Farmland in Surrey. (Photo: Surrey.ca)

Farmland in Surrey. (Photo: Surrey.ca)

B.C. Agriculture minister sends Surrey ‘stern’ letter for nixing agriculture advisory committee

Cities intending to restrict or prohibit agriculture within a farming area may need to be ‘regulated,’ Lana Popham warned

Provincial Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has strong words for Surrey council for dissolving the city’s “longstanding and well-respected” Agriculture and Food Policy Advisory Committee.

“I am disappointed that the city leadership did not seek dialogue nor public input prior to the planned committee re-assignment,” Popham wrote in a letter to Surrey council on Feb. 23. “It was brought to my attention than not even the members of the AFPAC were aware of the imminent dissolution of the committee.”

“Please be reminded that municipalities with the intention to restrict or prohibit agriculture within a farming area may need to become ‘regulated’ under Section 553 of the Local Government Act,” she warned.

Popham said committees such as the AFPAC provide “invaluable” input to civic governments to make sure planning and decisions are consistent with a local government’s obligation to support agriculture in accordance with the Agricultural Land Commission Act and the Local Government Act.

homelessphoto

Lana Popham, B.C.’s agriculture minister. (Photo submitted)

Popham noted that as Surrey is the largest city geographically in Metro Vancouver, with more than 9,000 hectares in the Agricultural Land Reserve, it is “poised to play a role in supporting the primary production of safe local produce and bolstering food security for the region.” That said, she told council it’s been her experience that “active involvement of local producers in the fabric of local government is the foundation of a vibrant and economically sustainable agricultural sector.”

On Dec. 7, the Safe Surrey Coalition majority on council voted to dissolve the AFPAC and fold it, along with the Environment Advisory Committee, into a new Agricultural, Environment and Investment Committee with Council Allison Patton as its chairwoman, Councillor Mandeep Nagra as its vice-chairman, and also Councillor Jack Hundial plus three community members.

READ ALSO: Surrey mayor ‘nullifying’ public’s voice by rejigging city committees, councillor charges

The agriculture minister called the new joint committee “concerning” and noted that ministry staff advise her that having only three experts between the two disciplines “will not likely provide adequate representation for Surrey’s diverse agricultural community.”

Patton in reply said it’s hard for her to comment “at the moment” because she hasn’t spoken to city staff yet about Popham’s concerns. “I may have skimmed the letter but I’m not sure it was brought to my attention, no, not yet.”

The new committee has met twice, Patton said. “The good news is this committee doesn’t want to do anything to restrict agriculture, so I think that in time perhaps she can observe the committee and perhaps adjust her viewpoint over time if she feels that’s warranted for her,” she said. “A lot of the farmers want improved productivity, and local farm-to-table and produce and other products, so we’re looking at how can we help these farmers to do that.”

Popham was alerted to the situation by Surrey Councillors Hundial and Brenda Locke, of the rival Surrey Connect slate.

“If the province decides to regulate Surrey’s farmland, it’s huge,” Locke said.

“I can tell you Langley, Abbotsford, Delta and Kelowna I think have all been regulated and I know they’re not happy. I know for sure Langley’s trying to get out of it but it’s a forever deal, like it was 20 years ago that they regulated them.”

Hundial told the Now-Leader that people in the agriculture sector need to be aware of these recent developments in Surrey.

“It’s a pretty hard stand for her to take on it,” Hundial said of Popham, “but I think that’s partly because she sees the risk of not having the public engaged in developing policy that involves farmland. I mean the city is a product of the province and I think people sometimes tend to forget that.

READ ALSO OUR VIEW: Taking Surrey’s civic issues to a bigger arena

“So for the minister to come out and issue really such a stern letter should be a clear indication that I don’t think she’s too happy with the decision made by the mayor, and secondly, there will be oversight provided,” Hundial said. “Once she invokes those powers, under the Act, it makes things a lot more complicated and laborious for applications coming out of the city absolutely to deal with agriculture and also the decision-making process around when you start looking at land and the uses, or ALR land.”

Hundial added that Popham’s concern about having only three experts on a committee dealing with both agriculture and the environment is “absolutely spot-on.”

“Even the three councillors, myself included, that are on that committee, none of us are experts in the ALR,” the retired Surrey Mountie noted. Patton is a naturopath and Nagra is a businessman.

“And you can only have three individuals from the farming community, you know, Surrey is so much larger than that,” Hundial said. “When you look at one third of our land mass is ALR, it makes it very difficult to bring that level of expertise here.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram  and follow Tom on Twitter

Agricultural Land ReserveAgricultureCity of Surrey

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

Just Posted

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom is offering free school tours of The Pencil Patch learning garden in Abbotsford in April, May and June.
Agriculture in the Classroom offers free school tours at learning garden

The Pencil Patch in Abbotsford provides 15 outdoor learning stations

Alisa Gusakova was one of two Grade 12 Chilliwack students who received a $5,000 Horatio Alger Canadian Scholarship earlier this year. Now, a fundraiser has been created for the teen after her mother was killed. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Fundraiser launched for daughter of Chilliwack woman killed

Money raised will help Chilliwack teen attend UFV to earn business degree

Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers say that a call on April 17 on Vedder Mountain was affected by bikers who rode through the rescue site, throwing rocks onto members and the patient. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue image)
Chilliwack Search and Rescue team, and patient, sprayed with rocks and dirt during rescue

Volunteer crew speaks out after riders on Vedder Mountain show no courtesy at accident scene

Agassiz Fire Department has been called to an ATV rollover on Harrison East Forest Service Road on Sunday, April 18, 2021. (Google Maps)
Agassiz Fire called out to ATV rollover incident on Harrison FSR

Morning call follows exceptionally busy Saturday as temperatures soar in Fraser Valley

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
80-million-year-old turtle find on B.C. river exciting fossil hunters

Remains of two-foot creature of undetermined species will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Large gatherings of people at Kitsilano Beach on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Walter Wells/Twitter)
Vancouver police to reassess enforcement of COVID rules at outdoor parties: mayor

No tickets were given out for a large outdoor party at Kitsilano Beach

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
National fitness group condemns unlicensed Kelowna gym’s anti-vaccine policy

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada says Flow Academy is shining a negative light on the industry

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Most Read