British Columbia

B.C. names new chair of Agricultural Land Commission

The Agricultural Land Commission has a new chair on the eve of what could be some serious changes to the agency.

A dairy farmer from Port Alberni, Jennifer Dyson had chaired the province's review of the commission

The B.C. Agricultural Land Reserve includes about five per cent of B.C.'s land base. (CBC)

The Agricultural Land Commission has a new chair on the eve of what could be some serious changes to the agency. 

Jennifer Dyson, who owns a water buffalo dairy farm in Port Alberni, B.C., has been named to the position, replacing Frank Leonard.

"I have a passion for agriculture and to lead an organization with the mandate of preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming in B.C. is truly an honour," said Dyson in a statement.

"There are challenges in agriculture today. B.C. farmers and ranchers are the unrecognized backbone of strong local communities and progressive regions. I am committed to working for an ALC that does its part to encourage agriculture for now and generations to come."

Dyson served 10 years as a member of the ALC board. Recently, she was chosen by the government to lead an advisory committee on how the organization, which oversees the 4.6 million hectare Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), could be revitalized.

That committee will make recommendations to the government in the summer.

"People are concerned with how the ALR is being used and that includes house size. It includes what's being dumped on farmland. There's a ton of concerns," said Agricuture Minister Lana Popham.

Farmhouse debate in Richmond

Despite those concerns, Popham would not wade into a contentious debate in Richmond, where city council planned to vote Monday night to changes which would allow more development on ALR land. 

"It's definitely on my radar right now ... but I'm not going to predict what happens in Richmond council tonight," she said.

After months of discussion, a committee voted last week to keep the maximum size of houses built on ALR land at 10,764 square foot, while also allowing a second house to be built without rezoning.

It was standing room only during the meeting, with most of the evening's speakers focusing on limits to house sizes.

There was a rally held outside city hall prior before it began at 7 p.m. PT.