COLUMNS: Revitalizing the Agricultural Land Reserve

One of the election promises of the NDP is to revitalize the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR).

COLUMNS: Revitalizing the Agricultural Land Reserve

One of the election promises of the NDP which became a core mandate of the Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham is to revitalize the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR).

Simply, the ALR when established by the first NDP government in 1973 was to protect farmland ­— soils and the areas where farming is predominant, and to support farmers to be viable.

In the early days there was a farm income support program that made up the difference between cost of production and the price received for the products.

This price support was eliminated because it attracted trade actions against our exported products. Much of our agricultural production is exported because we are a small country, in population.

What I am encouraging in this space is for people interested in commenting on the role of the Agricultural Land Commission and the Agricultural Land Reserve is to get the message loud and clear that government needs to support farmers.

That is the best way to ensure the ALR is revitalized.

Have your say by connecting with the review panel at this link: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/agriculturallandreserve/

Do we need to be reminded that disasters can close off our supply lines? Slippery roads, floods, fire and disaster elsewhere remind us that stores don’t store more than a few days. How many of us have root cellars full of potatoes and bags of rice in our pantries.

How food secure are you? Do you buy local to keep our farmers in business?

More and more farm businesses are having to further process there product so the modern consumer is interested in buying: for example prepared foods like meat loaves or seasoned chicken pieces ready for the pan.

If a farm store sources more than 50 per cent of its products from off farm then it is not allowed to function in the ALR. This policy needs tweaking.

Back to the main message I am making. We have a chance to be heard. Be in touch with the committee charged with revitalizing the ALR. Strong protection for soils, and farm zones is one thing but supporting farmers is quite another.

Remind government that when the ALR was established there was a social contract for farms and farmers to be supported as the quid pro quo of being “locked” into a land reserve.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.