Farmer discs a field in South Delta. (Black Press files)

Centralize farmland decisions, B.C. advisory panel recommends

Agricultural Land Commission urged to control marijuana, oil and gas uses

Going into the current review of the Agricultural Land Reserve, B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham made it clear the two-zone system of protection introduced by the previous government is on the way out.

Now the NDP government’s advisory committee is recommending that regional panels to decide land use should also be plowed under.

“The prescribed regional panel structure and function do not support an over-arching provincial vision and approach to protection of the provincial ALR,” the committee wrote in its interim report to Popham, released Wednesday.

The report also refers to “government interference in the appointment process,” a likely reference to the firing of former Agricultural Land Commission chair Richard Bullock in 2015. Former agriculture minister Norm Letnick replaced Bullock with former Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, after complaints that Bullock was refusing to appoint regional panel members and generally resisting decentralized decision-making on farmland use.

RELATED: Farmland reforms ahead for NDP

RELATED: B.C. Liberals axe ALC chairman

The report urges returning to a central structure for the ALC, to protect farmland from what it describes as the greatest three pressures: property speculation, marijuana growing and oil and gas development in northeastern B.C.

B.C. Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton said the recommendations are an attack on local decision-making. The regional panels were a response to a large backlog of applications, and disbanding them could mean Lower Mainland directors making decisions that lack local knowledge, Paton said.

In May, Popham appointed Alberni Valley farmer Jennifer Dyson to replace Leonard, whose term expired. Dyson had spent 10 years as a commissioner, including serving as chair of the Vancouver Island regional panel.

The two-zone system was championed by former energy minister Bill Bennett, in response to frustration that rules to protect the densely populated Fraser Valley were imposed across the province when the ALR was established in the 1970s. Results included next-generation farmers forced to tear down homes built to house their retired parents, and Peace region farmers prevented from allowing oil and gas service trucks to park on their land in winter.

The zone system maintained strict control over non-farm uses in the most productive farming areas of the Lower Mainland, southern Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley, allowing uses such as agricultural processing in the rest of the province.

The current advisory committee is chaired by former Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington. It held nine community meetings, conducted an online survey with 2,300 responses and received 275 written submissions as well as expert presentations.

“It is the committee’s considered opinion that unless the provincial government raises the profile of agriculture across all provincial ministries and agencies, the erosion of the ALR and the decline of B.C.’s agricultural industry is a certainty,” the report states.

AgricultureBC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

United Way celebrates seven decades of impact in Southern Interior

Organization sees issues with poverty, mental health and addictions, heighten during the pandemic

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Sicamous mayor hopeful Highway 1 bridge replacement remains a priority after election

Construction of Bruhn Bridge replacement was initially to commence in 2020

Heating, flooring, other projects prepare Shuswap schools for reopening

School District #83 staff comfortable with work done at Parkview to address moisture issues

Shuswap golfer’s hole-in-one earns bragging rights and $500

Glenn Ford aces hole at Shuswap Lake Estates sponsored by Copper Island Fine Homes

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Kelowna man injured during arrest sues RCMP

Supreme Court civil claim alleges Dustin Blondin was the victim of an ‘unprovoked attack’

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Parks Canada not responsible for Mount Kobau blockade

Nearby residents have been vocal about plans to turn the area into a national park

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read