The provincial government introduced legislation Monday intended to keep a lid on the size of homes built on Agricultural Land Reserve land, as well as to ensure the land is prioritized for farming.
Agriculture minister and Saanich South MLA Lana Popham called the changes a move to protect farmland, securing the supply of locally grown food for future generations.
“The old government let wealthy speculators drive the price of farmland out of reach for young farmers and allowed some of our most valuable agricultural land to be damaged,” Popham said in a release.
The Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, 2018 (Bill 52) makes three significant changes including; reinstating one zone for all ALR land in B.C., capping the size of homes built on ALR land to less than 5,400 square feet (except in cases where it would support farming) and mandating ALR approval of homes in order to curb non-farm development.
Lastly, the bill plans crack down on the dumping of construction debris and toxic waste through by increasing penalties for those who do so. Such practices have been damaging B.C. farmland and threatening the viability of the ALR.
Linda Geggie, executive director of the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable points to the recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found global conditions are rapidly changing.
“This will include changes in energy markets and global food production and distribution that are at best uncertain,” Geggie said in an email. “Protecting valuable farmland and as importantly, the farmers and food producers who are so integral to our resilience in the face of change is vital.”
As imperfect as it is, the ALR is one of the most visionary and important policy tools in British Columbia, she added.
The ALR includes over 4.7 million hectares of B.C. preserved for agricultural use, less than 5 per cent of the province’s total land base.
Currently, 10 per cent of the land in the ALR produces 85 per cent of B.C.’s farm receipts. Three per cent of ALR land in the South Coast region produces 65 per cent of the province’s farm receipts.
“In an era where food security is a growing global issue, our legislative changes intend to protect ALR land for its highest and best use – agricultural production,” Popham said.
Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North, welcomed the news that the government was “acting decisively” to stem speculation on farmland.
“The ALR is vital to our local food security and for realizing B.C.’s economic opportunities in the agricultural sector,” he said.