B.C. VIEWS: Business not as usual on B.C. farmland

Price of farmland, commercial development pressure on Lower Mainland farms, urban objections to farming among problems

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick has released the latest update to the B.C. Liberal government’s “strategic growth plan” for farm and food products.

After reporting a record $12.3 billion in total agriculture and agri-food sales in B.C. for 2014, the latest plan sets a new goal of increasing it to $15 billion by 2020.

It’s a mostly a status quo plan, continuing current marketing efforts and encouraging higher-value production of a wider range of products.

The ministry intends to hire its first expert in food and beverage production. It’s a reflection of the fact that fully 70 per cent of that $12.3 billion comes from food and beverage processing. This continues the government’s push to improve economic viability of farms by allowing more food product manufacturing and sales on Agricultural Land Reserve property.

Letnick says another key strategy is to improve access to irrigation. B.C. has 20,000 farm operations, a number that’s holding steady even as the average age of farmers increases.

Opposition MLAs formed their own agriculture committee to tour the province over the past year, chaired by NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham and independent Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington. Their report speaks to some of the issues not discussed by the government.

One of those is foreign purchase of farmland, a matter subject to regulation in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba but not B.C.

Properties have also been purchased to grow hay for export to Asia, and Huntington says she continues to hear of costly farmland in Delta and Surrey being bought at prices long-established farm families can’t afford.

We’ve seen a British food and drug conglomerate buy up B.C. Interior farms to plant trees for carbon offsets, a project that was wound down after local protests. Popham and Huntington are calling for a systematic inventory of foreign purchases, to determine if regulation is needed here as climate change shifts growing patterns.

Popham argues that with California enduring years of drought, B.C. can’t continue to depend on imports for more than half its food.

“We have countries that are actively seeking food producing land, because their countries are having difficulties producing under drought conditions,” Popham said. “So before we know it, our farmland could be bought up by other countries that are actively and smartly trying to ensure their own food security.”

Neither Letnick nor the opposition MLAs could produce results from the government’s decision to split the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones, with more latitude for non-farm activities outside the southwest and Okanagan.

But we’re starting to see signs of the new system of regional Agricultural Land Commission panels working with local governments.

The Langley Times reports that the Township of Langley quietly signed a deal with the ALC in July to allow development of farmland near the Aldergrove border crossing and Langley airport.

The agreement says there is a need for a “defensible and durable urban/ALR edge.” If you think everyone loves farming, you’ve likely never lived on this “urban/ALR edge.”

The latest example is on Vancouver Island, where urban neighbours are protesting an established farmer’s decision to clear a forested property for hay growing.

The farmer has been forced to erect a chain-link fence to keep out trespassers who have decided the property is a park that they can use when they like.

The mayors of Saanich and View Royal seem more concerned with appeasing urban complainers than protecting the right to farm. They are being pressed to buy up idle ALR land to soothe urban voters repelled by logging and farming.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

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

Just Posted

LAKE FLASHBACK: Police, fire, layoffs, and Citizen of the Year

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old… Continue reading

Cowichan Valley invited to bid to host another BC Games

BC Games Society invites North Cowichan to apply

Finishing touches being applied to new downtown Chemainus Market

Official grand opening will be on March 28 as excitement builds

Early exit for LMG

For the first time since 2013, Cowichan LMG has taken an early… Continue reading

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Comox 442 Squadron carries out two sea rescue missions north of Vancouver Island

Submitted by Lt. Alexandra Hejduk Special to Black Press 442 Transport and… Continue reading

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

Most Read