Farmer discs a field in South Delta. (Black Press files)

Centralize farmland decisions, B.C. advisory panel recommends

Agricultural Land Commission urged to control marijuana, oil and gas uses

Going into the current review of the Agricultural Land Reserve, B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham made it clear the two-zone system of protection introduced by the previous government is on the way out.

Now the NDP government’s advisory committee is recommending that regional panels to decide land use should also be plowed under.

“The prescribed regional panel structure and function do not support an over-arching provincial vision and approach to protection of the provincial ALR,” the committee wrote in its interim report to Popham, released Wednesday.

The report also refers to “government interference in the appointment process,” a likely reference to the firing of former Agricultural Land Commission chair Richard Bullock in 2015. Former agriculture minister Norm Letnick replaced Bullock with former Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, after complaints that Bullock was refusing to appoint regional panel members and generally resisting decentralized decision-making on farmland use.

RELATED: Farmland reforms ahead for NDP

RELATED: B.C. Liberals axe ALC chairman

The report urges returning to a central structure for the ALC, to protect farmland from what it describes as the greatest three pressures: property speculation, marijuana growing and oil and gas development in northeastern B.C.

B.C. Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton said the recommendations are an attack on local decision-making. The regional panels were a response to a large backlog of applications, and disbanding them could mean Lower Mainland directors making decisions that lack local knowledge, Paton said.

In May, Popham appointed Alberni Valley farmer Jennifer Dyson to replace Leonard, whose term expired. Dyson had spent 10 years as a commissioner, including serving as chair of the Vancouver Island regional panel.

The two-zone system was championed by former energy minister Bill Bennett, in response to frustration that rules to protect the densely populated Fraser Valley were imposed across the province when the ALR was established in the 1970s. Results included next-generation farmers forced to tear down homes built to house their retired parents, and Peace region farmers prevented from allowing oil and gas service trucks to park on their land in winter.

The zone system maintained strict control over non-farm uses in the most productive farming areas of the Lower Mainland, southern Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley, allowing uses such as agricultural processing in the rest of the province.

The current advisory committee is chaired by former Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington. It held nine community meetings, conducted an online survey with 2,300 responses and received 275 written submissions as well as expert presentations.

“It is the committee’s considered opinion that unless the provincial government raises the profile of agriculture across all provincial ministries and agencies, the erosion of the ALR and the decline of B.C.’s agricultural industry is a certainty,” the report states.

Just Posted

Rupert Runners share memories of beloved volunteer Leslie Peloquin

Distance runner Peloquin was a Learn to Run coach in Prince Rupert for years, inspiring many

‘Ruff week over for canine owners as Prince Rupert dog park reopens

McKay Street dog park was temporarily closed for repairs after a car crashed into fence

Prince Rupert marine business adds second catamaran to its fleet

100-passenger Aurora was launched this year for the Rio Tinto Kemano tunnel project

Sustainble economy flourishing in Haida Gwaii and Great Bear Rainforest thanks to First Nations investments

From 2008-2018, funding initiatives led to more than $286 million in new investments

Kerbrat back in command of Prince Rupert golf scene

Strong putting game helps reclaim the title

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

WEB POLL: Would you like to see another mural go up where Zorba’s Taverna’s old one used to be?

The iconic quirky mural from Prince Rupert’s Greek restaurant was painted over this week

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

UPDATE: Two-year-old involved in Chilliwack pool drowning has died

Toddler was reported to not be breathing as air ambulance called out Thursday afternoon

Most Read