Farmers from across British Columbia have come together to form the BC Farmland Owners Association in response to the tabling of Government Bill 52, titled the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act.
Bill 52 was drafted based on recommendations made in the report by the B.C. Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee for Revitalizing the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission in July 2018.
BC’s famers have significant concerns with this legislation, particularly pertaining to the proposed reduction of size of new homes being built on Agricultural Land Reserve. The farming community does not feel that their views and the reality of farming in the 21st century were accurately reflected in this report and in Bill 52.
In less than 5 days, the BCFOA has signed up over 250 farming families (1585 people) from across British Columbia that collectively farm over 12,000 acres of farmland. This association is made up of people that are passionately dedicated to the sustainable and pragmatic stewardship of both British Columbia’s farmland, and its farmers.
The BCFOA believes that it is critically important for decision makers to hear directly from farmers and have their extensive experience and issues be considered as some of these changes will have vast implications on farmers, their families and all those who do business with farmers.
British Columbia’s farmers not only contribute to the agricultural economy in BC but also support a wide range of businesses such as accountants, equipment suppliers, and financial institutions and any action that negatively impacts farmers will also have a negative impact on all these businesses and our larger economy.
There is a long history of farming in this country, and it is often easy to cling to romanticized notions of simplicity, struggle, and sacrifice. In today’s modern world, this idealized image of farming is no longer true, nor is it feasible. We believe that restricting the rights of farmers is completely contrary to the policies of the Provincial government which encourage farming.
This issue was sparked by concerns of food security and protection of farmland and we whole-heartedly support measures and policies that will increase food security and sustainability, however any decision made without thorough consultation with farmers will have significant impact on the agricultural community, especially with the current economic uncertainty in the agricultural industry.
We do however believe that this issue has been dangerously expedited while not thoroughly consulting with farmers, experts and stakeholders who will be directly impacted by the proposed changes. The special advisory committee only heard from a total of 2200 people, out of which only under 400 respondents stated that house sizes should be reduced. Also, only 12% of respondents stated that the Provincial Government should have the power to restrict house sizes on ALR land.
The BCFOA is asking that amendments be made to Bill 52 to allow for a thorough consultation with farmers before any further restrictions are made, along with making sure that if restrictions are made then anybody that has applied for a building permit be grandfathered in.
The proposed changes in Bill 52 will result in a seismic shift in the way we do agriculture in this province and will have lasting impacts on farmers and their families. Some of these changes will go on to benefit our farmers and the farming community as a whole but some changes which we feel are not evidence-based will have a deep and lasting negative effect on British Columbia’s Farming Community.