Field preparation in Delta: the B.C. Agriculture Council wants new flexibility for land use in all farmland

B.C. farmland holy war falls flat

Review panel of Site C dam, farmer support for Agricultural Land Reserve reform show reality of B.C.'s economic situation

VICTORIA – The NDP’s holy war against changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve got nastier last week, as it became clear it was defenders of the status quo who were being mowed down.

Ever since legislation was tabled to divide the ALR into two zones, with greater emphasis on social and economic needs to help viability of farms in the Kootenay, Interior and North regions, almost all the protest has been from unaffected areas. And much of it depends on emotion rather than fact.

In the legislature, Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog rose to praise the late Dave Stupich, who birthed the ALR sacred cow as agriculture minister in 1973. Krog likened Stupich to the Biblical Daniel for his bravery in preserving farmland for our children’s children.

Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley did his signature “jiggery pokery” routine, this time accusing cabinet minister Bill Bennett of being “giddy” at the prospect of paying off his friends with development land. Before he gets too jiggery outside the protection of the legislative chamber, he would be well advised to find some evidence.

Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson, who at least represents an area being given broader latitude for secondary uses on farmland, warned of drought in California. The history of this is currently a hot topic in the quasi-religious climate change debate.

Meanwhile in the real British Columbia, life and farming go on under the existing farmland protection regime.

The largest ALR exclusion in B.C. history took a big step forward last week, as a federal-provincial review panel issued its report on the Site C dam proposed for the Peace River.

The panel noted that the dam would flood 2,775 hectares of farmland, representing all seven categories of soil quality. Opponents use a figure about twice that size, as if all the affected land was farmable.

The panel accepted that this land, including the small amount of micro-climate bottom land, represents 0.2% of the Peace region’s farm receipts. I would add that’s because what is farmed at all is mostly growing hay, which requires minimum capital and labour.

“It has potential, to be sure, but its unique and irreplaceable contribution would be for those labour-intensive crops like vegetables, which are not remotely practical in a labour-short region,” the report states.

We have to bring in Mexican guest workers to get vegetable and fruit crops off in the Fraser Valley and Okanagan. For a five-month growing season in the bush outside Fort St. John? This is a classic example of the religious fervor that replaces reason among the southern faithful of the ALR.

And how is the status quo working? Summerland council just voted to swap 80 hectares of flat farmland for 90 hectares further away in the Summerland Hills. The town is on restricted lakeshore terrain and the council wants to increase its urban zone, using the community need provisions that are enhanced by the current legislative amendments.

This was after a loud demonstration organized with the help of a fake grassroots protest machine called LeadNow, complete with slick signs and website. (LeadNow also helped round up anti-pipeline protesters this past weekend.)

The media were fooled as usual, but not Summerland council. LeadNow has moved on to lining up people to flood the Agricultural Land Commission with form letters and petitions against Summerland’s plan.

The B.C. Agriculture Council, whose board first supported and then objected to the ALR amendments, has clarified its objections. It wants flexibility for secondary uses extended to the prime farmland zones of the Okanagan, Fraser Valley and southern Vancouver Island.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Most cows saved during massive fire on Agassiz farm thanks to fast work of farmers, neighbours

Agassiz Fire Department responded to late night call Wednesday

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

Massive fire destroys Agassiz dairy barn

Reports say at least one cow died in the blaze

First court date in Chilliwack for man accused of murdering Belgian tourist

Family and friends of Sean McKenzie, 27, filled the gallery for brief court appearance Wednesday

Another successful year for Chilliwack’s ‘We Got Your Back’ backpack program

Sponsored by local businesses, program stocks backpacks with school supplies for students in need

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

Free vet clinic caters to pets of homeless, low income people

The first such clinic in Langley will take place later this month.

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

Extradition hearing set for Lower Mainland developer accused of fraud

Mark Chandler will go before the B.C. Court of Appeals early next year.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Most Read