A 134-page report on protecting B.C.’s farmland that was tabled last week won’t be acted upon, the provincial ministry of agriculture says.

UPDATE: Ag minister says panel’s report added to ‘toolbox,’ but action will have to wait

Independent panel’s report urged government to ‘make hard legal, administrative and program choices’

Just a week after the release of an independent panel’s 134-page report urging the B.C. government to “make hard legal, administrative and program choices” to protect the province’s farmland, the Ministry of Agriculture has said no new changes are anticipated soon.

Last Tuesday, the government released the report, which included 32 recommendations. A handful of those had already been included in an interim report issued last July and which prompted two new laws. But the report, which was written after more than a year of work and feed back from thousands of people, also included many new recommendations, including raising the threshold to qualify for tax status and that local governments consider creating “industrial land reserves.”

The document released last week acknowledged the interim report, but said twice that “New Committee recommendations are equally critical and urgent and require immediate action on the part of the Province.”

But a brief email sent to The News Wednesday by a Ministry of Agricultural spokesperson said the government isn’t planning to follow up on any of the those new recommendations.

“The B.C. government’s focus is on giving the ALC the tools they need to support farmers and ranchers and attracting and helping farmers succeed,” the report said. “The actions in Bill 15 and 52 respond to the committee’s report, as well as the input received during the public and stakeholder consultation process, and additional changes are not being advanced at this time.”

Agriculture minister Lana Popham, though, said later Wednesday that it wasn’t correct to say the report has been shelved.

She said her ministry’s staff has enough work on its hands in crafting new rules to implement the recently passed legislation to consider additional changes soon.

“We have our hands full at the moment so nothing is being advanced now.”

The province’s Bill 52 has already passed, while Bill 15 was introduced in March. They addressed the ALR’s structure, implemented new rules regarding the illegal dumping of construction waste, established a maximum house size and changed the Agricultural Land Commission’s governance structure.

Popham said regulations for Bill 15, should it pass as expected, will occupy the ministry’s time this fall.

Neither bill touched on several large issues addressed by the panel in its final report – including a call to raise the threshold at which hobby farmers can qualify for massive breaks on their property tax. Calls for the threshold to be raised have come from the City of Abbotsford, the BC Chamber of Commerce, a 2016 Metro Vancouver report, as well as a previous 2009 review conducted for the government itself.

The ministry hasn’t yet fully considered each of the new report’s recommendations, Popham said. At the same time, she said the province wouldn’t be requiring the ALC to endorse all local government bylaws affecting protected farmland.

RELATED: Are tax breaks for hobby farmers driving up the price of agricultural land?

RELATED: Abbotsford asks for help enforcing ALR rules

The interim report made clear that many important issues had yet to be reviewed.

“This report should not be considered a complete list of recommendations put forward by the Committee, especially given the Committee has not yet had the opportunity to review the Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation,” the panel wrote.

That interim report added that public feedback would be key in formulating the final report.

“The Committee is intending to provide recommendations to the Minister that will further ensure the revitalization of both the ALR and of the ALC, and that will assist the Province in developing an ‘agriculture-first’ mind-set throughout B.C. Many of these matters are regulatory in nature; some are policy oriented; and some involve new programs that will ensure the long term viability of the ALR.”

The final report also says action on the committees new recommendations are needed in order to solidify any gains already made.

“The Committee’s final recommendations build on interim recommendations for legislative change with key regulatory and operational action to make these shifts ‘stick’ and to advance an agriculture first agenda for the ALR. This is the necessary theme of revitalization. Government must make hard legal, administrative and program choices to secure a viable land base with appropriate governance to adequately support farmers and ranchers.”

Popham said the report would be referred to as she further pursued a goal of “revitalizing” the ALR.

“This report is really part of my toolbox that I will be using,” she said.


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Water in Lake Cowichan just fine, says acting mayor

Tim McGonigle said there is no truth to rumours of water advisories

Cowichan Caps help BCHL score commitment record

The BCHL saw 172 players commit to post-secondary institutions this past season

Murray Hatfield and Teresa present evening of magic and comedy streaming live May 29

The Duncan Volunteer Fire Department is inviting you to an evening of magic and comedy

Chemainus animal sanctuary needs your vote in nationwide contest

RASTA is up for $5,000 from Nutram; contest runs until May 31

Woman charged in fatal accident back in court on June 2

Sara Rosetta Thomas faces six charges in 2018 incident

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read