Agricultural Land Commission changes under fire over potential abuse
The provincial government has made changes to the Agricultural Land Commission, including allowing “value-added farming activities” on farmland that some critics fear could turn into industrial changes like this oil rig and an oil pump jack on a farm in rural North Dakota. (REUTERS)
In the other 90% of the ALR, which generates 15% of B.C.'s total agricultural sales, we're giving the ALC more flexibility to consider non-agricultural, home-based businesses that might help farmers subsidize their farming operations. — Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm
Changes to the Agricultural Land Commission announced Thursday are being criticized for opening the door to extreme “cronyism” and industrial projects on farmland.
The B.C. Liberals billed the changes as “Improvements to the ALC that will protect farmland in British Columbia and maintain the ALC’s independence.” The changes were made after a core review of the ALC.
The government said the changes will help prevent farmers from having to get second jobs, something Minister of Agriculture Pat Pimm said one-in-four farmers do.
Pimm said discussions will be held “on how to best support new opportunities for limited, value-added farming activities on farmland.
The BC NDP told 24 hours it fears these activities could include industrial projects, such as oil exploration, on farmland.
BC NDP Agriculture Critic Nicholas Simons said food security is in peril, as 90% of protected farmland has been removed from the ALR under the new changes.
According to Simons, the province didn’t ask the public their thoughts on the ALR.
“I’m disappointed that the government didn’t think it was important enough to consult with the province like they did on whether or not there needs to be a gate on a beer garden,” Simons said in reference to liquor reforms. “This is fundamental legislation that has served the province for 40 years.”
Vicki Huntington, independent MLA for Delta South, said the decision to appoint new local panels to determine the fate of the Agricultural Land Reserve undermines their purpose.
“The new six panels are going to be appointed by the minister,” Huntington said. “So it’s going to be cronyism right through the system.”
She worries that could mean irresponsible decisions based on the needs of developers or local politicians.