BC seeks feedback on protecting farmland
The public is invited to engagement sessions throughout the month of October to have their say on how best to encourage farming and protect farmland throughout British Columbia.
“Helping farmers, protecting farmland and increasing food production are top priorities for our government and we want to continue the momentum we’ve created – it’s driving the success of this sector in our province,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “Our government is working hard to expand B.C.’s agriculture industry. We are increasing access to locally grown and raised food, and helping rural communities diversify their economies and create sustainable jobs.”
British Columbians are encouraged to share their insights and opinions on how to best address the following challenges:
• supporting farmers and ranchers in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) to expand and diversify their businesses;
• helping new or young farmers become established on the land and in business; and
• ensuring there is flexibility for residential options while prioritizing agriculture in the ALR.
Since there have been recent changes by government to strengthen the ALR and Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), the ministry, along with the ALC, is hosting in-person sessions throughout B.C. to discuss the purpose and context of these changes. The sessions will also focus on gathering input from people on the three challenges with the goal of supporting B.C. famers and ranchers.
The first session took place on Vancouver Island on Sept. 19. Additional meetings are scheduled in the following communities:
• Delta – Tues, Oct. 1
• Dawson Creek – Wednesday, Oct. 2
• Prince George – Thursday, Oct. 3
• Kelowna – Thursday, Oct. 10
• Castlegar – Wednesday, Oct. 30
In response to feedback heard at the 2019 Union of British Columbia Municipalities Conference, the ministry will add additional sessions. When meeting details are confirmed, further information will be available online: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/supportingfarmers/
“It’s important to our government that we are continuing to support B.C.’s farmers and ranchers, while also working to preserve the valuable farmland in our province,” said Ravi Kahlon, MLA for Delta North. “People in this region have a range of opinions on how to best use the Agricultural Land Reserve, and I know they’ll be keen to share their insights with the ministry.”
Farmers are facing increased risks and unpredictability related to climate change, rising land prices and pressure to use farmland for non-farm activities. Input is needed so B.C.’s agriculture industry can continue to grow and thrive.
“A healthy agriculture industry is critical to protecting a farmer’s most valuable resource – their land, now and for generations to come,” said Jennifer Dyson, chair, ALC. “I look forward to continuing to hear from farmers, ranchers and everyone who cares about the incredible capacity of B.C.’s agricultural land base to produce a bounty of food and farm products on ways to do so.”
The engagement period runs from Sept. 19 to Nov. 15, 2019. An engagement summary report will be prepared and made public.
The ALR was established in 1973 because thousands of hectares of the province’s very limited farmland were being lost to development every year. It includes 46,159 square kilometres of B.C., which are preserved for agricultural use. This area is equivalent to only 5% of B.C.’s total land base. The ALR is administered by the ALC, an independent tribunal mandated to preserve and encourage farming on agricultural land. The ALC looks at many factors when carrying out its mandate. Each application has its own set of circumstances and is considered on its own merits.
For those unable to make the in-person sessions, feedback can also be provided online: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/supportingfarmers/
This engagement session follows the consultation undertaken by government’s ALR Revitalization Committee in 2018. The committtee’s final report is available online: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/impact/agricultural-land-reserve-results/
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