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

Slocan Valley to be ‘lit up’ with high-speed internet in 12 months

125 kilometres of fibre-optic cable to be laid from Nakusp to Playmore Junction

Nakusp’s new Caribou Society wants a say in management of animals

Community input is necessary for effective protection, say proponents

Paramedics union raises alarm over spike in out-of-service ambulances

Staffing shortages affecting service levels in Kootenays

Update: Car located in Pend d’Oreille River, teenagers remain missing

A fundraiser has been set up at Kootenay Savings in Fruitvale to help support the family

Two missing in Pend d’Oreille crash

A 15-year-old male and 18-year-old female both from Fruitvale are missing and presumed deceased

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

Search and rescue team helicopters injured climber from B.C. provincial park

A 30-year-old woman suffered a suspected lower-limb fracture in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Trudeau in Vancouver to support Tamara Taggart at Liberal nomination event

The former broadcaster is seeking the nomination for the Vancouver Kingsway riding

Trudeau calls May 6 byelection for B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith

The riding opened up when Sheila Malcolmson resigned in January

B.C. VIEWS: The hijacking of our education system gathers speed

Children taught to strike and shout fringe far-left demands

Judges on Twitter? Ethical guidance for those on the bench under review

Canadian judges involvement in community life are among issues under review

Most Read