Farming in Delta: MLA Vicki Huntington says Crown land in the Agricultural Land Reserve is too expensive even for established farm families to buy.

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

UFV offers mental-health screenings as part of Beyond the Blues

Activities at event from Jan. 27-31 include stress bingos and colouring

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

City plots plan to get more affordable housing built as rental crunch continues

Abbotsford’s rental vacancy rate was 1.3 per cent in 2019; New affordable housing strategy considered

Province bringing 421 new affordable childcare spaces to Fraser Valley

Supporting early childhood educators and creating spaces go hand in hand, minister says

Aspiring pot-sellers can apply in two weeks to operate stores in Abbotsford

City will accept applications to operate one of four new stores; public consultation to follow

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

Man clings to roof of car driving along busy road in Maple Ridge

The man was also seen jumping on the vehicle

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Most Read