British Columbia

Abbotsford could convert some protected farmland to industrial use

Abbotsford may apply to take land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve for industrial use due to increasing demand and low vacancy rates. That idea doesn't sit well with a local farmer.

Farmer critical of plan to take even more land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve

Berry farming is big business in Abbotsford's farms. The city is considering making a request to the Agricultural Land Commission to remove protections from some land designated for farming so industrial land can expand. (CBC)

Abbotsford may apply to take land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve for industrial use.

A report from city staff notes the city's industrial real estate vacancy rate is at 1.7 percent, and within the Lower Mainland, industrial tenants are moving to places like Abbotsford  in search of cheaper floor space.

But the idea of losing farmland isn't sitting well with Jillian Azanza, an Abbotsford chicken farmer and member of the B.C. Young Farmers Association board.

"It needs to be kept in the ALR, period. For the future of young farmers," Azanza told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"For the future of food security in Abbotsford, for the future of food production … without the reserve, I'm not sure where our future goes as young farmers in Abbotsford."

Azanza is critical of the city for taking more land out of the ALR after already removing some several years ago.

She says the previously removed land is not being used to its full potential as industrial land. In some cases, the land is used for parking trucks, she said.

"What we've been told, as farmers, is to be more innovative or effective on the small, fixed land base we do have," she said. "But are other industries being asked to do that? … Is truck parking or RV parking an efficient use of that land?"

The city is hosting open houses about potential ALR exclusions Wednesday and Thursday evening.

On The Coast requested comment from the city but was told a spokesperson was not available.

In British Columbia, a municipality cannot unilaterally remove land from the ALR. They can only request that the Agricultural Land Commission do so on their behalf.

Listen to the full interview here:

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast