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

New Langley mall owners have multi-use vision in mind

H&M opens in Willowbrook Thursday, offset some of the space left vacant by the departure of Sears.

Pitt Meadows airport manager resigns

Guy Miller was just two months on the job

UPDATED: Controversial “covenant” now optional for TWU students

The move may allow the school to start its own law school, after a long legal battle.

Legendary umpire retiring after 40 years

Aldergrove’s Gord Hanly caps an outstanding 40 year career

Early success sees Clayton farmers’ market looking to grow

The first half of the season exceeded expectations, and now the market could go to once a week

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

UPDATE: ‘Faint fuel odour,’ ‘sheen’ seen on Fraser River beach after tug carrying diesel sinks

Tugboat carrying up to 22,000 litres of diesel sinks in Fraser River Tuesday morning

Column: Mother orca’s display of grief sends powerful message

The grief of this orca mother may not be visible anymore, but we must not forget.

Seven people with ties to Red Scorpions gang arrested in B.C. drug bust

Delta police have secured 94 charges against seven people, including drug and firearm offences

Second measles scare this summer at YVR

An infected traveller flew out of Vancouver’s airport three times

Judge OKs Weinstein suit, cites casting couch’s history

Actress Kadian Noble can sue disgraced Hollywood mogul for violating sex trafficking laws

Employers to raise salaries 2.6% on average next year: report

Firm points to factors such possibility of more trade protectionism, rising interest rates

PM Trudeau and federal ministers to meet on Vancouver Island

Cabinet retreat will be held in Nanaimo from Aug. 21-23

Most Read