British Columbia

Public input sought on revitalization of Agricultural Land Reserve and Agriculture Land Commission

The province is seeking the best approaches to revitalize B.C.'s Agricultural Land Reserve and Commission and it's asking for public input.

Survey released by advisory committee on revitalization of the ALR and ALC

The advisory committee on the revitalization of the ALR and ALC has released an online survey, seeking public input into 10 common themes. (Getty Images)

The province is seeking the best approaches to improving B.C.'s Agricultural Land Reserve and Commission and it's asking for public input.

Last summer, when B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham was sworn in, she was charged with "revitalizing" the ALR and ALC.

Monday, a nine-member advisory committee tasked  by Popham to provide the government with advice and policy guidance, released an online survey and consultation paper on the revitalization of the ALR and ALC.  

"We want to hear from farmers and ranchers. We want to hear from eaters. We want to hear from food security activists. We want to hear from local government. We want to hear from people who just generally care about the future of farming and food security in B.C.," said Popham. 

The paper and survey focus on 10 common themes, including: ALC independence, ALR resilience, residential uses, unauthorized uses, farm processing and sales, non-farm uses and resource extraction, food security and B.C.'s agricultural contribution.

The ALR is a 4.6 million hectare provincial zone, where agriculture is recognized as the primary use, and non-agricultural uses are restricted. The ALC is the administrative body that oversees it.

Popham says she expects the issue of mega home building on agricultural land to be a common concern listed by survey respondents. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Popham says the survey will be open until the end of April, and, in the meantime, the committee will host regional meetings to gather feedback from local farmers and ranchers.

She says she expects people to speak out about several hot button issues, such as the building of mega homes and increased assessments on ALR land. 

Following the consultation process, she says the committee will make recommendations to the province on potential changes to the current legislative, regulatory and administrative framework of the ALR and ALC, with an eye on revitalization and the preservation of agricultural land.

In 2014, an amendment to the ALC Act divided the ALR into two zones, adding additional uses to land in the second zone, which B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says weakened it. (Government of B.C.)

Popham wouldn't confirm any potential legislative changes but mentioned the need to make the ALR more defensible, enhance ALC powers to protect ALR land and reverse a 2014 move by the provincial Liberal government to divide the ALR into two zones from one.  

"The former administration went through this process just a few years back … and they made changes, and, in my view, the changes they made led to more erosion of the agricultural land reserve," said Popham. 

A final report from the advisory committee will be provided to Popham before the fall of 2018.

She says any legislative changes are targeted for late 2018 or early 2019.