ALR reforms ease way for breweries, value-added plants

Province hopes relaxed rules tempt farmers to branch out into new agri-business ventures

B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick outlines changes to agri-business rules in the Agricultural Land Reserve at Evergreen Herbs in Surrey Monday.

Breweries, distilleries and meaderies will be allowed to open up on farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve provided they meet the same rules set out for wineries.

That’s one of a series of reforms announced by the province Monday that aim to make it easier for farmers to set up agricultural processing plants and otherwise earn more money from their land.

As with wineries in the ALR, at least half the farm ingredients that go into the beer, spirits or mead must be grown on the farm.

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick noted hops farming is on an upswing in areas such as Chilliwack and Kamloops, and predicts the rule change will create an incentive for more farmers to take a risk and get into beverage production.

“If that means you can enjoy some mead or some beer on a piece of farmland and that’s what it takes to get that farmland back into production, I’m okay with that,” Letnick said in an interview at an herb farm in Surrey.

ALR land can also now be leased for farming without applying to the Agricultural Land Commission – a move the province hopes gets more unused land into production.

Another rule change will make value-added processing easier by letting farms band together as co-ops and count all their members’ crops toward meeting the same 50 per cent local content rule. That’s expected to allow clusters of farms to feed into a plant in the ALR that makes something like juice or jam without seeking ALC approval.

Metro Vancouver previously registered concern that looser rules for non-farm uses may result in less land being farmed and a further climb in farmland prices beyond what new farmers can afford.

“Some people wanted us to do more, some wanted us to do less,” Letnick said.

“I firmly that believe we’ve come up with the right balance that promotes agriculture and safeguards agriculture but also provide for more opportunities for farmers to earn income on their land.”

Winery restaurants in the ALR will now be allowed to serve alcohol they didn’t produce, such as beer.

Some reforms apply only on farmland outside the Lower Mainland, Letnick said, because he said farmers face a tougher struggle to earn a living in areas such as the Interior, North and Kootenays.

A second home can now be built on large parcels of at least 50 hectares in the ALR’s rural Zone 2 provided residential uses make up less than 43,000 square feet.

Letnick said that could allow farmers to build another house for family, lodging for workers, or a rental to earn extra money to support the farm.

Similarly, retiring farmers in Zone 2 will be allowed to sell the farm but lease back their farmhouse from the new farm owner, who can build another home on the property.

It’s hoped that will help those retiring farmers sell their farms but encourage them to stay there and perhaps mentor a new, younger farmer, Letnick said, and meet the challenge of the coming “generational change” in agriculture.

Second dwellings are still on the same parcel of land, which can’t be subdivided without asking the ALC.

More proposed reforms relating to agri-tourism are still being considered and are to be put to local governments for feedback in the fall.

Asked if he intends to increase the ALC’s budget so it can hire more compliance and enforcement officers – just three officers patrol the entire province for violations like illegal fill dumping – Letnick said that’s under consideration.

He said the ALC’s budget is now $3.4 million, up from $2 million, and potential increases will be discussed with new ALC chair Frank Leonard.

Just Posted

Sicamous arena treating for ammonia

Testing ordered of public facilities following fatal leak at Fernie arena.

Vortex skaters set for Games

North Okanagan well represented in many sports for B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops

Semi loses wheel, causes collision

No injuries in collision east of Sicamous involving transport trucks

Young Salmon Arm athletes gear up for the 2018 BC Winter Games

20 competitors across five events vying for the podium in Kamloops

Sicamous Eagles impress despite difficult season

It was not a banner season for the Sicamous Eagles, but there… Continue reading

Your Feb. 21 Morning Brief

Check out the top stories of the day in the Okanagan-Shuswap with Carmen Weld’s Black Press Morning Brief.

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Overnight chill falls short of Feb. 21 records

Icy temperatures across the Okanagan-Shuswap don’t beat lows set in 1910, 1894

Thief helps himself to cash register

Vernon business asking for public’s help to identify suspect

Slow speed head-on crash with police car

A vehicle crashed head-on into a police car in Kamloops this morning

BCHL Today: Merritt peaking at right time and Taylor signs with UNH Wildcats

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Day 100

Parkview Elementary student Myles Low shows off his hand-made eyewear celebrating the… Continue reading

Video: B.C. firefighters featured in quirky video

Oliver Fire Department posts video about their B.C. volunteer firefighter spring training seminar

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Two more medals push Canada into third place

A gold in ski cross and a bronze in bobsleigh as men’s hockey advances to the semis

Most Read