News

Changes coming to Agricultural Land Commission

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. - Monica Lamb-Yorski photo
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett.
— image credit: Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

There’s good and bad non-agricultural reserve land, said Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett of her government’s wish to change the Agricultural Land Commission Act.

“Critical lands like our grasslands have to be protected, but where there’s no water and no irrigation and you cannot grow anything, then people should be able to do something else with that land,” Barnett said.

Presently the government is trying to establish two zones in B.C. One zone would be for prime agricultural land under pressure by urban growth. The other for areas with shorter growing seasons with less arable land.

While changes to the act continued to be debated in the legislature, Barnett has heard concerns from ranchers about regional boards.

“They want to make sure that whoever is on these boards has knowledge of the agricultural industry, not just whether it’s a proper soil type or whatever. When the boards are looking at applications they need to make sure they are impeding the agricultural industry.”

Critics, however, are concerned the changes will jeopardize agriculture by allowing for industrial activity, such as oil and gas, or development.

Former MLA Joan Sawicki of the Bella Coola Valley worked at the Land Commission during its formative years from 1973 to 1981 and is currently a land-use consultant.

After listening to all the government’s rationalizations, she said she is convinced the changes to the act are not about helping farmers farm.

“This is the same government that has cut the ministry of agriculture’s budget so there aren’t extension people going out to help farmers make the business decisions they need to make,” Sawicki said.

The Agriculture Land Commission is independent and has a clear mandate to protect farm land, she continued.

On the short-term economics agricultural land is never going to be able to hold its own against higher values.

“It’s always going to be the loser user unless we as a society make the decision to say no, we need to think of the future and food security, with climate change, etc.”

The sensible approach is to keep options open to produce food when it’s needed and that’s the whole basis of the Agriculture Land Reserve, she added.

In the Cariboo-Chilcotin there are lower capability lands within the ALR — the class fives and class sixes, which are natural grasslands.

At the time the ALC was classifying the lands, farmers and ranchers in the region said those “marginal” areas were critical to their operations.

“The ALR boundaries did reflect the regional character of agriculture,” Sawicki said.

Barnett insisted the government is not trying gut the agricultural land reserve, but suggesting it’s a 40-year-old piece of legislation in need of some new initiatives.

“The last thing you want to do is take away agricultural land, there’s enough of that in the Lower Mainland that’s been desecrated for housing.”

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

BC SPCA rescues two heeler-cross dogs found in a dumpster on a reserve outside of Williams Lake
 
Labour consumes most new tax dollars cities collect
 
TIMELINE: An interactive history of terrorist attacks and plots in Canada
Drive-by shooting in Newton
 
Fire in garage on McKenzie Road in Abbotsford
 
Family of four devastated by fire at Abbotsford home
Prince Rupert council candidates face the public at first forum
 
Meet the candidates: Prince Rupert School District trustees
 
City of Prince Rupert to push for increased marine response on Haida Gwaii

Community Events, October 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 29 edition online now. Browse the archives.