Agriculture Minister Lana Popham visits a Fraser Valley cranberry farm during a provincial tour to begin her new job in the NDP government, October 2017. (B.C. government)

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

The NDP government’s overhaul of the Agricultural Land Commission is causing grief for B.C. families who are trying to keep family farms going with new restrictions on secondary homes.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham’s drive to protect farmland is based on a couple of long-standing NDP assumptions. One is that there is massive property speculation, with buyers applying to have farmland released from the Agricultural Land Reserve to cash in on its increased value. Actual statistics from the commission didn’t show that, but Popham pushed through legislation that prevents property owners from applying directly for exclusion by declaring that owners are not “persons.”

The second assumption is that additional residences are a form of creeping development that has to be reined in. This was accomplished with legislation that passed last November and took effect in February, giving the commission the final say on secondary residences.

These changes are filtering through to local governments, and there have been some alarming results. The Langley Advance Times reported on one last week, where retirees Cathy and Brian Fichter planned to move their daughter, her husband and six children to an extended family farm as they deal with Brian’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

RELATED: Langley family’s grandparent home awaits farm decision

RELATED: B.C. farmers aren’t ‘persons’ under new NDP legislation

The family’s purchase took effect Feb. 26, four days after the new rules took effect. Previously, secondary residences could be justified by the extra work needed to raise livestock. But now local governments have to approve it, and then the commission can overrule them. As of last week the Fichters were still waiting for a final decision.

Dave Strachan of Nakusp has a similar situation. His wife has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, and his daughter and her husband decided to move with them to a small farm to help out. He describes the land as marginal for farm production, as is much of the ALR outside the key food production regions of the Lower Mainland, Okanagan and Southern Vancouver Island.

Both families went to substantial effort and expense of buying modular homes and arranging servicing to meet the temporary residence rules of the ALR. They didn’t know the rules were changing, and it’s likely their local governments didn’t either. They await their fate under the new centralized commission that runs the whole province from Burnaby.

When this change was debated last November, Popham acknowledged that the commission would have a veto.

“We are transferring that approval process to the Agricultural Land Commission because we feel that they are better suited to analyze whether or not an additional dwelling would be required for agricultural activities,” she said.

It would be easy to say that the above examples are merely “hobby farms,” a few acres with some horses and goats. What else could be done with a remote five-acre parcel, since there is no chance the new regime will allow it to be removed?

For larger farms, the residence restriction creates problems even if a second house is allowed.

“For instance, if you’re a dairy farm in my area of east Delta, and you have two or three kids who say, ‘I want to continue farming,’ they say, ‘Well, you can’t live on this farm,” B.C. Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton told the legislature. “We’ve only got one extra house. You’re going to have to rent a house up in North Delta or Richmond or something.”

Agriculture ministry staff tell me they are looking at these kinds of cases and considering changes. That’s good.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

CSRD to support cannabis growth in agricultural zones

Regional district revision brings policy in line with Agricultural Land Commission

South Shuswap residents kick waste collection concept to the curb

Area C residents prefer existing depot system, suggest more enforcement

Plaques provide historical view of Salmon Arm landmarks

City heritage plaques added to Fletcher Park, Mount Ida Cemetery and Fairgrounds

In photos: Parade kicks off Girls Only Soccer Camp World Cup fun tournament

Players split into 11 countries for music and dance-filled parade, followed by tourney

Province attempting to ease concerns over caribou management

CSRD receives letter promising more consultation while chambers of commerce meet with minister

July showers wash out half of the Okanagan’s cherry crop

Cherry growers say this is the worst season they’ve seen in decades

Donkeys await your hugs and scritches at anniversary event

Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge invites public to help celebrate 20 years of care.

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Survivorship Dragon Boat Team wins in Vernon

Team takes top spot in A division at festival

Okanagan woman to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for homeless youth

Victoria Schermel’s climb will raise funds for youth homelessness initiative, The Upstream Project.

Kelowna car thief’s sentencing delayed

Stanley Nickason pled guilty car theft charges in B.C. Supreme Court

Development gives Kelowna community garden the boot

Glen Valley residents given a few days to break it down before land development

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

Most Read