LETTER Re: ALR changes discouraging young farmers

A letter to the editor for the 100 Mile Free Press

To the editor,

It’s very disappointing to read the inaccurate editorial by the MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin (ALR changes discouraging young farmers, Sept. 13, 2019).

Let me correct the record: farmers and ranchers are allowed multiple residences in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), with permission of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). The ALC considers succession planning to be a valid reason for additional residences, and they look at the specific context of each application before making a decision in order to be fair and to ensure that farmland is protected for future generations.

RELATED: ALR changes discouraging young farmers

MLA Barnett’s retelling of the situation of the restaurant in Nanoose Bay conveniently fails to mention the key point that it does not have the local government permits necessary to operate. In her haste to score cheap political points, she did a disservice to the readers of the 100 Mile House Free Press. The local government has been clear that the farmland where the restaurant is located on Vancouver Island would need to be rezoned and the Official Community Plan would need to be changed before it could consider authorizing it to operate, and that process has not yet begun. Tellingly, MLA Barnett also fails to mention that it was her government that created the very rules which she now finds so offensive.

The MLA further muddies the water by suggesting that the Minister of Agriculture makes the decisions of the ALC. That is not true. To the contrary, the commission operates independently of government, as it should, to prevent political interference with its decision-making process.

I am proud to be part of a government that strongly supports farmers who want to diversify their farming business with value-added initiatives such as food services and food processing facilities. A key new program in my ministry is Feed BC that focusses on supporting local farmers and processors and increasing the local food they produce across the supply chain, including in public facilities.

The fact is the BC NDP government has taken significant steps to support and encourage farmers, including new and young farmers. We are working with the Young Agrarians to help the next generation of British Columbia farmers. Our government believes strongly that agriculture has the potential to unlock prosperity throughout the province and we need farmland and farmers to make that happen.

My door remains open to MLA Barnett. I hope she will take this opportunity to start working to advance changes to benefit her community, instead of wasting time by falsely blaming the BC NDP government for rules that her government created in the first place. The only change we made to the rule in question was to expand to all alcohol producers the same opportunities that the previous government made available only to wineries and cideries.

The BC NDP government is open to making further changes to the old government’s rules – including expanding value-added business opportunities in the ALR – as we work to support farmers, encourage farming and protect farmland for future generations.

Lana Popham

Minister of Agriculture

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