Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick (left) and Education Minister Peter Fassbender hand out fresh vegetables to children at a Victoria classroom this week

Minister seeks options to keep forests off farmland

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick says tree planting on fields "flies in the face" of Agricultural Land Reserve protection

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick says reforesting farmland in B.C.’s Interior is contrary to the intent of B.C.’s agricultural land reserve, and he’s looking for a way to put a stop to it.

British health and household products manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser Inc. has bought up more than 8,000 hectares of farmland from Prince George south to Quesnel, planting the land with trees and vowing to keep the forest on the land for 100 years or more. Local governments are concerned that long-time farming and ranching land is being lost, and farming communities will be weakened as a result.

Letnick said previously that a 2011 requirement for the Agricultural Land Commission to approve covenants for long-term reforestation of farmland would be required before such lands could be used as carbon offsets for the European carbon market. But a Reckitt Benckiser  spokesperson confirmed the company isn’t attempting to claim or trade carbon offsets, so it won’t be seeking a covenant from the ALC.

That leaves Letnick looking for another way to stop the loss of farmland.

“What I’ve been advised is that while they’re not claiming for offsets, they’re using it in their publicity to show that they are doing something that’s environmentally good to offset the negatives that they have back at home,” Letnick said in an interview Monday.

The company’s stated plan to keep the farmland in forest “flies in the face of the [Agricultural Land Commission] Act and the intent of the act, and we will need to look at our options,” Letnick added.

According to Reckitt Benckiser’s website, the company’s B.C. planting project is part of a program to make its global operations carbon neutral for the period 2006-2017. More than seven million trees have been planted and the goal is 10 million trees by next year.

Staff at the Bulkley Valley Regional District contacted Reckitt Benckiser after its first purchase of lands around Vanderhoof in 2010, expressing concern about “centrally located and productive” land being alienated from production. A company representative said only marginal or abandoned land is being used, a claim contradicted last week by Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson.

The company makes popular products including Woolite fabric softener, Calgon detergent, Lysol and Clearasil skin cleanser, which are sold around the world. Its B.C. program is called RB Trees for Change.

“RB does not intend on registering any covenant on title to the lands it has acquired in British Columbia that would restrict the use of such lands,” said Lynn Kenney, communications director for North America. “Instead, Trees for Change is a program we have developed to meet our own internal targets for environmental sustainability.”

Just Posted

Howard the Gnome finds a home at Galey Farms

Eight-metre gnome expected to greet visitors to Saanich farm this fall

In a fight against cancer, Victoria man’s only stem cell match was his own donation

More mixed race and Asian stem cell donors needed, says Victoria family

Bridges for Women grad takes on new business idea

Victoria woman puts her lessons into action with Sweeping Beauty Concierge

VicPD warn public on fake firearms after responding to four gun calls in just five hours

Officers treat each firearm as a real weapon until they can determine it isn’t, say police

Purple Day 2019: Victoria marks epilepsy awareness day

1 in 100 Canadians live with epilepsy, a neurological disorder with many symptoms

VIDEO: 13-year-old killed in B.C. crash that involved five kids

The children range in age from six to 17.

POLL: Do you still have a landline telephone?

With smart phones becoming an indispensable part of modern-day life, more and… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 26

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

MPs denounce leaked reports of Trudeau-JWR clash over Supreme Court pick

Opposition MPs called the leaks an act of desperation meant to smear Wilson-Raybould

Study says B.C.’s housing policies mean drug users can be targeted for eviction

The study involves 50 people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

VIDEO: Homicide team called in after three killed in Surrey car crash

Investigators ask public to come forward with information, dashcam video

Stranger climbs onto B.C. family’s second-floor balcony, lights fire in barbecue

Incident in Abbotsford terrifies family with two-year-old boy

UPDATED: Sailings resume after BC Ferries boat hits Langdale terminal

The Queen of Surrey is stuck on the dock, causing delays to Horseshoe Bay trips

Eviction halted for B.C. woman deemed ‘too young’ for seniors’ home

Zoe Nagler, 46, had been given notice after living in the seniors complex in Comox for six years

Most Read