Province seeking feedback on growing farming, protecting farmland

Lana Popham

PEOPLE are now being invited 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.

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 the agriculture industry in B.C. can continue to grow and thrive.

Since there have been recent changes by government to strengthen the ALR and Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), the ministry is hosting six in-person sessions, along with the ALC, throughout B.C. to discuss the purpose of the changes. The sessions will also focus on gathering input from people on the three stated challenges with the goal of supporting B.C. famers and ranchers.

“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 of the ALC. “I look forward to continuing to hear from farmers and 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 and ways to do so.”

Hosted by Ronna-Rae Leonard, MLA for Courtenay-Comox, the first public meeting will be held in Merville on Vancouver Island on September 19 with others to follow this fall in the following communities:

* Delta – October 1

* Dawson Creek – October 2

* Prince George – October 3

* Kelowna – October 10

* Castlegar – October 30

“Government’s ongoing engagement with British Columbians about our agriculture industry is important so we can continue to work to balance preserving B.C.’s valuable farmland while also supporting farmers and ranchers,” said Leonard, who is also the chair, Select Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fish and Food. “People have varying views on the Agricultural Land Reserve and I look forward to hearing from people in Courtenay-Comox about what they think will help the agricultural sector in this region and across the province.”

The engagement period runs from Sept. 19 to Nov. 15, 2019. An engagement summary report will then be prepared and made public.

Quick Facts:

* The ALR was established in 1973 because thousands of acres of the province’s limited farmland were being lost to development every year.

* The ALR includes 46,159 square kilometres of B.C., which are preserved for agricultural use. This area is equivalent to 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.