THE independent Minister’s Advisory Committee for Revitalizing the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has submitted its interim report to Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture.
“I want to thank the committee members for their significant work engaging British Columbians in the development of these recommendations,” said Popham. “The ALC plays a key role in protecting the ALR and encouraging farming throughout our province. This independent report is an important contribution to the conversation we’ve been having in B.C. to build a strong and resilient agricultural sector for generations to come.”
The committee identified 13 recommendations for legislative and regulatory change, and four recommendations for action to protect the ALR. It also identified 14 key issues that are still under consideration for its final report.
The Ministry of Agriculture will review the committee’s recommendations over the coming weeks to analyze the impacts of the recommendations.
Along with the interim report, the committee also submitted a “what we heard” report summarizing the findings from stakeholder meetings and public engagement held from February to April 30, 2018.
The committee travelled to nine communities around B.C. to hear from regional stakeholders. There were also over 280 written submissions made as part of the engagement process, and over 2,300 British Columbians completed the committee’s online survey.
The committee, formed in January 2018, is made up of eight British Columbians with diverse agricultural backgrounds and experience who were tasked with leading both the revitalization of the ALR and the ALC and an authentic and meaningful consultation process.
Revitalization of the ALR and the ALC is a key priority identified in the Minister of Agriculture’s mandate letter.
The interim report and the “what we heard” document are available online: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/
MEANWHILE, the B.C. Green caucus welcomed the report and emphasized that the government should act quickly to adopt the recommendations to limit house size on ALR land and to return the entire ALR to a single zone.
“The ALR is crucial to supporting B.C. agriculture, farmers and our local food security,” said Adam Olsen, B.C. Greens spokesperson for agriculture.
“It has been increasingly under threat due to the preponderance of mega mansions, stemming from speculation in our real estate market. This is driving up prices at a time when the industry is facing a demographic crisis and young farmers are struggling to afford to buy land. I am pleased to that the committee recommends that the province limit house size on the ALR and I urge the government to swiftly adopt this recommendation.”
B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver added that the government should also adopt the committee’s recommendation to return the ALR to a unified zone.
“The previous B.C. Liberal introduced the zone changes in 2014, which opened up precious farmland to oil and gas exploration, among other non-agricultural industrial activity,” Weaver said.
“That was a short-sighted decision made at a time when we should have instead been investing in the sustainable industries of the future. As the world shifts to the low carbon economy, it is essential that we take every opportunity to support economic development, especially in rural communities, in sectors that will sustain us in the long-term. I thank the committee, especially Chair Vicki Huntington, for their excellent work on this report. We are reviewing the other recommendations in detail and look forward to working with government to advance legislation that will ensure a strong, revitalized ALR so that British Columbians can benefit from a thriving agricultural sector for generations to come.”