’s better equipped to do its job. The commission will have guaranteed regional representation and a new flexibility to organize commissioners into decision-making panels on applications, when warranted, by topic, technical expertise or geography. We are not changing the rule that private landowners who want to remove land from the ALC need to work through local government. However, under the new rules it will be local government that will make the application, so it is clear that the requested exclusion fits with local area plans and community standards. We want to stop the “Swiss-cheesing” of the ALR, removing small pieces of farmland in many places, because this makes it more challenging to farm and harder for farming communities to thrive.
There is no question, the old government left us with some major challenges and I am moving forward by making positive changes for the people in our agriculture sector. By ensuring that affordable agricultural land is available now and into the future, we are helping farmers and ranchers continue to thrive and supporting new farmers who are building their farming businesses.
Continuing to preserve the ALR and strengthening the ALC is just part of this new government’s work to support B.C. farmers so we have access to safe, locally grown food for generations to come.