Rob Shaw/Vancouver Sun
VICTORIA — The organization representing B.C. farmers and ranchers has withdrawn its support for proposed changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The B.C. Agriculture Council, which publicly endorsed the government’s overhaul of the ALR when it was announced last month, will instead meet with Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick on Wednesday to try to convince him to delay and change the legislation.
“What we’re really hoping is that the minister will take the approach that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done here,” said council chairman Steve Vander Waal. “We need to consult with agriculture and other citizens in the province to actually come up with the right long-term solution. So we’re going to park this thing for a period of time and actually go out there and consult and get the right changes in place.”
The government introduced a bill in late March to split the ALR into two zones and relax rules for farmland development in the zone that encompasses B.C.’s Interior and North.
The Agricultural Land Commission, which oversees reserve land with a mandate to protect it for agricultural use, will be allowed to consider non-agricultural purposes, such as economic, cultural and social factors, in deciding whether farmland can be developed.
At first, it appeared the agriculture council endorsed the changes on behalf of its 14,000 members.
And chairwoman Rhonda Driediger attended a government news conference at the legislature and publicly declared: “We’re looking forward to the changes.”
But Driediger retired, and the council voted unanimously two weeks later to oppose the changes.
“Rhonda didn’t have the knowledge of what was in Bill 24 at that time,” said Vander Waal. “She hadn’t seen it, or had the ability to go through it.
“BCAC cautiously supported the legislation when it was tabled, based on verbal information, based on video conference calls with the minister and the draft press release. After reviewing the actual legislation, and hearing farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns, BCAC had no choice but to withdraw its support.”
- See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/farm-group-withdraws-support-for-agricultural-land-reserve-bill-1.979620#sthash.1wkkdzWi.dpuf