British Columbia

B.C. farmland used to plant trees for carbon credits, NDP critic claims

Thousands of hectares of B.C. farmland is being used to plant trees so companies can gain carbon credits, according to NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham.

Lana Popham is drafting a private member's bill to try to stop companies planting trees on farmland

Under current rules, B.C. farmland can be used to plant trees because trees are considered crops. (CBC)

Thousands of hectares of B.C. farmland is being used to plant trees so companies can gain carbon credits, according to NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham.

Under the current carbon offset program, once the trees are planted, they must stay intact for a century, said Popham.

"So that's land that can no longer be planted in hay or any other foraging crops," she told Daybreak South.

Popham says she's been hearing about the issue from farmers and ranchers who are worried about the loss of food production.

She says one person in Quesnel even told her about about an area where 12,000 hectares of cleared agricultural land is being used to grow trees.

Trees considered crops in B.C.

Trees are considered a crop in B.C., so planting them instead of food on farmland is permitted. According to the Agricultural Land Commission, companies that buy land can plant trees without needing approval.

Still, Popham says, there are lots of forest lands in B.C. that have been cleared that need to be reforested, and farmland should be left for food production.

Popham says she plans to introduce a private member's bill that would send any applications for this practice to the Agricultural Land Commission, which would then determine whether it's in the best interest of agriculture.

"Another thing that the Agricultural Land Commission would do, they would not allow these covenants to go on property for a hundred years," she said.

B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick says such legislation already currently exists.

"In November of 2011, the government put a change to the ALC Act which says that a covenant … that restricts or prohibits use of agriculture land for foreign purposes has no effect until approved by the commission," he said.

"So I'm not too sure what the critic wants to achieve by a private member's bill today because we already have that in legislation."

  • To hear the full interview with Lana Popham, listen to the audio labelled: B.C. NDP critic on the loss of food productivity due to tree planting
  • To hear the full interview with Norm Letnick, listen to the audio labelled: B.C. Agriculture Minister responds to concerns over loss of farmland


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