Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society provides grassroots leadership and an inclusive process, with a voice for all community members, to ensure that our community grows and develops in a way that incorporates an environmental ethic, offers a range of housing and transportation choices, encourages a vibrant and cultural life and supports sustainable, meaningful employment and business opportunities.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ministers Bennett, Letnick, Bill 24 and Selective Listening

 Global News
B.C. farmers gathered at B.C. Legislature in Victoria today to voice their concerns about changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
Farmers brought a cornucopia of food products to deliver to MLA and Energy Minister Bill Bennett to show what’s being grown in his backyard.
“We are here because we want to kill Bill 24,” said Oliver Egan, a farmer from Windermere, B.C. “We feel that it is bad for active farmers and it will pull farmland out of the ALR.”
“The proposed changes are not in the farmers’ best interest. As a farmer from the area and a stakeholder, we have not been consulted,” says dairy farmer Erin Harris.Calling themselves “real farmers,” they flew to Victoria with food grown in the Kootenays to confront Bennett, who has been instrumental in introducing Bill 24 that would substantially change the province’s rules around the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“We are dependent upon rental land that is protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve.”
In response to Minister Bennett's statement today about Agricultural Minister Letnick's call for consultation, Wildsight has released this message.
Farmers across the province are up in arms over proposed changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), laid out in Bill 24. These changes would divide agricultural lands into two zones, facilitating development on 90% of agricultural reserve lands - including the entire Kootenay region - for non-agricultural uses, like industrial development, subdividing land and energy developments. Protection of our food producing lands is critical to ensure British Columbia’s food security.
There has been no public consultation on proposed changes to the ALR. This week, after weeks of mounting opposition across the province to Bill 24, Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick announced a province-wide consultation
In a stunning about-face, this morning Minister Bennett countered that announcement, saying that although a public consultation will take place, it would not result in any substantive changes to Bill 24. Announcing the pre-determined outcome of a public consulation before it has begun flies in the face of the democratic process. It's more important than ever to stand up for the ALR. 
What are farmers saying? 
Kootenay farmers have been vocal in opposing these changes. Rallying against the claim from Minister Bill Bennett’s response to eating local in the Kootenays  - “where I come from, you'd have to eat hay" - Erin Harris (Kootenay Meadows Dairy Farm, Lister) and Oliver Egan (Edible Acres Farm, Windermere) took a message to Victoria on behalf of Kootenay farmers, opposing Bill 24 and displaying a cornucopia of Kootenay-produced products. 
This week, the BC Agriculture Council reversed its position, publicly opposing Bill 24. 
Soil experts have publicly opposed Bill 24 and former Minister of the Environment Joan Sawiki calls it short-sighted, saying it would significantly weaken "the most successful agricultural land preservation program in North America”.
The high quality of agricultural lands in the Kootenay region was recently re-emphasized by the Chair of the Agricultural Land Commission: “the majority of prime agricultural lands are situated in the Interior, Kootenay and North regions”.
Thank you for standing up for BC's farmland and farmers!
The Wildsight Team

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