OPINION: Farmers and ranchers deserve better

MLA Donna Barnett’s regular column for the 100 Mile Free Press

This week dozens of angry farmers and ranchers descended on the Legislature to demand the recall of new Agricultural Land Reserve rules that discriminate against family operations and take away basic property rights.

The demonstrators echo the concerns of farm families from across the province who are being told by the NDP that they no longer have the same freedoms they once had to make a living off their own land.

It began with the elimination of Zone 2 within the Agricultural Land Reserve that once provided farmers and ranchers with greater flexibility to earn more through non-farm activities like harvest festivals or selling products through on-site markets.

Zone 2 was also a recognition that we face a much different climate in northern B.C. than say Vancouver Island or the Lower Mainland, and that farmers and ranchers need more opportunities to earn due to a shorter growing season.

To make matters worse, those wishing to pass the family farm onto their children are now being told that new construction on ALR land is unacceptable. The NDP says it wants to prevent monster homes from encroaching on farmland, but it seems to me this government is more concerned with land use issues than helping the people we depend on to grow our food.

The NDP is conveniently overlooking the fact that the average age of farmers and ranchers in B.C. is 55, and many want to age-in-place yet still accommodate new homes for their children — and their families — on the same property.

Much to their dismay, farmers and ranchers are now reporting the presence of ALR enforcement vehicles roaming the land looking for infractions.

Rather than create a police-state to enforce rules and regulations, government should be doing everything possible to encourage and promote the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Our food security depends on it.


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