With B.C. farmers struggling to harvest and sell crops in the coronavirus pandemic, the B.C. government has suspended the regulation that requires a minimum income to qualify for farm property tax status in 2021.
Current regulations require the minimum gross farm income to be met every two years, with at least some income generated each year from a qualifying agriculture use based on the size of the farm. Tax status is determined by BC Assessment, which sends out self-reporting income questionnaires and then conducts intermittent inspections to determine if farms should retain their tax status for the upcoming year.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the one-year waiver of the rule is in response to a difficult year for smaller-scale farms, which depend on roadside stands, farm markets and public interaction for their revenue.
“Without this action, a number of properties would have been in jeopardy of losing farm status for the 2021 tax year, significantly increasing the property tax burden on those farmers and farm families,” the ministry said in a statement July 29.
The B.C. Liberal opposition has been calling on the Popham and the NDP government to give farmers more options. Delta South MLA Ian Paton, the agriculture critic, presented a private member’s bill last week that would permit farmers to sell products from their kitchens as well as raw produce.
“There are people throughout the province who would love the opportunity to sell fresh baked goods, fruits and veggies, jams and jellies and so much more,” Paton said. “Right now, if someone cannot afford an industrial kitchen, they are incredibly limited in where they can sell their products.”
B.C. Liberal MLA John Rustad introduced another bill calling on the NDP government to repeal legislation that restricts secondary uses on farmland in areas, prevents farmers from applying directly to the Agricultural Land Commission for property exclusions, and restricting additional housing on farmland.